Not since the mid 90’s have I been this excited about theater. I remember being at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Acting major. Black/Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx feeling not only lucky but accomplished by having been accepted. One of two people of color in my class at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. Eugene Byrd was my partner in crime. We held it down. I was thrilled to be attending my first school of choice. Prestigious. Embarking on my life of artistry. One problem. Lack of diversity. It was real. “The Latin Explosion” had yet to hit, Ricky Martin’s declaration of living the wild life hadn’t been made and the world had yet to become obsessed with Jennifer Lopez’s booty. Scene assignments left me feeling so discouraged because I didn’t feel like I would ever be cast in any of the material we studied. My other p.i.c. Pedro Pascal must have been very aware of this fact as well. It was because of him I was able to work on material that represented people who looked like me. Pedro brought scenes for us to work on from James Baldwin novels and current films like Fearless, starring Rosie Perez and Jeff Bridges. Working on that material brought in some much needed contrast for me in the classroom.
Something happened my sophomore year in college. Bring in da Noise/Bring in da Funk opened at The Public Theater and Rent opened at New York Theater Workshop totally rocking my world. Daphne Rubin Vega’s face was on posters everywhere in the city and I remember thinking that there was hope for me in a theater community and in this entertainment industry.
This past week I experienced three shows I’m so freaking excited about. Fun Home, written and composed by Lisa Kron and the amazing Jeanine Tesori, respectively. RUN, DON'T WALK to see this beautiful show. It has been called "the first mainstream musical about a young lesbian” but that is a surface level description and I challenge everyone to see it and find a theme they can’t relate to. Every relationship in this show is universal.
I am so thrilled and proud to see the multi talented Lemon Andersen’s ToasT, at The Public Theater which opens in late April. I’m inspired to see work by artists who are authentic, intelligent, have great respect for their voices and the medium they choose to express themselves in. Get your tickets pronto because I am certain this will be sold out, if it isn't already.
Hamilton. Hamilton. Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda is simply brilliant. The show is worth all the hype it has received. I loved everything about it. To have a Broadway-bound show about American History, American presidents, immigrant founders and contributors to this country created by a young, PUERTO RICAN artist and portrayed by Black and Latino actors makes me feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven…except, once again, I’m so inspired to be alive and an artist living in 2015 and grateful for how far we’ve come since my NYU days. Now I must get to work. The wheels are turning and after a long period of paralyzing fear I'm going along for the ride! See you soon. Wink.
Ayodele Casel is a native New Yorker and began her professional training at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is also a graduate of The William Esper Studio in NYC. Hailed by Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world today ”, she has earned commissions from Aaron Davis Hall/Harlem Stage and the Apollo's Salon Series, where she presented "Diary of a Tap Dancer”. She has been creating and presenting her own works since 1999 in venues that include The Apollo, New York’s City Center’s Fall For Dance, Aaron Davis Hall/The Gatehouse, The Lisner Auditorium, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Joyce SoHo,The Triad Theater and Joe's Pub at The Public Theater. Ms. Casel has appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit, American Theater Magazine, and The Village Voice. Ayodele was most recently seen performing in Savion Glover’s STePz at The Joyce Theater and on tour.