Guest Blog: Myriam Gadri on GALA's Spanish-Language IN THE HEIGHTS
My name is Myriam Gadri, and I have the honor of playing Graffiti Pete at GALA. I feel lucky to be a part of such an eye-opening project with themes of immigration and identity. This groundbreaking show has not only given a voice to the Latino community, but to people like me. I moved to the US seven years ago to pursue a career in the performing arts. I was born in Lausanne, Switzerland to a Spanish, Tunisian, Italian, French mother and Ivorian father. I grew up between Togo, Africa, Switzerland and London, England. As a multicultural immigrant, it is not every day that you get to be a part of something that hits so close to home. I will forever cherish the discoveries made from the moment I got cast.
When I got the call, I honestly thought it was a joke. The thought of being Graffiti Pete was both exciting and surreal. I am touched that our director and choreographer (Luis Salgado) trusted me with this role. He would always say "I do not want you to try and be whomever played this role before, I want it to be true to you because, you are enough."
This was tough for me at the start because I was stuck with the idea that I had to be like the Graffiti Pete's before me. I put pressure on myself to try and learn tricks that take months to master in just a few weeks. Luis quickly assured me that we would draw from my existing pool of skills and dance styles.
One day in rehearsal, Luis was curious as to what would happen if I translated my lines into French, my first language. One try was all it took. We were beaming at the opportunity to add one more layer to this story through language. By doing so, we would discover who my Graffiti Pete is: a quirky and creative young woman who strives to fit in.
There was a question of whether or not I would still be playing a guy because of the way GP is written in the script and in the score. Since the main rule in this process was to be true to yourself and the character we decided to take the leap. We discovered that being a woman was more than enough to tell GP's story. However, through embracing GP's femininity, I was still able to bring forth my tomboyish qualities to strengthen my character's objectives. All in all, playing Graffiti Pete has empowered me as an actor and as a woman to demolish gender stereotypes.
By breaking the mold, I've been able to inspire the young women in the audience. It is heart-warming to hear them say things like, "OMG! You're a girl?! That's so cool. I want to do that!" It's a good feeling to know you changed someone's perspective and inspired them to think twice about limiting themselves to the norm. Who knew Graffiti Pete Could be a strong, versatile woman with big hair?