by Linedy Genao
"Who'd have known way back when, we'd ever have this chance to do it all over again." – “De Nuevo,” from the new musical Passing Through.
From doing the conga on stage together eight times a week, to making his written words come alive, working with Eric Ulloa again has been an incredibly exciting experience. I would've never imagined that from making our Broadway debuts together, I would've ended up being part of his own artistic expression as writer of new musical, Passing Through. It's so incredible to think that just a few years ago, we were two young artists living our dreams and now, we have the chance to do it again in a different and exciting way. Also, we get to have another mini On Your Feet reunion every day working with our choreographer, Marcos Santana!
As I said before, Eric and I made our Broadway debut together in On Your Feet. I was the baby of the entire company, both in age and experience, and Eric, along with the other cast members, took me under their wings and taught me a lot of what I know of this business today. When I tell you that we're all a very tight knit family, I mean it! We all still keep in touch all of the time, make cafecito and support one another every time we can.
Eric has been supportive of me and my dreams since the day we met. When I was presented with the opportunity to work with him again, but this time with him as a writer, I immediately jumped at the offer. Already knowing him, his heart and artistry, I couldn't wait to be a part of it! Also, I read his play 26 Pebbles and already knew the incredible writer that he was. After this experience, I can honestly say Passing Through is the most beautiful piece of theatre I have ever been a part of.
Our shared past has obviously made the entire process of creating his new musical that much more fun. I thought it would be a little intimidating with him being the writer of the show, but it couldn't have been more normal. We laugh hysterically, recall many hilarious memories from On Your Feet while creating new ones, and reflect on how our lives have changed since. We often love to go back to when he rode a flamingo while playing trumpet on live TV for the opening of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I led a group of cheerleaders. The only thing that has changed is the amount of respect and admiration I have for him now being on the "other side of the table."
Besides all the fun we have together, our friendship and collaborative process have allowed me to explore my characters freely, continuing my growth as an actor. It's been extremely gratifying to reunite with Eric to help take his show on the next step in its journey. Most importantly, as Latinx artists, we get to represent and celebrate our heritage with the show. For example, one of the many amazing characters I play is Carmen, a Mexican immigrant traveling through the desert and across the border with her husband Diego (played by Ryan Duncan) for a better and safer life in the United States. We sing a song called "De Nuevo," written by Brett Ryback, which means "again," while Diego teaches her English so that they can both find work.
I'll never forget the first day we ran through this number. I completely lost it. We all lost it. All of a sudden, it all hit me. I thought about the current events happening in our country right now, the racist legislations, the people risking their lives in the desert to have crossed, are crossing and will cross the border for a better life, and my own grandfather, who flew to this country with not a single penny in his pocket to provide the life my family and I have today. I celebrate my heritage all throughout our show, but it's this beautiful song and scene I get to perform with Ryan every day that I take most pride in. Ryan said it beautifully in his blog post here that "we feel it's important to present a truthful account of their intentions and struggles to achieve success."
Right before we enter the stage for our scene, we hold hands, and Ryan says, "digamos la verdad,” which means "let us tell the truth." That's what we aim to do every day, that's what Eric has intended, and many times after our number, we can hear the gasps in the audience.
In the end, to reunite and collaborate with Eric in this way has been a rewarding and growing experience. I saw this both as an opportunity for me to grow as an artist creating new and impactful work, and a way to contribute and support my friend’s artistry and the development of his work. To reunite after so many years full of growth and maturity has been such a beautiful experience. We continue to be supportive of one another, personally and professionally, and I am forever grateful to Eric for this incredible opportunity, and for continuing to believe in me and my dream.
"You're always going to be in my top list when I'm looking to write for people and create roles for those I fully believe in... like you."
I love you Eric and que siga la tradición para siempre!