RIC student Naysh Fox

Twenty-one and unassuming, Naysh Fox is a RIC dance and musical theatre major whose favorite pastime is racing Mario-Kart with his younger sister; yet in the acting world, this thespian is considered a triple threat – an equally talented singer, dancer and actor.

RIC professor of dance Angelica Vessella first met Fox in his freshman year at URI, where she was choreographing a production of Oklahoma.

“Naysh was in the production and he was quite compelling as a singer and actor,” she said. “I spent a lot of time with him and saw a lot of potential in him. He works hard, he takes direction well and he’s very humble. He soaked up everything like a sponge.”

Vessella would later become full-time dance professor at RIC, and Naysh would transfer midyear to Rhode Island College, double majoring in dance and musical theater, with Vessella as his mentor.

In 2012 he was awarded the first-ever Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence. This entitled him to three weeks’ of training at the Broadway Theatre Project in Tampa, Fla., under the direction of Ben Vereen and Donna McKechnie. There, he won the Gregory Hines Award, a scholarship that allows him to return next summer for further training.

Following his stint at the Broadway Theatre, he traveled to the Berkshires to audition for the Jazz/Musical Theater Program at Jacob’s Pillow, a highly coveted program headed by the multi-award-winning director/choreographer Chet Walker.

Out of the 800 dancers who auditioned, Fox was among the 24 selected (12 men, 12 women). There he trained for another three-and-a-half weeks and won awards for acting and singing. Before leaving, he was asked to perform in Jacob’s Pillow’s upcoming documentary and was taken under the wing of Chet Walker as a new mentee.

Chet created and choreographed Fosse, he directed and choreographed Sweet Charity, Chicago, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Follies, and now he’s your mentor. Does this feel real? Or does it feel like, “Of course. This is where I was meant to be and what I was meant to be doing.”
Yes, it does feel like this is what I was meant to be doing, but I still get nervous at auditions and before a performance. Angelica Vessella, who teaches dance at RIC, has been a great mentor and friend. She always tells me, “You’re only as good as your last performance.” So, when you walk into a studio or a coaching session, you’re only as good as the last time you were there; you’re always one-upping yourself.

At the Broadway Theatre Project, what was it like working with Ben Vereen?
Ben started his class by saying that this is a safe and sacred space, and it truly was. He had a way of making you want to be vulnerable and to share personal stories about events that shaped you. He pulled honesty and truth out of everyone.

And how has RIC shaped you?
We have a fantastic voice faculty. I study with Flo St. Jean who I think is God’s gift to the world. Angelica Vessella is not only my choreographer and mentor, she’s my extremely close friend. Director Bill Wilson is one of the smartest people I've ever worked with. We also have extremely talented students at RIC, but ultimately, what you put into your training is what you get out. What I did, as well as many of my classmates, is to take the extra dance class that isn’t required and the extra acting class with Tony Estrella or Casey Seymour or Bill Wilson.

What’s your biggest fear?
That I won’t be respected for what I do.

Is that why you work so hard?

Naysh Fox in Pippin

When did you decide theatre was what you wanted to do?
I was nine years old, in fourth grade. I remember my teacher had written a Christmas play and I didn’t get the part I wanted. It wasn’t the lead, just a random part. I was broken up inside. That’s when I told my mom that I wanted to be an actor, and I kept telling her that until that she put me in an acting camp. I was nine. I’ve been performing ever since.

How important have your parents been in your acting career?
Without the support of my parents, my career would be nonexistent. Without their support, both emotionally and financially, I wouldn’t have been able to have the opportunities I’ve had so far. They both have a great appreciation and respect for the arts.

Your 19-year-old sister Anya is now attending RIC as a freshman musical theatre major. You’ve got competition.
Nay, I think of her as more of an ally.

She describes you as optimistic, kind, caring, family oriented and her best friend.
I’m very close to my family. Both my sisters, Alya and Anya are two of my closest friends.

Which actors do you emulate?
Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis, Anthony Hopkins.

What’s the down side of the acting business?
You’re at the mercy of someone else. One day everyone loves you and wants to work with you, and the next day you're old news. You’re never really sure if someone likes you for who you are or for what you’ve done.

You’re in your senior year at RIC. How have you grown as an actor?
I’ve grown as an actor by growing as a human being. I’ve gathered life experiences that I can take into the studio or rehearsal space. I’m learning every day. What I try to do is observe other people’s relationships – relationships people have with their jobs, their friends, their parents, etc. And by studying those relationships, I learn about truth and about honest acting.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve never thought about having a back-up plan. I think if I had a back-up plan I would end up falling back on it. I’ve always told myself that failure is not an option. I’ll gladly work with whatever obstacles life throws at me.