By Leah BouRamia
It’s a warm and rainy afternoon at a coffee-shop in Cranston. Sitting across from me, is a warm and wonderful young lady. Meet E. Grace (“Grace”) Viveiros, a professional actor and a Smithfield High School senior. Grace is a warm, intelligent and engaging young woman, with soulful eyes and a penetrating gaze. In 2011, Grace was cast as one of the Cratchit sisters in the Trinity Repertory Theatre production of A Christmas Carol. Ever since then, she has trained hard at the Trinity Repertory Young Actors Studio, and participated in many shows in summer theatre, her school, and most recently, with The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, where she currently plays Thomasina in the production, Arcadia, written by three-time Tony Award winner and Oscar Award winner Tom Stoppard.
We discuss acting, balance, college, and how hard it is to be a high-school student these days. I’m not that old, you know. As someone who has worked in education, I also have an intimate understanding of the particular stresses levied on high school students on the path to college. “It’s brutal out there,” I tell her, and she nods hard in agreement, swallowing her hot chocolate.
“How do you get your work done?”
“I do as much as possible at school,” she tells me. “When I get home, I do an hour of homework, take a nap for an hour, then I head to work for 5:15. I get home about 10:30.” As well, Grace works at Jaswell Farms, and ranks in the top 5 in her class.
“You nap?” I ask, incredulous. I don’t mean to sound so shocked, but us “old Millennials” (Yes, that’s a thing, we were there before computers, critical difference) never ever had time for a nap. Then again, we are known for physically breaking down before we ask for help, or take a break, so maybe the young’uns are adapting to the stress better than we did. Let’s hope anyway.
“Oh yeah,” she says, wide-eyed, “if I don’t nap, I become a zombie.”
“How many hours a week are you pulling at the theatre?” I wonder.
She pauses, counting in her head, “About 30. I do a show every day but Mondays, two shows on Sundays.” My jaw drops. She laughs at my visibly astounded expression as I shake my head slowly.
I realize everyone has different motivations for pursuing creative careers; But a professional actor at 17? That’s uncommon, and frankly, tough to manage unless you are exceptionally mature and hardworking. Grace is both of those things. “So, why do you do it?” I ask.
“The attention maybe, that’s definitely part of it,” she laughs. “It’s fun to be someone else for two hours and 45 minutes. You can’t worry about anything when you have to tell a story.”
“Ok, tough one: What’s the most difficult aspect of acting for you?”
She pauses, then smiles at a memory.
“It’s harder at the high school I think. I’m perceived as this wealth of knowledge because I’m a professional actor, but I am still learning just like everyone else. Last spring we did a production of Cinderella at the school, and I was cast as one of the stepsisters. Musicals are tough”, she says, suddenly very serious. “I had strep (throat) and there was no understudy, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
“So what else engages you? Do you ever have time for anything else, like hobbies?” I ask.
“I like art. Math is my favorite subject.” (“What math are you in? I press, being nosey, “Calculus” she says, casually, sipping her drink.) “I’m in an advanced art studio course, I’m also taking architecture, which counts as a college class. I want to better understand set design.”
Grace transcends every stereotype older generations sometimes harbor about Millennials: she is smart, respectful, deeply hardworking, and willing to do whatever it takes to attain her goals. Plus, she is down to earth, which is a huge plus. “Where do you want to go to college?” I query.
“Right now, I’d be thrilled to get into Pace, University of Michigan or University of Minnesota.”
I want to understand her better as an artist. After all, this is her chosen profession.
“What characters do you like to play?”
Grace smiles broadly and lowers her voice. “I’m not sure why exactly, but I keep getting cast as villains and whores! I was cast as Cassius in Julius Caesar and that was so amazing.”
“Wait…YOU? Do they see some sinister side of you?” We are giggling because it’s kind of ridiculous to think of this young woman as anything other than the girl next door or your favorite niece. “No really! I mean, hey, I think it’s great that people have faith in my ability to do those roles.”
“So, that’s what you get cast as…what do you enjoy the most in a character?”
“I don’t know if this makes sense, but I like multi-dimensional characters that are really human. You can relate to them, they aren’t these larger-than-life people.” I get it. And, in truth Grace Viveiros is precisely that: multi-dimensional and deeply human.