Wow! What a whirlwind that was! I just got back from a two week contract at Music Theater Wichita where we put up a whole show in 6 days! No joke, I landed on a Sunday and our designer run was that Saturday. I don’t know how we did it, but we did! The show turned out pretty incredible, if I may say so, thanks to our incredibly diverse creative team lead by Director/Choreographer Carlos A Mendoza.
I was so happy to be able to return to MTW after having done Maury Yeston’s Phantom there in 2005. In the Heights was a new musical for MTW and I was so happy to be able to step into Usnavi’s shoes once again to tell the incredible story Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes have put together. It was especially important to be opening this show right after the mass shooting happened in El Paso, Texas which targeted the latinx community. Oddly enough, when I did In the Heights the first time fall 2018 at Orlando Shakes, they chose the show as a broader outreach to the Latinx community to heal the damage from the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. I am originally from Texas and a lot of my family still lives there including my parents who live in McAllen, another border town like El Paso. While we were in Tech I found myself STUCK because I was feeling like it was my responsibility to tell this story as truthfully as I possibly could because these are REAL people, MY PEOPLE, with very REAL stories who are quite literally being targeted and killed. I eventually was able to release that pressure on myself and allow the work to flow honestly and truthfully after a good cry in mourning the victims and the internal pain that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. I am so thankful to have had an incredible cast who all came together to honor these people by telling their TRUTH and showing that we all want the same things: a happy life, support, community, and love. The Wichita audiences were incredible and they really enjoyed the show, not only because it’s a brilliant piece, but because of the broader message of what home means to all of us. I think Wayne Bryan, MTW’s artistic director, put it best in his curtain speech before every show when he said: “This show highlights the truth there is only one race, the human race, and we are all a part of that family.” Every night his words were met with thunderous applause.