P E E BL BROADWAY, AMERICA’S GREATEST ARTFORM,
IS FINALLY REFLECTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
THE CHANGING FACE OF THE “GREAT WHITE WAY”
n i p e e bl inside: 12
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: GHOST DEMENSION STAR CHRIS MURRAY Chris Murray is ready to make your October even more of a thrill ride in the next installment of the blockbuster franchise.
New York based cake designer Todd Kennedy, a sugarworking wizard, talks cakes, sugar flowers and refusing to conform to a stereotype.
! CH EC K OU T S TH AN EV ER BE FO RE ST TI AR E OR M VE HA CLUS IV E WE DA ILY EXCI TI NG & EX R FO OM .C AG PM EE , M OV IE S, TV, W W W.BL LK IN G AB OU T M US IC TA S ST TI AR H IT W FE AT UR ES EATR E! AR T, DE SI GN AN D TH
BLEEP OUR. TEAM.
RYAN BRINSON Editor-in-Chief
THE CHANGING FACE OF THE GREAT WHITE WAY
SARAH ROTKER Business & Audience Development Manager
Broadway, America’s greatest artform, is finally reflecting what the American people look like.
34 ANGELA BIRCHETT
FEATURE EDITORS: Nathan Robins
36 DERRICK DAVIS 38 CARLOS GONZALEZ
BROADWAY, AMERICA’ S GREATEST ARTFOR
40 ADAM JACOBS 42 CAROLE JONES
IS FINALLY REFLECTIN
46 KIMBERLY MARABLE 48 KRISTEN FAITH OEI 50 GENNY LIS PADILLA
THE CHANGING FACE
52 CONRAD RICAMORA 56 LUIS SALGADO 58 MICHAEL JAMES SCOTT
OF THE “GREAT WHITE
CONTRIBUTORS: Caleb Bollenbacher Rachael Mariboho Hatley Moore Laura Seitter Alex Wright FEATURE CONTRIBUTORS: Florian Hubertus WEB CONTENT: Sheena Wagaman
All articles and photos are the property of the writers and artists. All rights reserved.
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
60 MARISHA WALLACE
G THE AMERICAN PEO
COVER PHOTOGRAPHY: StevenGabriel Photography Michael Young
Photo by Michael Young
From the Editor I rarely talk about what goes on behind-thescenes at BLEEP, mostly because there’s nothing salacious or gossip-provoking about what we do. We’re here to tell artists’ stories and help them promote their art. Rarely is there a diva moment or something that even borders on scandalous. However, I think some things are worth noting. For example: The week before our shoot, Conrad Ricamora shot scenes for “How To Get Away With Murder” on Monday and Tuesday, before taking the red-eye flight to Manhattan, landing around 7 in the morning and then doing a two-show day at The King and I. That’s bad ass. Another example: Luis, Carlos and Genny were not only preparing to kick off tech for On Your Feet, but were also about the take the stage with Gloria Estefan herself for her Benefit Concert for Viva Broadway. Equally bad ass. I love seeing people who are passionate at what they are doing, actively able to actually do it. The entire premise of our cover story is based on the fact that this fall, there will be more opportunities than ever for people of color to take the stage. It’s a long long time coming, and there seems to be finally some recognition that America is a wonderfully diverse country and what’s on the world’s biggest stages should reflect that. At the end of the round-table interview, I was thanking these Broadway artists for taking time out of their days off to come and take some photos and chat with me. It’s my opportunity to thank them in person rather than an impersonal email. What made this time different is that I began to get emotional. Listen, I love what I
have the opportunity to do. I love being able to broadcast the stories of artists all around the world. I’m usually focused on the task at hand, but there was something different about this interview that really got to me. I listened to these performers talk about their experiences with overcoming the obstacle of the color of their skin in order to get cast in shows. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, I’m all too familiar with people who still cling to the archaic idea that skin color is the great divider. But what these performers were talking about wasn’t a bitterness toward a system that pitted them against each other so they could get the one or two parts for someone of color. They weren’t speaking in anger or in desperation. These actors were speaking about the light at the end of the tunnel that grows brighter every day, the responsibility they have to empower the next generation of performers, and the joy of being able to be themselves and see themselves represented on the stage. What could have been a “we need to fix what’s broken” conversation was, in reality, a conversation about hope. Their positivity inspired me so in a way I haven’t been inspired in a long time. I’m honored to help bring their stories to you.
Ryan Brinson Editor-in-Chief BLEEP 5
BLEEPblips THE DUO BEHIND MR. MISTR Brandon Demirel and Sebastian Diego are bringing their Los Angelesbased brand, Mr. Mistr, to a wider audience and we caught up with the duo during New York Fashion Week to talk about the process of launching a legitimate fashion brand, the growing pains of expanding and a future that looks bright for their sexy and forward-thinking style.
BRYANT PHELAN OF O FAOLﾃ！N LEATHERS We caught up with designer Bryant Phelan the afternoon after his New York Fashion Week show to talk about small town inspirations, runway aspirations and all things leather.
AVAILABLE ONLINE NOW AT BLEEPMAG.COM!
THE WHOLE PHOTO SERIES IS AVAILABLE ONLINE NOW AT BLEEPMAG.COM!
HOW DO YOU INFUSE YOUR OWN SENSIBILITIES INTO SOMETHING BASED ON A POP CULTURE PIECE? Usually I take the idea from the title of a show or movie and build my own story into it. Of course, the title and what I believe the subject to be gets my mind going. With Kreme Queens, this is the first time I actually copied the print ads for Scream Queens and did a parody. One of the guys who usually models for me, Stephen Land, told me I should do something for Scream Queens and it coincided with Ariana Grande’s doughnut licking incident. I immediately thought that would be a great concept, so that started the whole project. I was working on a Hotel series, since that was the new theme for American Horror Story, but put it on the back burner to get this done. – Michael Craft BLEEP 7
by Alex Wright
Reclaim your Presence Presence: we were all born with it. Babies have it, animals have it, people with “star power” or that majestic “it” all have it. We all had it one point or other. So what happened to it? As an actor, you often hear the phrase of Oh they have talent, they have that it, what presence they have. This “it” is an indefinable quality that apparently can’t be taught. Either you have been graced with the presence of “it” or you haven’t. Period. Even as a teacher I see students all the time who have it and those you don’t have it. Other teachers and administrators write it off as, oh well, that student wasn’t born with it, as if it’s a quality like being left handed or being able to shape your tongue into a tube. All presence is just that—being present. It’s allowing yourself to step fully into your being and exchange energy with another being. It’s being with your partner, in that moment, completely. It’s committing to the moment as it is happening. As Patsy Rodenburg, my spirit animal and voice teacher of the gods, explains, some people have energy that falls back into themselves. This is called first circle. They are great at receiving energy, but have a difficult time giving out energy. People with this energy tend to be shy, introverted, and find it difficult to connect with others. Others have energy that sprays out from them in all directions. This is called third circle. People with this energy are great at giving energy, but have a difficult time receiving energy.
They tend to be extroverted, dominating, and often times come across as pushy or arrogant. Relationships that are unhealthy tend to live in these extremes: one partner dominates, while the other partner shrinks away inside himself or herself. There is no mutual exchange of energy, no balance. As Patsy Rodenburg argues in her book, The Second Circle, the exchange of energy has a lot to do with power and equality. We see it constantly in racial and gender relations: who has the power, and how is that power being wielded over the non-dominant group? So what happened? We were all born with “it,” weren’t we? Babies and children are constantly in second circle—they give and receive energy without restraint, cares, or pretense. The unfortunate truth is that at some point, we were all knocked out of this sense of presence. Living in a constant state of second circle, or presence, is living in a state of vulnerability. It’s scary, and it requires a level of openness, honesty, and selfacceptance that most people find daunting. Part of being present is lacking any selfconsciousness. It’s not that you insecurities don’t exist, of course they do; rather, it’s that your partner, the person you’re connecting with, is more important than your timidities or anxieties. Regaining your sense of self and stepping into second circle is, in a way, recapturing your life. It is, after all, your birthright: reclaim your voice, reclaim your presence, reclaim the “it.”
the intersection by
An Engaging Proposal I think we should make a promise together. I recently saw a fantastic little film called “The End of the Tour”, about a series of interviews David Lipsky conducted with bestselling author David Foster Wallace. There wasn’t much action to it, the acting wasn’t transformative (though I thought both Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segal were extremely well cast), and the subject matter wasn’t urgent, at least not in an obvious way. Yet I absolutely loved the film. It’s essentially just an extended conversation about writing and being a writer, and I found so many of my own hopes and fears echoed in the ongoing dialogue, like seeing conversations I’ve had with other artists dozens of times played out on the big screen. What stuck out to me the most, however, was the prevalent preoccupation with perception. Throughout the movie, Wallace voices a concern of how he will be seen by others. Whether it’s in regard to his choice of headgear, his headshot, or the things he says and how he says them, he’s constantly worried about being taken the wrong way. At first it seems almost silly, seeing his hesitancy to engage with Lipsky’s interviewing, but over time his fear gains substance. Again and again Wallace points out that as a writer Lipsky could take his words and twist them any which way to give whatever message he wanted, and that would be that. Millions of people who would never meet Wallace will get a supposed look at him and form their opinions based on Lipsky’s presentation of him. What seems at first to be a paranoia instead becomes a chilling critique of criticism and journalism. The press has such a weighty responsibility, but in what way they use it is entirely up to them. Criticism is such an important aspect of culture; when done right, when pursued as it aspires to, criticism engages the aspects of our culture and presents that engagement as an invitation to a wider audience. That in itself is a beautiful thing. But lately this has become twisted, as the invitation to engage is being accepted less and less. Criticism is not bad, but if people take
it as final say then Wallace’s fear is realized and becomes a valid one. If there is an understanding that everyone’s opinion is their own, that words are colored by the person behind them, then the weight and responsibility is lifted to some degree. It still exists, but by engaging beyond face value we keep some of the power for ourselves. Lately that’s just not happening. As we grow more and more reliant on social media we are getting caught up in the fallacy that ‘more is more’. By allowing ourselves to be bombarded by word of mouth we let others make up our minds for us. Reviews in less than 140 characters and critical scorekeepers like Rotten Tomatoes all have their place, and it’s not even a bad place, but there is a danger there. We’re reducing art to a percentage point. When we allow less than 140 characters or a single number between 1-100 define art then we are losing something and we’re giving up cultural currency. This is Wallace’s fear realized to the nth power. No longer is there a danger of misconstruing a person or their work based on the words and opinion of someone else, it’s become a danger of misconstruing a person or their work based on even fewer words, or even worse, a single number. We need to stop taking shortcuts and stop outsourcing experience. So here’s where this promise between you and me and everyone else comes into play. Let’s agree, you and I, to not be content. Let’s think our own thoughts and have our own ideas. Opinions get a lot of flack here in the social media age, but let’s agree to at least have our own instead of clicking ‘share’ on someone else’s and not taking the time to converse with it. Let’s participate with culture so that it doesn’t become some hollow shell of a hand-me-down. Can we promise that? Can we promise that we’ll put the ‘public’ back in ‘public domain’ and stop letting other people make up our minds for us? Stop jilting art and start treating it right. Engage it like it’s meant to be engaged. Pinky promise?
Chris Murray five
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension star Chris Murray is ready to make your October even more of a thrill ride in the next installment of the blockbuster franchise. How did your role in Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension stretch you as an actor? When I first went out for it, I thought it was a comedy because it had a code name. The director wanted to see improv and that ‘s what I do best. I had a lot of fun and later, I found out it’s part of the horror movie franchise. I never thought I would do a horror movie, or that I’d play a father. I don’t have kids and being a concerned dad is a lot of work. Getting into that mindset of being concerned for their well-being is tougher than you think. It was a challenge in that I wanted to be light hearted and funny but this character is serious and grounded. I don’t get scared that often. Maybe when I was a kid, I’d be afraid of the dark in the middle of the night. Being scared a lot is a hard emotion, but you just have to do it when you’re in a film like this. It’s hard to prepare to be really fucking terrified. You better have something that’s triggering you to be scared. What drives you? You really don’t know what you’re doing, character-wise, until that character finally makes sense to you. Meaning, when you can understand them as a human, you can offer your sense of humor or pain or experience to them. It drives me to find those guys I connect with or I know I can be the vessel for that understanding or that expression of character. It’s an
endless search for something to connect with and know you can show the truth of that character better than anyone. Were you a fan of horror movies movie doing this film? I wasn’t before but now I kinda am. In a way, they put fear into the world but, it’s also like a rollercoaster ride. It’s funny at the beginning and then you go on this ride, like a rollercoaster, and in the back of your head, you know it’s just a movie. How would you say this movie gives the audience something the previous films in the franchise didn’t? It’s funnier. The guy that plays my brother is a stand-up comedian and we had a lot of fun. I think you’re going to laugh, which you don’t do in the other ones. I would also say it can stand on its own. The mythology of one and three are there, but it stands on its own. Apart from that, it’s big! It’s 3-D IMAX and it’s a wild ride. There’s a lot happening in this one. You’re on the ride, it’s a puzzle that has to be figured out and it’s going to be intense and it’s crazy. What’s next? I think this movie is going to be a good one. This movie took the better part of a year and I’m looking forward to more projects. I want to play interesting characters; men who are interesting, funny, dark – real men. That’s where I’m heading and it’s taken me a long time. People in the business don’t know what to do with me half the time. I can play a lot more than the stupid funny guy so I think this movie is going to be good for that. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension hits theaters on October 23rd! BLEEP 13
BLEEP CREATIVITY. UNCENSORED.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC 16 BLEEPPIETRANGOLARE
THE SUGAR- WORKING WIZARD ON CAKES AND NOT CONFORMING TO A STEREOTYPE
rowing up on a farm, Todd Kennedy was raised around nature. But it was when he took his love for flowers and fused it with his love of baking that he found an artistry that would bring him to New York and set him in a class apart from other cake
designers. “I was allowed to tap into different sources of creativity, whether it was drawing, painting or music,” he explains. “I went to school for music and I played the oboe. I also had a strong love for cooking and I was always pretty good at that and baking.” By his senior year of college studying oboe performance, after spending eight hours a day practicing, he became burned out. “I decided I no longer wanted to do that. I didn’t want to be in a symphony like I had originally planned. I had been baking at home and loving it, so I went into a restaurant and started to work from the bottom up cooking and baking. That led me to a catering company where I was a pastry chef for nine years.” It was there that an opportunity presented itself for him to become the catering company’s cake designer and with that, he began doing wedding cakes. “At that point, it was just basic icing and buttercream. I didn’t know anything about what the trends in cake design were. Because of the impact of nature on my childhood, when I would create the sugar flowers, I had a really good concept of what they should look like. I was just doing what I thought looked real.” Those realistic sugar flowers led to even more opportunities. When he came to New York, he asked two companies if they were interested in having someone to do sugar work and after both companies offered him jobs, he took the one that allowed him to phase out of his work in Indiana and then move to the city. “I didn’t know my work would be that well received,” he said. “I’m a completely self-taught designer.” Kennedy says what inspires him the most about the wedding cake process is the reaction of the couple. “It’s about doing your best work and putting your passion into it,” he says. Something else he’s passionate about is not worrying about having to conform to any preconceived idea of a modern wedding cake designer. “I’ve always been told to dress a certain way, to not post certain things on social media, and that I have to be within a box. I’ve been told if I’m going to be a wedding cake designer for a luxury cake, I have to wear a suit and a bowtie and be quirky. When it comes to my sugar work, you see elegant flowers and clean lines and one might think the designer behind that is elegant and soft. But I’m much different. I’m tired of the ‘have to be’s.’ I’m an artist first and foremost. I’m not a stamp of other people. I’m not the stereotype. I want to be who I am.” For more information on Todd, head over to www.facebook.com/cakesbyTodd
BRIA NSTR UMWA SSER a n a r t i s t . a d e s i g n e r. a p h i l a n t h ro p i s t .
BRIAN STRUMWASSER IS ONE OF THE UNSUNG HEROES OF BROADWAY. NOT ONLY IS HE THE MAKEUP DESIGNER BEHIND THE TONY AWARD WINNING BEST MUSICAL, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, BUT HE’S ALSO RAISED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR BROADWAY CARES EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS.
17 different tracks. In the time since, I did Gentleman’s Guide, designed Fish in the Dark, just did Ever After at Papermill.
How did you end up being so busy working on Broadway? I have worked on 13 Broadway shows. The first show I worked on was End of the Rainbow. I was called for a photoshoot to do makeup and that changed my career. The same producers offered for me to redesign the makeup for the Broadway production and I’ve been working since. After working at The Lion King for years, I began swinging in to other shows. At the peak of my swinging, I was doing eight different shows and within those, doing
With so many shows on your resume now, what’s been the most challenging show you’ve been on? Mamma Mia was challenging because it’d had been open for so long. There’s only one wig in the show but everyone else’s hair has to be maintained, colored and cut. The challenging part was finding the time to maintain 35 actors’ hair every month. Because it was such a well-oiled machine, it’s a consistency that never stops. When Gentleman’s Guide was coming to Broadway, the biggest concern was making
sure Jefferson Mays was taken care of, that he looked right and that his skin was cared for. With all the mustaches and wigs being pulled off of him, in previous runs, there were times he would bleed from his lip because of the glue being pulled off so much. When we came to Broadway, we figured out what works so that wouldn’t happen.
When did you start using your passion for art as a way to raise money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS? I started painting a style of painting which is a high contrast, pop art painting in college. When I was working for MAC, I would do makeup at Broadway Bares and that was great. After I moved on from MAC, I wanted to do something that would let me continue to give back to BCEFA. Selling prints of the paintings has done that. The paintings are of the character, not necessarily the person playing the character. My first painting was Tony Sheldon as “Bernadette” in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I’ve now done 31 paintings and cumulatively raised just around $200,000 dollars by selling the copies at all sorts of BCEFA events. To stay up to date on the shows Brian is working on, check out www.brianstrumwasser.com
Why do you love what you do? We work at the top of our game and even being on so many projects at once, this is what I get to do for a living? It’s not the norm. I wake up and work at a Broadway show every day. It’s astonishing.
BROADWAY, AMERICA’S GREATEST ARTFORM, IS FINALLY REFLECTING WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE LOOK LIKE. ANGELA BIRCHETT DERRICK DAVIS CARLOS GONZALEZ ADAM JACOBS CAROLE JONES KIMBERLY MARABLE KRISTEN FAITH OEI GENNY LIS PADILLA CONRAD RICAMORA LUIS SALGADO MICHAEL JAMES SCOTT & MARISHA WALLACE TALK ABOUT THE CHANGING FACE OF THE “GREAT WHITE WAY” by Ryan Brinson Photography by Steven Gabriel & Michael Young Photo Assistance by Michael Orlando & Anthony Lee Medina Additional editing by Julie Freeman
opportunity to celebrate who they are. “I see it as three steps of a journey,” explained Luis Salgado (On Your Feet). “I remember being in Puerto Rico in my living room and “Al Rojo Vivo” came on. Anita Rosario was there, Marc Anthony was there and it was the first time that I gasped at Broadway. It immediately did that for me. I had no idea what it was but it was exciting. When I came to New York, I saw the show Swing and in it were Carlos SierraLopez and Maria Torres. I thought, they are like me. I know Carlos, I worked with him. I can do this. After I moved to New York, In The Heights happened. Every time we had youths come to see In The Heights, they would say, ‘You guys are like us.’ So taking the stage was the second step in the journey and the third is then being that inspiration for these kids who told us they want to be there one day. Hopefully, 10 years from now, you’ll be interviewing them.” The Lion King cast member Kimberly Marable echoed Salgado’s sentiment. “I think back to when I wanted to be an actress as a kid,” Marable said. “I think what inspired me most was seeing people who looked like me, doing what I wanted to do. I could see the goal ahead. Now it’s nice to be that person for someone else. To be their goal.” Marable’s castmate in The Lion King, Derrick Davis, grew up where he said young men are guided to get into a trade, be a farmer or go
Photo by Michael Young
Diversity. It’s a conversation being had in all aspects of our culture. Turn on the news, open up Facebook, or look at the signs in public spaces and you’ll find the poignant truth of our society today – that “post-racial America” is a myth and while progress has undoubtedly been made since Civil Rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s, equality is still a far cry from reality. One of the criticisms Broadway has endured is that the majority of casting has catered to Caucasian performers. While shows about and featuring minorities speckle the history of the art form, non-white actors have traditionally found it difficult to find roles, and when the roles do exist, they are in such a limited quantity, capable performers are left without. But something is happening right now: a moment of unprecedented diversity on the Great White Way. In the past year, Keke Palmer became the first African-American Cinderella while Norm Lewis became the first AfricanAmerican to don the iconic mask in Phantom of the Opera. But the larger shift can be seen this fall, when On Your Feet, Allegiance, and The Color Purple will open, The Wiz is airing on NBC before its Broadway bow next season and the spring will bring Shuffle Along. Add these shows to the already running Aladdin, The Lion King, The King and I, and Hamilton, and there will be — more so than ever — a diverse array of performers taking the stages. Over the course of two weeks, I caught up with a dozen of those performers representing six Broadway shows that celebrate the diversity of American culture. Some have performed on the Tony Awards. Some are leads in shows while others are members of the ensemble. One is in one of TV’s hottest shows as well as the current Tonywinning musical revival. Three just made their Broadway debuts. Each is resplendent in their love of what they do and the
Photo by Michael Young
into the military. “Coming from the area I came from, which wasn’t an affluent area by any stretch of the imagination, there weren’t high aspirations. So to have made it to this point, I am acutely aware that people are looking at me and saying, ‘Well, he looks like me and I can be where he stands.’ It takes me back home and to other areas like where I grew up, to encourage them and say, ‘Yes, you can get out of here and do more than what people tell you can be.’ I feel like onstage I say that and offstage I say that.” The sense of responsibility to inspire people, especially young people, is overwhelmingly strong among the actors, each of whom has been touched by it in a different way. “By virtue of doing what you do as a professional and looking the way you look, you are representing people who are underrepresented,” said Conrad Ricamora, who is currently starring in both The King and I on Broadway and the prime time hit “How To Get Away With Murder” on ABC. “I feel a responsibility as an actor to do my job the best
that I possibly can and in doing that, I’m then approached by people who are gay, who are Asian, who are mixed race, that say, ‘Thank you for representing our community.’ It always takes me by surprise because I think I’m just doing my job, but wow, you’re welcome. I’m always really pleasantly surprised by that.” Aladdin star Adam Jacobs, who has played a diverse set of roles from Simba in The Lion King, Marius in Les Miserables and now Aladdin, said it’s a responsibility that he didn’t seek out when he got into the business but that it adds a positive energy to the experience. “Playing an iconic role like Aladdin for example, there are certain expectations and you don’t even think about that,” Jacobs said. “You just go out there and tell the story. No matter what the story is, as long as you tell it well, people of all races and creeds will be drawn in and will feel included.” For Something Rotten’s Marisha Wallace, that sense of responsibility has always been present and is one of the driving factors behind her pursuing her goals.
said when she saw that, it’s what inspired her to know she could do it. Knowing that impact, it’s a good reminder because it’s easy to forget. We’re doing what we do, like Conrad and Adam said, because we love it. In our show, The King and I, there are so many Asian kids that come to the show and when I watch them watch them, I bet they’re just wishing they could be up there.” Having been on both the creative side and the performer side in the audition room, Something Rotten’s Michael James Scott echoes the importance of instilling possibility into young people. “Watching when someone of color comes in the audition room and seeing the fire in their eyes, knowing that there’s maybe only a certain amount of slots that are available for that show, it has been alarming for me but also really beautiful that people are still doing it and are still passionate about it,” he said. “I’ve kinda joked about making my career off of being the token black man in Broadway shows and it’s interesting that the first
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
“I didn’t grow up with a Broadway background,” she explained. “I’m from the South. Most people haven’t even seen a Broadway show. Most are just trying to get out of their small town and I’m the one that got out. I always feel a sense of responsibility because I am a representative of someone who can get out, and who can make it. These kids who are from where I’m from, some of them have nothing. They have big dreams and are sitting in their rooms singing to themselves, but don’t know it actually could become something. I have young nieces and nephews who watch me and now know they can do it. They don’t have to be what everything thinks they have to be. They know they can be greater.” The King and I actress Kristen Faith Oei said she grew up unaware of the responsibility of being a role model for other Asian-Americans who are aspiring actors. It wasn’t until recently that a colleague changed her perspective on it. “I had a friend, who is also an associate, tell me she had seen me understudy Amneris in Aida over 10 years ago,” Oei remembers. “She
AN IMPACT EVEN GREATER THAN THE STAGE As performers who are working on stage and are passionate about promoting a culturally diverse and realistic representation of what American looks like, these artists are taking up the mantle off the stage as well. Vocal powerhouse Angela Birchett made a name for herself playing Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray touring around the country. Now she’s leading the band on Monday nights at Lights Out. “Our show, Lights Out, is an open mic for the Broadway community to have a safe, free space to do what they don’t get to do eight times a week, so this type of conversation happens with our band and the people we invite to perform. We encourage people to take music from every genre and do what you will. As live music performers, we keep having the conversation about how we can make that safe place, almost like a playground where you can bring your own games, and do what you want to do. I’m excited because this allows us to complement the Broadway community and people of color within the Broadway community. We give you that safe place.” That safe place on stage is something Kimberly Marable has also fostered for herself in her cabaret show. “For me it’s twofold,” she says. “Artistically, my most recent cabaret show is really geared to get people to care about something. There are protest songs, there are love songs, all sorts of music but it’s about something of substance. I think we as artists have to communicate and speak about things that matter. Also with Broadway Serves, we are getting people to give of themselves to the service of others and enrich the community and volunteer their times.” “I was going to mention Broadway Serves,” Carole Jones (The Book of Mormon) said. Broadway Serves, the organization Marable
helped found in 2012, was born out of the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin murder and was created for theatre professionals to be able to meet and take an active role in social issues. “You guys just had a great workshop with students. For me, I’ve started going back to the beginning, taking acting and dance classes, so I can feel confident enough to go to a student and explain how it is and how the industry works,” Jones said. “Volunteering through organizations like Broadway Serves, I’ve worked with City Harvest and Village Care,” Genny Lis Padilla said. “Really on a basic level, it’s about being the best example I can be on stage and off. Making sure every time I go on stage, I’m giving the work justice. I have a responsibility, not only to the show and myself, but to my community to be the example for the next generation.” Michael James Scott is also interested in bringing that industry knowledge to students who wouldn’t otherwise get training from Broadway talent. “I’m from Orlando and we are creating this organization called Broadway by the Beach,” Scott said. “To be able to have those kids in the area where I grew up have a program and a place where I can bring performers from Broadway down to the beach is something we’re really excited about. Finally, I can do something and give back to the people who cheered me on for so long.” Another organization utilizing the arts through educational and collaborative programming is R.Evolución Latina. Focusing on empowering the Latino community, founder Luis Salgado remains committed to making a difference through the arts. “It’s about action,” he explains. “Educating, empowering, and nurturing. Thanks to In The Heights, we have been able to affect so many lives. We just had our summer camp that has over 250 kids every year, coming to take free acting and singing and dancing classes from Broadway talent who are donating their time to empower these young people.”
Broadway show I saw, there was one black man in the show. I remember saying, I can do that. Just like what Luis was saying about sitting in your living room and seeing it on TV. What was amazing has been that people of all diverse backgrounds can come to a show and see an entire cast full of color on stage. That has changed the game. For a young person to come to Broadway and see a stage full of color is changing the game.” On Your Feet actress Genny Lis Padilla believes the diversity, not just on Broadway, but in art in general, is a direct reflection on the conversation being had. “People are saying they want to see more diversity in art, whether that’s gender diversity, sexual diversity, or whatever it may be, it’s happening across the spectrum,” she said. “I would say with the boom of social media and the information you can have within seconds, producers, writers and creative can get the message so much more quickly. When they get that message of people hungry for more diversity, it’s no wonder why now it’s starting to happen. They’re getting the message. It’s important to keep having the conversation.” That conversation has been a long time coming, but there’s a visible shift taking place in the industry. “I feel like it’s starting to do what I would love to see,” Davis said. “Roles are being nontraditionally cast. All of the different minorities aren’t being pigeon-holed into one type of stereotypical character and are being given the breadth to be a range of characters, regardless of the color of their skin.” Ricamora agrees and has experienced that shift both on stage and on screen. “I feel like casting regardless of color, or on purpose to mix it up, is great,” he said. “I feel so lucky to be on a Shonda Rhimes TV show where there’s just so much diversity happening. It’s not about a black female lawyer. It’s about an amazing strong lawyer, regardless of the fact that she’s female or she’s black.” The diversity that’s being experienced even extends beyond skin color. “I feel like with my career, my goal is to break down all barriers of race and gender,” Wallace said. “I’ve understudied a man and went on stage playing a white male’s character in Aladdin. In Something Rotten, I understudy a
white female who is not my type at all. In all of those things I’m doing, I’m trying to break down that barrier. It doesn’t have to be the status quo. I love Casey Nicholaw (Director of Aladdin) because he’s all about it. Like Adam said, if you tell the story, it doesn’t matter what you look like.” “I do like the fact that those labels are starting to not matter as much,” Jacobs added. “It’s happening. The story is becoming the forefront and like Marisha said, it doesn’t matter what you look like. I think as we continue to forge pathways and pioneer and explore, it’s going to continue to become more diverse.” The summer’s biggest theatrical blockbuster has proven to be more than a solid musical. Hamilton is proving that a cast of an American musical can not only reflect the American public but can revolutionize the industry at the same time. “Obviously Hamilton is the perfect example of every type of casting for roles that were all white,” Oei said. “In The King and I, it’s authentic and all Asian, but I love that Hamilton is such an obvious part of history and they can tell it so honestly and have such diversity.” The instant-hit musical by Lin Manuel Miranda has made headlines for telling the historical story of America’s founding fathers but rather than casting a group of white men, the cast features actors of every race and cultural background. The result is a story of American history told by a cast that reflects what America looks like today. “It’s a testament of telling the story,” Wallace says of the success of the show. “And there’s a type of healing that happens in the audience that I wasn’t even aware of,” Ricamora added. The effect the diversification on stage is having on the Latino community is something On Your Feet’s Carlos E. Gonzalez knows firsthand. While he is making his Broadway debut in the show, the story goes far deeper than the emotions of his first Broadway bow. “For me this year, I feel like the universe has aligned in a crazy way. I’m doing a Cuban show and in it, Emilio leaves Cuba at age 11, exactly like when I left Cuba at age 11. In Cuba, there are so many artists who are closed off from this artistic world they don’t even know exists. I’ve been blessed to go back to Cuba many times
and I was just there when the flag was raised. Things are happening for a reason. We put up Rent, which was the first musical to happen in Cuba in 50 years. That was huge. They have amazing dancers and actors and singers, but they don’t know what this type of performing is. When I go, I go with flash drives full of Tony Awards performance videos because people there don’t know what any of that looks like. The artists are so hungry for it.” “And not only from the performing artist perspective,” Salgado added. “Lin Manuel is back writing a show, and not just that, but breaking ground with Hamilton. There is a movement of writers and producers and directors who are getting opportunities to create new theatre. Sergio Trujillo (On Your Feet) had four shows that he choreographed running at the same time. Regardless of the fact that he’s Latino, he’s a choreographer that had four shows running at the same time. That’s incredible and inspiring.” Padilla, Salgado and Gonzalez are currently working with Trujillo as they take the stage in On Your Feet this fall. Each spoke of how Trujillo’s inspiration inspired them in telling the story, but for Gonzalez, inspiration was sitting right next to him. “My first show was In The Heights and I saw it with Luis in it,” Gonzalez said. “Now, we’re in this show together. I was born in Cuba and in Cuba, there’s no musical theatre. There was no performing arts at my high school. Now, going back to that school, those kids are seeing me in a Broadway show and not only that, but a show that’s telling our story.” The consensus among these artists is that this story is one that needs to be
continually told and extends beyond aspiring performers, but to everyone. “It goes along with that sense of healing that needs to happen in America right now,” Ricamora says. “Growing up, I always felt like an other. I don’t want to have anyone else who looks like me feel that way. In order for that to happen, there has to be inclusion in shows like Hamilton, where yes, these are characters who were white, but we are going to tell the story and include what America looks like right now. Because of that, there isn’t a sense of ‘that’s not my history,’ because it’s all of our history. We are all Americans.”
Photo by Michael Young
Photo by Michael Young
As the host of Lights Out on Broadway, Angela Birchett brings down the house every Monday night. “I love that we take songs you know and love and flip them and give them a completely different groove. I love the freedom of it.” We caught up with the dynamic performer to talk about what inspired that freedom. How did you become a part of Lights Out? It was the brainchild of Derrick Davis and Chondra Profit who are both in the cast of The Lion King. They came to me because they wanted to have a night for Broadway performers to perform music that wasn’t a part of their 8 show week. The idea is that performers can come in and do whatever they want, however they want and be creative and free. How has your history of being a stage performer influenced what you do at Lights Out? In general, I’ve always approached singing and presenting music from a place of freedom. It’s operating from who I am as opposed to someone else’s idea of what it should be. I’ve had a lot of experience and time with live music, in all types of live performance outside of theatre. So it all informs each other. Why is what you’re doing important to both the community of artists it features and the community of patrons who come spend an evening at Lights Out? Taharqa Patterson, my musical director, and
I feel very strongly that what sets us apart from other open mics is that we encourage, and really demand, that everyone come with a sense of freedom and creativity. It’s not a clique thing or a reason to sit back and see what someone else is going to do. When you’re on stage, that’s your time to be you and to shine. We don’t really rehearse like a cover band would because we want the band and the singer to be free and have that range. Especially because of where we are in Times Square, we get a lot of tourists from all over the world and it gives them a different vibe of American music as opposed to being in a theater or being at Lincoln Center where it’s more structured. We go off the rails a bit and people don’t see that all of the time. We have that to offer. You’ve hit your one year anniversary with Lights Out. What are you looking forward to in year two? I think being even more willing to take risks. My musical director is very creative and his range of thinking when it comes to his approach to music is very different than mine. I’m more structured. I come from the theatre world and I’m a former music teacher, so I’m more structured. I love how he pushes me to set the tone for the guests to come in and be free. I’m really excited about pushing the envelope even further. As for me, I’m finally starting to do some writing and collaborating. I still audition but with so much live music happening right now, I’m working heavily in that world. I’m also continuing to grow Lights Out and develop more nights like it. Head over to Urbo in Times Square on Monday nights to see Angela and the entire Lights Out team!
As a part of The Lion King, how has that made you up your game as a performer? The Lion King has challenged me because the standard is so high for that show. For any show that has run for that long, there’s an expectation from the audience. Disney does an incredible job making sure the performers rise to or exceed that expectation on a nightly basis. It’s challenged me on every level: my stamina, my ability to take good care of myself as a performer and of course, my acting. Being the Mufasa cover was absolutely a dream come true. Once I stepped into those shoes, I realized how huge those shoes are. In my opinion, it’s one of, if not the most, important roles in the show because it sets the footprint for all of the tension. Then of course, stepping into the role of Scar, the arch of that character is mind-blowing. To keep that fresh and new every time I get up there to do it, is a challenge that rebirths itself every day. How does it feel to know you have a sold-out house each night before you get there? When I give myself permission to think about it, it’s a little staggering. It’s hard to wrap my mind around 1600+ people, every night for 17 years. There are so many memorable moments in the show. Which one is your favorite? It’s “Under the Stars,” where Mufasa is
teaching young Simba the final lesson he teaches him, because it’s so intimate. I love the grand moments in the show, but that moment where it comes down to a father teaching his son a lesson and stripping himself of his regalness and warrior attitude to just be dad is such a beautiful moment. The audience is so silent but you can feel the connection from the stage. What was the impetus for starting Lights Out? There are so many places for performers to sing around New York but there’s nothing like Lights Out in the heart of New York City. Chondra and I were looking for places for ourselves to sing and couldn’t really find it. 54 Below is higher up in midtown, Toshi’s is lower but there wasn’t anything in the middle. We walked past Urbo at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, went in, saw the stage and it was like a moth to a flame. Long story short, we developed what was in our heart for ourselves, but also did it for the rest of our community. You’ve been there a year now. What drives you to keep going? We do it because it’s needed and we love to see new talent have a professional place to express themselves. Also, we do it for the seasoned veterans to be in a space where they can mingle with and lend their experience to the up-and-coming performers. Because we do Broadway and theatre music eight times a week and in auditions and side gigs, we wanted a place where we and the community can do music that isn’t Broadway. What’s coming up for you apart from Lights Out on Monday nights? I just released my album, Life Music, and that’s available everywhere. There will be a minitour for that. I love the idea of learning so I’ve been studying and auditioning for things like television, film and voice-over work to keep my muscles always learning more. Check out Derrick in The Lion King and at Urbo on Monday nights for Lights Out!
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
When Derrick Davis isn’t taking the stage in the long-running Disney hit The Lion King, he’s building and fostering talent on a different stage a few blocks away. As one of the creators of Lights Out, he is opening up new avenues for performers to express themselves and sing the music they love.
Photo by Michael Young
Cuban culture is a part of Carlos E. Gonzalez’s blood. He was a part of the team that put up Rent in Cuba, the first musical to happen in the country for 50 years, and with that project, he brought 10 Cuban performers back to New York, took them to see Broadway shows and that opened their minds up to what Broadway is. Now, he’s making his Broadway debut in On Your Feet, and while he’s telling the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, he’s also telling his own. This has been a very personal project for you. Why does it go deeper than your Broadway debut? In the lab rehearsal, there’s a scene where I played Emilio’s father. It’s a flashback to when he’s leaving Cuba at age 11. Jerry (Jerry Mitchell, director) had me playing his father in the scene. I was saying the same words that I said when I left Cuba. Hearing little Emilio say to his grandma that he’s not going to look back and wouldn’t know if he was able to ever go back to Cuba, it took me to that exact moment when I was 11 years old. I remember my parents sitting me down and telling me we were leaving the country and that we didn’t know if we were ever going to come back. Being in a show that is telling that moment is unreal. My whole family lived in Cuba but now lives in New Jersey. They’ve never seen a Broadway show. My mom went to see it when we were in Chicago, but I can’t imagine what it is going to be like when they all come see the
show and that scene happens. That was the moment where I knew I was so blessed to be in this production. Every project is challenging in its own way. How has this particular project pushed you further? It’s interesting because it’s so easy for me in a way. I always imagined that Broadway shows were kicking your face and all sorts of technique and training that I don’t necessarily have. I got to this show and they want us to do authentic Cuban dance! It challenged me to forget everything I’ve been trying to be. Everything in college, the jazz and ballet training I’ve had, I had to take that off and try to remember what it was to dance in Cuba. When I was 11, I remember dancing in the streets of Cuba. Now it’s so comfortable to just do what I have in my blood. How has your Cuban culture remained an influential part of your life? One of the things about leaving by the visa lottery is that after a year, you can go back. Slowly, the whole family moved to America, but when I was a teenager, I would go to Cuba every year. It slowed down when I went to college and started working, but going back now with On Your Feet in mind is different. I actually took a trip with Sergio Trujillo (choreographer, On Your Feet) and that was an incredible time sharing my culture with him. He wanted to see what it actually feels like and it’s a magic you have to be there to feel. The fact that he wants it to be so authentic, I really respect it. We got down and dirty, took classes, danced on the streets and that felt like the true trip back to my culture. I got to visit my island, pay attention to what it is that I came from and try to bring it back to this show. See Carlos in On Your Feet this fall!
40 BLEEP Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
adamjacobs Adam Jacobs has been taking audiences to a whole new world since Aladdin opened on Broadway. We caught up with the star to talk about playing not just one, but two iconic Disney characters, learning to improv on stage and his upcoming debut album. How did Aladdin happen for you? I was playing Simba in The Lion King on the national tour. The producers came out, saw the show and unbeknownst to me, they were working on Aladdin. My agent called me and told me they wanted to fly me to New York for a week for the reading of Aladdin. I’d never been hand-picked to do anything like that before so I was super flattered and excited. That was in 2010, we did the readings and presentations – it was a long road to get to Broadway but it’s been fulfilling. What’s the challenge in playing such an energetic and dynamic character? Playing Aladdin uses a lot of different parts of how I was trained and my personality. There’s comedy, I’ve never tap danced in a show before, and it’s the most physical role I’ve ever done. There are trampolines and jumping from building to building and such. You have to work hard to maintain that level. You want to give 110% every show. Aladdin has had capacity crowds since it opened. How does it feel when you see a kid’s faces in the audience light up when they
see the characters on stage in front of them? I love when we’re on the carpet and you hear the audible gasp as the set pulls away. At the stage door, people tell me we brought them back to their childhood and brought the characters to life. The kids, some are confused because they don’t know if the movie came to life. I’m truthful, I tell them I’m a different Aladdin.
How have your previous roles prepared you for what you’re doing now? Simba in The Lion King prepared me in terms of the scope of it. It’s such a big show, beautiful costumes, the pageantry, the music – it’s all big. The Lion King is definitely the same thing. In terms of comedy, I’ve learned a lot with this show. Especially working with James (Monroe Iglehart who plays the Genie) who improvs a lot. I love it. What’s great about Aladdin is that there are a lot of opportunities to play. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of developing that sketch comedy and improv part of myself. I didn’t train like that so I’ve been able to flex those muscles. You’re in the process of crafting your debut album right now. It’s all Alan Menken’s material and I’m very excited about it. Some great guests are singing on it too. I’ve never done an album before and there’s so much prep work that goes into it but I love the creative aspect of that. I like the rehearsals because it’s that creative part that’s so magical. I love the process of building the piece and I’m enjoying the process of putting this together. Check out Adam starring in Aladdin this fall!
Photo by Michael Young
Carole Jones is a newcomer to Broadway, but she’s no stranger to the stage. After touring with Mamma Mia and the first national tour of The Book of Mormon, she just made her Broadway debut in the Broadway company of the show. What did that debut moment feel like? I thought that when I walked on that stage, it would be magical. But it just felt right. I walked out and I felt like I belonged there. There wasn’t fireworks or a magical feeling, it just felt right.
When did you decide you wanted to be a performer? I used to play violin and went on a European tour to London with the orchestra. We could see two shows and my mom said we were definitely seeing Phantom of the Opera and then Starlight Express. She picked because I wasn’t even interested in it. I saw Phantom first and thought, “What is this amazingness?!” I had seen musicals on TV, but I didn’t know they were actually something that happened live. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an
actress. The next summer, there was a summer musical theater workshop in my hometown. I signed up for it and we took acting and dance classes. We did Fame. I knew it was where I wanted to be. Has there been a moment that changed your perspective on performing? I think recently, I just decided to change. I want to do more shows of substance. I did Mamma Mia and that was fun, and it’s fun to do The Book of Mormon, but I would love to be not just a singer, but an actress as well. I would love to do a straight play. You can’t always kick your face, you know? What can you fall back on? Acting. Acting will always be there. Now that you’ve reached one dream, your Broadway debut, what’s your next dream? To keep working in all genres of the performing arts. I don’t need to be famous, I can be “that girl from that movie.” I don’t mind being that girl. My goal right now is to do something that’s non-traditional. I want to be Cinderella. Why not? Check out Carole in The Book of Mormon on Broadway now!
When Kimberly Marable talked with BLEEP in the fall of 2011, she talked about the moment she knew she wanted to be a performer. “The…moment was when I saw my first Broadway show, Fosse, and it was the first time I’d seen dancers use their bodies to express themselves to tell the story in that kind of way, I was really inspired,” she said. Since then, she’s starred in Sister Act, toured with The Book of Mormon, and is currently in Disney’s long-running hit, The Lion King.
The Lion King has been around for such a long time and has continued to be a sell out show night after night. What’s your favorite moment in the show? It’s a magical production, let’s start there. “Circle of Life” is amazing. For me, I really enjoy “Shadowland” and it’s all about female empowerment. We are sending one of our own to save our nation and I think that’s really empowering and wonderful. I think our country could take some hints from that. Another moment is actually the beginning of act two, when we sing “One By One.” It’s a song in Zulu, so because it’s not English, we have to work extra hard to remember what we are singing about. This is obviously a loose translation, but we are talking about “this land and our history was built from our ancestors.
They poured their blood and their sweat and their tears into it and I am proud of it. I am who I am because of them and I know who I am.” The fact that I get to sing that every show is pretty awesome.
You were one of the founders of Broadway Serves. How have you seen it grow during the past couple years? We’ve really been growing. We have a new office and we’re seeing more volunteers in the community and branching outside of the original group. We have kids doing volunteer stuff now and it’s really inspiring to see people care about something other than ourselves, even if it’s just for an hour. You’ve been bringing your passion for encouraging people to give back to their community into your solo shows as well. What’s been the draw for you to the cabaret scene? It’s exciting and scary and liberating. It’s me being vulnerable. With this show I’m doing now, called #LifeMatters, we are singing about different matters of life. It’s so easy for us, especially in this day and age, to get stuck in our iPhones. I’m sitting here talking to you and my phone is out right here. What do I need it for? I don’t. We are so wrapped up in Facebook and Pinterest and Tinder and we forget about the world around us. Love, great food, great company, politics – life that matters to us. There will be some protest songs, there will be some love songs. There will be all sorts of things to get us talking about things we care about. I want to inspire people to care about something. Check out Kimberly in The Lion King on Broadway this fall!
Photo by Michael Young
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
kristenfaithoei Kristen Faith Oei has been singing and harmonizing with her parents at church since she was four years old. Since then, she’s flown with Spider-Man, gone toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee and bowed to the King of Siam. How did theatre become a part of your life? I always had music in my life because both of my parents are singers. I was really good at moving so my parents put me in dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, ice skating…a little of everything. Not all of them stuck, but what did was dancing. I feel like I’ve been really lucky. I danced and sang separately my entire life and the theatre part almost just came naturally. The part that I’m still finding today is the acting side. When I was young, I was naturally shy to the point where I couldn’t even look people in the face when I talked to them. So the acting pushed me out of that. How has The King and I changed your perspective on what you do? One of the things I’ve loved about doing The King and I is having a cast that’s full of Asian actors. It’s such a family and a beautiful thing
when you see actors coming together who all might have been the single Asian person picked to be in shows growing up. Now we are sharing the stage together, doing a beautiful show. You’ve been a part of a few shows that have included diverse casts. In Kung Fu, it was a completely diverse cast. It wasn’t all Asian people and there was a black actor playing a white character’s part. It was just about telling the story. In Spider-Man, never in a million years would I have imagined playing an All-American redhead. I never would have imagined that would happen but that was something Julie Taymor tried to bring to the stage.
Why do you do what you do? The most important thing about performing is being able to move people. I can see the audience in the front during The King and I and every once in a while, I see people tear up. The other day, Kelli started to sing “Hello Young Lovers” and I saw a woman reach over and grab her husband’s hand as a tear fell down her cheek. It made me almost lose it. To me, that’s when we’ve done our job. Check out The King and I on Broadway this fall!
50 BLEEP Photo by Michael Young
gennylispadilla On Your Feet kicked off its run in Chicago, thrilling both audiences and critics alike. Genny Lis Padilla tells us about being with the show from the beginning and the experience of telling the story of someone so influential in music and culture. The reviews for the Chicago production were unanimously positive. What a way to start this experience on stage! We were ecstatic. I had an idea it was really good but you never know how it will be received until you put it in front of an actual audience. Well you have the benefit of the Gloria Estefan songbook, some of the best music ever written. I grew up with a lot of it and when we were putting the show together, Alex (Dinelaris, writer) did such a great job bridging the music with the book and I think people will be pleasantly surprised by how it fits. It’s not just a jukebox musical. The music and book really feed the story. What’s been your favorite part of the experience so far? The lab. It was the first time we were putting it on its feet with scenes and dance numbers and we really saw it come together. I love the creative side of it, figuring out what Jerry (Mitchell, director) was envisioning it to be. Doing the final run-throughs for the producers really got us excited about how it’s being formed. It was my first experience doing a show from the first reading to the lab and to the out-of-town run and now to Broadway. It’s my Broadway debut. My mind has blown.
How have all of those firsts challenged you as an actress? With the very first reading, it was trying to bring life to something that had never been done before. With Rent or In The Heights, I’d been doing projects that had been done before. This was trying to find out who these characters really were. I didn’t know who Gloria’s sister was because she wasn’t in the limelight per se. Learning about the family, how they feed Gloria, how Gloria feeds them and what the dynamic is was challenging at first. Then presenting it to them, to Gloria and Emilio, in the first reading and seeing how they were so overwhelmed with emotion at hearing their story out loud for the first time – it was amazing. In the lab, I really worked to learn who Rebecca is, who she is to Gloria and who Gloria is to her. They are so bonded as sisters, so making that clear in the lab was the challenge as an actor; to make it lifelike and to do it justice. She’s a real person that I’ve gotten to meet and is so loving and kind and supportive of the process. What are you busy with outside of the show? My other big project is my Masters. I’m studying for my Masters in integrated marketing and communications. I love performing. It’s my first passion. But I also want to broaden my horizons. Communications and marketing is something I can utilize in my career as an actor and I’m learning how to be more effective. My husband and I started a new company and I would like to be able to get that company to another level. I wouldn’t change acting for anything in the world. But I want to give myself and a little more control and power over my life and my future for my family. Check out Genny in On Your Feet! on Broadway this fall!
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
conradricamora Conrad Ricamora took the New York stage by storm with his performance as Ninoy Aquino in Here Lies Love and took to the small screen last fall in the hit ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder.” Now, he’s pulling double duty filming the second season of the hit show as well as starring as Lun Tha in Broadway’s Tony-winning revival of The King and I. When were you bit by the performing bug? I was always singing and dancing with my friends when I was growing up. I grew up on Air Force bases and it was a very conservative culture. In sixth grade, I remember feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore because I’d get made fun of and picked on. There were no other guys around me doing it so I just quit. I was only doing it for fun, I was never in any productions or anything. It wasn’t until undergrad that I took an acting class. I remember doing a monologue about a boy who was estranged from his father. My mom left when I was a little kid and I when I picked up the script, I knew I could stand on stage
and speak these lines with authority without having to really act. Feeling that sort of electricity and experiencing that connection with the audience and an author and me, that was the bug.
I imagine with so many wins, there was a lot to celebrate on Tony night. Everything was a thrill. The show winning, Kelli winning, Ken being nominated, Cathy winning for costumes – but the biggest thrill for me was seeing Ruthie win. She was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York. I moved after grad school and went straight into the third workshop of Here Lies Love. That was her first principle role; she’d always been ensemble. I remember during the first run of Here Lies Love at The Public and we were getting all this attention, she wasn’t used to it and came to my dressing room saying she’d never done this before and suddenly people wanted to talk to her. We helped each other through that, we’ve been there for each other, she helped me through breakups, we are just there for each other. To see her win a Tony Award was really great. How are you juggling both “How To Get Away With Murder” and being on stage in The King and I? I don’t think about it too much. If I think about it, I’ll get tired. So I just throw my body into a car that takes me to the airport, that
sexy stuff in the show? It’s work and there are marks we have to hit at certain points. It’s about paying attention to Jack and being an agent for the character that’s in the sex scene. But I also have to remember, I have to throw him on the bed, then turn him over, then he pushes me a certain way…it’s very precise camera work they’re doing so half of it is focusing on the sexy time and the other half is choreography. It’s just as much choreography as dancing on stage. Jack and I have a great friendship outside of our characters and are very comfortable with each other at this point.
Playing two different roles in two different mediums simultaneously, how have each challenged and stretched you as an actor? I’ve never sung classical musical theater at all. When I was growing up, the singing I liked to do was pop/rock and even my first show here, Here Lies Love, was written by David Bryne who is a rock god. It was a very different placement I had to learn because it didn’t come naturally to me. It involved a lot of opening up of resonant spaces to sing the Rodgers and Hammerstein stuff. It’s been the best masterclass and Ted Sperling, our musical director, has been amazing at helping me through. That was the biggest challenge for The King and I. After I took that acting class in undergrad, I finished my degree in psychology, but I started taking a film acting class, just for fun, at the Film Actors’ Studio in Charlotte. I studied there every week for three years. The challenge now, going back and forth, is that the principles I use for theatre and TV are the same, but the magnification of it is so different. When I go out to LA, it feels like I’m doing nothing on screen, but that’s usually when it’s working. It’s like I have to ignore the voice in my head that’s telling me I’m not doing any acting. From my experience, that’s when it’s good. It’s more about trusting and not trying to magnify it as much as I have to do at the Vivian Beaumont in front of a thousand people.
Have you had Murder fans coming to the stage door? They’re so great. I do sing two beautiful songs, but I’m very much a supporting role. Still, one woman came from Arizona to see me in the show and another came from Italy and has an online Italian fan page she’s set up. Our relationship (he and onscreen boyfriend Connor played by Jack Falahee) and my character has really struck a nerve with people. Pete Norwalk (HTGAWM creator and producer) told me, “You’re kinda the only likable character on the show. You’re the one that has a good heart. Everyone else has some other agenda that they’re not saying, but Oliver is open.” The strangest thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of straight women who are fans of our relationship. I was sitting at a bar and two women approached me saying they were huge fans of the show. I said, “Can I ask you a question? I’ve noticed that a lot of straight women are really into Connor and Oliver’s relationship. Can you illuminate me as to why?” They said that a lot of times, when women are portrayed in a relationship with a man, there’s a disparity in intelligence, they aren’t written as smartly and there’s an inequality there. It seems, that with these two guys, there’s an equality in their relationship and that’s something they want to have a mirror for. They’re tired of the damsel in distress stereotype and aren’t interested in watching that anymore.
“How to Get Away With Murder” has some of the sexiest and most intensely passionate scenes in primetime. What’s it like doing the
Catch Conrad on stage in The King and I and on “How To Get Away With Murder,” Thursday nights on ABC!
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
takes me to LA, that takes me to the hotel, that takes me the set. Then I just allow my body to do what I know how to do, which I’ve been doing for over ten years now. It’s more about trusting that I know what to do, doing the prep and then letting everything else go. I’m eating well, drinking a lot of water, and getting enough sleep – all crucial things. The first two times I went out to shoot this year, I got sick. I went and had drinks with friends and realized I just can’t do that. Now I’m very monk-like and taking care of myself. I have to. It’s unnatural to hurl your body across the country in the air back-and-forth, so I have to take care of myself.
56 BLEEP Photo by Michael Young
Luis Salgado’s career has taken him from shows like Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown to films like “Step Up 2 the Streets,” and “American Gangster.” But it was In The Heights that opened up an opportunity to give back to a community in need of the arts.
You’re back on Broadway! After working on so many shows, what do you love about the process? This is my fourth original Broadway show, On Your Feet, and I’m very proud of the original part. As I learn the ropes of this business I love, it’s wonderful and such a luxury to be able to develop something new and be a part of the creating process. Being in the room with talented people like Sergio Trujillo, Andy Blankenbuehler and Jerry Mitchell as they are creating something, to me, is an adventure. In my experience, it’s been so much more rewarding than when I’m expected to do something that’s already been created. As On Your Feet hits New York, what are you excited about beyond getting to perform on Broadway again? For me, there are two different things that are imperative when it comes to this show. One, it’s my history. Not just culturally, but speaking about my career as well. When I came to New York City, my first Broadway show was meant to be Mambo Kings, and that show didn’t make it. It was a hard time and I remember reading on one of the Broadway sites, something like “the show is full of Latinos, it will never make it to Broadway.” Ten years later, it’s being embraced. In The Heights opened a giant door and that door has multiplied. You no longer have to come out
on the stage with a gun in your hand or with cocaine in your pocket as a Latino character. On Your Feet Is another opportunity for so many Latinos to be proud and for the world to understand this story of acceptance and cultural awareness. I’m a part of art that contributes to our society and I’m so proud of that. How has the scope of what you do as a performer expanded since you began performing? During my time with In The Heights, my organization R.Evolución Latina was born. Inspirations of Priscilla Lopez, Lin Manuel Miranda and all of the Latinos who are such an example, we saw that at the time, our community didn’t know anything about them. Celebrating their stories was imperative. During the show, I could utilize my days to get the organization to where it is today, which is now supported by Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS and affects hundreds and hundreds of people a year. We bring arts to our kids. The thing that disappears fastest in public schools is the arts so for the past eight years, we’ve been bringing it to them. It’s expanded even more since that point too hasn’t it? It has! Because of working with R.Evolución Latina, I learned there was another generation of Latinos who are looking for opportunity to develop as writers and performers. I knew there needed to be a Latino production company to help provide them with opportunities. Salgado Productions has now been able to develop work internationally in Columbia, Peru and Mexico. It’s not limited to just Latinos, but it’s about enabling the next generation of people to tell their diverse stories. Check out Luis in On Your Feet on Broadway this fall!
58 BLEEP Photo by Michael Young
michaeljamesscott Michael James Scott knows what it is to build a new show for Broadway. After being in the original companies of All Shook Up, The Pirate Queen, the revival of Hair, Elf, The Book of Mormon and Aladdin, this season he took on the role of the Minstrel in the new Broadway hit, Something Rotten. You’ve been on a roll recently with a string of hit shows. What does it feel like to be a part of a show you know is a hit with audiences? Being a part of a show from the beginning is such a unique opportunity and a blessing as an actor. The marriage of the creative team collaborating with artists and creatives is such a unique experience. It’s been such a crazy past few years because each show has been a project that, when we started, I knew was special. Something about the project was really different and isolated from anything I’ve ever done. In the shows I’ve done that have been successful, the relationship between the creative team, the producers, and the performers has been supportive and collaborative. One of those shows was The Book of Mormon. What was different about that experience of building the show? I kinda missed the boat on doing ethnic shows, I was the token non-threatening black man, which was lovely and I’ll take it, but it wasn’t until The Book of Mormon where there is an entire half of the show that’s all color. To be able to be in the room with that as we
created that, it blew my mind. I’d been around but it was like a rebirth for me. Even with someone who has been doing it for a while, to see that is the most amazing thing. You’re the first person the audience sees in Something Rotten. What did that feel like? The song I sing, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” was the first song the writers wrote almost ten years ago. It was the only piece of the show they had. Knowing that, when we did the round table readings, it became a sort of joke that it was a lot to have on my shoulders. As we moved on with the process, the Minstrel part of that song got bigger, so when it was given to me, it was pretty intimidating. It’s a cast full of all stars and being in the room with those people is thrilling. I will never forget the first moment I walked out with that song because there had been so many versions of that song, and until they decided lyrically on it, it changed. I’m usually not pretty nervous before I do a show, but for this I was anxious. But I walked out smiling, got the lyrics right and it was a really awesome moment. What are you working on when you aren’t on stage in Something Rotten? It’s about my solo stuff and concert work finally. I shied away from it for a long time. I really want to sing songs that people would not expect people to sing – a song from Carousel or Oklahoma but doing it my way. A way that people of all colors can connect. I love that sort of shake up and being the thing you don’t expect. I love Something Rotten and being able to do that and focus on my own music is a blessing. Don’t miss Michael in Something Rotten right now!
D’Arcy James’ voice all the time, and now he’s my friend. These people, they’re so fearless on stage, especially with their comedy and they’re willing to take a chance. When you take that chance, sometimes it lands, sometimes it doesn’t, but being around people who are not afraid makes me better on stage.
Something Rotten is a nonstop adventure ride full of giant production numbers and tap dancing around every corner. How do you build up the stamina for such a physically demanding show? It’s crazy because I didn’t tap before Aladdin. That was my first time I’d ever tapped on stage. Then I did Something Rotten. Casey (Nicholaw) said ‘Oh this will be fun. It’s just a couple tap numbers.’ Then I got into it and it’s a lot. A lot of tap, a lot of energy, and it’s a high octane show. On top of that, you’re doing it in Elizabethan costumes with many layers, a bum-roll, and corsets. It’s full on. Once you build the stamina up though, you can get through it.
When did you realize you had a hit on your hands? I’ve been with the show for a long time. I did the reading as well as the lab and now Broadway. When we did the reading, everyone was laughing so loud. So many people from the Broadway community came to watch the reading and people loved it. I did The Book of Mormon and I remember when I first did that, I knew the show was going to change everything. This show came along, and it was kinda the same thing. I knew it was really funny, clever, smart, well-written and it’s so catchy. Rhyming penis with genius…is kinda genius.
What are you loving about Something Rotten right now? I just love the audience’s reaction to the show. It’s definitely a love letter to people in the theater and to people who love Broadway and love Shakespeare. On the other side, the show is funny even if you don’t know the musical references. What’s happening on stage is just funny. Also, I’m getting to work with these amazing actors who I’ve looked up to and who are now my peers. We’re on stage together. It’s kinda crazy because I’ve listened to Brian
You have a couple gospel belting moments in the show. It’s stretched me vocally because I have to use so many parts of my voice, then dance and sing and jump around. I’m singing high belt, then dancing around, and then tapping. I never thought I would be able to tap in a show, let alone tap at an audition and now I feel so comfortable being able to say I can pick that up or learn a tap routine. I’m so much more confident as an actor.
What else are you working on? I just worked on the prom musical with Casey. That’s the working title, it’ll end up being called something different. I’ve been pulling a lot of double duty, working on readings of other shows at the same time. I did the short, “Frozen Fever.” That was my first animated film I’ve sung on. I was a townsperson and I sang backups on the song Idina Menzel sang. I’m also working on my own music and putting together a solo show soon, so stay tuned. Check out Marisha in Something Rotten on Broadway this fall!
Photo by StevenGabriel Photography
After spending time on the road in The Book of Mormon and opening Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, Marisha Wallace is currently lighting up the stage in the hit musical, Something Rotten. In a show stuffed full of stand-out, hilariously inventive moments, hers may take the cake belting a Dreamgirls classic while dressed as a dancing egg. No question about it: Marisha Wallace is a scene-stealer and a showstopper.
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Published on Sep 30, 2015
BLEEP's 5th Annual Broadway issue focuses on the diversity on the Great White Way. The biggest stage in the world is finally beginning to re...