“Oh What a Circus…” - An Actors First Time at the Tony Awards Press Event
I can honestly say I never thought I would be attending a press event for the Tony Awards as a Journalist. I'm not gonna lie it was something I had to grapple with when I got this opportunity.
I am an actor first. I moved to NYC to pursue my dreams of The Broadway. Little did I know Broadway would continue to disappoint me year after year of pounding the pavement. The lack of representation and diversity just plain sucks.
I am not too delusional of a person and of course I had dreams of being nominated for a Tony.
Why the hell not? It could still happen. Probably won’t because I’m “causing problems” with being too outspoken. I have found a passion for journalism and calling out people that are not pro-diversity in the theatre arts. And yet there I was, at 8 in the fucking morning, anxiously seated among some of the top theatre journalists in the business, eagerly waiting to interview the Nominees.
Apparently there is a lack of people of color in the Press as well and I found myself the only "ethnic" person there. Also, I was the only person asking diversity questions. What the actual fuck? I guess people think Hamilton fixed all the diversity problems on Broadway. One show isn’t the answer. I want to see every single flavor up on stage.
Unless it’s a race-specific show like Miss Saigon or The Color Purple, I want real inclusion, not just once in a blue moon. I will say this probably a million times, theatre is an art form where it shouldn't matter what you look like. Theatre is where you burst into song. That does not happen in everyday life. Unless you are a theatre major or a musical theatre person, and that is something we just kind of do on a daily basis. New York City has always been a diverse melting pot, the cast of Hello Dolly!, should have represented that.
Anyway, I digress. It was an awesome opportunity, and I'm really glad I got to be there for this. I hope I was able to make some people think and look more closely at what they can do to promote inclusion in the arts.
Lucas Hnath - Playwright of A Doll’s House, Part 2
Alex - As a playwright do you feel you have any obligation to promote diversity and inclusion in your works?
Lucas - I do actually. Whenever I write a play, if we can cast that play as diversely as possible, it’s a mandate to the casting director to say we need to see as many people as possible. In the case of A Doll’s House, Part 2, the way I wrote it, very intentionally, it’s a place slightly abstract. So you can cast any ethnic breakdown. In terms of this group of four actors, it felt very important that we do that in this particular play. Because you're not reading it as literal Helmer Family, it's a little more abstract.
Bradley King - Lighting Designer for The Great Comet of 1812
Alex - What influenced you in your lighting design?
Bradley - Oh so many things… working with Mimi Lien (Scenic Designer) is an inspiration. The way she treats space, I mean it’s really an unbelievable group of people to have worked with for five years now. It’s very humbling. I draw inspiration from my own world. Things I see everyday in my life, whether it be art, movies, or television, or the way the sky looks on a beautiful Fall day. These are all things I draw from.
Dennis Jones - Choreographer of Holiday Inn
Alex - How important is diversity and inclusion when casting this show? Did you feel you had to stay very true to the movie?
Dennis - Oh, not at all. Diversity was very important to us in the casting process. And it’s the kind of thing that if you look at production quality, and I did, and if you look at it in any sort of historical sense, casting actually makes very little sense. But diversity was something that was very important to us, and really we were able to achieve that diversity onstage by hiring people that we felt that were best for the jobs. I’m very proud of the way the cast ended up.
Paloma Young - Costume Designer for The Great Comet of 1812
Alex - Do you have a favorite costume in the show?
Paloma - Oh it changes ever time I see it and sometimes where I am sitting. We added a costume during previews for Helene. She has a new dress for “Charming.” So she used to wear the same dress throughout act one, and now she changes her dress in the middle of act one to come in for her big number. It’s this bright green and gold explosion of fabrics and textures. And then when she comes to the ball, right after her big number, she has this pair of black cupid wings that are covered in Swarovski stones. She’s not the center of that scene, she's kinda just circling Anatole and Natasha. And she's this strange, dark, evil cupid. I love that costume because it manages to stay out of the way but also be this force that is kinda just shadowing everything that is happening in the scene.
Eva Noblezada - Leading Actress in Miss Saigon
Alex - As the only Asian being nominated for a Tony in your category, do you feel you have to represent every Asian American in the theatre arts right now or are you still able to maintain your own individuality?
Eva - I think individuality, but I think part of my individuality is being half Mexican half Filipina.
Alex - Hapa!
Eva - Yeah! And the thing I think it should totally be normalized, obviously whoever is nominated is nominated, but I do feel pride in representing the Pinoys, and I do feel pride in representing my Hispanic side. I feel pride in representing Miss Saigon. So there are lots of parts of me are feeling really honored to be here. But I think it is important, Miss Saigon coming back is the perfect swing of diversity on Broadway. And it’s great that the show has been recognized as well. Look, label me anything… I will be proud to stand here and represent.
(Left) Paula Vogel - Playwright/Co-Creator of Indecent. (Right) Rebecca Taichman - Director/Co-Creator of Indecent
Alex - As one of the only women directors nominated, do you have any advice for inspiring women directors that would like to accomplish what you have?
Rebecca - It’s hard, and GO GO GO GO GO! You don’t give up. I think it’s ever so slowly changing, and what’s important is to make ourselves really physical and present. Don’t allow yourself to get defeated and crumble your confidence and faith.
So there you have it folks. I got to ask some of the top people in the theatre industry some questions. It was cool. It was freezing in the press room. But I survived my day at the circus. Oh and I saw Sally Field. She’s short too, like me!
(Sally Field - Leading Actress inThe Glass Menagerie)
Alex Chester is a California gal living in NYC. She has been performing since she was a little girl and is also the creator of the blog MeSoHapa.com and the multicultural cabaret "WeSoHapa", recently seen at The Triad. Theatre credits include: Broadway's “How the Grinch Stole Xmas” – Madison Square Garden (NYC) and the Broadway sit down production at The Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. TV credits include: ER, The Closer, 7th Heaven, and several national/international commercials. http://www.AlexChester.com Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester