The opportunity to interview Suchiththa felt like I was getting to sit down with a wise sage of Arlyrus. He has been involved in Off the Beaten Path from its very early stages and continues to express enthusiasm for its future. Suchiththa is a trusted keeper of many OBP secrets and has a deep understanding of the world and its characters. His views of a more comprehensive and inclusive theater experience are informed and inspiring. And as you will soon discover throughout this interview, his career in singing, acting, dancing and much more have truly made him a jack of all trades.
Valerie: What inspired you to get into musical theatre?
Suchiththa: Do you want the long and winding answer or the brief answer? I was a professional singer from the age of 12. My first [play] was in kindergarten playing the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. I did the equivalent of what we call show choir in North America. It was not competitive and it wasn’t Glee. [We performed] everything from requiems, operas all the way to musical theater. I went to the University of Western Ontario and after realizing that double majoring in engineering and opera would take 80 hours a week, I decided that I basically wanted to have a life. So I backed out of opera and focused on engineering. I transferred to the UK and continued my engineering degree. I started doing Am-Dram (amature drama) stuff. My first show there was The Wedding Singer. It is a jukebox show without being a jukebox show. That was sort of the show I did that got me into musical theater. I followed up by performing in Singing in the Rain. I actually had more fun with The Wedding Singer then I had in Singing in the Rain. I also joined the competitive dance team and today I can be an ensemble dancer in some shows.
Valerie: In some of your OBP performances, we have gotten to see you perform the ASL written in the script. Could you tell us about your experience with multi-sensory theater?
Suchiththa: I worked on a production of The Tempest. That particular show was working with deaf actors and when I got the gig I had no ASL experience. Towards the end, for very basic communication as well as stuff we needed to do as a cast, we didn’t need interpreters. There are so many people who could be working in theater but don’t because we prioritize one way of seeing theater. We talk about theater as an audio-visual experience and often that experience is mostly audio and how little of it is visually communicated. I think that the push to get actors to just “say the line” sometimes loses the truth of the line because the physicality is not there. There are a lot more conversations that need to happen to make theater more accessible and welcoming.
Valerie: What were some of your thoughts when you read through the OBP script for the first time?
Suchiththa: I read the script for the first time when it was early in development. I got an act 1 script from Tory in May of 2018. I remember really, really loving it. I think the thing that struck me the most was how complex the needs and wants of the characters were. It did something that most musicals don’t do; it really gives characters an opportunity to distinguish themselves from one another and distinguish themselves from the archetypes that you usually see in theater.
Valerie: You’ve gotten to jump into several different characters in the OBP world. Do you have a favorite now?
Suchiththa: Besides Khulgar and Kytius, I have played every other male role in OBP. I would say my top three would be Anaax, En-PeaSee and Bundles. Anaax is lovely to play. He is working through some serious grief and holding space for everyone else’s grief really beautifully. En-PeaSee’s monologue about corruption hits me every time and I cannot say it without feeling it on a personal level. And Bundles is a really interesting fantasy character to play because he can sense the diverging paths of the future without being able to fully see them himself.
Valerie: After playing Anaax in OBP, how will you approach him differently in Stories of Arlyrus during his younger years?
Suchiththa: Anaax at the top of SoA2 is very different from Anaax at the end of sessions one and two of OBP. He is a typical fantasy bard. He just exists in the plane of confidence in himself. Early in the plot, he meets someone who makes him question his uniqueness and at another level what he thought he wanted in life.
Valerie: What similarities do you see between yourself and Anaax?
Suchiththa: Tory thought I should give Anaax a shot. I saw someone that very fluidly fit into whatever the situation needed him to be except when he just couldn’t face up to it. He does a good job as the jack of all trades. He takes on the qualities of a leader many times. But his fears stop him. He constantly fears losing those around him and I think I can relate to that on some level… and the “fitting in” thing.
Valerie: Which character in the World of Arlyrus would you love to know ALL of the secrets about?
Suchiththa: I know this is gonna sound weird, but I want to know more of Rhoswen’s secrets. I feel like she has the most secrets. I don’t have a sense yet of how old she is. She still has a lot of cards close to her chest. (And as the world of Arlyrus continues to expand, we are discovering that even the secrets have secrets.)
Suchiththa: One thing that’s really surprised me about obp is how much the same people keep coming back to it and feeding into it continuously. A few of us are here every month, whether Tory wants us to be here or not. (Hehe.) There’s usually very little collective creation in musical theater. It is amazing that Tory even allows his actors to step into these creative roles like Lauren Culver taking on directing a TikTok cast for OBP and Eric Wigston composing two of the songs for Anaax. A lot of writers do not have the humility to allow that kind of thing to happen.
OBP really is a beast and it just keeps growing. We are at 170 unique paths in OBP now. (Yes, he’s calculated them all.) There are between 5 to 8 major endings. It really is something quite special how much Tory has put into developing every single character specifically. No character is just… there. Everyone has a story.
Please join us for a reading of Stories of Arlyrus 2: Anaax and the Piper, with Suchiththa as Anaax Passion, on Sunday, August 8th!