Young actor sails into Redux territory
Oshen Parris-Austin brings ample experience to the Soreng stage in Radio Redux’s holiday show
His first name is Oshen — pronounced like the Pacific or Atlantic — but the 17-year-old junior at South Eugene High School isn’t really sure how that happened.
“I guess you’d have to ask my parents,” Oshen Parris-Austin said.
What you obviously don’t have to ask his parents, Megan Austin and Joel Parris, is how Oshen’s hyphenated last name came about.
You also really don’t need to ask them why their son is so interested in performing in drama or musical theater, because although they’re both attorneys, his father also had a career as a radio disc jockey and his mother was a theater director.
Parris-Austin has a string of theater credits on his young résumé, including most recently a feature role in Bright Star, performed by the South Eugene High School’s theater program.
That’s where he came to the attention of Fred Crafts, founder and director of the Radio Redux ensemble, which reproduces classic radio plays.
“Oshen is one of those rare individuals whose very presence can light up a stage,” Crafts said. “He acts well, sings well, moves well. I wanted him to give him an opportunity to show what he can do on our stage so that others can enjoy his work.”
Impressed by the young actor, Crafts mentioned him to Adriana Ripley, another South Eugene High School student who occasionally performs with Radio Redux, asking her if she thought Parris-Austin might be interested in giving the ensemble a try.
“I thought it sounded like fun, and I got kind of a rundown from Adriana and then looked at pictures of previous shows,” Parris-Austin said. “I liked the time period, the clothing, and the voice acting behind the microphones, so I said I would like to do it. I thought it would be interesting to see how the professionals do it.”
Voice acting is different from straight acting in many ways, but Parris-Austin said his high school theater participation has prepared him well for it.
“We do a lot of shows at school that involve learning different dialects,” he said. “So I was introduced to different voices in that way, although I haven’t done it the way Radio Redux does it.”
Oshen Parris-Austin creates captivating characters in South Eugene High School's acclaimed
stage productions. Photo courtesy SEHS Theater.
Parris-Austin’s first stage appearance with Radio Redux is in its December 20-22 holiday show in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
“I’m Jim in Gift of the Magi,” he said, referring to one of O. Henry’s most famous — and ironic — short stories. Written in 1905, it’s about a newly married young couple living in straitened circumstances, who each sacrifice something of importance in order to offer the other a meaningful Christmas gift.
Parris-Austin also plays the part of young Ebenezer Scrooge in the Radio Redux show.
One of the first roles he remembers from childhood, when his mother was directing summer shows in Tucson, Arizona, was as a squirrel in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“I had one line, after a kid got thrown down the trash chute, and it was, ‘Bad nut!’ “ he recalled. “It got a lot of laughs.”
He’s been in Eugene since the beginning of eighth grade, when he attended Ridgeline Montessori School before starting high school at South Eugene. At South, he got involved in the school’s theater program.
Oshen Parris-Austin (left to right) rehearses with Adriana Ripley and Achilles Massahos in "The Cinnamon Bear" segment of "The Radio Redux Christmas Special." Photo by Fred Crafts.
Parris-Austin has done a mix of musicals and more standard plays, “but I think I like musicals a little bit more,” he said. “I really like classic musicals like Singing in the Rain and She Loves Me.”
He’s traveled to New York City, where he saw Be More Chill, “which is a play that South Eugene just did.”
“They definitely had a bigger budget — very noticeably,” Parris-Austin said of the Off-Broadway production. “But it was almost like a completely different show. The actors there had made different choices than what we made in our show, so that was very interesting.”
He doesn’t consider himself a “triple threat” — at least not yet. Singing and acting are his strong suits, thanks to voice lessons and the high school drama program, but with the exception of some limited tap dance classes, dancing so far has been learned specifically for musicals he’s been in.
As for post-high school? As with many 17-year-olds, it’s too early to say, especially for a student who pursues both a heavy math-and-science schedule as well as drama, choir and arts.
“I would love to pursue musical theater,” Parris-Austin said, “but I’m also drawn to pre-med."
By Randi Bjornstad. Randi's work can also be found at Eugenescene.org.
Parris-Austin shows the dance moves featured in South Eugene High School's spirited musicals such as "Be More Chill" and "Bright Star." Photo courtesy SEHS Theater.