Victoria Myers interviews Ruthie Ann Miles
April 19th, 2016
Walking backstage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater is a little like entering a magical small town that’s been hidden away somewhere behind the mist—only with a giant cardboard cut out of Abraham Lincoln. If you walk down one of the long halls, you’ll find the dressing room of Ruthie Ann Miles, who is currently playing Lady Thiang in Lincoln Center Theater’s production of The King and I. Her dressing room has been decorated, with the help of co-star/dressing roommate Ashley Park, to be warm and personal, and lose the cookie-cutter, austere feel of a utilitarian space. And this is perfectly fitting for the actress who uses it every night to transform into Lady Thiang of Siam. Ruthie’s layered and acutely rendered performance won her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Prior to that, she gave a highly lauded performance as Imelda Marcos in Here Lies Love. As she prepared for an evening performance of The King and I, we spoke to Ruthie about her process, how she creates her characters, how she found who she was as an artist, and much more.
VM: Since we’re here in your dressing room at The King and I, I wanted to start by asking what your process is like for getting into character each night?
RAM: My process for getting into character starts at home. I have to start my voice at home. I have a toddler, and she doesn’t let me really sing, but she does let me do some vocalizing. So I have to start at home and then, as I’m walking to the subway, I start expanding and getting into better placement for talking. That way, when I get here, I’m not starting from scratch. But the first things that I’m doing are hydrating and steaming and getting my voice in order. Once my voice is in order, I can start on my body. Then I start my makeup and hair. Getting into character for me is going into makeup, because I start to see the Queen—I start to see Lady Thiang—and Ruthie melts away and there’s Lady T.
VM: Are you visual?