Dear President Elect Trump: Sincerely, Broadway

Americans woke up on Nov.9 to a fundamental change. Seemingly endless months of a divisive political campaign gave way to feelings of astonishment and disbelief. Around the theater district and within the artistic community, for many, these feelings have since evolved into a range of emotions from sadness and anger to trepidation and fear.

As the dust continues to settle, we are left to pick up the pieces and grapple with the fundamental question of where we will go from here. But in order to move forward, we must first reflect. Broadway Style Guide invited artists to express their feelings and over the course of the coming days and weeks we will add new perspectives to the discourse.

The New York theater community is nothing if not resilient and is arguably one of the most open-minded and welcoming groups people found anywhere in America. We are a melting pot of geographies, skin color, gender, and beliefs. We must remain hopeful, while at the same time recognizing that we have an opportunity and responsibility to ensure that our voices are heard.

If you have a perspective that you would like to share, we would love to hear from you on social media or via e-mail at editor@broadwaystyleguide.com.


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LORA LEE GAYER
Actor

I didn’t cry. I didn’t sleep that night, but I didn’t have much emotion. The day had been glorious and sunny, I was excited. As the polls began to close, I was doing a show. I’d run offstage for each of my quick changes and ask my dresser, “Cheryl, anything on Florida yet?” Before the show started my co-star came into my dressing room, like he does every night, and he looked distraught.“What’s wrong?” I asked.He said, “I’m worried… I feel anxious.”I giggled and replied, “Don’t be! I’m not at all. I don’t think we have anything to be worried about.”

After the curtain had come down and I was getting dressed and looking at my phone, I realized how far away that conversation before the show now seemed.  I wanted to get home… fast. I didn’t want to be on the subway, and I didn’t want to be alone. By the time I got back to my neighborhood and was seated on my boyfriend’s couch with Oreos, chips, salsa, prosecco, popcorn and anything else to make me feel comfortable; the inevitable was already there on the screen: Donald Trump would be our president-elect. I sat there in shock. The news anchors’ faces were a reflection of most of America— utter disbelief, embarrassment, looks that said ‘how did this happen?’.

As I sat there and listened to the voter statistics (how certain parts of states voted, who voted, etc.), I thought back to this article that I had read some six months before.  It was an interview with J.D. Vance, author of a book called Hillbilly Elegy. In the interview he describes his family and where he was raised and how these are the people who are supporting Trump. It gave me some understanding about who these people were that were supporting this reality TV star as our next president.   That’s what I stayed up all night thinking about. Who are these people? Who are these people that voted for a man that based his entire campaign on hate and stupidity? So I read, and I read, and I kept reading.

The next morning I got on the subway with my fellow New Yorkers. Every one of them looked like they had been up all night going through a break up with their significant other, and they didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I, too, hadn’t quite figured out what I was feeling.  Then I started reading posts by friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter, and I realized my overall feeling was that of shame. Now you might be thinking I felt shame for the entire country, shame that so many people voted for Donald Trump. No. I felt more shame that I had believed my reality was the only reality.

I live in New York, a cultural epicenter. I am an artist with a college degree surrounded by like-minded people who believe in social change and equality.  But we are, I am, in the minority in this country. More and more posts were made on Facebook: friends and Hillary supporters calling Trump supporters names and spewing hate—the opposite of “When they go low we go high.” I couldn’t participate, because I don’t agree. I do not think most people voted for Trump because they are racist or because they don’t believe in gay marriage or are pro-life. I believe that a large part of our country is angry and cannot feed their families and the government has failed them over and over again, has failed all of us over and over again. Do I believe Donald Trump is all of those horrible things? Yes, I do. But I cannot, for my own hope in humanity, believe that every one of his supporters are those things too. Both sides are at fault— liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Trump is none of those. He is a clown in this carnival he has created.

Where I believe both sides have failed and why we are where we are, is because of education—or rather, the lack of it. The root of all prejudice is the lack of knowledge. People become closed-minded because their minds have not been expanded. College needs to be more affordable.  Trade schools should be set up in parts of our country that have depended on factories for a town’s employment and robots are replacing human workers. Teachers should be making livable wages, we shouldn’t be “teaching for the test.” We should be looking to other countries and adopting their successful practices.

So what can we do? For one, always keep educating ourselves and looking outside our own reality. We can VOTE. What are your senators and congressperson’s stances on education, volunteering? I cannot believe that our country is filled with hateful people, but I can believe that our country is filled with scared individuals who all want to work hard and feed their families. We are Americans. We are dreamers. We are the inventors.  To rise up out of this dark time, we must educate ourselves and those around us. As Alessandro Solzhenitsyn said, “It’s universal law— intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”


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SASHA HUTCHINGS
Actor

To my future child.

Forgive both brevity and prolixity. I am writing to you from stolen moments on subway platforms, buses, late nights, early mornings, and 10 minute breaks in my dressing room. Like my tense fingers tightly cramped around this iPhone, the world is feeling tight and cramped these days. We are imprisoned by glass ceilings and hands shackled behind broken backs. Hands that built this country continually raised to God, begging don’t shoot. The world is feeling smaller, and lives are cut short. All the while I’ve been trying to create a space and time for you. For some, these preparations consist of savings accounts, cribs, college funds, and nursery decorations, but I would be remiss to indulge those luxuries. My time and capital must be spent on hard truths and telling it like it is.

I am African American. I am a woman. I am not an idiot. When a President-Elect embodies racism and misogyny, I waste no time in denial about his true sentiments or policy intentions. I soberly accept that half of this country hates me, or at the very least, they don’t care if their President does. I have no interest in the excuses or denials of his supporters and neither should you. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. There is nothing new under the sun, and discrimination is embedded in the very bones of our nation. Bones buried along Trails of Tears and acres of cotton fields. Jim Crow, mass-incarceration, and sexism are home grown systems of disenfranchisement, deep rooted in the land of the free since its founding. Oppression is the red, white, and blue blood of America. Blood infected by a pathogen of hate that mutates across lines of race, class, gender, and generations. This disease will kill us all, and we don’t yet seem 100% committed to finding a cure.

These are not the first words I want to be sharing with you, but you will be born black, and I refuse to waste your time with fairytale inspired dreams that weren’t written with you in mind. Instead you will be born wide awake – “woke” – and I will not lull you back to sleep. The only bubble you will ever know is my womb, as you are entering a civil warzone. You will need  clear 2020 vision after you’ve been carried to full term;

vision to see hypocrisy, divisive, like fences, standing for the rights of the unborn,  then leaving both mother and child defenseless, against marginalized poverty, eventually you might sense it’s…just easier to dream about ideals instead of actually helping people. Especially when everyone is so silently sound asleep.

Not you. Awake and prescient you will know there is no “again” in this country that will ever be “great” for you. When white men descend from Gold Towers beckoning you to unite aboard slave ships of ignorance and bigotry, you will put your hood up and stand your ground.  My son, you will be a fierce feminist. My daughter, you will know that justice is indivisible and intersectional. Justice is LGTBQ, Black Lives Matter, immigrant’s rights, and feminism all united in the harmonious truth that we are stronger together. Freedom is Equal Pay, green energy, education, fair housing, and universal healthcare. Laws of nature demand the collective symbiotic liberation of civil rights. Divided houses of justice and freedom cannot stand.

It is worth saying again that, you will be born black, and I am most proud of that. The world has a history of making it hard to be proud of being black, but this is one thing I will make easy for you. Your skin is rich with humanity. You are the progeny of kings and queens, wise and fearful warriors of love.

I am patiently waiting until the time is right to bring you into this world. It is tempting to shield you forever, but that would be succumbing to a kind of genocidal terrorism. We are too strong for that, black is too beautiful, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You will be my greatest love and my wildest joy, and this world is in desperate need of both.


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JENNA USHKOWITZ
Actor

Well, that happened, Voldemort won. As the shock wears off and the sadness, anger, confusion and disappointment sets in. I sit here and realize my day is almost done, life goes on. We contemplate and discuss, we cry and ask, how? I remind myself to hold those I love close to me and assure them that I am always here, that they are not alone. We have the right to grieve, get angry, mourn the history we thought we were going to create and we must allow ourselves to feel and be honest about it, that is our Constitutional right. Most importantly, we must remember that we still matter. Now, I do not say that as a non-white female with gay, black, Muslim, female friends, but as a HUMAN. All humans are created equal, why are we still fighting for this?

Personally, this election was protecting our basic civil rights and the avoidance of history repeating itself. On Wednesday morning, she reminded me that we will continue to fight for our rights and the progress we have made. She is still with us and we will not fail her again. I love being an American and I will fight for the integrity that that continues to stay true.

I pride myself as an individual driven by positivity. How do I find the light? How do WE find the light during this dark time? I will lead by example. I will continue to surround myself with those who believe in inclusiveness and also lead by that moral. I must also find the grace to open my mind and heart in the hope that he will learn what it means to have to listen to all of the American’s needs and not just the ones who will help put America back where it was 80 years ago. We must soften the divide with our beliefs and understanding that our individual freedom of speech and difference in values is what makes us the country that we pride ourselves on. We must drive ourselves with HOPE and PATIENCE over these next four years, EVERYONE. With faith in my heart, I choose to try to understand the change that those who challenged us want to see, without compromising our fight for what is right. I will never stop speaking for what I believe. Push Back, Speak up but we must turn the sadness, anger, confusion and disappointment into understanding, hope, patience and belief for our future. It is still ours. We may feel like we are alone but we are alone together.

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. ”- J.K Rowling

Photography by Maxwell Poth, shoot Produced by Ethan Hethcote


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ADRIENNE WARREN
Actor

Waking up Wednesday morning in a country that elected a leader, who doesn’t respect me, who doesn’t respect my family, who doesn’t respect so many of my neighbors, I was angry. That anger has since evolved into confusion, pain— and I am not ashamed to say: fear.

A person, whom I love dearly, reminded me that fear is not your enemy but rather your alarm clock.

My ancestors have been fighting for their freedom for hundreds of years, and I do not have the time or the privilege to rest my head and surrender.

Nothing new has transpired; all of our issues have just come above the surface. For years, this country has desperately needed to face its ugliness in the mirror. This country has an addiction, and with every addiction, the first step to recovery is recognizing the issue: hate.

The past eight years we have had a black President. In the past eight years, we have had major victories for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. In the past eight years, we have lived in a country where so many communities for the first time felt a part of our so called “American Dream.” So how is it that this was also the age of the Black Lives Matter movement, the age of a refugee crisis, and a rise in sexism, xenophobia, and hateful rhetoric?

We have come so far and yet have so far to go. With progress comes radical resistance, which is exactly what we are seeing now. I want you all to know there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

The rise of Donald Trump has opened this countries eyes and ears. This moment has also given us one clear enemy in our fight towards unity and progress. I, for one, am grateful for that. Now, we can pinpoint the ideals we are directly fighting against.

Our states are far from united, but we must remain optimistic and continue to strive for unity, love, and RADICAL Empathy.


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ROB McCLURE
Actor

I’ve been crying. A lot. Being immersed in the theatrical community in NYC, my heart immediately went to my LGBTQ family. I was livid. I AM livid. How could so many vote for such bile? I felt betrayed by my country. Betrayed by my Christianity. Betrayed by my own family.

But I spoke to a republican voter who told me something that put the slightest glimmer hope in my heart. They assured me that they voted for Trump almost solely based on Health Insurance. They can’t come close to affording the cheapest Obama Care premium so they remain uninsured as they approach 60 years of age. They are scared.

They went on to say, in tears, that they are completely for LGBTQ rights, but felt they had no choice. They had to sacrifice many issues for the ones they felt were hitting them at home. As I quickly went to scold them for putting their faith in Trumps plan, they said, “But I promise, if they try and overturn anything on Gay Rights, we’ll march with you against it. I promise.”

There are so many issues that have my blood boiling. But for a moment, a Republican was promising to help me protect the families of my best friends. While there are many who hate… Many of them have our back. At least on that issue.


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DANIEL J. WATTS
Actor

Finally. Relief. I know that is the last thing anyone expected me to say, but I am, indeed, relieved. The rest of America finally knows what I know. This is not a nightmare. This is reality – and not a new one. So many Americans have had the luxury of living in a dream state and finally, they have been shaken awaken in what seems to be the rudest of ways. To them I say “welcome.” Welcome to the heartbreak. Welcome to the let down. Welcome to the shock. But most of all, welcome to the fight. I would advise you not to try to be a hero today. You are new to the movement and the effort. You have plenty of time to get caught up. This is the time to listen. Be transparent with your ignorance. Do not be proud. This is the time to learn. Study up. Don’t cram for the quiz. There will be an ongoing final exam and it will be 100% of your final grade. There are plenty of us who have been in the trenches and we are still learning. We have been in the struggle and we still have privileges that we need to check. Take a moment to reflect. Check in with yourself. Be honest with yourself. What are you willing to do to make a change in this country, in this world? What is it worth to you? It may cost you your friendships, your family, your job, your sanity, your body? Be honest about what it is worth, you will need this knowledge as you go forward.

Oh yeah, I love you. I love you even though you turned a blind eye. I love you even though you turned a deaf ear. I love you even though you refused to speak out when I asked you to before.

Also, I apologize for my part. I have not been perfect in my efforts for equal right for all. I am equally complicit. I have reflecting of my own to do. I have studying to do as well. This, however, is not a pity party. it’s simply a moment of introspection. Moving on.

I leave you with this – when inside its chrysalis, as a caterpillar begins to become a butterfly, the butterfly’s cells (imaginal cells) begin to vibrate. Some cells will become the legs, some cells will become the antennae, some the abdomen, some the wings, and so on. As they try to come together the caterpillar’s immune system attacks the imaginal cells in an effort to quell the process. Once the caterpillar begins the metamorphosis process, however, it is destined to become a butterfly. No more creeping and crawling around, America. We can’t afford to be a caterpillar anymore. We have flying to do. We have to change. Start vibrating.


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JAY ARMSTRONG JOHNSON
Actor

I never knew what it felt like to be hated for who I was until the third grade. My dad got a great new job the middle of my third grade year, and our family was finally able to move out of “the bad part of town.” Our new “good part of town” had bigger, cleaner, seemingly better schools, and all of my black and Mexican friends from “the bad part of town” were replaced by a sea of people who looked like me with a speckle or two of black and brown.

At this new school they could smell the gay on me. I was devastated and undyingly positive that I was in no way shape or form gay. I was positive about this because I was told and shown by society that gays were a dirty and evil abomination. This simply couldn’t be me. I was a God fearin’, church goin’, hymn singin’, straight A student with no record of bad behavior.

Despite my opposition, I was regularly tortured until the 9th grade. I spent many sleepless nights praying to my merciful God to not let me be gay. Singing in church was a respite from the cruel world and it led to doing theater where I found an arts community that showed me many kind, loving, brilliantly talented artists who also happened to be openly gay. It was those men and women who kept me solid in my own conviction to decline a loved one’s advice to go to conversion therapy after I came out of the closet.

Freshly out, I escaped to the land of Will & Grace, and for the first time I was able to truly be my self. I was no longer the singing dancing faggot with a target on his back. I was one of thousands of out and proud homosexuals creating art and helping to change the world. It was liberating.

We marched on Washington for our rights, attended rallies in the streets, and finally won marriage equality. I cried as I witnessed the election of our country’s very first black president and moved to Harlem before racial tensions received a national spotlight in the wake of Ferguson. I felt the rage and fear and hopelessness on the streets of my neighborhood as innocent lives were taken by the hands of our own police force. I got a lot of flack from my Caucasian cohorts for posting that #BlackLivesMatter. I went inside my self to see how the country could be so divided. My friends were in pain, my community was in pain, and I was no longer some third grader who stayed in a closet in fear while I saw injustices. I joined my brothers and sisters and fought for what I believed was right.

This divide in our county and my family in particular sent me soul searching to see how our country could still be so divided on an issue that my history books told me was resolved. I remembered back during the 1998 winter Olympics when french figure skater, Surya Bonaly, who also happens to be black, was presenting her free skate routine. A family member of mine exclaimed, “wow, nigga can skate!” It was met with tentative giggles from the kids and deafeningly soft disapproval from one or two adults. I also remember seeing the look on my best friend’s eyes when I would shrug off joke about his skin color in jest, but saw it cut to his core.

I also remembered back in 2005 during a family road trip. We had an altercation with with a middle eastern hotel clerk that ended in my classy move of flipping him the bird, but not before a family member could call him a “sand ni***r”. In high school my best girl Amanda would become visibly and vocally upset when someone in our friend group would spout off a racial slur to earn laughs. Not a month ago, a family member called with complaints of a co-worker, citing this persons race as a explanation for the terrible behavior.

I am racist. I was raised in a lower middle class household in a subdivision of Fort Worth, Texas literally called White Settlement. I still find myself getting called out for spouting racist and anti-Semitic phrases I’ve heard in the past not TRULY knowing that my words were ridiculously offensive. (I thought I was cracking a joke) I am a racist in transition to being woke. I’ve learned that racists sentiments, even when said in jest, can be detrimental, and I have been the problem.

I’ve lived in New York City for 11 years now. Every single day I come across someone of every race, creed, color, sexual orientation, gender, you name it. It is an education to learn how to live with and amongst hundreds of cultures, many of whom I was subconsciously taught to fear and hate.

I have been hated and feared because of my differences, but I have also seen the minds of my family change drastically once faced with the challenge of having to call me, a homosexual, their family. I don’t blame my family or my community for subconsciously being raised the way we were, but I can speak what I know is my truth to try and shed light on perhaps why our country is so divided. Many of us who move to New York to escape hatred and fear speak m about the family we choose once we get here. My family is black, white, Mexican, Chinese, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, gay, straight, trans… again, I could go on. I fight for the fair treatment of all humans because I know what it’s like to fight for my own. Some in this country don’t know this fight, and it must be nice, but if they did, I’m sure many of their tunes would change.

#LoveTrumpsHate


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DEREK MCLANE
Set Designer

I have never actually met a Donald Trump voter. But apparently there a lot of them– 60 million, not as many as there were for Hillary Clinton, but distributed among the Electoral College in such way to allow this national disaster to happen. As described by the political pundits, the Trump supporters live in mostly rural areas and have a very different life than those of us who work in the arts and live in cities. And as described by the pundits and pollsters, there really weren’t very many of them—not nearly enough to get Trump elected, we were told. These mostly white voters were just too few and far between to mount a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Up until the moment the polls closed, that was pretty much the narrative.

So what happened? How could a man whose statements are so bigoted, narcissistic and inept sounding have been elected president? And how could we have all been so blind to the size and depth of his support? I was just as appalled, shocked and depressed by his election as my friends and colleagues. Our standard metrics utterly failed to comprehend the enormous divide in our country.

This is where we as artists come in. It is our challenge now to make the imaginative leap that picks up where polling fell short. Not in a make believe kind of way, but in an honest exploration of the differences rending our country. We now need to engage in the most provocative national conversation about when and where and how we became so split. When did we become two countries? Rather than judge the voters who elected Donald Trump, it is time to engage with them. I for one am not ready to believe that nearly half of this country actually ascribes to his nihilistic and cruel views. But those voters spoke, and they meant something, and we have to pay attention.


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CELIA KEENAN-BOLGER
Actor

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother this past week. She died two months before September 11th, and on that day, I remember thinking how strange it was for her to be gone in the wake of something so significant. I feel the same way today. I miss her and I want her good sense and fighting spirit to show me the way, to tell me what to do. I want to share with her how scared I am for my son’s future, how I’ve felt alternately comforted and despondent when I hold him close these days. But she’s not here. And we are. So I have to take what she taught while she was on this planet and try to go forward.

This is what I know: We have a responsibility—white people especially. White people elected Donald Trump. And if you know people who voted for him, you need to try to engage in thoughtful and compassionate conversation and tell them why their vote is hurtful to you and the people you love. White privilege can keep many of us feeling like, “This election outcome is terrible, but me and my family will be okay.” Or, “It’s not going to be as bad as everyone says it is.” I really believe that this sort of thinking is what led to the murder of six million Jews. We have a responsibility.

But what do we DO? I think we need to engage. And that means more than voting and signing petitions and posting on social media (Even though all of those are good things to do). I think we need less Facebook and more face-to-face conversations. We need to sit down with the people we love and ask what tools we have inside of us to make this better. Theater people are the best people. We are empathetic and kind. We take care of our brothers and sisters. How can we harness that energy into something larger?

What I don’t know: Where we go from there? I just don’t know. But I’m gonna work like hell to find out. I have hope. My friend Michael says, “Hope is a form of resistance. It’s a vital internal mechanism needed to push through oppression. If you don’t have hope we actually WON’T survive.” I love this but I’m worried my hope will turn to complacency after the dust has settled and we go back to our lives. We can’t substitute hope for responsibility. They have to go hand in hand.

My mother was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War. She and my dad met at a political meeting. I was brought up going to protests and rallies. I spent hours under our kitchen table while adults discussed local elections and community activism. All of these things were her way of participating in society. I’m going to try to follow her lead and you should too. We all should. It will make us feel better and it will make the world better.

In solidarity,

Celia


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TITUSS BURGESS
Actor

Losing weight takes a great deal of work. I’ve been on a diet since I was born. I get so depressed sometimes because I have really skinny friends who can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound. It’s so bad that the very thought of food adds inches to my waist.

I finally went to the doctor to see if my strange mutant ability to pack on pounds was somehow a genetic disorder. Indeed, it was. It got me thinking. There are some disorders that are irreversible. How then do you treat it?

In the case of America, I really don’t know. Its not like we don’t have brilliant minds assessing the situation. It doesn’t get better than President Obama. America seems to enjoy its robust ignorance. It’s not going on a diet anytime soon. So how do you dupe someone into getting on a treadmill? How do you force someone to take their meds? How do you lure a country hell bent on self-sabotage into a more positive direction? Again, I don’t know.

I do know that my blood pressure was through the roof and that aborted my protests. I do know that my cholesterol was higher than my rent and that got me together real fast. I do know that my limbs started tingling because I was pre-diabetic, and I exclaimed a glorious: Fuck this shit. I was ambushed into changing. My back was against the wall. I had to cut out the salt. I had to curb my drinking.

America, I fear, won’t get on the treadmill until its health begins to threaten its very existence. On some level, I look forward to what is sure to be a disastrous Presidency. I’m tired of America being sick. Maybe in four years we will finally go to the fucking doctor.


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ANA VILLAFAÑE
Actor

Among many things, I am a woman (self-explanatory); I am Latina (My mother is Cuban, my father is from El Salvador); and I am disabled (I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was seven years old).

I fell in love with performing as a kid because it gave me freedom. Art—any kind of creative expression—eliminated my limits. As a kid, I was constantly bullied or given special treatment due to my condition. (Kids can be cruel because they don’t know any better.) Performing empowered me, and ultimately became my “safe place.”

On Nov. 9, I felt the opposite of safe. I felt like a stranger in my own country—unrepresented and betrayed. I was emotionally exhausted before even getting out of bed, but I had to get up. There’s an insatiable need to contribute to society at the moment. But due to the hateful rhetoric that has been so openly normalized, my entire life seemed irrelevant.

Broadway (including all of its triumphs in terms of diversity) was suddenly inconsequential. It’s just another random, highly glamorized, little street on Earth. And guess what? (This applies to everyone, not just our field…) No one cares about what we willingly waste our daily lives stressing over. The world does not care if your joke didn’t get a laugh that day. The world does not care who went to the after-party. The world quite literally does not care how many retweets you got.

It’s never been more clear that we need to stop being so damn hard on ourselves and on each other. The future is being shaped as kids watch us thinking “Is this what I’m supposed to do?” and “Are these supposed to be my priorities?”

Walking toward what I am privileged to call work, I was dizzy—overcome with both gratitude and resentment. I was grateful because I have somewhere to be, doing something I love. But I was angry and felt guilty (and then angry for feeling guilty) because I felt like I don’t deserve it. I had to remind myself that the arts—the limitless power of human connection—serve a higher purpose. We create a vehicle of freedom not for ourselves, but for every person who buys a movie ticket, binge watches our TV shows, or steps into our sacred theaters. Only true human connection (when you get off your phone) can eliminate hatred, judgment, and fear. It builds bridges of understanding over walls of ignorance.

Being onstage Wednesday felt like revenge. Especially telling our story, in which I play an immigrant woman who boldly exceeded everyone’s expectations. One could despair in realizing that the battles for equality and acceptance are seemingly unending. But time stood still when Alma Cuervo, onstage as Abuela, said: “Please. For one night, do what makes you happy […] You’re a woman. You can fight for yourself.”

I found myself singing a bit harder and moving a bit fiercer. I was defiant in celebrating my culture. I was provocative in flaunting my womanhood. Immediately after the show, I was bursting and broke down in my dressing room. I wept for the American Dream. Despite it all, that “safe place” does exist. We all have one. It is our responsibility to create, cultivate, and protect it—for everyone’s sake. And nothing can trump that.