Niles High grad climbs ranks in NY acting scene

Published 12:32 pm Thursday, September 26, 2013

Niles High graduate Mariette Strauss is performing at the highly-acclaimed Flea Theater in New York City. Submitted photo

Niles High graduate Mariette Strauss is performing at the highly-acclaimed Flea Theater in New York City. Submitted photo

Niles High School graduate Mariette Strauss says she’s landed the biggest role of her young career as a stage actor in New York City.

The 24-year-old Michigan State University graduate is playing the role of Mercy Lewis in the production of “Sarah Flood in Salem Mass” at The Flea Theater in Tribeca. It is a radical re-telling of the events leading up to the Salem Witch Trials.

“It’s not my first show in New York City, but it’s the biggest that I’ve been involved in thus far and the one I’m most proud of,” said Strauss, a 2007 Niles High graduate, in a phone interview Wednesday.

Strauss is a member of The Bats, The Flea Theater’s critically acclaimed resident acting company. The Bats are comprised of more than 100 aspiring young actors. Strauss said more than 1,000 people audition to become a Bat every year. She became a Bat in August 2012 after a series of auditions.

“It is a really big honor to be a part of,” she said. “It is a very well respected Off-Off-Broadway House in New York… just by saying I’m in a show at the Flea Theater carries a lot of weight — people know this theater.

“Hopefully this show is a springboard to other work.”

Strauss moved to New York City to pursue an acting career in October 2011 after graduating from MSU with a theater major in the spring of 2011.

Strauss never intended to major in theater. She wanted to be a doctor or high school math teacher because she wanted to help change lives for the better.

She changed her mind after performing for the first time in college. After the production, a member of the audience told Strauss that watching the show made her want to call her mom after not talking to her in 20 years.

“I realized then that I love theater because the goal is — I don’t want to say heal people because that sounds pretentious — but there is something about creating a change in someone. That’s huge. I realized I could do that in theater,” said Strauss, who was class president at Niles High all four years.

“Sarah Flood in Salem Mass” is an Off-Off-Broadway production. Dating back almost 50 years, Off-Off-Broadway began informally as an alternative, non-commercial environment where new ideas and projects were born out of energetic and often happenstance encounters. Hundreds of well-known artists have gotten their start in Off-Off-Broadway. Strauss said actors such as Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Susan Sarandon have performed at The Flea Theater.

“Sarah Flood in Salem Mass” is written by Adriano Shaplin and directed by Rebecca Wright.

The show runs Tuesday through Sunday through Oct. 27.

Strauss’ parents are Nancy and John Strauss, of Niles. Mariette is a former Niles High track and field athlete and used to work as a waitress at the Prime Table.