To be or not to be Ophelia in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Hamlet” was never a question for Rachel Nicks. Sure, she was in NYC with a 16-month-old son and side careers as a fitness instructor and doula. But the Julliard-trained actress, who appears on CBS’s “The Good Fight” and NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” also has a can-do approach to life.
Janet Arvia: How do you balance being an actress, mom, and more?
Rachel Nicks: A supportive husband and loving family and friends…I am motivated by pursuing my passions. I tell everyone there is a big difference between being happy and tired and unhappy and tired. My passions refuel me. Yes, there are days I am tired. Yes, there are days my family doesn’t get a perfectly cooked meal…Yes, there are days there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done. I have learned to prioritize. Becoming a mother gave me incredible clarity. I feel like I’m the most unprepared, yet the most present I have ever been…I am blessed that my fitness teaching schedule is flexible…Since starting “Hamlet” I’ve been flying home to shoot five classes about three Mondays a month…My schedule these days is a little chaotic to take on clients as a doula but I am constantly giving advice to inquiring mothers and friends.
How did you prepare to play Ophelia?
I was committed to making her a real person…I believe she loves Hamlet fiercely…She respects and loves her brother and father. She is a motherless child. I explored what that meant and how that can affect your choices. Losing Hamlet’s love and then her father being murdered was more than she could handle. More than I’d say many would be able to handle…Ophelia is not weak. Life happened to her and she is cracking. She tries to hold on and piece her life together but ultimately she drowns…I don’t believe she killed herself. I believe the weight of her life took her under and I know that we all can relate to that.
Ophelia reminds us how important it is to find your voice and self-confidence and hold your own in a male dominated environment. Ophelia existed as a young woman under the guidance of strong men and she had to subscribe to her role as the daughter of a prime minister. Ophelia respects the opinion of her brother and father. They are trying to protect her from a possible heartbreak. I know from experience, and Ophelia learns that daddy and big brother aren’t always right. We as women must have the courage to listen to our hearts and trust our intuition. I believe we should all love hard and dream big. I believe we should also make sure we surround ourselves with loving and supportive girlfriends to help hold us up and keep us encouraged through the peaks and valleys of life.
“Hamlet” performs through June 9 at Chicago’s Courtyard Theater.
Pictured: Rachel Nicks and Karen Aldridge in “Hamlet”, courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, photo by Liz Lauren.