|Rashaun Sibley (Sonny) & Me|
BECAUSE WE’RE ABOUT TO OPEN IN THE HEIGHTS OH MY LORD.
Since I auditioned for this show, my life has completely changed.
I originally heard about auditions for In The Heights late last year, and I knew ABOUT the show , thought it could be fun, but didn’t think I really stood a chance to be in it. I mean, its about Washington Heights...the barrio! I thought nah…I could not fit any role in that show.
Now, I AM ¼ Mexican (which I am very proud of) but I never thought of it as my ethnicity. My mom doesn’t speak Spanish, I barely ever see my grandma and when I do, the only Spanish she speaks is when she’s ordering at a Mexican restaurant. So, when my best friend Michael Sylvester told me I should audition I was like…whaaaaaat. What part could I possibly play? He told me to look up all of the songs for Nina, especially Breathe. I was like, really? He said trust me, it IS you. I went home, listened to Breathe, and sobbed for a good 20 minutes listening to it on repeat. It pretty much summed up what happened to me 6 years prior when I left college in Manhattan and had to come home after a semester…I felt like a complete failure and that I had let everyone down. I quickly became VERY attached to the part. I learned all of Nina’s songs, and had planned to audition for the show.
|"Little Coca" and me!|
Soon, I became very caught up in other shows I was doing, so Heights moved to the back of my brain. Then, I remember one night after a show of myFootloose, Adam, our Heights director, coming up to me in the greeting line and handing me his card, saying he wanted me to come audition for In The Heights. I was so excited that he had noticed me, so I made plans in my head to set up an audition time. BUT of course, soon I was once again caught up in the NEXT show, Thoroughly Modern Millie. I was TIRED at that point yall. T-I-R-E-D. I knew I needed to take a break. So, in a bold move, I said what the hell and cut my hair into the short bob needed for that character. Then, one night again – Adam is at Millie. I think oh no…I didn’t ever sign up to audition…and I really don’t have any plans to sign up anymore. He basically yelled at me for not signing up, AND for cutting my hair. (OOPS. I definitely regret that now.)We talked a bit, and he let me know that between Millie and Heights there was about a month til rehearsals started – with that little bit of info, I was totally on board again to audition. I signed up the next day, prepared my audition and showed up the day of - - TERRIFED.
Like I said before, I was not very familiar with the show at ALL. I had of course heard 96,000, seen the Tony performance, and knew the lead dude rapped a lot. That was baaaaasically all I knew, aside from all of Nina’s songs. So I showed up, (WITH some extensions in) sweating and shaking to the audition. Went in, sang my song, did some pushing around with Adam on stage while I sang (the whole time I was thinking am I really shoving the director right now?), and left the stage thinking AGH I wish I could do it all over! Went into the lobby and was handed callback packets for…Vanessa and Carla?!? What are THEIR songs and stories?! All I had ever learned was Nina, I had no idea who any of the other female characters were. My first feeling was extreme disappointment. I had really gotten attached to Nina’s character and seeing that I wasn’t called back for her I felt sad, BUT now I had these two new chicas to learn about. I went home, YouTubed and Google’d my face off and saw that both of those girls were AWESOME characters and I fell in love with them as well.
|My best friend, Michael Anthony Sylvester - "Graffiti Pete"|
So, I went to callbacks again, TERRIFIED. Especially when I walked in – I was a little late coming straight from my full time job, and was called in immediately to sing for Carla. I was flustered and completely botched it. But even from the beginning – I already felt the sense of family as soon as I walked off the stage from my horrid rendition of Carla’s solo in Blackout, embarassed. One girl said ‘I love your shoes’ and another agreed with her and somehow it made me feel so much better. I mean, who compliments other people at auditions? Who smiles and laughs and talks to you when they’re COMPETING with you for a part? Exactly. That’s what I mean when I say this was NOT your typical callback – everyone was SO nice. And everyone was SO FIERCE. Every voice was amazing. I got up to sing for Vanessa, I believe almost last and my nerves were just SHOT. I had just listened to 10 other BEAUTIFUL girls belt to the gods. But I got up there, and gave it all I could.
Dancing wise – I had a blast! The dance was so challenging and fun and I had the best time. And when I say everyone was a SICK dancer – I mean it. I was asked to salsa, alone, to Jay Z rapping at one point while everyone stared at me and I thought "I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. And everyone is staring at me oh my god" At this point, I started to feel pretty un-talented. I was having so much fun, but I was starting to think of it as "Hey, at least you tried!" I left feeling good about my audition on the whole, but felt that there was way too much talent there for me to have gotten any part…until the phone call from Adam came.
I got a text message that night –"You awake?" and I responded "Yes!" Adam called me. He asked "So, are you happy with how your audition went today?" I answered "Well…uh…I…could have done better with my acting while I sang…and I could have danced better. Are you happy with how things went?" He answered "That depends on how you answer my next question – will you be my Vanessa?" I can’t even begin to describe what I felt…WHAT!?!?!?!?!? I immediately started sobbing and DUH said yes. We chatted a little and hung up. I sat on my bed…and then it sank in…oh god. Im Vanessa. And I got really terrified. I had never played a "sexy" character before. Am I sexy enough? Can I dance well enough? What if no one likes me?
|"The Fantastic Four" - Just part of the familia!|
But from there, I started to get to know Adam, Lorens, Matt and Joshua and fell in LOVE with them. They quickly became my little family. Soon it came the day to have our first cast meet up – and it was like a family REUNION. It was like we had all known and loved eachother for years. When I say this cast is a family, it REALLY is. I could literally talk so easily to ANY of them. I am entirely in love with every single person. Pilar feels like my Abuela. Lorens is like my long lost sister. Each person is like another family member I have added to the tree.
Vanessa is one of the characters that I thought I would never get the chance to play. I remember seeing her in the Tony performance of 96,000, watching Karen Olivo and thinking wow that would be such an awesome part to play. She’s got swag, she’s got sass, I love her. But for some reason, I felt I really was never THAT person. The first time we all sang through 96,000, tears came to my eyes realizing that this was real life, I am doing something I thought I wasn’t capable of and lord almighty I am going to try my BEST to be as good as I possibly can. I want to do this for my family - my mom’s side of the family that comes from Guadalajara. I want to feel like if they saw the show, they would be proud of me. This is the first time I have ever felt like I’m Latina. I mean, I knew I was. But I’d never FELT it. Words have stuck with me that cast member Michael Sylvester told me – "it doesn’t matter HOW much Latin blood you have in you. Its there. You ARE Latina!"
|Just call me, VANESSA.|
I’ve had t deal with a lot of things on top of trying to keep it together in rehearsal . I’ve gone through major heartache, finding my way into a new job – and through all of this, my Heights cast has been there EVERY SINGLE DAY with hugs, words of encouragement, TACOS, and love. I could not be more BLESSED than I am now in my life. At the beginning of this journey I felt lost, alone, and unsure of who I was. Through finding my home in this cast, I have found myself. I’ve found confidence. I’ve found lifelong friends. I’ve found that I CAN be sexy, I can feel wanted. I would never trade being a part of the Heights familia for the world. I can already picture myself on closing night just sobbing as we sing the Finale. BUT I can’t think of that yet! We’re about to OPEN! I hope everyone is ready and so excited because I cannot WAIT to get out there and BRING IT!! WEPA!!!!!!!!!!!