From Munchkin to major acting award-winner
Some years ago, a shy ten-year-old Rebecca Nachison stood as a Munchkin in the stage lights of a production of The Wizard of Oz in downtown San Diego.
That night the quiet little girl became an aspiring actress. The aspiring actress became a serious student of acting and, in time, an accomplished professional.
Today, she is a stage veteran who lives in Eugene — and is as thrilled to perform in productions of Fred Crafts' Radio Redux as she was as that little Munchkin long ago in Oz.
"I was a shy kid," she says. "I felt at home in the light of the stage. Being seen, knowing I was being seen, was a new and joyful experience.”
She recalls her parents' bewilderment as their introverted daughter threw herself into acting. She majored in theater at the University of California, Riverside and upon graduation she was immediately accepted into the elite graduate program at the University of California, San Diego where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
"After graduate school, I wanted to experience New York. I had to," Rebecca shared with a smile.
The first thing she learned in the Big Apple was how to wait tables.
"I hated it. And I was terrible at it," she admits. She also landed parts in television commercials ("I rubbed a lot of Vicks VapoRub on kids' chests") and performed off-Broadway.
“My favorite role was as Osa Johnson, the filmmaker and African explorer from the 1930s,” she recalls.
Fortunately, the Weist-Barron School of Television and Commercial Acting hired her as a teacher and enabled her to leave waitressing behind. "Forever!" she exclaims.
However, the teaching gig was not enough to keep her in Manhattan. She felt that she might be cast more often if she returned to the West Coast, and she was right.
Rebecca's acting has covered the spectrum from heavy drama to hilarious comedy. She loves performing a wide variety of voices and dialects and feels that Radio Redux is the perfect vehicle for creating distinctive roles. Photo by Bub Bishop.
Leading parts in California theaters led to three major awards: A Los Angeles Drama-Logue award for Outstanding Performance, and two San Diego Critics Circle awards for Best Actress. She also won Best Actor in Eugene Weekly's Best of Eugene Readers Poll 2017-18.
Her West Coast success also led to an engagement with the Maxim Gorky State Theater as an actor and stage manager for a tour of two productions in the then Soviet Union.
Later, an old theater pal encouraged Rebecca to audition in Seattle and Portland, where most of her work was in film — with parts in Fifteen and Pregnant with Kirsten Dunst, and Raising Flagg with Alan Arkin, along with several TV commercials.
“I fell in love with the Northwest and decided to stay. I also fell in love with a certain person and got married,” she says.
She probably would have remained in Portland except her husband was offered a good position in a school near Eugene.
“I’d always lived in larger cities and I wasn't sure how it would work out,” Rebecca says. “But now I happily call Eugene my home ... forever."
Rebecca is frequently seen on local stages, leaving occasionally to take parts in New York and Seattle. She also stays busy as an acting coach.
She especially enjoys helping young actors prepare for auditions with graduate schools and professional theaters across the country. As she says, "I question them. I work them hard. I always feel I can take good actors and make them better actors."
When not performing, rehearsing or coaching, Rebecca enjoys travel, tickling the ivories, listening to classic Blues with a bit of Led Zepplin thrown in, crocheting, baking, and learning anything new from "astronomy to zoology.”
Most of all, Rebecca loves "a good laugh that leaves me breathless. That's the way to my heart."
When Fred Crafts invited Rebecca to join the Radio Redux troupe, she knew it would be great fun.
"We're performing with our pals. That chemistry really shows onstage. And, the Radio Redux audience is with us from the moment we walk on the stage. It's like performing for family,” she says.
In her career as a character actor, Rebecca has covered the entire theatrical spectrum from heavy drama to hilarious comedy. She loves performing a wide variety of voices and dialects and feels that Radio Redux is the perfect vehicle for creating vividly distinctive roles.
"I love everything about these Radio Redux productions,” she says. The scripts are wonderful. The costumes are fun to wear and fun to see. Fred and all the actors and the musicians and sound effects people and the Hult staff are all professionals and terrific folks."
"The Radio Redux audience is with us from the moment we walk on the stage. It's like performing for family,” Rebecca says. That's due in part to how the cast interacts."We're performing with our pals. That chemistry really shows onstage."
For his part, Fred appreciates Rebecca’s professionalism, expertise and sense of humor.
“Rebecca’s not only a superb dramatic actress but has a delightful comedic side as well,” Fred says. “Her voice is warm and versatile — perfect for our radio productions. She’s a great team player. I admire her willingness to try any role in any kind of story. She’s very professional. And great fun.”
Her past Radio Redux performances include roles in The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon, and The War of the Worlds. In the The Fibber McGee and Molly Show, Rebecca voices the parts of Molly and Teeny, as well as Kitty Malone in Pat Novak, For Hire.
"I know one thing for sure,” she says. “I hope I can play with Fred and the Radio Redux team forever."
Story by Bub Bishop. Bub is a retired Register-Guard reporter.
“Rebecca’s not only a superb dramatic actress but has a delightful comedic side as well,” Radio Redux founder and director Fred Crafts says. “Her voice is warm and versatile — perfect for our radio productions. She’s a great team player. I admire her willingness to try any role in any kind of story. She’s very professional. And great fun.” Photo by Paul Carter.