Rachael Ma, film and theatre actress and producer

TheatrePeople (#52) - Rachael Ma | Theatre Avenue

Another beautiful week, TheatrePeople. With even more light at the end of the tunnel for a full return to theatre as we know it.

This week I'm thrilled to introduce you to Rachael Ma. I met Rachael through a mutual friend, and another one of our incredible TheatrePeople, TJ Tekurio.

Rachael is a true professional—sweet, generous, and her career in storytelling covers the full entertainment spectrum—she's an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer and teacher.

I hope you enjoy Rachael's interview as much as I did!

 Rachael Ma, actor, dancer, teacher and producer

What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)

Unpopular Opinion: “American Psycho” was a brilliant musical. I’d love to go on and on and write some high-brow article about how a cult, 90’s film was adapted to a Broadway Musical and only GAINED credibility. Maybe someday I will, but for now I will simply note the show was highly styled (in everything from costuming, to choreography, to sound), sets were smart and surprising, and the score was reeeeeeal good (Duncan Sheik). 

It had a short run, but was nominated for many Tony’s. 

It's inspired me because it was so SMART. I love when art is clever and leaves me feeling surprised—even if I know someone if going to get hacked up by a serial killer, the “how” needs to be a great reveal.

A more mass-appeal answer is “Contact." It's a real dancer’s show and vignettes were windows into a theme the audience needed to deduce. 

What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre/ballet?

I booked the Oscar Winner film “Birdman”. 

I play the “Tree” in the “Broadway Show”.

(Pure gold, right?)

PS- My mom told me “Honey, you be the BEST Tree you can be!”

What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)

Mid-run during a winter 2013 Off-Broadway production of “Nutcracker: Rated R” my doll-self and my doll-partner took our places onstage. Our duet was a technical and challenging pointe variation that violently devolves to a brutal, yet comical fight scene. Unfortunately (or awesomely?) my pointe shoe made full and heavy contact with my partner’s face, busting her lip wide open on stage. 

The audience gasped and blood was spewing everywhere for like a really long time.

It was like a WWE wrestling match. My partner (a real champ)  kept going full out absolutely loving how gross this duet was becoming, smearing blood and using it as a prop.

I felt so bad. 

The audience loved it. 

I've also had several very unfortunate, untimely wig fails. That's a really hard one to come back from. Oof.

Why do you love theatre/ballet?

“Dance is the only art wherein we ourselves, are the stuff of which it is made”

Theatre is for...


Once upon a time, before Guiliani, Disney invaded Times Square, and the 1990’s, the Broadway Theatre was for adults. Shows were mature, and complicated (West Side Story, Chicago, Gypsy, A Chorus Line) and tackled themes that helped us see the world differently (it helped us see PEOPLE differently). 

OF COURSE there are shows doing this beautifully today- but largely, there is a commercialism of Broadway Theatre. The real pushing of the art form forward isn't happening on Broadway anymore, it would be too “risky.” It's happening in smaller theatres, further away from NYC. 

Adults need to see work that is inappropiate for children. 

Adults need to be confronted with themes that are beautiful and dark and don't always end “happily ever after."

More Incredible Theatre People

TJ Tekurio, Dance Director, Choreographer and Podcaster
Josh Belk, High School Theatre Teacher
Abby McCuen, Ballet Producer and Theatre Teacher 

More about Rachael

Rachael Ma’s professional career covers the spectrum. From Broadway musical theater to ballet companies, choreographer to international performer, music videos to national film festivals; she is an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer and teacher.

Her dance education began at Dance Dimensions in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet Theater and continued with Sarasota Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Virginia School of the Arts and RiverNorth Chicago Jazz Company. She also trained at Broadway Dance Center, Steps, Dance New Amsterdam (Gibney Dance), and American Dance Festival NYC. 

Later, she was recruited as a scholarship student at Towson University, Maryland where she was mentored by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell. In college Rachael received numerous awards for choreography and performance including adjudications from the American Collegiate Dance Festival Association, 1st Place from the Maryland Film and Arts Festival, Maryland Arts Council recognitions and was honored to have her work featured alongside Nai-Nee Chen and Dana Tai-Soon Burgess in concert. She would later travel to Sao Paolo, Brazil to choreograph and would be offered an internship with modern company, Misnomer Dance Theater, the creative team behind the Bjork music video for “Wanderlust”. 

Upon graduating magna cum laude, she relocated to New York City to dance professionally. Rachael explored artistic dance mediums by performing with various dance companies but would develop a long-standing relationship with dance/comedy/cabaret troupe The Love Show, which yielded wild opportunities including performing alongside street-art renegade Banksy, Cardi B, Claptone, Future, singing for electro-funk duo Chromeo, and international tours in the Caribbean, Japan, and Egypt.

Rachael debuted in the Off-Broadway holiday classic, the Nutcracker: Rated R, as well as performing in over 10+ Off-Broadway shows including sold-out Rock Opera “Severed “at the Highline Ballroom. She was the Assistant Choreographer for Broadway-slated "Cool Papa’s Party", and worked pre-production rehearsals with Josh Bergasse for, "On The Town", which won the Tony Award for best revival in 2015. Rachael most recently added long running NYC institution ‘Shakespeare In The Park’ to her resume with a summer production of The Public Theater’s, Twelfth Night, which took place in the revered Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

Rachael ventured beyond dance and added Film/TV to her repertory; most notably for a role opposite Anjelica Houston in NBC’s musical series SMASH and the lovable role of Robot opposite Frank Langella in Robot and Frank. She can also be seen in cameos on FOX’s Gotham, in the Oscar-winning movie Birdman, co-star opposite Nick Jonas, and stared in Hulu series, Don't Know Jack.

Her performances profited reviews "4'11 bundle of dynamite" from BackStage, BroadwayWorld.com, New York Post, New York Metro, The Village Voice and a photographed feature in the New York Times. Robot and Frank also won the Alfred P. Sloan Award at Sundance Film Festival. Photographs of Rachael can be seen worldwide in Jordan Matter’s best-selling series, Dancers Among Us.

Rachael is a proud member of both unions AEA and SAG/AFTRA.

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