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|A Passion for Acting|
ou’ve seen her on the hit television shows Law and Order, Sex and the City and most recently, Hope and Faith, a brand new series on ABC starring Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa. And, she’s walked the boards of several theatres in off-Broadway productions of A Street Car Named Desire, A Christmas Carol and Having Our Say, The Delany Sister’s First 100 Years. But despite her many successes, the life of a professional actress is not always an easy one, says Saidah Ekulona ’92. However, she doesn’t mind the hardships, in fact, she shrugs them off. For Ekulona, her craft is her passion. “I’ve never been more excited about creating and exploring things,” she says.
With 40 to 50 auditions a month, her days are hectic. And, a call for an addition can come in from her agent at any time. “Sometimes I have a few days to prepare and other times a few hours.” So, with such a hectic schedule, it’s important to have a certain process of preparation. Ekulona says she always begins by reading the script over and over. Then, she puts it aside to create the world of the character in her mind. “I think about where to be emotionally and how the scene is progressing,” she says. After much thought, she finally vocalizes the scene. “It is important to wrap your mouth around the new words,” she says.
However, all the preparation in the world does not guarantee an actor the part they want. Having the wrong look can cost an actor a role. “Sometimes casting people have tunnel vision,” she says. This is the reality that Ekulona learned to deal with early on in her career. “You put so much into it and instead of being heartbroken the only thing to do is know you prepared and gave it all you could,” she says.
Ekulona earned her master’s degree in acting from the University of Minnesota, but says she continuously works to fine-tune her acting skills. This past summer she had that opportunity at the Sundance Theatre Lab in Utah. The exclusive program pairs playwrights with actors allowing the actors to work on two plays in three weeks. “It was an honor to be there because it is all about the process,” she says. “I never felt more like an artist in my entire life.”
She also participated in the One-on-One plays at the 52nd Street Project, a not-for-profit organization that matches kids from the New York City neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen with professional theatre artists to create original theatre.
Fall is also a busy time for actors with the new theatre and television seasons getting into full swing. Ekulona’s schedule is no exception. She is currently working on the play Well, which is set to premiere at The Public Theatre in New York City next March. The first person to read the script aloud and the only one to perform her character, Ekulona says proudly, “My acting and input helped her (the playwright) to make decisions about the character.” Ekulona also appears in commercials for FedEx.com and Campbell’s Soup, which are both currently airing. And, fans of the new ABC sitcom Hope and Faith recently saw her in the October 24 episode where she played Linda, one of Hope’s (Faith Ford) friends in her book club. Excited about the part, Ekulona says that it could possibly turn into a recurring role.
Whether on the stage or in front of the camera, all of Ekulona’s successes would not be possible without the mentoring of Albright’s former theatre director Lynn Morrow. “Lynn and Albright were instrumental to me,” she says. “People are always asking me where I was trained.”
Hoping to one day expand her passion of acting into other areas of the business such as writing and producing, Ekulona says that no matter what area she may pursue, her home will always be on stage. “There is something different that happens to me in front of a live audience. Theatre is like my mom…it’s my home.”
— Amy M. Buzinski ’03