Friday, April 30, 2010

In the Heights

Performance Date: 04.16.10
Richard Rodgers Theatre:

I watched In the Heights from the tippy top of the rear mezzanine – literally in the heights – surrounded by a balcony full of high school students who were on some kind of class trip.  The girls predictably screamed when the guy with High School Musical in his bio made his entrance, and whenever anyone kissed on stage, the whole balcony erupted in a chorus of woooOOOoOoOOOOOoooOO!!!!  After one such kiss and woo incident, a lone male voice advised the characters to use a condom, a suggestion that was met with high-fiving chuckles from the guys and whispered what did he say? conferences from the girls.  It was distracting, but for this forever-fifteen thirty-four year old, also strangely nostalgic.

Despite the diversions of my mezzanine-mates, and despite the distance from my seat to the stage, I nevertheless left with some lasting impressions from this show, the 2008 Tony-award winning musical set in the latin-infused neighborhood of Manhattan’s Washington Heights.  Let’s go macro to micro:

  1. You should write/produce your own play.  This is the inevitable suggestion made by loved ones whenever I get into a conversation about the frustrations of nurturing an acting career without representation.  Eight times out of ten (or 4 out of 5 for you math whizzes out there), I respond to this suggestion with about a half-ton stubborn resistance, a couple tablespoons self-pity, and a dash of righteous resentment.  A bad mixture of human frailty and the power of inertia.  But the other 20% of the time (I can do math too) I recognize that my loved ones are right.  Taking my career into my own hands would no doubt be an empowering and creatively fulfilling endeavor.  Reading in Lin-Manuel Miranda's bio that he wrote the first draft of In the Heights when he was a sophomore in college was another inspiring push in that direction.  Surely I can muster as much motivation as a sophomore in college, right?  Right??

  2. Paciencia y Fe.  Right in line with that inspiration is the guiding wisdom offered by one denizen of Miranda’s Heights, Abuela Claudia.  Paciencia y fe.  Patience and faith are exactly the virtues required in the life of an under-employed actor.  However, there’s a cynical part of me that sometimes views the patience-and-faith mindset as anesthetic.  A“you never know” type of optimism that can numb an artist to reality and becomes the perpetual carrot that keeps an unhappy actor hoofing it around town to open calls and pay-to-audition “networking opportunities.”  The remedy to this cynism, I think, is to apply paciencia y fe to actions that are more rewarding, more fulfilling, and more personally motivated.  Oh, you mean like writing/producing your own show, Anna?  Oh, um, yeah…I guess I mean like that.

  3. An authentic voice.  The performers of In the Heights were all extremely talented singers, but there was one guy whose voice stood out from the rest.  It’s not that his voice was better than the others, but whereas many of his castmates had the same (albeit impressive) belty, pop-vocal stylings that are apparently and enduringly in high-demand Broadway, his voice just seemed to be his own.  A singing voice that was simply the beautiful and natural extension of his speaking voice.  It was remarkably refreshing, and yet another reminder to me to thine own self be true.
So.  It would seem that the sum total of my In the Heights impressions leave me with no other choice that to find my own true voice, write myself a play, and have patience and faith that it will lead me where I'm meant to go.  It’s not the first time I’ve had that idea so I wouldn't hold your breath.  But one does begin to wonder how many times the universe has to hit a girl on the head before she starts to listen.  Perhaps only eight out of ten times?

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