While it’s not unusual for a performer to connect with the material, it’s not every show when they sit down and share their own story. Opening at The Empty Space, “The Subject Is ...” features songs from beloved musicals along with the real-life stories of the performers who chose them.
Kristina Saldana, the show's director, said the idea was inspired by "Golden Palace," a song from one of her favorite off-broadway shows "Now. Here. This."
"The song starts with the phrase 'The subject is reading ...' and then develops into a beautifully written and spoken song about a moment in the singer's childhood," she wrote in an email. "My idea stemmed from that and I developed it into a showcase of actors and singers who could share important parts of their memories and lives and really relate to fellow cast members and also audience members ..."
The goal is to allow everyone to connect through these universal moments evoked in song.
In developing the production, Saldana first worked with her cast with "sort of a group therapy in which we all sat around and just talked about ourselves and ate and laughed." Based on the discussions, she researched songs, pulling from Broadway, off Broadway, movie and TV musicals to find material that matched the performers and their real-life stories.
"Once they had a song assigned to them, we worked together to develop what story they wanted to tell. Each person talks about something personal to them including first loves, illnesses, toxic masculinity, pregnancies, growing up, transition, and so much more. Their subject connects their songs to their stories."
Saldana said she would like the audience to walk away feeling a connection much like she did with friend and performer Justin Salinas, with whom she connected over their childhood health struggles.
"We bonded over the fact that we both have dealt with kidney disease and both almost died from it at a really young age and I felt this unbreakable connection with him. I hope for people to find that in themselves and with the performers or with their friends, or with the stranger sitting next to them nodding encouragingly at the same things that they themselves are nodding at."
The cast also features Trenton Benet, Ariel Clark, Aron Clugston, Katelyn Evans, Julie Gaines, Bobby Gámez, Victoria Lusk, Alex Mitts, Mychael Phillips, Ellie Sivesind and Troy Witham. Songs will be performed from "Waitress," "Hamilton," "Bring it On," "The Color Purple" and more.
Saldana said she looks forward to presenting "a well rounded, empathetic, cathartic evening."
"I hope people leave feeling happy, feeling lighter, and feeling encouraged, especially when the world can sometimes seem so hopeless."