When Tucker Rayl, a junior majoring in acting, first envisioned the concept behind his play, Reality Star, he didn’t think anything would come of it.
“I started out writing loose sketches in high school, and when I got to USC I took a screenwriting class, which was when I first got the idea,” Rayl said. “I went through five or six drafts before I even showed it to anyone.”
But for the past few months, Rayl has stepped into the shoes of a director, working with a producer and a group of actors to bring Reality Star to the stage.
“It’s been a matter of looking at what I wrote and thinking ‘how do I bring this to real life?’” Rayl said. “All the actors bring so much to my writing that I didn’t even think about.”
Reality Star is a 60-minute play that follows Simone Sultana, portrayed by Amanda Cook, a famous reality television star whose face, her main source of income, is wrecked in a car accident. Sultana’s “momager” then decides to hide her face with a golden mask to preserve her image and the family brand. Rayl drew much of his inspiration for the play from following social media giants such as the Kardashians.
“It’s a satire based on those ‘famous-for-being-famous’ reality TV families,” Rayl said. “I’m kind of obsessed with the Kardashians. It’s such an odd relationship we all have with them.”
Rayl also cites artist Andy Warhol as a major influence of his play. Warhol’s exploration of celebrity culture and the effects, both positive and negative, of fame on society is very similar to the themes Rayl touches upon in Reality Star.
“I’ve been obsessed with Warhol for years,” Rayl said. “He triggered a whole study and cultural consciousness about the different aspects of fame, which we all have a relationship with, as much as we might not want to admit it.”
Despite his major’s acting emphasis, Rayl only appears in his own play for a brief moment, inserting himself into a tiny cameo. His reason for limiting his time on camera was that he didn’t want to juggle multiple responsibilities and overwhelm himself.
“It’s weird to have these two roles where one is the higher up to the other and I’m in both of those roles,” Rayl said. “That didn’t make sense to me. It’s my first time really directing a show so I didn’t want to have to focus on both. That’d be too much to take on.”
Rayl believes that his directorial experience has been an asset to his acting, allowing him to understand both sides of the equation: what directors want from actors and vice versa, and how the two can work together to achieve a shared objective.
“I think they go hand in hand,” Rayl said. “I’m able to have two different frames of mind about it. When I’m acting in classes it feels a little easier knowing what is going on in the director’s head. It’s helpful to have both under my belt.”
For Rayl, the experience of being in the theater, whether in the spotlight or in the audience, is more personal and intimate than other media such as film.
“In theater there’s such a one- on-one relationship between the performer and the audience,” Rayl said. “They react off you and that feeds into your performance. I think there’s something magical about that.”
Reality Star will run from Feb. 23 to 25 at the Flight Theatre at the Complex Hollywood. Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the door.