Who: Rishan Dhamija, CTC conservatory actor.
Dhamija has had a season full of extravagant, dynamic roles. In CTC’s traveling production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he took on the part of Demetrius, a young lover from Athens who follows his heart into a forest filled with magic and mischief. He’s currently acting in One Man, Two Guvnors, CTC’s mainstage comedy, as Stanley Stubbers, an odd individual with a penchant for the peculiar.
Of the two roles, Dhamija said that working as Stanley has been the most enjoyable theatrical experience he’s had in a while.
“He’s completely off his rocker,” Dhamija said. “He says and does some really bizarre things. He’s got a dark energy, and also such a sense of mischief — and he loves it. Everything was fair game for him, and that meant I could be so free with how I played him.”
An odd commonality that both Dhamija’s roles shared this season was a tendency to disrobe onstage. Both Demetrius and Stanley ended up in their undergarments at some point during their respective shows.
“It was a weird coincidence,” Dhamija said. “It’s the only time it’s happened in my career, and I have no idea when it might happen again.”
Where he’s from: New Delhi, India.
He was born and raised in New Delhi, and attended Delhi University, where he received a degree in economics. However, while at college, he became a member of a drama club, and he began to get seriously involved with acting for the first time.
“That’s where I caught the bug,” Dhamija said.
From there, he worked on several college and local productions, but eventually decided to go to law school and leave theater behind. But that didn’t last long.
“It was in the middle of law school when I realized it just wasn’t for me,” Dhamija said. “I needed something else, something different.”
He heard of The Juilliard School from a peer, former CTC conservatory member Keshav Moodliar, and decided to make the leap to pursue theater across the ocean, where he earned his MFA in acting.
“I realized that theater was it,” Dhamija said. “It’s what I love to get up in the morning and do, and something I can be passionate about.”
Favorite food: Indian food, something that Dhamija said is hard to find in the Chautauqua area.
“We had one restaurant in Jamestown, but it’s been closed for a year,” Dhamija said. “If I ever want Indian food, it’s quite the drive to get it.”
Both butter chicken and his mom’s lamb curry are his all-time favorite dishes.
What he’s watching: “The Boys” on Amazon Prime Video.
The show follows regular people in a world where super-powered individuals use and abuse their abilities for their own gain.
“Like (playing Stanley), I enjoy the mixture of comedy, some darker humor and some of the violence and action that the show provides,” Dhamija said.
Favorite type of music: It depends heavily on how he’s feeling at the time.
There are times when he enjoys rock, times when he likes electronic dance music, times when he listens to rhythm and blues and times when he just likes pop.
“I just listen to whatever moves me at the moment,” Dhamija said. “I’m a very moody person, so I have different music for different moods.”
Favorite part of Chautauqua: The people he’s met along the way.
“My professor from grad school told me, ‘You’re going to go (to Chautauqua) to do some great work, but also to meet people you’re going to work with for the rest of your life,’ ” Dhamija said. “I think that stands true to the experience I’ve had.”
Dhamija said the bonds he’s formed are so strong that he’s planning on moving into an apartment with some of his fellow conservatory members at the end of the season.
Fictional/past individual he’d love to sit down with: From fiction, Yoda. From the past, Alan Watts, the man responsible for popularizing Zen Buddhism and Taoism in the West.
“I know that either one of them would have a lot of wisdom to impart,” Dhamija said.
What’s next: Aside from moving to New York City and finding an apartment with his fellow conservatory members, Dhamija said he wants to start auditioning for roles while balancing time to attend school.
He plans to return to graduate school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to get his MFA in dramatic writing.
“After that, I’ll certainly have done my fair share of school,” Dhamija said.
Long term, he hopes to spend a few years in New York before moving to Los Angeles, to start a family and pursue his creative career down whatever avenues he can.