BY SABRINA MESSAOUDI
Photo courtesy of College of the Desert“This story at least shows one part of the culture in this country that is striving to be something. Everybody has a place even when we don’t think so.”
COD students and desert locals are putting on a spring play at the McCallum theater. ‘In the Heights’ focuses on the importance of family, community and cultural identity in a predominant Hispanic New York barrio.
Usnavi de la Vega, played by desert local Matt Sambranlo, is the so-called heart of the show as his leading role connects everyone together. “This is one of the best roles that I’ve personally ever had. He [Usnavi] is trying to make it like everyone else in the world and at the same time make sure his family is taken care of and that is something that I can really relate to,” says Sambranlo.
COD student Alisha Bates, who left the desert and came back, says she can relate to her character. “She is not trying to be attached but she ends up being really in love with Usnavi. I left the desert for a while and i came back because of some personal situations that were devastating and since I’ve gotten my ground again. I try not to connect to a lot of people so I don’t get stuck.”
“Vanessa is the one person that wants to get out, do bigger and better things. She is ready to go explore New York and become this entrepreneur. Throughout the play she only says one thing in Spanish which is ‘abuela’, which I think relates to her wanting to get out because everyone else speaks Spanish and she just doesn’t want to anymore,” Bates continues.
“A lot of people strive to go big or go home and it speaks so much today especially with the diversity. There is no middle ground. This story at least shows one part of the culture in this country that is striving to be something. Everybody has a place even when we don’t think so. Hopefully one day there will be a black show like that and an asian show like that and everybody will pick up and not be so close minded anymore,” said Bates.
When it comes to tips for auditioning, Music Director Scott Smith tells us the following, “3 words: prepare, prepare…. and prepare! Sign up for one of the COD acting classes and/or our music theater workshop in the fall semester. Know as best you can what you are trying out for – and don’t be afraid to say “this is my first audition. We’ll guide you through!”
The Tony-winning best musical will be presented in the McCallum Theater live with the full Broadway orchestrations on May 3, 4, 5, 6, 2018. Tickets TBA.