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7,305.

7,305 days. 

That’s how long you have been gone. Seven thousand, three hundred and five days. 

I re-read the obituary this morning. I lingered over the phrase “Survivors include…”

Continue reading “7,305.”
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He Is Gone

He is gone.

While many will discuss the damage of his presidency, my nightmare began on December 15, 2015. That was the date of the Republican Debate and the day that my employers, at his team’s behest, racially profiled myself and two other performers of color. We were told our job was “closed for the day” due to protests, only to find out that our shifts had in fact been reassigned to co-workers who were white or white passing. We were not allowed to work.

Three vocalists, who were all various shades of brown and black, were pulled from our shifts, replaced by white performers, and silenced.

Read that again.

I thought that surely someone would speak up for us, for what had happened. No one did. I watched as friends went from outrage and “holy shit, that’s not ok”, back to their every day lives because it didn’t really affect them in the long run. I was observing a perfect example of performance allyship and didn’t even know it.

If I’m being honest, it was the first time in my adult life where I fully realized what was being done. That I was being profiled. That I was being labeled as “less than”. I sobbed for hours. I was angry. And then, as has been the norm for many these past few years, I began to feel like somehow it was my fault. Could it be? I quietly took up the shame of what had happened, and out of embarrassment, and lack of familiarity with how to be an advocate for myself in the face of blatant racism, I told my employers how horrible they were, that they should be ashamed of what they had done, that their children were watching, and I walked away. I wasn’t ready to fight. I didn’t know how.

I allowed people to think less of me. I allowed people I love, to think I was just a quitter.

I didn’t know how to tell them what had happened to me. I didn’t have a support system to express the gravity and the trauma of what had happened. Something that unfortunately happens each and every day, and on a far more terrifying scale, had happened to me. Not for the first time. But for the first time that I was able to clearly see it.

On Election Night, I remember someone saying to me as I was once again sobbing at the appointment of this monster, that we should just “wait and see”. I didn’t have the words to express why I knew that wasn’t a possibility. Why I knew, from recent experiences, that it would only get worse.

I was afraid to speak up. I was invited to a class action lawsuit. I declined because I wasn’t prepared to have to relive the trauma of that moment over and over again. I wasn’t ready.

I bore my shame and slowly watched as my self-confidence was shattered. I began to feel like I was what had happened to me. I was less than. I took note of how my blood ran cold at the mention of his name. I began to shake when a conversation moved towards speaking of this man. I would get cotton mouth, tremble, experience cold sweats and watch as like clockwork, my hands and feet would turn to ice if I had to share the story privately with a friend. To this day.

It’s happening now.

Eventually the crying stopped. The anger set in. But instead of being angry at him, I’ve been angry at myself. For four years. Angry that I didn’t do more. That I didn’t leave kicking and screaming. That I didn’t raise a personal riot the moment that it happened. That I didn’t scream publicly, the way I had privately that “this is wrong!” That I didn’t share my story. That I wasn’t strong enough to save myself or others from the irreparable mental harm that has been done.

I’ve done what I can, and continue to gain strength and confidence in being an advocate for myself and others. It’s not enough, but it’s continued steps in the right direction.

Today is the first day I’ve been able to talk about this openly. Today is the first day I am not scared of sharing my story. It took me more than four years to feel safe to speak out.

I will use my voice. I will be bold and I will never, ever let someone steal my light from me ever again. I’m sorry it took so long.

Let’s begin. ❤️

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safe.

I have not remained silent, this has been my life.
I don’t have the luxury of remaining silent.
This is my life.
I don’t post on social media at all times
because
THIS is my life.
I speak all the time. Are you listening?

If you have listened, are you speaking WITH me, with us, or are you silent?
If you have loved me and called me friend, family, cast mate, coworker…
If I have been there for you then,
Why are you silent now?

Various interactions have caused me to feel unworthy to CLAIM the experience of my life. Time and again I am discredited and I rob myself of who I am.
By racists. By ignorant human beings.
By allies. By advocates.
By you.
By me.

I’m not Latina enough because I don’t speak fluent Spanish.
I’m not Black enough because I’m Latina.
I’m not white because I’m Afro-Latina.
I’m not who you need me to be.

My mother was in an active shelter in place order the other night because of violence and shooting deaths.
I cry because I can’t keep her safe.
My brother lives alone and in an area that has at times been labeled by the news as “dangerous”.
I cry because I can’t keep him safe.
My husband left the house for a simple errand that caused me to shake at the thought of him going alone.
I cry because I can’t keep him safe.

I can’t keep anyone safe.
I can’t keep myself safe.

safe
/sāf/

adjective

1. protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.

I can’t keep 16 year old Emily safe as she sits in the hall while someone tells her that the reason her date for the school dance bailed is “because you’re Black. His parents found out and said he can’t go with you.”

I can’t keep 2nd grade Emily safe from the moment when her teacher lines everyone up for lunch by skin color. Lightest to darkest.

I can’t keep 11 year old Emily safe from the kid who pats her on the back, but only to slyly put a sticker there. The sticker from a geography map that represented a country in Africa that is one letter off from a racial slur. That Emily walked the entire distance of the school to the lunchroom watching laughter erupt for an unknown reason before a single person told her the sticker was there.

I can’t keep 23 year old Emily safe from someone pulling on my hair and asking me how much I paid for it.

I can’t keep 14 year old Emily safe from initially being denied the right to get a learner’s permit because I had to have my “parent or guardian with me”. My mother was standing next to me at the counter.

It starts small. Or it doesn’t.

It can build from tiny little awful moments that pile up in someone’s head, their heart, their body.

It can come rushing out in a single moment of injustice that causes a primal scream of
“THIS IS WRONG!”

It can come from the deafening silence from loved ones. The silence that can charge you in to action at 2:34pm on a Sunday, or the silence that at 10:46am on Monday can make you feel small, and question if you ever really mattered at all.

I am made up of my experiences. I am a product and a part of my circumstances. I straddle multiple worlds, and can not deny being deeply connected to all of them.

To care for my family, does not discredit me. To care for myself and advocate for fellow POC, and more specifically, the BLACK LIVES that matter, should not require confusion or explanation. If it does, I’ll say it again.

I speak all the time. Have you been listening?

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Loss of Theatre

Some could say I never made it. I’m not on Broadway, and you haven’t seen me on the big screen, or even the small one at home. I’m ok with that.

What you don’t see is how close we come. How much we give for that final callback, how much we memorize for that audition and the days spent waiting anxiously for the call that we booked it. Only to get a very different call explaining that there were two of us left, and today, it isn’t going our way.

You don’t witness our anguish. The moment our lives end, or begin with a single email or phone call.

You don’t see how we carry the feeling of something being just around the corner or just out of reach. You don’t know the strength of our optimism or the depth of our sadness.

You don’t see how bravely we walk in to the jaws of defeat. Or how we persist in spite of the ever present fear of failure. Or how we carry the feeling that we’ve failed ourselves. Or our loved ones.

Or how we celebrate. How we are filled with joy and the pride of accomplishment but will still struggle to find acceptance because our accomplishments are not typical. They don’t necessarily come with a raise. Or the ability to buy a home, or a second home. Or finally take that vacation. Or have a child and raise a family.

The sacrifices we make. Isolating ourselves to memorize, to invite a character in to our lives, our minds, our bodies with no real understanding of how long it will stay.

The cracks are how the light gets in. But you don’t see the thousands of tiny fractures that have been created over the years in order to be illuminated.


How many attend job interviews weekly, perhaps daily? Interviews where you must sit with the hundreds, if not thousands of other applicants? And you hear their interviews while you wait?

How many of you walk in to potential employment knowing that you will be judged, actively discriminated against, laughed at, or even worse, blatantly ignored?

We study, take classes, give of our time, put ourselves on the line on a sometimes daily basis. Often while typically maintaining an entire second or third career in order to make it all work.

We’re masters of the ability to “Find Something New”. We do it every day.

Or, maybe we thrive financially and we still are chasing that trendy accessory of being able to say we’re “so busy” because it’s easier to wear that than admit the harsh reality of just being exhausted. Busy sounds better.

We work past the point of sanity. Mentally and physically. We bend with the intention of going just up to the edge… to the breaking point. Sometimes we fail. We break. We may snap. I’ve heard people compare us to professional athletes but the key difference is that outside of a few, our jobs typically don’t come with an annual or multi-year compensation plan. No, our jobs come with the fear of missing out. If we break, we lose. We lose income, whittled away in 1/8th increments. We lose health insurance. In 6 month or 1 year increments. We miss opportunities. Life events. Massive changes. All for the sake of bringing important stories to life.

We sometimes even set our own dreams aside in order to help bring someone else’s to life. Gladly.

We are asked when we plan to have kids or don’t we want them? With no mention of the lives we have created on stage.

We happily raise your children. Through our work, our creations, our live theatre, our stories. We teach them about humanity. We show them who they can be. They remind us who we were. We build memories together and share our joy.

We give you the gift of escape. We manipulate emotions to bring you a catharsis, while we are often silenced or chastised for voicing our own in our everyday lives. Our fears invalidated because after all, we chose this.

At the start of the year I had just closed two shows that had been running at the same time. I was, “so busy”.

I was also in the midst of callbacks for the Chicago cast of a show that had just left Broadway. An audition I hustled for on my own, without an agent, and one that helped me regain quite a bit of myself.

In February, I flew to NYC for a whirlwind 48 hours of final callbacks for a World Premiere and was thrust head first back in to the world of competitive NYC theatre. At this stage of my life and career, this was the first time I was present in such a rigorous callback process having previously been in scenarios with fewer people waiting to be seen.

I fought for it. I booked the role.

I was set to leave for the East Coast to be a part of the original cast of a World Premiere musical at an iconic theatre. A beautiful little musical with BIG plans for the future. A collaborative situation I had only previously dreamed of.

A few of you know my journey. Most of you don’t. So you perhaps have no idea what this meant to me or how huge of an accomplishment it was. It felt, in some small way, like all of my sacrifices, dreams for my life I had put on hold, were finally paying off. I felt the shift and was so excited to bring this new energy in to my life.

A representation of my hard work that (unnecessarily) validated my choices to those who perhaps look at me with shame or embarrassment. That think I’m playing at a job that isn’t real. Or that I’ve failed. Or that have been waiting for me to give up.

But I have given up. I just don’t allow you to see it. Because I like to think, after all this time, that I’m stronger than that.

And then, like so many others in our industry, and in the blink of an eye… life went from a battle born cry of “It’s all happening!!!”… to a heartbroken sob of “It’s all gone.”

I’ve had “real” jobs. Salaried positions. Long term jobs with upward mobility. I’m capable of doing them. I excel at most of them. I’m odd and have a skill set that is at times ridiculous and confounding. I tick all the boxes and none of the boxes.

And yet, I am never more alone, never more sad, and never more unsure of myself than when I am away from being an actor. Even at it’s worst, this profession holds a light in my heart that burns so brightly, that I feel it with my whole self when I feel it start to fade.

So I return. Time and again. To that thing that “isn’t real”. I willingly give myself over to a profession where my best days may very well be behind me. I’ve been running out of time since the moment I began, but I keep going. Because now, and for the first time, I’m alive. I choose to live truthfully in this very real moment. This moment that will never come again.

Our industry is in peril. There is so much more to us than what you see. We need and we deserve to have our stories be heard, and for our industry to be supported. Please do your part to help us rebuild and keep our community safe from harm. Spiritually, physically, and most importantly right now, financially. Remember how much we have given to you and know that we will always find ways to tell your stories with compassion. It’s time for you to tell ours.
💛