Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10
Critically acclaimed actress.
Mirirai Sithole ’12 thrives under the bright lights of the stage.
As a young girl, Sithole, who was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Massachusetts, discovered a passion for the arts. “One of my older brothers is a very good visual artist, but I am the only one in my family who actively pursued a career in the arts,” Sithole said. “My parents and my two older brothers have always been very supportive.” Most of her middle school and high school life was dedicated to theater. Therefore, when the time came to choose a college, Sithole knew exactly what she wanted to major in.
Sithole had auditions lined up at multiple colleges, however, “I’ll never forget my audition at Adelphi,” she said. “It was my last one and I had to get back home to Massachusetts right after. I ran in and auditioned and then got back in the car and my dad drove us home through the rain. But I do remember being really impressed with the campus. I felt safe there.”
Sithole enrolled at Adelphi in the fall of 2008 and majored in theatre arts. Despite the rigorous demands of the program, Sithole found the time to be very involved on campus. The first organization Sithole joined was the Student Activities Board (SAB). She soon became a representative for SAB in the Student Government. Her role as a representative for SAB led to her being elected class secretary in her sophomore year and then class president in her junior and senior years. She also worked with several other students to coordinate weekly poetry readings and musical performances in the University Center café. “That was great because it was the first collaborative project I did outside of theater,” she said. Sithole was also a member of several other organizations including the national leadership society and Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK). “I think I was the only performing arts person inducted in ODK that year,” said Sithole. “It was nice to be a representative for the performing arts students.”
Sithole said she always had the support of the professors in the performing arts department. “It’s a beautiful dynamic they’ve created in the performing arts department,” she said. “Maggie Lally doesn’t judge and she’s always there to offer solutions or a kind word… Senior year I was very busy. I was directing a friend’s capstone while acting in my own. I had a meeting with Maggie and she asked how I was doing and then offered her office for me to take a nap. That was exactly what I needed in that moment. Although my dorm wasn’t very far, I just needed those fifteen minutes to get my life together and sit quietly in an empty room.”
As graduation was approaching, Sithole was researching graduate schools to apply to. “I was really interested in NYU and Sarah Lawrence,” she said. She got into both schools as well as some others that she applied to, “But then all of a sudden I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted,” she said. “Two weeks after commencement I was sitting at home telling my parents that I had decided I was going to move to New York City. That’s what I did. It was almost cliché. I didn’t have an apartment but I had been hired by a company that I had interned for. The job only paid $200 a week.” She soon found an apartment in Brooklyn with a friend from Adelphi. She auditioned tirelessly and worked any job she could find. “I eventually found a job selling merchandise for various Broadway shows which was great because the hours were flexible and it was a steady paycheck,” said Sithole. Then, she decided to apply to the Actors Theater of Louisville apprentice program (now called the Professional Training Company). “I didn’t feel very prepared for that audition but I got a callback. Eventually I got the offer to attend the program and I was faced with making another big decision: if I was going to spend the next nine months in Kentucky,” she said. She decided to join the program. “I’m so glad I did,” she said. “I call the apprentice program my graduate school. There, I learned how much work it would take to have the success that I wanted in this industry.”
Shortly after returning to New York, Sithole earned her first professional theatre gig at Lincoln Center, joined the Actors Equity Association union and earned her first television role on Comedy Central’s Broad City. “When I joined my first union, that’s when I felt like a professional,” she said. Sithole was then admitted to the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Sithole followed up her role on Broad City with guest roles on Netflix’s Master of None and Showtime’s The Affair.
In January 2016, Sithole performed in the Classic Stage Company’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children. Although she graced the stage for much of the production, she never uttered a single word. Her character, Kattrin, was mute. “To not have any lines was both freeing and terrifying,” she said. Sithole instead had to rely on communicating with her body. “Ms. Sithole provides the production with a moving emotional center,” wrote Charles Isherwood, a critic for The New York Times, “communicating through gestures, wordless yelps and a wounded feeling in her eyes [that captures] Kattrin’s sensitivity, terror and ultimately, nobility.” Shortly after playing Kattrin, Sithole received the Rosemarie Tichler Fund grant, which awards funds to assist promising young actors who have appeared in a Classic Stage Company production.
Today, Sithole can be seen performing at the Signature Theater in Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead. “I really connect with the material,” she said. “My capstone was actually Venus which is also by Suzan-Lori Parks. It feels like I’ve come full circle. And this theater feels like home to me. It is my dream theater space.”
Sithole says Adelphi showed her the value of finding a balance in life and that her professors provided guidance but also gave her freedom to prepare for roles in her own way. “At Adelphi I learned that creating your own work important and that branching outside of your own comfort zones is crucial as an artist,” she said. “I was given tools to continue to push myself with every new role. Also, the support of not only the performing arts community at the University but the larger Adelphi community has meant the world to me.”