Interstate

A New Musical

Crushing on Madison: Meet Allison Linker

Meet Allison Linker, who’s been with Interstate from the very start of its development. She plays several ensemble roles, including Madison, the popular girl in school that Henry has a crush on. She shared why Interstate is meaningful to her.

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WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
Working on Interstate brings me so much joy. The music is beautifully composed and a delight to sing. The spoken word sections are incredibly moving. The book and lyrics are funny, heartfelt, political, and often times unsettling and uncomfortable in the best possible way. I hope that Interstate sparks change and helps facilitate valuable and necessary conversations about race, gender, and the many other important themes addressed in our story.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT INTERSTATE?
Can I say everything? Truly, the greatest thing for me about working on this musical has always been the phenomenal group of open, caring, and wonderfully supportive people in the cast, crew, and creative team. We’re like a big, fun family. We share our stories with each other, we laugh A LOT, and thanks to Kit, we always eat dim sum together on Sunday mornings!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER IN INTERSTATE?
I love playing Madison, the girl that Henry has a crush on at school. Madison does not condone bullying, resists peer pressure, and goes out of her way to support Henry even though they don’t know each other well.  As Madison I also have one of the few opportunities in the script to interact directly with Sushma Saha, the actor who plays Henry and I am loving every minute of it!


Follow Allison on her website (allisonlinker.com).

 

Casting the Impossible: Finding Henry

Meet Sushma Saha, the young actor who is the beating heart of Interstate. A talented performer starting their junior year at Ithaca College, Sushma tells us why playing Henry, a 16-year-old transgender South Asian teen from Kentucky struggling with his identity, feels like a dream.

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NAME: Sushma Saha

PREFERRED PRONOUNS: She/Her/Hers and They/Them/Theirs

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
Mechanicsburg, PA.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
I've been singing and dancing my whole life, but I got into acting and theatre when I started middle school! 

WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
I was in Ithaca College's productions of Cabaret (Victor) this past spring and In the Red and Brown Water (Aunt Elegua) in the fall. I also did a regional production of The Amish Project (America) at Open Stage of Harrisburg a couple of years ago. And starting mid-May, if you go to a Regal Cinema near you, you'll see me alongside other theatre students from Ithaca College in a new Coca Cola commercial made by student filmmakers from IC!

    I knew I was the protagonist of my life.

    WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
    Being POC and queer/genderqueer, I am a huge advocate for all the representation that there can be in the future of theatre, and seeing as many diverse stories told as possible. As an Indian person who looks "ethnically ambiguous" and "straight-passing", it's more often than not where I am playing races I am not born under, and simply filling a "melanin quota" for a show.  It's a challenge to get work that feels fulfilling and truthful to people like me. So to hear about a show like this that tells a story not only about a transgender South Asian teenage boy who is sweet and quirky and determined and passionate and vulnerable, but also about queer Asian people in music who are affecting the world? If I didn't audition for this show, I would've been majorly missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, and to be the one to say yes to being a part of Interstate as Henry feels like a dream.

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
    On top of the mad Asian, Indian, and vast queer representation that I love, I love how the story doesn't hide from certain truths and realities of the POC and LGBTQ+ community that may be uncomfortable for audience members to learn about and witness on the stage. But they've got to be shared!

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER HENRY?
    I love how empathetic Henry is. Throughout his arc in the show, as hurtful as it is, it is so clear to see how much everything that people say or do to him affects him, from his bullies calling him names to the expectations his parents put on him. He feels everything so deeply. But as much as a curse his empathy can be, it is also a gift, because it led him to start video blogging and sharing his experience to hopefully help people like him, like Queer Malady helped him!

    ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
    When I began taking acting classes in middle school, my first acting teacher literally sat my class in a circle and told us one by one what kind of roles we would play in our careers. Every white girl and boy was told they would be a leading lady/man for life, and me and the two other people of color were told we would forever be the "sidekicks". After that year, I never took a class from her ever again. Because I knew I was the protagonist of my life, and every person who doesn't fall under the European, heteronormative, cisgender standard should also feel they are the leading character of their own life! If we continue to speak up and make our stories heard like Melissa and Kit have done with Interstate, we will continue to have our narratives be recognized, which will in turn improve upon the narrative of the world!


    Follow Sushma on Instagram (@sushmasahaha), Twitter (@sushmasaha), Snapchat (@sushmasaha), and on Youtube.

    Mother of the Year: Michelle Noh

    Meet Michelle Noh, one of the newest members of the Interstate family. She's playing a caring but stern mother whose greatest wish is for Adrian to follow in her footsteps. Michelle took a few minutes to tell us more about herself.

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    NAME: Michelle Noh

    PREFERRED PRONOUNS: She/Her/Hers

    WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
    I grew up in Southern California and though I'm still a beach girl, I knew I wanted a cultural change out of my bubble. So, I went to NYU, Tisch School of the Arts for Drama and now I'm based in L.A.

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERFORMING?
    I've been performing since I was a kid, but I started working professionally when I was 19. 

    WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
    I was in the first additional company of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It was a sit-down tour in San Francisco. And I've done a ton of theatre in L.A., but you're more likely to have seen me on a sitcom or drama, like Grey's Anatomy, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Bad Judge, ER... (And then also a bunch you probably never saw... HAHA.) 

      WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
      I am here because I really want to be here. Interstate is a special and unique show with a unique voice. I had been looking to jump back into some theatre in NYC and, like magic, Interstate presented itself. Somehow I could tell that the Creative Team was a dedicated one that cared deeply about the project for all the right reasons.

      WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
      Interstate tells a story that doesn't get told. It gives voice to a community that's underrepresented, and in a fresh way. As a kid, I used longed to see people who looked like me as leads in film, tv and theatre. This is a much more important idea than I realized at the time. It helps "normalize" people in a society's eyes. 


      Follow Michelle on Twitter (@michnoh).

      A Few Words from Esco

      Meet Esco Jouléy, one of the Ensemble members of Interstate. Ze doesn't have much to say, but zir role as lesbian lothario-slash-entrepreneur Carly speaks for itself.

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      NAME: Esco Jouléy

      PREFERRED PRONOUNS: Ze/Zir

      WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
      Washington D.C.

      HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
      My whole life. 

      WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
      Runaways at the Public Theater.

        WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
        To be a part of an amazing project dealing with things in my community. 

        ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
        My first time working with an all queer cast was during [MJ Kaufman's] Galatea and it was an amazing experience. 


        Follow Esco on Instagram (@escojouley), and zir website (escojouley.com).

        Andreas Wyder Explores Flawed White Men

        Meet Andreas Wyder, a member of a stellar Ensemble portraying several different representations of toxic white masculinity in the upcoming NYMF production of Interstate. Most recently seen in the National Tour of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he talks to us about puppies and Cats (the musical).

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        NAME: Andreas Wyder

        PREFERRED PRONOUNS: He/Him/His

        WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
        Originally from Farmington, Maine!

        HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
        I’ve been performing ever since I first saw the musical Cats when I was 3! I started dance classes and singing lessons and doing community theatre.

        WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
        The National Tours of How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical (Young Max), Peter Pan 360 (Nibs), Titanic: The Musical (Bellboy) and Off-Broadway productions of Kerrigan & Lowdermilk's The Bad Years and The Last Word at NYMF.

          Everyone will be moved and affected, and I can’t wait to touch people’s hearts.

          WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
          As a gay man (and human), this story where the characters are open, real, and grounded in their identities is so incredible. Interstate is universally relatable, no matter your age, race, gender, or life story! Everyone will be moved and affected, and I can’t wait to touch people’s hearts. Also, the music is unlike any new musical I’ve ever worked on before! The pop/folk/contemporary vibes are simply BRILLIANT, and my all-time favorite music to sing!

          WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
          The heart. This story is so carefully told, with such incredible detail, that it makes you fall in love with and relate to every single character. Also, the music is simply gorgeous and moves me to tears every time I hear it.

          YOU PLAY EIGHT DIFFERENT CHARACTERS IN THIS SHOW, MOST OF THEM NOT VERY LIKEABLE. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THESE ROLES?
          I’m very grateful that I’m being given the chance to shed light upon the unfortunate amount of racism/ignorance in our country from white men. Some of my characters are genuinely so ignorant that they don’t even know they are being offensive, and that is such an exciting task as an actor! To really dive into these people’s minds and figure out why they feel the way they do... it’s an actor’s dream!

          CLEARLY, YOU'RE NOT ONE OF THOSE WHITE GUYS. WHO DO YOU MOST RELATE TO IN THE SHOW?
          I very deeply relate to Henry’s story in this show, because after being on the Broadway National Tour of Grinch for 4 years, I have had teenagers reach out to me literally saying that my performance, pursuit of my dreams, and openness about my gay identity have given them hope and saved their lives from suicide. Reading messages like that is almost too much to handle, but the gravity of its depth is not lost on me at all, and I am humbled to shine light into those people’s lives.

          ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
          I created a popular backstage video blog while on the Grinch Tour called “PUPPY TALES” which can be found on BroadwayWorld and YouTube.


          Follow Andreas on Instagram (@AndreasWyder), and Facebook.

          A Dashing Lead: Jon Viktor Corpuz

          Meet Jon Viktor Corpuz, who plays Dash in the upcoming NYMF production of Interstate. Most recently seen in the Broadway revival of The King and I, he talks to us about the importance of representation and why he's so attached to Dash.

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          NAME: Jon Viktor Corpuz

          PREFERRED PRONOUNS: He/Him/His

          WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
          Tampa FL. Lightning Capital of the World.

          HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
          I've been acting since I was 8 and singing since as far back as I can remember. Karaoke is a big thing in every Filipino household.

          WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
          2015 Broadway revival of The King and I.

            My favorite thing about Interstate is that it’s fucking fun.

            WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
            Interstate is the show I think a lot of us in this company and team have been waiting for. As Asian American, queer people in theater, there's often the quiet worry that if we are too assertive or insistent on holding onto the parts of ourselves that make us us, we may alienate ourselves from people looking to potentially hire us on the other side of the table. 

            So, when a show dares to have the "audacity of equality," as Hasan Minhaj puts it, dares to put Asian American characters front and center who are idiosyncratic, complex, and messy, it rips the wool from all of our eyes and proves that sentiment to be painfully wrong! What Interstate accomplishes so well is a relatable universality through remarkable, beautiful specificity. As Asian, queer people, we are often not even the ones giving voice to our own stories. Melissa and Kit have so beautifully given voice to characters who would not normally be seen on a stage in a theater if the two of them did not have the courage and audacity to write their own existences onto a page. 

            Also, I don't normally get to play "leading" roles because of my "type" (I'm usually a supporting/character actor, or an understudy to a lead role). So to be able to help create and play a protagonist role that I connect with SO much is another reason why I'm doing it. 

            WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT INTERSTATE?
            My favorite thing about Interstate is that it's fucking fun. Because the identities of these characters are unique, at least in the context of theatre, a lot of the conversation surrounding the show can hyper-focus on identity politics, but this show, above anything else, is fun, relatable, soulful, gut-wrenching, and powerful.  

            WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER DASH?
            Dash is guided by his emotional intelligence and cares deeply about the people in his life, especially Adrian, his fans, and his family. He's painfully aware of the implications of his identity, how the world sees someone like him, and how that creates major dissonance in what it is he wants to achieve in his life. Nevertheless, he is determined to settle for nothing less than the biggest dreams he has for himself. 

            ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
            One of the main things I would hear at the stage door at King & I was that I was going to make a terrific King one day. On the one hand, it's flattering that people would say that to me, but a large part of me felt unsettled by that comment every time it came up, because it seemed like that show was the only thing anyone could possibly imagine me being a part of in the future. I yearned for more than that, and I didn't know how or what that thing was going to be, but I knew that having a resume filled with productions of The King & I was not necessarily what I wanted for myself. King & I, while lovely (and a game-changer of its time), does not even begin to scratch the surface of who it is I am and what it is I want to share, what us Asian people want to share and are capable of, what myself, as a queer person has inside myself to share and am capable of. Interstate is the thing that felt impossible and unimaginable at the stage door where I was told so many times how good of a King I'd be. It feels like the answer to the seemingly groundless question I had as to whether or not people would want to see me in any other show. That feels wonderful.


            Follow Jon on Instagram (@jonviktorcorpuz), Twitter (@jonviktorcorpuz), and on Facebook.

            Welcome to the Family, Kiet!

            Meet Kiet Tai Cao, one of the newest members of the Interstate family. He's playing the well-intentioned but misguided immigrant father of our protagonist, in addition to an assortment of other characters. Kiet took a few minutes to share some tidbits with us.

            NAME: Kiet Tai Cao

            HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY?
            I identify as a cisgender male.

            WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
            I was born and raised in Reno, NV. Well Sparks, NV to be specific.

            HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
            Acting for 10 years? Performing my whole life! 

            WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
            I was just in a new musical called “The New World” at Buck’s County Playhouse. I am now the Co-President of the National Asian Artists Project Broadway Community Chorus. Hahahaha! Mouthful. 

              WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
              When I read the script, I loved it. And written by two Asian artists? Yes, please!

              WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
              I am a new cast member, but my favorite part is that it’s a story that needs to be told. I look forward to exploring my roles as an ensemble member haha!

              WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON THAT'S EXCITING?
              I am super excited about my poetry on Instagram @CloserToKindness. I hope to someday take it beyond poetry and expand it to a movement, an empire. I have lots of vision for it. Stay tuned :)


              Follow Kiet on Instagram (@caoboy331), YouTube, SoundCloud, and his website (kiettcao.com).

              The Angel Behind Adrian

              Meet Angel Lin, the Brooklyn-born, New Jersey and Shanghai-bred multi-instrumentalist most recently seen in the National Tour of OnceShe's picking up that guitar again to play Adrian, an ambitious Queer rocker and conflicted love interest in the upcoming NYMF production of Interstate.

              NAME: Angel Lin

              PREFERRED PRONOUNS: She/Her/Hers

              WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
              I was born in Brooklyn, but lived in NJ. I moved to Shanghai when I was 8, but attended an American school there. Then I moved back to the States for college.

              HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
              Probably since elementary school. As a musician, I had piano training at home since I was 7, played clarinet in middle school band, picked up strummy instruments in college (uke and guitar), then more instruments while on tour with Once, and learning more every day. I think in my resume it says I can play, like, 8 different instruments? I don't know, in actuality I can comfortably play just 5 or 6 of them. As an actor, I did school musicals from elementary to middle school, and then dropped band to commit to theater in high school. Finally I went to NYU Tisch Drama for college. 

              WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
              The national tours of Once (Emcee, u/s Girl) and Kansas City Choir Boy (Center Theatre Group, American Repertory Theatre, and HERE Arts). Off-Broadway: Stinky Cheese Man (Atlantic Theatre), Greatest Pirate Story (Jerry Orbach Theater). And an occasional singer at McKittrick Hotel, home of Sleep No More.

                She’s a badass performer and artist, and unapologetic about being Asian-American and Queer.

                WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
                To quote the show, it's "a tale that's got to be told". It's an amazing story about life, relationships, and growing up that everyone can relate to, but told through the trans/Queer/Asian-American experience. I relate to it and wanted to be part of telling this story. 

                Also, I don't normally get to play "leading" roles because of my "type" (I'm usually a supporting/character actor, or an understudy to a lead role). So to be able to help create and play a protagonist role that I connect with SO much is another reason why I'm doing it. 

                WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
                The people involved. The core creative and writing team are just talented and warm humans. It transfers over to their work. They managed to make a show that addresses SO many issues about minority experiences while telling a story that hits many universal emotional nerves. 

                WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER ADRIAN?
                She's a badass performer and artist, and unapologetic about being Asian-American and Queer. She's also simultaneously ambitious and caring, which is both a strength and a weakness, and that kinda gets her into the mess she ends up in.


                Follow Angel on Instagram (@angelseesthings), Twitter (@angelsaysthings), and her website (angeldoesthings.com).

                Meet Usman Ali Ishaq!

                During our casting process, we received over a dozen submissions for the role of Henry. Although we were unable to cast these incredible individuals, we want to share their work with the world. Our "Search for Henry" series features TGNC South Asian talent from all over the country.


                NAME: Usman Ali Ishaq

                HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY?
                Pakistani-American Gender Nonconforming Muslim

                WHAT DO YOU DO?
                I’m an artist currently getting a BFA in Musical Theatre at Ithaca College. I’m also an aspiring massage therapist.

                HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERFORMING?
                I’ve been acting since my freshman year of high school, which is 6 years now. I started taking voice lessons and dance classes my freshman year of college.

                WHAT'S YOUR PROUDEST PERFORMANCE?
                The performance I take most pride in is my take on Peter from Luna Gale this past year. This is because it was a tremendous artistic challenge with a heavy subject matter that I felt I tackled appropriately. I was also the only POC in the cast and ultimately ended the show as the “hero” and the only one who recovered. I’m not used to that sensation. Especially in a context where my identity wasn’t contingent to the production but played an important role in what the story became.

                WHY DID YOU SUBMIT TO INTERSTATE?
                It was the first time I have ever seen a call for a character that is South Asian AND Queer. It’s very rare for me to find casting calls that actually fit and don’t require some broadening and manipulation. It’s important to me because it is a very specific intersection of identities that hasn’t been talked about or represented much, if at all. 

                WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH THE WORLD?
                In the past few weeks I’ve had a couple of encounters that have inspired me to share a seemingly straightforward point that I, unfortunately, feel needs reiteration.

                Whilst exploring the fluidity of my expression a couple months ago, I hopped into my mother’s closet and dug around her old fits. Girl knows how to dress. I found some bomb ass necklaces and some fresh tops. I brought a couple of the necklaces back and served LOOKS. I got a lot of praise!

                It was nice, initially. 

                A couple of weeks ago we had an underwear party, to which I wore my underwear, a sweater-quality overshirt, and a necklace. As one should, I got lit. In the heat of dancing with some of pals I hear one of them say “I feel like I’m having sex with Aladdin!” 

                After a long conversation filled with apology and justification, my peer explained that it was my ruby (it wasn’t ruby) necklace that gave him “Prince Ali vibes”. A couple days later, before my performance of a scene for the faculty at IC, one of my colleagues came up to me and said “Yes, Aladdin!”, followed by an indication towards the purple necklace I had.

                The wildest part about all of this: Aladdin doesn’t wear a necklace.

                So, please, everyone, do some research about my culture from the actual source. Not just a Disney film. (Also, side note, when will Aladdin on Broadway/Tour cast a middle-eastern/desi Aladdin?)

                We’re Aladdin when we don’t want to be but not when we do.


                Follow Usman on Facebook (Usman Ali Ishaq) and Instagram (@usmanaliishaq).