Player Spotlight: James Rana

james-ranaThis post is dedicated to our next player celebrating a spring birthday: James Rana.

James Rana, born on May 6th, is probably the most debonaire and cultured member of our ComedySportz New York team, although he would be highly embarrassed to read that or even be told so–he is equally as humble as his voice is smooth. (If you’ve ever heard him speak on stage or through our speakers, as Mr. Voice, you know this to be true.) He’s so smooth, you would never have guessed that he’s from Teaneck, New Jersey. (I’m from New Jersey, so I get to say that.)

A lover of tuxedos and all things related to the arts, James got his start in the world of physical comedy, through a birthday gift of juggling lessons given to him by his aunt. He loved it so much that he almost applied to Ringling Clown College, but of course his parents were not thrilled with that idea.

Not being dissuaded, he continued to study juggling, clowning and some physical theater while in college. He jokes that when it was time to go to college, since he grew up in Teaneck, “[he] decided that it was time to get out of Teaneck, so [he] went to Fairleigh Dickinson University…in Teaneck.”

That isn’t to say that he didn’t want to move on from the Garden State. At 19, after watching a lot of SCTV and reading the improvisation manual Truth in Comedy, he wrote to Charna Halpern (co-founder of the ImprovOlympic) who surprisingly wrote back, extending an invitation to come to Chicago. However, being unsure of his ability to survive on his own in Chi-Town, he stayed and became immersed in every possible form of artistic study: from acting to dance to the radio station at FDU.

I believe that one of the things that makes James a fun player is his dedication to learning, which led to the many opportunities that he has acquired as a professional performer. His resume is a dizzying list of skills: Renaissance Faire man, children’s theater, balloon sculptor, fire eater, stilt walker (he leads the Mermaid Parade as Uncle Sam on stilts every summer at Coney Island), Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Law and Order: SVU, Santa Claus, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Big Apple Circus and on and on.

In addition to his performances, James has also created and produced a documentary on Edgar Allan Poe, distributed by NPR, and has written several plays, including “The Poe Mysteries” and adapted versions of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Zorro,” which will premiere in July (look for more info on that in the summer).

So, with all of this under his belt, of course my question was, “why did you decide to audition for ComedySportz?” In true James Rana form, his answer was “I thought it would help me become a better performer.” He went on to say, “I’ve enjoyed watching myself grow” and “feel more confident.” He recalls that early on there was a feeling of “being like a deer in the headlights” but now he’s embracing that there’s “something wonderful about going on that stage and you do not know what’s going to happen. That’s a scary thing but it’s also a beautiful thing.” Well said, James.

His favorite game is Dead Serious (Serious Scene). He comments that it’s “like a really bad version of a soap opera. It’s a fun way to really get to act.” He’s also “fallen in love with 3 Things.”

Now, there’s plenty more that I can say about James, and I will later in the summer, as we get closer to the premier of his adapted version of “Zorro;” but for now I will leave you with what he would want to tell himself a year from now: “Keep breathing.”