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.