It all started when I took my kids to see Miss Saigon at Segerstrom Center. I know its an unconventional choice to take a 4 and 7 year old to see such a “mature” show, but I had good reasons for wanting my children to see this production. In this day and age where Asians are largely unrepresented, I couldn’t pass up the change to show my daughters a stage full of talented Asian artists living their dreams. Also, our friend Keila Halili @cupofkeila was in the cast and I COULD NOT miss that!
After the show, we met Keila at the stage door and she was able to take us on the Miss Saigon stage. We also got to meet a lot of her cast mates, a couple of them who were casting people for the show. They sort of eyed LittleSage since she matched the age and description of Tam, who is the child in the show. I half joked that if they ever needed someone to go in as Tam, I have the perfect half-asian 4 to 6 year old child who loves the stage. Not too much came after that, but I did submit my info to them on a whim.
Fast forward to present day (months and months later), I got an email from Miss Saigon confirming my daughter’s name and if we are able to make it to the National Broadway Tour audition for Tam. I stopped breathing for a good portion of a minute until I read that the audition was in New York. In eight days. I laughed it off and immediately texted a few of my close friends. Surprisingly, EVERYONE was in support of us going to New York. Even my best friend Jo, who is usually my voice of reason, said, “This could be her big break. Of course you need to go.” I texted all of my close friends with touring and musical theater experience and everyone encouraged us to at least audition.
When I texted my husband, he calmly replied, “Let’s talk about this tonight.” My brain shut off and I was unable to do anything the entire day. I talked to Keila about it and she let me know a little bit more about the role. After talking to the casting people, I found out that they were looking for a quick replacement and that the contract would start within a month. Since it is with the National Broadway Tour, we would be traveling with the company through the remainder of the tour.
We talked about the different options together as a family. LittleSage was so excited about the idea of going on tour. She said she wanted to be on stage and have her name in the program. I asked her what she thought being on stage would be like, and she said “I run out on stage, and when the loud gun goes off, I fall down!” so she did have some loose recollection of the story.
But then realistically, this was a logistical nightmare. First off, we would have had to pay our own way to get to New York for the audition, and the role wasn’t even an guarantee (and last minute trips to New York are very expensive). We thought of different options for big sister LittleGray. Her initial reaction is that she would rather stay home with Dad then go on tour with LittleSage and me. (I also want to add that there was not a silver of jealousy here. She was excited for her sister and 100% understood that she was too old/tall for the role and it wasn’t even an issue). After talking to our parents, my dad agreed that he could come and stay with her long term if this entire thing ended up happening. But even so, it would be super difficult for my husband to basically be a single father while working a full time job and potentially flying out to see us every weekend.
We asked LittleSage if this is something she really wanted to do, and what she wanted to be when she grows up. She was torn too, because while she really wanted to go on tour, she said she would miss her family, her dog, and her teachers and friends at school. I asked her if she would want to do this forever, and she quickly said, “No, no, not forever.” I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said, “A doctor.” Since this isn’t her passion in life, we ultimately decided not to go through with the audition.
This really got me thinking about passion and dreams. Why do I work so hard to expose my children to the arts and live theater? I am always drawn to Asian performers in particular because I know how hard it is to break away from the stereotypical mold. While at Miss Saigon, we met Emily Bautista @em_bautista who is a powerhouse Kim at only 21 years old. We met Jessica Fry @jesicafry_ who left Stanford University to tour with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At Frozen, we met Marina Kondo @marinakondo who is helping break down sterotypes by playing Queen Iduna in a colorblind cast. These stories are so fascinating to me. I want my daughters to see Asian people in all walks of life so they can see that they are limitless.
I have no idea why LittleSage wants to be a doctor. LittleGray said she wants to be an Instagrammer like me, but that’s an entirely different story for a whole other post. Maybe Asians are more drawn to fields like medicine? Probably because both of my sisters are doctors? I don’t know. At any rate, I just know that I have to work extra hard to show them that they can be something outside of what is expected.
Now let’s go back to why we had to say no to this once in a lifetime opportunity. It wasn’t the right choice for our family at this time. We should not pursue it unless 100% of the family was on board, and this was not the case. While we were all supportive, deep down we knew it was not the right thing for our family. Luckily, I found a local children’s theater within our budget (way less than what it would have cost to get us to New York) where both of the kids can perform together. Have you ever had to say no to something that you really wanted to say yes to?
It’s an interesting thing having to say no to something you really wanted. Even though I knew what the right decision was, I still had to grieve the opportunity that once was. I was really sad for a couple of days. It was the crippling type of sadness that made me want to crawl inside my skin, and for that I felt even worse because I knew that the alternative was the best choice for my family. I felt bad for feeling sad. But again, my best friend Jo talked me through my feelings and told me that my feelings were valid and that I’m allowed to grieve. After about a day, I felt better and I was able to talk about this experience openly without breaking down. Now, I want to write about it so my daughters can look back at this and see what was going through my head and how we came to these decisions.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to expose them to live theater and support Asian and minority performers. By having them meet people who are living their dreams, we learn their stories and add to ours. I hope that someday the kids will look back on their childhood and realize that their stories started at home. No matter where the end up, I hope they end up living their passions, happy, full, and content.