Ninchai Nok-Chiclana caught the acting bug early.
“I decided to pursue acting as a profession at the age of 8, when I saw the movie ‘West Side Story’ with my family,” the White Bear Lake senior said.
She got started by watching TV dramas with her mother.
“I would copy their facial expressions in the mirror. Those were my first ‘acting classes,’ which is very odd but very funny to remember.”
A standout in high school productions, Nok-Chiclana said she’ll attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York next year to pursue her dream.
Her notable roles in White Bear Lake plays were as Aggie Manville in “Play On!” during her freshman year, Principal Clark in “Footloose” as a sophomore, and the title role in “Aida” as a senior.
Nok-Chiclana was named a semifinalist for the Hennepin Theatre Trust Spotlight Program’s Triple-Threat Award, chosen by an audition process, as both a junior and senior.
“Ninchai can sing and dance and act. She is a triple threat,” said Wendy Suoja, choir director and music director for musicals. “Her acting skills are top-notch. If you’ve ever seen Ninchai act on stage, you know what I’m talking about.
“She is magic. She draws her audience in with moments of humor, love, seriousness and sadness. Her skills are diverse. She is capable of transforming words on a page to relatable emotions.”
Kari Steinbach, a director who worked with her in several productions, said, “I found Ninchai to be an exuberant performer with a strong stage presence and the ability to energize any scene that she is in.”
Nok-Chiclana didn’t get picked for the fall musical as a freshman, but made up for lost ground after that, starting with her role as Aggie in the spring play.
“I was immensely grateful for the spring play role because it uplifted me and gave me more confidence in my skill, after being rejected from the musical,” she reflected.
The next year in “Footloose,” she was initially cast in an ensemble number, but that changed with three performances left when the actress who played Principal Clark fell ill.
“Ms. Suoja asked me to step in and perform her role the night of (the play)! It gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my ability to perform under pressure.”
That experience helped her claim the Aida role in the love story between an Egyptian prince and a slave.
“Aida gave me the opportunity to show my range of acting and to connect with more people through my performance,” Nok-Chiclana said. “(Playing) the title role my senior year truly showed me that I've come a long way from not even getting into the musical my freshman year.”
Musically, her focus is on singing and “learning how to use traditional Puerto Rican hand drums.”
“My dream job would be getting to perform a role, any role at all, at The Ordway (in St. Paul), because that's where I saw my first professional musical.”