This past winter, thanks to Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, I was able to experience one of the most diverse Broadway seasons in years. At the forefront of my passion in becoming an arts administrator has always been my commitment to equity and diversity. Allowing a mixed bag of voices into the conversation and fabric of our society can create more dynamic experiences that can help us all learn and grow. I love hearing stories. Seeing them come to life onstage gives me the continual courage to keep living my dreams as an arts administrator. Through my work, I see it as my duty to provide and/or support the platform for these stories to be heard.
With EAL/LA’s assistance, I was able to work with my savings and cobble together enough to see four shows in New York City: Allegiance, Hamilton, Fun Home, and On Your Feet. Allegiance opened my eyes to the struggles of Japanese Americans forced to live in internment camps during WWII. It paralleled what I was learning at my job at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles as we presented our exhibition, Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams, at the same time.
Then, there was Hamilton. It was the entire reason I originally planned my excursion to New York. This show was and is an absolutely groundbreaking musical. In so many ways it redefines the formula for what qualifies as a “successful” musical. Its power opens doors for all types of people to be welcomed into this art form along with challenging others to accept themselves and their ideas of quality as they watch it’s magic. Fusing hip hop culture, diverse narratives, equitable casting, and other-worldly talent it brought me to tears as I sat down and began to witness it all come to life. I was finally “in the room where it happens” just as I continue trying to situate myself in those rooms as an arts administrator of color. “Why do you work like you’re running out of time?” This is one of my favorite lyrics that I identified with so much because the time is now and that’s all I have to continue making the strides I hope will carry on long after I’m gone. I believe power is in the eye of the beholder and we all have the power to enact change. As we band together, our strength only grows. Hamilton is the epitome of the work, working!
Up next, was Fun Home. This chamber musical was personal, quiet, not as loud or as flashy as the others I’d seen. I stepped into the mind of a child, a young adult, a woman growing and learning about who she was meant to be. It was a touching show and I was proud to be able to see it as this show made history with the first all-female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score in 2015, not to mention, it also won Best Book of a Musical too!
Lastly, there was On Your Feet. I had so many emotions as I watched Gloria Estefan’s life portrayed on a Broadway stage by, none other than, one of my college classmates, Ana Villafañe! My Loyola Marymount University theatre geek lion pride was roaring from the audience as I watched her grace the stage. Her evolution was a beauty to watch and her embodiment of Gloria, from her vocals to her salsa footwork, was simply mesmerizing! Then, the cherry on top was being able to visit her backstage after the show and set my own feet on a Broadway stage for the first time. That experience was the absolute perfect way to round out my trip. I feel so fortunate to have been able to engage in all that I was able to and I’m especially grateful that Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles was able support my journey!