By Alexandra Mandalakis
Rachel Ravel, FCLC ’19, and Austin Spero, FCLC ’19, both acting majors in the Theatre Program, are releasing the pilot of their original six-episode musical comedy series, “Rachel Unraveled,” in mid-December. This satirical show follows aspiring actress Rachel Ravel as she tries to make it big in the Big Apple in the most unconventional ways. With the help of some of her best friends, Rachel learns what it really takes to become a star.
“Rachel Unraveled” is based on Ravel and Spero themselves. “My friends and I were joking for a while about how funny it would be to create a show about our lives,” Ravel told The Fordham Ram. “One day, at 7:15 a.m. in the rush line of ‘The Color Purple,’ we said to ourselves, ‘Today’s the day!’”
“I think that’s what makes our project so special,” said Spero. “So many people have ideas for so many different things, but they don’t always put them into action. I am so happy that we decided to go through with it, and it is definitely paying off.”
The show began as a kickstarter project, where the duo raised $3,000 for production needs. “People have been so kind in lending their services. The support that we have received from professors, friends, family and people that we don’t even know donating money has been really crazy and overwhelming. We couldn’t have done this without them,” the duo said.
The cast consists of both Ravel and Spero, as well as Olivia Caridi (“The Bachelor”), Jon Rua (“Hamilton”), Maria-Christina Oliveras (FCLC acting professor) and William Youmans (“Wicked”). Ravel and Spero were ecstatic about this group of professionals. “I loved watching Olivia on ‘The Bachelor,’” Ravel said. “When I found out I was working with her for a show prior to this one, I was just like ‘Be cool, but ask her to be on your web series!’” As far as Professor Oliveras goes, Spero was honored. “It is crazy being able to work with [Oliveras] because she honestly is my teacher and my hero, and I am so glad that she is on board.” With the help of the production team of a previous project of Ravel’s entitled “Tuff Boys,” as well as a social networking chain of actors and a plethora of Fordham students, a professional team was quickly pulled together.
Playwriting major, Billy Recce, FCLC ’19, is the writer, composer and lyricist for the web series. An original song is included in each show episode, and the first one, entitled “Only In My Head,” will be released to the public as a single later this week. “Billy is truly incredible,” Ravel said. “We pitch him an idea for a comedic bit and he returns it to us completely polished.” The music video was filmed in Fordham Rose Hill’s Collins Auditorium, and according to Spero, “It looks so good. The stage looks like a Broadway fantasy. It’s amazing.”
The creative film process was not always easy, as the cast and crew struggled with inclement weather and scheduling issues. “The hardest part I’ve encountered so far was when something didn’t go as planned and everything else had to be rearranged around the problem,” Ravel said. “It has happened a couple times and it’s hard to just pick ourselves up and try something new.”
For Spero, the most difficult thing was loosening his grip on the story that him and Ravel originated. “Bringing a ton of new people on the team and having to relinquish creative control and collaborate with them was tough, since this has been our baby for so long,” she said. “But the collaborative nature of the show always worked out in the end.”
The most rewarding aspect of the project for both students was seeing their ideas come to life on screen and watching others truly enjoy them. Spero explained his first experience on set: “The first thing that we actually wrote for the show was the first scene of the pilot. When it was finally being filmed I remember thinking that this was really a dream come true. I was sitting in the audience and just sobbing, and in that moment I realized that I could really see it going somewhere.”
Both Ravel and Spero have high hopes for the series. They plan to submit their pilot to various webfests to earn funds for future seasons. They hope to reveal, in a comedic manner, the true struggles of an actress trying to live her dreams, as opposed to the all too common plotline of a girl hitting it big right off the bat.
Above all, both creators are happy to have inspired others. “A lot of people have told us that they’re going to start producing and creating their own work too, which is exciting because as an actor there is a lot of waiting around for opportunities and as an artist you have to often wait for someone to give you a job and give you something to do. We decided that this is something that we love and are passionate about and we’re going to do it, and prove that you don’t have to wait to do so.”
The pilot episode of “Rachel Unraveled” will be available in mid-December on Vimeo. More information about the web series can be found on Twitter at @RUtheseries.