Monday, April 29, 2013

BEING MACHO: A Defense from Martin Antonio Guerra, the In the Heights "Papi"

Being Macho: A Defense

When someone says, "He's so macho!" are we supposed to consider this a compliment or an insult? While the Village People sang the praises of having a manly body in "Macho Man" the feminist movement has given us permission to belittle any man who has more muscles than brains, and sitcoms continually laugh at men who still stubbornly refuse to ask for directions.

In truth, we have mixed feelings toward the men in our life. The Spanish-derived term "macho" or "machismo" has ambivalent connotations. We like our men to be strong, but not abusive. We like a man who takes control, but we don't want him to be too controlling. The Urban Dictionary defines machismo as "having an unusually high or exaggerated sense of masculinity." So if you feel that a man shows an exaggerated attitude of aggression, sexual bravado, or control, then calling him "macho" is probably tainted with disapproval. On the other hand, if the attitude isn't exaggerated, but rather if a man exhibits an authentic sense of confidence based on his ability to protect his family and provide for their needs, then calling him "macho" could be considered a compliment. We may prefer to use the term "Daddy" or "Papi" but these are terms of endearment that really admit to our attraction to true masculinity in our fathers, our husbands, and our leaders.

As I study the role of Kevin, the father figure of IN THE HEIGHTS, I will no doubt draw from my experience with my own father, whose confidence as a provider and protector has been painfully diminished by old age and the mismanagement of never ending debt. In my opinion, the negative traits of machismo, the controlling, stubborn nature, the aggressive anger, come out only when a man's sense of confidence or usefulness is threatened -- when he feels useless.

As owner of a taxi company, Kevin Rosario is obviously a leader in his community. When he left Puerto Rico, his goal was to surpass the frustrating and backbreaking occupation of his father and grandfather -- that of a farmer -- and he can claim some pride in being called "boss". But all these accomplishments are always on the brink of being lost because running a small business is stressful with lots of ups and downs and usually built on a lot of debt. He's recently had to lay off three drivers, the mechanic won't repair any more taxis until he gets paid for the last job, and they may need an emergency loan to cover payroll again. Nevertheless, Kevin stays optimistic through it all.  Staying calm and collected is his way of saying, "I'm still in control. I will not fail." I definitely recognize my own father in Kevin.  One of my father's first jobs was picking onions and cotton in the fields of South Texas, but he "moved up" to become a truck driver and then the owner of a Trucking company.  Later, the business expanded to Guerra Construction, which paved a lot of parking lots and driveways all around Corpus Christi. I remember being given small chores around my Dad's shop, sweeping, cleaning the trucks, getting my hands greasy handling tools and truck parts, and then learning to do payroll and a little accounting.  But being the boss of all that did not interest me at all.  I preferred books and music.  Besides, I saw how much it stressed my mother out. She often complained about how my father took risks and made decisions without her, and how there wasn't much left over after everyone else got paid. She knew, more than he did, that this could all be over in an instant, and sure enough, my father lost it all in the recession of the 1980's.  Ever since then, he's been doing construction jobs on a smaller scale but always in debt and always in search of that next big project that will pay everything off.  Through all this, my father remains calm and optimistic -- almost blindly so.  I never saw him raise his voice or get angry or abusive, but he was passively aggressive anyway because he rarely followed my mother's advice or pleadings.  In the end, he believed that he knew more about how to run a business than any woman could despite all evidence to the contrary.  Nearing 80 years old now, we've been begging him to retire, but I know in my heart that he will be working until the day he dies.  To retire now would be to admit failure because there are still bills to pay and men who call him "boss".  As my grandmother used to say, "Los Guerras son muy mandones!" / "The Guerra men like to give orders!" Having the last word, making decisions about business, having someone to give orders to, these things form the basis of his identity as a man even more than bringing home a profit. He's still stubbornly determined to prove my mother wrong.  He will not be the reason that his family can't succeed.

Kevin and my father can both claim more success when it came to raising their children. All good parents want their children to reach a higher level of education and prosperity than they did, and they will sacrifice whatever it takes to help their children reach their goals.  The fact that Kevin raised a daughter who was smart enough and disciplined enough to get into Stanford University is testament to his role in building her up to fly higher than he had ever reached. Some lesser Latino men might see this as a threat to their masculinity -- especially when it comes to their daughters, but Kevin need not exaggerate his masculinity by keeping his daughter down. She's going change the world, and he's going to help her do it.  My father graduated from high school and did some military service, but that was considered "success" for most men of his generation and in his barrio.  I remember my parents working extra hard to make sure we went to the best schools, and three out of their four children finished college with a Bachelor's degree and my brother and I went further and completed Masters Degrees as well.   But we had to "educate them" about the costs and perils of going to college. We could not rely on any guidance from them because we were forging new ground they had never trod.  Nevertheless, we scrapped together scholarships, grants, and loans, and we achieved our goal with their blessing and prayers. My parents rarely traveled, but some of the few road trips they ever took in their life were to drop us off at university and to witness our graduations four years later.  Our success was their success, and my father still loves dropping names like Notre Dame and Harvard when talking to his compadres.

When it came to the matter of who their children chose to date, both Kevin and my father's experience was no doubt bewildering and a "little bit racist," as they say on Avenue Q.  Our director's choice to cast Benny as a white boy rather than black feels a lot more familiar to me. In South Texas, we had little encounters with African-Americans, but we were sort of taught to be wary of white folks, not so much because they were better or worse so much as "different".  So Kevin's concern that Benny knows "nothing about our culture" is in part protective because paternal instincts say that our children will likely be most happy with someone who shares our culture.  In the end, it's Camila, his wife, who makes the final call about whether Benny is good enough for their daughter.  When I was dating girls in high school, my parents always wanted to know the last name of my girlfriends, trying to ensure that I was dating someone Hispanic. And by golly, they had better be Catholic!  My father may have been a little bit racist, but thankfully not very homophobic. Both my brother and I identify as gay, and even though my parents probably grieved silently about expectations for big Mexican weddings that never happened and the expectation for lots of grandchildren, they have shown nothing but love and acceptance for us and our partners, even my gringo partner, Bill!  In my opinion, those men who are most comfortable in their masculinity are the least homophobic. When it came to my sisters, my parents had to stretch their tolerance even more. One sister never married, and my other sister’s husband is surprisingly not Hispanic, but rather Lebanese and Muslim! Sometimes, I am tempted to lament the grief and worry they must have suffered for their children’s choices in life and love, but truth be told, they are very proud of our courageous willingness to be fully who we are, bi-cultural / tri-cultural, and proud that we have flown further and broader than the small world of South Texas where they raised us. Even more importantly, they have been happy to see us fulfilled in stable long-term relationships. My sister gave birth to four beautiful daughters, and my brother and his partner will soon be adopting their first child. We are blessed. We are grateful.

From left to right: Martin Antonio Guerra, Tio Eli Guerra, Tio Mando Guerra, My Father, Zaragoza Guerra, Jr. and my younger brother, Zaragoza Andres Guerra, III
That's why I consider my father to be macho in the most authentic sense of the word. That's the way I want to play Kevin – stubbornly determined to succeed, occasionally angry when he loses control of matters around him, but lovingly protective and supportive of his family’s happiness. That’s what it means to be a man.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"This is someone's story..." A moment with Piagua Guy, Michael D. Alonzo

I was first exposed to In The Heights while watching the 62nd Annual Tony Awards ceremony in June of 2008. That night, the cast of ITH performed "96,000" and I just remember being blown away. My immediate first thought was, "Whoa, they are rapping in a musical…How cool! AND it sounds incredible!" Their performance that night had such a familiar style and flare which was so representative of my culture. I recount being swept with excitement and joy because the Latino community had made another mark on Broadway! It was at that moment where I added In the Heights to my bucket-list of shows I must to do before I die.

Soon after, I purchased the soundtrack and songbook. I, just like everyone else, spent countless hours listening through the entire album. There was never a song I could skip past because it was obvious that an immeasurable amount of heart and soul went into each and every song; a feeling I had never experienced with any other album prior. The lyrics reminded me of conversations my family members and I would have at the dinner table at family gatherings. The instrumentation would send me into nostalgic memories of walking through different tiendas and mercados. However, there was one song in particular which resonated within’ me: "Piragua."

"Piragua" is an all-around fun song. It’s upbeat and salsa characteristics make one feel as though they have to get out of their seat and dance around. Every time I listen to this song, I feel as though my Hispanic heritage courses through my veins, so much so that I am overtaken with a huge sense of Latino pride. This was the first song I had learned from the show, and I was insistent upon performing this number one day.

And now that day has come! I could not feel more blessed to be performing Piragua Guy. To be quite frank, the audition process was scary, mainly because of how artistic and gifted each and every person was. There was so much talent POURING out of the theater and it was incredible watching all these DFW actors taking risks and living their dream onstage. I am still to this day extremely humbled to have been considered by Adam Adolfo and his creative team, as well performing alongside the best cast I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

Fast-forward a week or so after getting cast. I thought to myself, "Where do I find inspiration for this role? What can I research or listen to so I can do justice for this character?" Piragua Guy is essentially "fresh off the boat," just stepping onto American soil for the first time in hopes of making a better living here in the states. I have told myself countless times that this role is not a fictionalized character, this is someone’s story. In fact, it is hundred’s of immigrants’ stories. It then occurred to me that someone in my family has lived Piragua Guy’s story in some way: my grandfather, José Velasquez.

Dad José, at least in my book, truly captures the essence and image of Mexican pride. He is such a caring and loving individual, not to mention one of the strongest and bravest men I know. Dad José was born in Torreón, Mexico, and is the third child of a large Mexican family of thirteen children. He went to school up until third-grade, but unwillingly left to pursue work to help make a living for the family. Dad José remembers enjoying school and wishing he could pursue an education, but he felt obligated to do whatever he could to help out his family, regardless of his age. However, no matter how hard my Dad José worked, all the little money he would receive would go straight to his parents.

Yet, Dad José cherished any free time he had as a kid. As a reward for working hard, he and his brothers would go down and swim in the river as a relief from the scolding heat! Eventually, he and his family immigrated to the United States. He worked as a shoe-shiner until the age of 13, but asked to do something different because he would get embarrassed when the cute girls would laugh at him. Because of this, Dad José worked construction from age 14 until he retired at the age of 68.

During this time, he met my abuela (Mom Guille) and was the father of four children, one of whom unfortunately passed in the early years of childhood. Dad José worked long hours every day to ensure there was food on the table and a roof over their heads. He also made it a priority to educate himself, and would do so by reading quite a bit (including the dictionary).

I recall an early memory from my childhood. As I sit in the living room of my grandparents’ house, I see a young, Hispanic man pushing a tiny cart attached with bells on the side and a plastic umbrella on the top through the cracked streets of an arid El Paso afternoon. It is the Paletero man, the Mexican equivalent of the Piragua Guy. He would walk down these streets everyday in hopes of earning a hard-earned dollar, hoping to live the American dream.

As I continue rehearsing for the musical, I constantly envision myself in the shoes of my abuelo. I want people to relate to the Piragua Guy like I have and say, "Oh, that is my uncle," or "That’s my father as a kid!" I dedicate this role for the people who risked their lives and had sweat drop down their faces just for the opportunity to have a better life, for people like my parents and my abuelo.

The cast and I are very dedicated to this production; it is going to be spectacular! I am constantly inspired by my cast, family and friends, and look forward to our final few weeks before opening night.

No pares, sigue sigue

Michael Alonzo

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sonny: Future of the Barrio with Rashaun Sibley

The Future of the Barrio….now that’s a title. Wow. Growing up I’ve always wanted to be considered as the future of something or some sort of spokesperson for my generation. What kid doesn’t? In my life some of the things I’ve achieved include: getting into college to learn more about my true love (performing), eating a lot of chicken nuggets, and getting cast in Artes De La Rosa’s In the Heights! I’m really hoping this is the path that helps lead to a successful and happy actor and even a voice for people…especially the eating part.

Sonny is absolutely a voice for the people. He is so passionate about making the world a better place. He knows he can help fix huge issues like housing and the "edjumication" system. He is not afraid to discuss topics like gentrification and immigration and he encourages his peers to do the same and stand up for what they believe and what they think they deserve. He’s also funnier than a fart and I basically just want to be him in life.

When I first heard the music from In The Heights, I was literally amazed. I had heard nothing like it before in musical theatre and I identified with it and its amazing characters and story immediately. I found Sonny in this show and just couldn’t believe a character so close to me existed. It actually reminded me of when I watched The Lion King when I was little and discovered Simba for the first time. (If you’re reading this, Lion King on Broadway, call me. I’ll be there.)
Sonny is fiery. He is so much fun. Nearly everything he says you either laugh at or you marvel at the passion he has behind his words. He wears his emotions on his sleeve so when you’re with him, you never get anything else but the real Sonny. What I admire about Sonny is that he goes for what he wants and he goes hard. He has too much passion for him to just sit around. He will definitely go out there and do it for himself. Sonny will succeed in changing the world. And he won’t stop until he does. I think Sonny and I have that same mentality in common. Life is just too short to not be persistent in your dreams and goals and to notgive 110%. Hardships and struggles help make us all soldiers. And I can’t wait to show everyone my portrayal of a soldier.

Getting to play Sonny is going be one of the most fun roles I’ve ever gotten the chance to play and I can’t wait to share him and the rest of this show with the community. Everyone needs to come see this show. Even if you’re in New York, or London, or a treehouse in an Amazonian rainforest…you need to come see this. It’s going to touch you and be something you can’t see anywhere else. Get ready cuz I’m ready

Blessings, love, and chicken nuggets,


Friday, April 12, 2013

Tradition Honored or Defied? Learning to balance tradition with drive with Pamela Garcia Langton

Tradition Honored or Defied?
Learning to balance tradition with drive with Pamela Garcia Langton
I believe your life experiences make you who you are.  My personal history has driven me to become what I am today, a very strong Latina woman who has goals for herself, pride in her accomplishments, high aspirations for her children and an unconditional love for her family and friends.

Getting to know Camila Rosario, I am starting to realize how alike we are.  Being from similar upbringings, I imagine her female role models were much like mine; wonderful mothers, attentive wives, amazing cooks and immaculate housekeepers, who never thought they could, or, felt they deserved to pursue their dreams.

I had seven aunties, my mother's sisters, all who were very beautiful and come to find out, extremely talented artists, dancers, writers, musicians, singers etc.  Growing up around them, I would have never known any of this because none of them shared their talents.  In fact, I would say that it was never mentioned.  It was shameful to their father, my grandpa, that my mother wanted to be a singer. He taught her women had their place, it wasn't outside of the home and definitely not on stage.  At age 21, my mother had to sneak out of her bedroom window to perform with the jazz band that hired her as the beautiful lead singer because if her father knew what she was doing, the punishment would be unbearable.  I loved my grandpa but I don't believe he would be proud of me today and that makes me very sad.

When you grow up surrounded by old values and traditions you have two choices.  You go along with the way things have always been for generations or you fight for yourself and the future of your family and culture.  Well, here I am.  I am a fighter and I believe Camila is as well.  It is not that we don't love and respect our heritage, we want to make it better.

Don't get me wrong, I know we both love traditions like; Tamales on Christmas Eve, Piñatas at birthday parties, homemade flour tortillas (yummy), Quinceaneras, and Mariachi's at weddings!!!  However, passing down the tradition of being a woman afraid of living, afraid of dreaming, afraid of change, afraid of strength with no goals for yourself or your family is a tradition neither one of us wants to share.

Being a fighter isn't easy, you have to really want to change.  You have to leave a lot behind, which was a huge sacrifice for me the day I left my family in Los Angeles and I am sure for Camila when she left Puerto Rico.  You carry the burden of knowing you may be hurting your family by leaving, knowing they may never understand you are doing it for them and future children who will carry on after we are gone. 
Camila wants Nina to be a strong role model for her family, she is fighting for the future of her culture.  I want my children to be strong role models for their younger cousins, and believe me, I am seeing a change.  When I was growing up, many of my family members and friends were having babies at 16, with no goals or dreams for a better life.  I would love to believe my nieces and nephews want to go to college because my kids did, want to pursue their dreams because my kids are, want to make a difference because I am.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Journey to Finding Nina... Lorens Portalatin reflects on the role of a lifetime

My journey to Nina began my senior year of high school. You know, the year that everyone is trying to find their perfect college and university and money to pay for it all? Well, I was looking for myself... AND a full time job but that was the least of my worries. My final year I had officially started vocal training for the very first time and was completely enamored with music. The notes, the sounds, the vocabulary... All of it was entrancing and it made me want to become a better singer and performer so that people could love music as much as I do.
Anyway, I was introduced to In The Heights by my vocal teacher at the time, Kelly Himes, who was convinced that I was NOT a Second Alto but that I was indeed a First Soprano. This blew my mind. For my entire life I had been thinking that I was only meant to sing lower vocal parts, but here this soprano songbird was telling me that I have the ability to make my vocal range soar beyond what I knew. She handed me multiple pages of sheet music to add to my repertoire and Breathe was one of the few song selections. I listened to the entire soundtrack to Heights and fell in love. From Nina’s concern about her parents, to Vanessa trying to get out of the Heights, to Sonny who just wants a future for himself and the Barrio… I loved them all.
The characters, the storyline, the music. It was like listening being able to go back home to Puerto Rico and listen to my Abuela tell a story about her childhood. Or to have my cousins rap to me in the middle of the street. Heights hit so close to home that it hurt and I knew that I someday had to be a part of this production. Playing Nina became my dream role and I hadn’t let the thought go since first listening to the original cast recording all the way through.
When I found out that ADLR was putting on Heights I went straight to work and decided that I had to choose the perfect song and the perfect arrangement and just be perfect. I had worked on my song, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk’s How To Return Home, a million times with my now vocal teacher, Kristin Spires, who is brilliant, helped me learn new tricks to make my singing seem flawless and easy. She’s helping me extend my vocal range even further with each lesson and with every lesson she learned just how much I really wanted Nina.
I truly didn’t understand how badly I wanted Nina until I had my audition… I had been preparing for it for months and here was the moment that I got to sing and pretty much say, “OK, You want a Nina? You’ve got her.”  I stepped up to the stage after having my name called and handed Kristin my music and stepped center. And... I left it all on the stage. Emotionally, physically, mentally. All I ever had thought about being Nina, or how to get into The Heights, or anything that I possibly emotionally felt about the show hit me all at once and I was a singing mess. Somehow I got to callbacks and left the rest of me there. Between the love, bonding and fierceness at the callbacks I just knew that ANY ONE of these girls could get to play the role I dreamed of and that at that moment I was happy just being a part of the process.
And of course my life changed whenever I was offered the role of Nina.. There were tears and hugs and the obligatory call to my mom saying how excited I was. Being cast as Nina is a dream come true in SO many different ways. Not only do I get to play my own ethnicity for the first time in my musical theatre career, but I also get to explore being a lead role for the first time as my dream role. So NO PRESSURE. Sometimes I just have to remember that it’s just me “and the GWB” and that I just need to “breathe” because whatever happens now I know I can handle it. I’m ready and I KNOW the cast is just as nervous and ready as I am. Together I hope that we show DFW that you don’t HAVE to go to Dallas to see incredible live theatre! To some people it’s right in their own backyard! So come and see this show cause I KNOW you won’t wanna miss it! #NoPareSigueSigue #InTheHeightsFW #JustBreathe

Monday, April 8, 2013

How Nina dreams for 'everyone' IN THE HEIGHTS: Reflections with Pilar Ortiz & Natalie Coca


The role of Abuela resonates with me because of my immigrant background as well as the challenging experiences I have faced as a person of unique ethnicity.  My grandparents on both sides of my family tree came from Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and Alicante, Spain respectively.
I grew up in New York as a direct result of my Puerto Rican grandmother’s desire for something better for her family.    Meanwhile, my father’s parents emigrated from Spain and lived in lower Manhattan.  It was there my parents met and married.  My paternal grandparents moved to Washington Heights around 1954, which coincidentally is the setting of our musical. 

As a child I would visit my grandparents in what would become The Heights the setting of our musical but then was primarily a Jewish community.  Just imagine how my family stuck out in this picture.

One of my earliest friendships was with Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) who would become another success story from The Heights. His family added yet another layer to the ethnic changes taking place in Washington Heights. 

I asked many questions as a school-aged child.  I wanted to know why we looked so differently from all those around us.  My grandparent’s neighborhood was absorbing many Cubans and Salvadorans.  All of them with the same dream of my parent’s family – opportunity and success!  My parents responded to my curiosity by telling me that we all come to America to be safe.  Even my character Abuela, remembers a Cuba that was beautiful and willing to embrace all people.

These are the people I came from, and the many stories I absorbed as a child now make sense to me.  The story of the new Washington Heights is our story – MY STORY!  I, like Abuela Claudia, have passed down to my sons and their children the truthful, inspiring history of our family’s experiences.

The character, Nina in our play, has a dream of bettering herself; completing college just as I dreamed of being the first Puerto Rican female mayor of Nueva York. 

Dreams are what keep us alive.  Dreams are what Abuela believes in even if she doesn’t reap their rewards she knows that the power of her dream will enable others to move out of the barrio like Vanessa in our play.

Never giving up – recalling the past with honor and presenting a vision of the future – that’s Abuela Claudia’s sage advice.  It is the mantra, I believe in, which perpetuates in all Latino families of the working class; a mantra which maintains our pride and moves us forward to the fulfillment of our dreams.  Paciencia y Fe!


“When I was younger, I’d imagine what would happen if my parents had stayed in Puerto Rico. Who would I be if I had never seen Manhattan? If I’d lived in Puerto Rico with my people?”

These lines from the show sung by Nina in Act I, are pretty much what I wondered throughout my entire childhood, the only difference being that my mom and dad are from Mexico and Colombia, respectively. Let me be the first to say how happy I am that they met. Not only because my entire existence was contingent upon their meeting here in the U.S., but also because they have built such a beautifully fulfilling life for me and my three brothers. I literally owe them EVERYTHING.

Fast-forward to June of 2008 and my very first introduction to IN THE HEIGHTS. After the cast performance of “96,000” at the Tony Awards, I was hooked. So much so, that by the time Lin Manuel Miranda gave his acceptance speech on stage, I was sitting proudly on my couch sobbing like someone who had known him his entire life. I got online afterwards and researched everything I could find out about the show. To be honest, I don’t remember breathing AT ALL my first time listening to the soundtrack all the way through. I couldn’t believe that there was a show that could so eloquently articulate not just my story, but also my parent’s story, my grandparent’s story, my teachers’ and friends’ stories. As a self-proclaimed musical theatre snob, I was always one for the classics, but IN THE HEIGHTS simply hit it out of the park for me. I was lucky enough to get to see the Original Broadway Cast in New York that same summer and it really was magical. After that I prayed almost nonstop for the day that I would get to audition for the show that made me re-evaluate what it is to be a 1st generation Latina woman in the U.S.

Finding out about the audition at Artes De La Rosa was a dream. At callbacks you could sense how special the people were and how exhilarating this entire project was going to be - I just knew that I had to be a part of it! When I found out about my casting I think I went into a state of shock. After my initial shrieks & squeals of excitement, I got lost in my head thinking about the music, the costumes, choreography & most importantly wondered about who my cast mates would be. Turns out they are some of the fiercest talent the DFW has to offer –who knew!

I firmly believe that the choices we make every day, good and bad, lead us to the places and people we are supposed to be. It is simply not enough for me to say that I’m excited to be a part of this production when the truth is everything inside of me rattles with emotion. I don’t know how I got so lucky to be cast in THIS production with THESE people. All I know is: I am beyond ready to not only bring this show to life, but to give it life!

“I’m home!”

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Michael Anthony Sylvester & Rashaun Sibley on finding their home In the Heights!

Cast members Michael Anthony Sylvester and Rashaun Sibley play best friends Graffiti Pete and Sonny, the young hip hop generation of In the Heights. In today's blog the pair discuss their casting reactions in their Dream Show!


In the Heights has been my dream show since it first came out. It was simply one of those shows I knew I was born to be in! The show had hip hop in it, I was a hip hop dancer, the show was about Hispanic people, I was Puerto Rican, and the show had Hispanic male leads... I WAS A MALE AND HISPANIC... I was HOOKED! Then one day I start hearing whispers that Adam Adolfo down at Artes De La Rosa has the rights to the show and is planning on producing it down at the Rose Marine Theatre! I LOST MY MIND for a second because I didn’t think DFW would produce it any time soon! It's such a beautiful story but not many theatres in this area could pull it off, but knowing that it was going to be produce at Artes (a theatre that celebrates Latino Culture) and having worked with most of the Production team on various other projects I knew without a shadow a doubt that it would be a Ferocious production! Auditioning for the show was such a blast! I encouraged a couple of my best friends to the audition because I didn't want them to miss out on this opportunity. I just had a great feeling prior to going in.... Kind of like that feeling where you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be in life?? The callbacks were filled with so many talented friends from the DFW scene; it was like being at a family reunion rather than being at an audition! Everyone was so professional and supportive of each other, I knew that day that this was a journey I wanted to be a part of now more than ever! I left everything on that stage at callbacks! I knew that whatever happened I tried my best and it was now up to the production team and the ambivalence game of casting!

So after all was said and done I later received an offer to be a part of the In the Heights family! I was beyond thrilled, and even more exited once the cast list was announced on Broadway World. Graffiti Pete is such a great role and I’m ready to tackle it one dance step at a time! I feel so blessed to be working with so many talented friends, and living out a dream by being a part of this show! It’s not every day you get to do a Musical that lets you "REP OUR PEOPLE!" #BORIQUA #YATUSABESLORENS!!! Huge Thanks and Love to Elise Lavalle for never giving up on me you advice and mentorship means A LOT to me. Kristin I’m so pumped to work with you again!! Thank you Adam for taking a chance on me! 7 years of preparing and training for this moment...and the work doesn’t stop here! Its' just begun but I've finally found my island, and I’m going to enjoy every moment of this trip!

(Check out Michael’s Fan- page at


Before I start, I really just need to get something off my chest. I promise it won’t take long. Just give me a moment.
Almost done. I promise.


Okay I feel so much better now. I knew I would be excited if I got this show but I did not know I would be THIS excited. I cannot wait to get this puppy on its feet and show the community what this show is about and how much we love it.

My initial audition for this show happened so fast it seems like a blur. I do remember perfectly though getting a prime parking spot right in front of the theatre’s doors (which does NOT happen often!) and that was already a victory for me in the day. Even if things didn’t work out and I didn’t get the callback, at least my little walk of shame to my car would be literally 6 seconds long. Then I could play some cheesy, sad song to let out my feelings to and then move right on to the next audition. Fortunately, I got that parking spot and the callback!... I’d say I had a pretty good day.

At the callback, I could not understand where they found all these talented people. Were they trying to make me nervous? Well…………it worked. But I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away. This show was too good and I wanted it. I basically just tried to act like I already got the part and all of the actors were there to see the show. To quote my cast mate Aigner Mathis, "Since I had shown up, I might as well show out!" Give 110% and leave the rest to God.

The next afternoon, Artes De La Rosa is calling my phone……yes. yes. yes. yes. I answer and try to sound professional and collected but I’m pretty sure I stuttered at least 4 different times. Adam Adolfo asks me about my schedule……and that’s it. End of phone conversation………poop. I thought that was it. And I watched my phone for the rest of the day just waiting for a phone call to come and say "Oh. Wait. Did we mention that YOU’RE CAST!" That didn’t happen. I checked my Facebook right before I went to bed and saw a message from Adam telling me to check my e-mail….I didn’t get any notifications about e-mails though. What does this mean?... I check my e-mail and see nothing. What is happening?!! Then I just happen to check my spam folder and lo and behold there’s the e-mail offering me the part of SONNY……..YUSSSSSSSSSSSS! Definitely NOT spam...

It only got better when I arrived at the first cast meet and greet. First, I noticed food and that alone made me realize this is going to be good. Then, I’m greeted with so much excitement, love, and "How are you, boo boo?" hugs that I can’t help but feel at home. This family is already soaked in everything In the Heights is about: ("home, family, finding where you belong") on the FIRST day. This journey is going to be nothing short of amazing and I couldn’t be more blessed to be a part of it.
Tickets for In the Heights are now on sale!