BWW Blog: Neka Zang of Broadway's ROCK OF AGES - Reminiscing
Maybe it is my reaction to the rain pouring down outside my window. Perhaps it's because I am under the weather, sick, uncomfortably wrapped under the warm and protective covers of my bed as I write this. But I am feeling extremely nostalgic today, recalling my days as a kid; a big dreamer standing on awkwardly skinny legs. You see, being sick as an adult sucks because there is no one there to take care of you! Mom? Dad? Where are you?
I have been writing loads about what has been happening in my life on a daily basis, and all the enjoyable things I have been doing with Rock of Ages. But today I thought it would be fun for my readers to go back in time with me as I get a bit more personal. In any case, I'm pretty sure you will get a good laugh from all of my embarrassing pictures!
Being an extremely shy kid, you probably never would have guessed that I'd choose the acting profession to make a living. When I say "shy," I mean, painfully shy, hiding behind my mom's legs and sometimes needing to be coaxed into going to my dance classes. And sometimes (ok, pretty often) crying after the classes, and never wanting to go back. The unique journey (or any substantial paths I took), which led me to Broadway was never easy. I always say I am sort of a slow learner . . . I learn my lessons the hard way . . . and this was true for me as a child too.
Having been a dancer for over 24 years, one would think I loved my first dance class. The truth is, I did not! I was not ready for the absurdly loud dance music, nor the harsh and insensitive criticisms from my instructors. I don't recall enjoying being around lots of other weird 5-year-olds either. I wanted to be different. I needed to be different. Remember "The Running Man" dance moves? It was one of the most popular dance moves of the 90's. But for some unknown reason I just could not pick it up. My older sister was also taking dance lessons as well, so I ran home and asked her to teach me, break it down, so when my mom took me back to class I could do it. And this process began the approach to my entire dance upbringing and career. These dance lessons went on, but not without a lot of genuine encouragement and patience from both of my parents.
The first important dance recital soon approached. Both of my parents were resigned that I would not make it out onto the stage - that my shyness would overwhelm me. It was hard enough to get me into the dance classes let alone walk out onto an enormous stage in a blaring sequin dress. But I did make it onto that stage. Scared? Yes. Nervous? Of course. And now, I will never forget that night for as long as I live - because on that special evening, under blazing lights, I absolutely knew who I was and where I was going. I was hooked. I was a entertainer, and, for the first time in my life I realized I didn't want to be in the audience; I wanted, needed, and loved being on a stage. And though the same hot lights that illuminated me also made it nearly impossible to see much of the audience (I still can't today), I realized I could be as extroverted as I needed to be while I performed, and then return to be as shy as I wanted as soon as it was over.
Further (and more intense) dance classes led to more recitals, which lead to being in a Dance Company, which then led me to becoming a competition dancer. I always forced myself to stand next to who I thought was the best dancer in class. Wherever I performed, I tried to duplicate what the best dancers were doing. This sort of focus and discipline not only led me to winning great trophies at national dance conventions, it also helped me crack through my shy little Neka Outer Shell.
So readers - Let us fast forward now to 1992, the year I saw my first Broadway show and my first time in NYC. I remember being up in the middle of the night, pressing my nose against the window of the hotel looking out on Times Square like it was magical. Things changed a lot for me that year, as I discovered that I had a real dream and a goal I wanted to accomplish. Over the next two years I saw Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Tommy, Chicago, Miss Saigon...the list goes on (thanks Mom and Dad). I knew what I wanted, and it was to be professionally acting, dancing and singing, on stage in the greatest city in the world.
Fast forward, my good friends, to 2012.
On the day I received the call that I was going to be making my Broadway debut, it was incredible. I laughed. I cried. I called my parents, my sister, my friends. It was my childhood dream coming full circle. When the call came I wasn't thinking: "I made it" but, more profoundly, the call meant that I had actually accomplished what I set out to do as a child. Each time I receive a phone call that I have booked a job, I am grateful, surprised and humbled. I never take success for granted. And failure has never been an option for me. Walking in my shoes isn't easy, and it isn't for everyone. But the journey is fulfilling in a way I may never be able to fully explain.
And then, there is tomorrow . . .
First year of ballet
Still learning to point my toe