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Ariyan Sharma on His Role in Cut Chilli and Life After NIDA

Ariyan Sharma, a talented NIDA alum, is ready to captivate audiences with his upcoming show Cut Chilli at the Old Fitz Theatre. With a rich educational background, including both a Diploma of Musical Theatre (2020) and soon to formally receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting (2023) from NIDA, Ariyan brings his incredible skills and experience to the stage. In this interview, he shares insights into his character, the invaluable lessons learned at NIDA, and his collaborative experience with fellow alumni. From the thrill of working on a new Australian text to the grand reveal of an upcoming project, Ariyan’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, adaptability, and cultural representation in the arts.

 Congratulations on your upcoming show Cut Chilli at the Old Fitz Theatre. Can you tell us a bit about your role in this production?

Thank you so much! I am playing the role of Jamie McKenzie, who is the Sri Lankan adopted son of the McKenzie family from Perth. He is very funny and charismatic, and he uses jokes as a way of avoiding vulnerable situations (not unlike myself). He struggles with wanting to meet his birth mother but also not seeming ungrateful to his adoptive parents. The text follows his journey of confronting his adoptive family about his origin for the first time. It’s a beautiful story and it’s gonna be good.

Behind the scenes of Cut Chilli, 2024 at the Old Fitz Theatre. From left to right: Ariyan Sharma and Kelsey Jeanell
Behind-the-scenes of Cut Chilli, 2024 at the Old Fitz Theatre. From left to right: Ariyan Sharma (Acting, 2023) and Kelsey Jeanell. Photos by Lucy Clements.

You have completed both your Diploma of Musical Theatre and Bachelor of Fine Arts in (BFA) Acting at NIDA, what are some of the skills you attained from these courses that you use in your practice?

I learned so much in both of my courses at NIDA. I think a huge skill that I learned is to come into a scene with an open mind. I remember for all my drama school auditions I had rehearsed my pieces so much that I struggled to take on direction in the room, but now I feel like I can adapt to changes being made and directions given to me. Acting is all about collaboration and exploration, so being adaptable and having an open mind is crucial. Understanding the arc of the character is important too. There are a few plot twists in Cut Chilli that impact Jamie a lot, so I need to know the emotional journey of the character in each scene. 

What has your experience been working with the other alumni involved in Cut Chilli?

It has been amazing working with the other NIDA alumni! Everyone brings such professionalism and vision to the production and it has made the process so smooth and comfortable, and we also have so much fun with each other. This is my first time working with a company outside of drama school, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by other NIDA talent, but also South-Asian talent. It’s going to be a great show. Also, Noel Hodda (Acting, 1980), who plays my uncle Jeff, is the funniest guy ever and I am learning so much from watching him act. 

*Other NIDA alumni involved include, David Burrowes (Directing, 2015), Rita Naidu (Design, 2021), Ryan Whitworth-Jones (Directing, 2023) and Soham Apte (Design, 2021).

What are some of your career highlights since graduating?

This play has definitely been my highlight since leaving NIDA. I was originally going to be doing Tick, Tick… Boom! at the Old Fitz, which starts two weeks after Cut Chilli as the late-night show. But I had to drop out after being offered the role of Jamie in Cut Chilli. I don’t know when I will get another opportunity to work with a new Australian text written and directed by people with similar cultural backgrounds as me, so it seemed like a no-brainer to join this ensemble. Later in the year, I am also covering two roles in STC’s Dear Evan Hansen which will tour Australia in 2025 with the Michael Cassel Group. I am thrilled about that. My parents are pretty pleased too.

Ariyan Sharma in the 2023 NIDA production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Photo by Phil Erbacher.
Ariyan Sharma in the 2023 NIDA production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Photo by Phil Erbacher.

What were some of your favourite things about studying at NIDA?

I thoroughly enjoyed myself in every year at NIDA, but nothing quite compared to the June and October Season shows in my third and final year of the BFA Acting Course. I was so lucky to be a part of Sweeney Todd directed by Con Costi (Dramatic Art, 2013) and Shannon Burns, and also A Very Expensive Poison directed by Hannah Goodwin. During both of these shows, I allowed myself to have fun and learn on the job. It was also such a great experience to work with other students from every other discipline at NIDA. The set, costume, make-up, props, lighting and sound were all designed and created by students. That’s as close to the real industry as you can get. Everything was elevated to a new level of professionalism during these shows and I would do it all again if I had the chance.

What advice would you give to aspiring actors and those considering the Diploma of Musical Theatre course or the BFA in Acting at NIDA?

Give it a try! NIDA isn’t just looking for the most talented individuals, they are also seeking untapped potential. As long as you show that you have a good attitude and that you are open to being moulded into weird and wonderful shapes, you have a great chance of being accepted. And also, most people don’t get in their first try. So try again if you think NIDA is where you want to end up. You have no idea where it might lead you. I would definitely say that doing the Diploma of Musical Theatre course gave me a great foundation to further my studies in the BFA in Acting. If anyone reading this has any questions about my time at NIDA, please feel free to reach out to me. You’ll be able to find me on the socials.