Friday, March 12, 2010

In The Heights - Chat Back

I went to a Chat Back at Barnes and Noble for "In the Heights". Rayanne Gonzalez and DeWitte Cooper sat in front of a small audience on the second floor of the book store. I arrived a few minutes late and as I sat down DeWitte was explaining how he got the part of Benny in the show. He was working for Disney in the Finding Nemo Stage Show. He got a call from a friend saying that "In the Heights" was looking for actors of his general build and age. So he took a trip to New York City and auditioned. Of the 300 actors who auditioned the first day, only five remained and he was one of those five. The auditioning continued for another three days. When he realized that he was being considered for the lead part he poured his heart and soul into the audition. He said that the cast really gets along well and that it is like an extended family.
Reyanne has a young daughter that she is taking along with her on the tour. She makes sure her daughter visits every children's museum and aquarium and zoo in every town they visit. She is hoping this education will stay with her daughter for a lifetime. When asked what she felt is unique about "In the Heights", she said the show is about community and pride in the place you live. It is about discovering what it is that makes you feel like you belong. It is about home, family and hope, all universal themes not limited to the Washington Heights community.
I lived in Washington Heights for ten years. The block this play takes place on is just a few blocks away from my old apartment. I have sketched on the streets where this play is set many times. I am very familiar with this neighborhood with its corner bodegas and backgammon played on cardboard boxes. It is a shame that when I lived there I was always dreaming of getting out of the neighborhood, to make my mark somewhere else. This play reminds me that there was a vibrant community right under my nose if I had just taken the time to get out and discover it. So now I find myself in Orlando, and now I am reaching out and trying to discover the community that I call home.


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