Age & Hometown: 22; New York City
Current Role: Getting even with classmates as the bullied girl with telekinetic powers in MCC Theater's off-Broadway revival of Carrie.
Inside Osage County: As a student at LaGuardia High School (where the fictional film Fame was set), Ranson specialized in musicals. In fact, she had never appeared in a play until her Broadway debut as Jean Fordham, the smart-talking, pot-smoking 14-year-old in Tracy Letts' family drama August: Osage County. “I got the role of Jean's understudy in the original Broadway cast six weeks into my freshman year at NYU, and I didn’t know whether I should take it,” she says now. “Nobody knew if August: Osage County was going to be a hit or not.” Ranson guessed correctly about the fate of a play that won both the Tony and Pulitzer Prize, and she was tapped to help open the show in London and Sydney. “American audiences tended to be the rowdiest,” she says. “English audiences were much more reserved—they loved it in a quieter way. August took me all over the world.”
Fun With Rylance: In her next Broadway outing, Ranson played a teen follower of the eccentric drug dealer played by Tony winner Mark Rylance in Jerusalem. “He is unlike any actor I’ve ever worked with or will ever work with," she says fondly. “He makes each performance its own experience for the audience.” Rylance would keep the young cast on its toes by improvising nightly, including walking on stage carrying a six-foot-tall chicken-herding instrument. “It was quite a challenge to keep a straight face. It was like, 'Should we acknowledge that he’s holding this weird thing, or should we just pretend it’s part of the show?'” Rylance's sense of freedom and playfulness continues to influence Ranson. “That’s the main thing I learned from working with him: It should be fun!” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s an amazing, fun job that we get to do. He inspired all of us to make it fresh and take risks on stage every night.”
Bloodthirsty Fans: After working on Carrie for two years, Ranson understands the challenges in reviving one of the most infamous flop musicals of all time. “There is such a history with this piece; there is a lot of pressure. I am not Sissy Spacek,” she says. “Sometimes we have audiences who latch onto things they seem to recognize from the original [1988 Broadway production], but our story is told in a really artistic, interpretive way. It’s not a lot of special effects and over-the-top camp.” Of course, audiences are fixated on one thing: “They all want to know about how we deal with the blood,” she says with a laugh, “because blood is such an integral part of the story.” And yet the story itself is attracting welcome attention in the revamped production. “People are relating to Carrie as a story about the outsider, which is also what I connect to,” Ranson says. “From teenagers to older people, everybody seems to be moved by it.”