Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet Troy Iwata! Troy is currently an understudy in Be More Chill for the roles of Jeremy, Michael, Rich, and as Cast. Troy has been seen Off-Broadway in The Boy Who Danced On Air and in the National Tour of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. He has also been seen on television in New Amsterdam (NBC), Quantico (ABC), Time After Time (ABC), and Orange Is The New Black (Netflix). I have always been fascinated and inspired by swings and understudies on Broadway because their number can be called at any time. It takes a special type of performer in my eyes to do that. It was such a privilege to interview Troy!
1.) How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
Like most gay theatre kids, I grew up listening to Broadway soundtracks. I was the seven-year-old singing Evita lyrics in my 2nd-grade classroom. *singing* "Can you believe that? They called me a whore! They actually called me a whore." My Christian teachers must've thought I was the spawn of Satan's mistress. I always loved the idea of performing, but I was painfully shy. I didn't do my first show until I was 16, my big brother pretty much forced me to audition for The Wizard of Oz at our high school, and I got the Scarecrow. It was then that for the first time in my life I met people who acted like me, talked like me, thought like me and I found something I was actually good at and loved. My grades plummeted, best decision I ever made. Still, though I didn't truly decide to be a performer until I was about 20. Starting at my second round of college, trying to force myself into other majors that just didn't make me happy or click. In a twisted way, choosing to major in theatre was kind of my last resort like, "Alright, let's see how this fucking works out since everything else is making me severely depressed."
2.) Where did you study? Are there any mentors that truly helped make you the performer you are today?
I studied at a private Christian college in Southern California. College is weird. You go on tours when you're a senior in high school, and they all give you this used car salesman pitch about how their school is the perfect fit for you, despite the fact that literally, everyone's learning process is different. Then you go through life meeting miserable, unsuccessful people who went to an Ivy League and happy millionaires who never set foot in college. My college was not what I would call a traditional musical theatre education. I have a musical theatre BA, and I was never required to take a voice lesson, they must've forgotten to tell me.
What I did appreciate about my school was that so little was required of me that it was basically four years of time and resources to perfect my craft how I wanted. If I went to a different school, I probably wouldn't have found my love for filmmaking or writing. But no, my musical theatre professor's teaching techniques did not coincide with my learning process, and last time I saw her at a friends wedding, she aggressively avoided me, so there's that.
3.) Congratulations on Be More Chill? How has your time been, and what would you say is the biggest and challenge and thrill about being an understudy in this show?
Thank you so much. You know it's been everything I thought it would be and not at the same time. It's a fantastic job to have. What makes it great are the fans. Being a part of something so beloved by it's demographic really is something special. It makes you feel like your truly making a difference even though becoming a vegetarian would make an even bigger one in an environmental sense. I'd honestly say the biggest challenge of being an understudy is filling the time when you're not on because we're really just sitting backstage playing Tetris. It's a situation where your friends and family text you and say, "So how's Broadway!?" and I'm like, "It's fine, I'm not on it tonight I'm just sitting. What kind of birds did you feed today, Mom?"
The thrill is obviously going on, specifically when it's last minute or mid-show. God forbid anything bad happens to anyone, but it's a high energy show, so it happens. The madness and adrenaline sink in, and you feel like a superhero there to save the night. Then you go out to the stage door for your more than deserved autograph signing, and the fans are screaming and taking selfies, and they say things like, "I'm so sad George wasn't on, but you were good."
4.) Are there any shows that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
Yes, Yes, Yes. I will never stop talking about THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR. I did it Off-Broadway, and it will forever have a place in my heart. Before I tell you what it is, the cast album is on iTunes and Spotify, go listen to it the music is BEAUTIFUL. The creators, Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser (geniuses) wrote a breathtaking story about the world of Bacha Bazi. Bacha Bazi is a century-old tradition in rural parts of Afghanistan that still occurs today where wealthy men purchase young boys from poor families, train them to dance, and they then serve as entertainment at their parties. Horrifyingly so, these boys are often physically and sexually abused by these men.
THE BOY WHO DANCED ON AIR is about two dancing boys who meet, fall in love and decide to runway to the city to start a new life together. Being a part of Be More Chill has actually allowed me to spread the word of this piece and a lot of the fans have messaged me to talk about how much they love and crave new musicals that explore new ideas and untold stories. There's a lot of brilliant work out there that old rich people don't relate to and that's very unfortunate, and all I'm going to say, lol.
5.) What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
Don't compare yourself to other people. Your journey to success is going to be different than everyone else's. Your definition of success is going to be different than everyone else's. Stop putting a timer on everything, the idea that it's too late for something because you're too old is bullshit. Understand that this industry is ruthless and unfair sometimes. Don't beat yourself up if you need to take a break for your mental and emotional health; actors take hiatuses all the time. Don't think yourself a failure if you decide not to pursue it as a full-time career, think yourself a badass for being brave enough to try it in the first place.
The art business is kind of an oxymoron; art is not business. If you love the art and the craft, fantastic, the business part is 100% opposite of that. It is what it is, a business. So if you want to thrive in it, you need to compartmentalize and gear up with as many marketable skills as you can that are both art and business related. I personally know a lot of actors who majored in Marketing or Business instead of Theatre, and they are thriving because of the ethics they learned in school. If you want to pursue art as a career, you need to treat it as a career first and find ways to work your art into it.
To learn more about Troy make sure you visit his official website at - https://www.troyiwata.com and to learn more about Be More Chill make sure you visit – www.bemorechillmusical.com