Words by Moira Armstrong
Photography @ Broadwayworld.com
Trinidad, an Asian-American actress, never paid attention to casting calls asking for Caucasians; she auditioned anyway, leading her to a long and successful career on the stage. In addition to productions of Spelling Bee, Little Shop of Horrors, and more, she made her Broadway debut in The Little Mermaid and is now living it up in Hadestown as Lachesis.
So, when did you first become involved in theatre?
Oh, jeez, with theatre! In, I want to say, in–well, I’ve always been very theatrical, but legit theatre in high school. I was always singing and always teaching myself how to dance and I’d skate with socks because I thought that was a thing and I wanted to be an ice skater, I wanted to be a gymnast, I wanted to be so many things. But I was always singing. In elementary school, I would do choir and stuff, and in middle school choir but very choral. So I started taking lessons late elementary school, ten or eleven years old, and then continued on in middle school. But it was all classical training, which is great–you should always start out with a good foundation classically. And then I went into high school and then show choir started. And I was like *gasp* what is this? Belting? My middle school teacher–hi, Mrs Eller!–she was like “do not do that. You know, you’re classically trained and you should keep going that route” But show choir was so cool. I was like “oh my gosh, this is so hard to sing and dance at the same time. It’s so hard.” So I went into dance lessons late, but I went to jazz, hip-hop, tap, ballet, everything. I just went for it. And that’s when I was really introduced to theatre.
Is in high school when you decided it would be your career?
Oh, no. So I was also juggling sports. I was big with sports. I did volleyball, I had like my team outside of school too, and basketball, I had my team outside of school. That was middle school and high school. And I did track and field and all that stuff. So I actually thought I was going to go to college for volleyball. I know I’m tiny, but I jump my own height. And yeah, I thought I was going to do volleyball. Isn’t that crazy? But I was always performing.
What made you realize which one you wanted to go for?
Probably God made me realize. I had to pick at one time because it was too much, it was really too much to do all at the same time. I decided I think it was my junior year of high school, I had to make a choice, and I picked performing.
When did you first become involved with Hadestown specifically?
This round, for Broadway. First rehearsals in Feb.
Oh wow. That’s awesome. Have you seen it change at all over time?
So I have been so blessed to be able to have seen it in Edmonton and see it in London… it’s all such a whirlwind in my mind though. My husband has his own social media company and he runs social for many Broadway shows here and Hadestown happens to be one of them. So I was so blessed to be able to go to Edmonton and see… so I saw Jewelle, my sister Fate, before–and it’s so weird, we talk about this like we were actually in the same room. I saw them taking pictures, but we never–it’s just weird to think back on that. So I saw it in Edmonton and I was really moved by the music but London really got my heart, you know, as it gets more refined. So it really really really had my heart in London. And that’s when I was like *gasp* I want to be one of them. I really was like–it really clicked for me. That was super special, I was like “I really want to be one of them.” And I saw Bruce Springsteen in the theatre, because he was right before us, and I was like ooh… I could be working here. Just putting it out there.
That’s really cool. You mentioned the other Fates. What’s it like working with them? Because you’re almost always on stage together.
Oh my gosh, we’re always onstage and almost always offstage together. We probably see each other more than our own families, but we’re super close. We have to be. It’s cool to have two other sisters. I already have two of my real sisters but now I have two more real sisters.
That’s so great. How about the rest of the cast, and have you worked with the creative team?
I worked with Rachel Chavkin before. Oh my gosh, she’s a powerhouse genius and everything you want her to be, she is. She makes you feel so safe and so all of your input is valued. Very cool for an artist to feel that so it’s such an open and safe space to play and create. I worked with Rachel before, Bradley King also because I did Limpica, this new musical at Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer. Bradley King was the lighting designer and Rachel was director. And Nevin–I know Nevin because my husband runs the social for Hamilton. He’s fabulous as well. The cast–I worked with Tim Hughes at the Muny a couple years ago, we were doing The Addams Family, and it was the coolest contrast ever. I was a 1920s flapper and he was a basketball player. We were both dead. You know, zombies. So fun. That’s when we first met each other. Who else have I worked with in the cast? I think that everyone else I’ve just come to know now and everyone’s so lovely. It’s a very special group of people. Very very special.
I worked with Rachel Chavkin before. Oh my gosh, she’s a powerhouse genius and everything you want her to be, she is. She makes you feel so safe and so all of your input is valued.
I want to point out that she’s wearing a hat that says “Andre de Shields is my stage fave.”
Because it’s true! He’s also everything you hope he is. He is sassy, he’s so smart, he’s so on point, and he’s so loving, and his energy is just beautiful and I love being on that stage with him and everybody else. I always like to say that the show for me–it’s hard ‘cause when you’re so close of course you hopefully love the work that you’re creating and the piece that you’re in which is as artists what we strive to hopefully have to work on, but I love to hear that the magic we feel actually translates.
What has the audience reaction been like?
They’re wild! I feel like we have the best audiences. They’re completely on board. Well of course, since when Andre walks onstage and charms the world, they’re already on board. But we have fantastic audiences. And the theatre is so intimate that we have every gasp, every tear, and it’s like *gulp* “keep it together, Kay, you can’t go there with them.” But I get it and they’re fabulous. We have really great supporters and fans and so much love from the audiences. And it’s really neat to hear people say how much they have to take the time for it to settle down and think about what just has happened but it’s such a moving and life-changing thing for them. And that’s so cool, that’s the kind of art you want to create, that’s why we do what we do, and that’s why I’m just so grateful.
That’s fantastic. Were you familiar with these Greek myths before you got involved with the show?
Well, I saw the show already, so I mean, yes? But before, I think we touched upon it in high school I wanna say but I didn’t really remember anything. I mean you remember who Hades is, Persephone I probably had to Google, but we definitely touched base on them in high school.
Has your knowledge of the Fates before becoming one influenced how you portray them?
Oh, absolutely. You have to do the research anyway so I was like “Okay, so who are these people?” They’re pretty freaking powerful. Even gods are scared of them. So we all did our research. And what’s cool is that the first week of rehearsals, I did some digging and then I was like “Okay, ladies, so I looked this up so Lachesis is who I think I am,” but everybody agreed with who they thought they were. So we all picked our own Fate before… it was fate. It’s pretty cool, right?
Even though it’s based on these ancient myths, why do you think it resonates so strongly with people today?
I mean there are so many universal themes, fear and doubt, having faith in somebody and wanting the world to be better than it is right now. So many… so many things that ring true that anybody can connect with. It’s so relevant today. Especially–and she didn’t mean for it to be, but the wall, politically, and nature.
There are so many universal themes, fear and doubt, having faith in somebody and wanting the world to be better than it is right now.
It’s always amazed me how relevant it is without meaning to be.
Yeah. Perfect timing.
What’s your favourite part of performing in the show?
I can’t choose! That’s not fair.
You can pick a couple!
Okay! So, I always like to say… “Living It Up” is so rowdy for us so we just have our own party in the back and it’s really fun. And Chips, of course, is just so fun. For us. Not for Eurydice, but for us. I always am so touched by “Epic III” and the dance. It’s just so transformative to see Hades like that and how the world could be and such a horrible character still have some light to him. That always gets me. And… there’s so many, I bet you I’m missing something that I really love so much. Word to the Wise is fun and sassy. Being spooky in Doubt is fun. So many. Even just seeing Andre open the show the way he does.
You were also in The Little Mermaid on Broadway. How are these two experiences different and also similar?
Both mythical characters. Good people. Both companies are fabulous. Mermaid was my Broadway debut so that was super special, but this is a Tony Award-winning show, and that’s super special too. Two completely different chapters of my life, so they’re both really special in my heart.
What has awards season been like?
So nuts. We’re not fully recovered from the Tonys. You know, since we started in February, rehearsals to performances you’re still working towards awards. And there’s so much press and so much you have to do. And I think more people are seeing it how it is–you’re an athlete. Your body is your instrument, your voice is your instrument, and it’s just being able to take care of yourself and make sure you get enough sleep and feeding your body well and make sure you’re mentally sound and just emotionally sound and checking in with yourself and with others making sure everyone’s okay. But it’s been a wild and busy and crazy ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything but it’s been pretty busy. I’m still tired. And then I’m thinking about this holiday weekend, for July 4th, we have two shows on Wednesday, off on Thursday, two shows Friday, two shows Saturday, I’m so tired thinking about that. But it’s okay! I’m not complaining. I’m just saying it’s different. It’s like a marathon.
This is a little back off-topic, but do you think being an athlete has compared you for that kind of thing with Broadway?
I mean, I know how to stretch correctly! Dancing teaches you that too. But yeah, I haven’t thought about that but yes. I bring a lot of athleticism I feel like into what I do. And even just working out and what I do to keep myself healthy, I think so.
Right. So… tell me about the Tony Awards.
Well, firstly, I had a takeover on the Tony Awards so I have a very good highlight reel. I even have backstage content of when we were in the waiting room and then watching everybody– [Rachel] Chavkin win and Andree [De Shields] win, just so moving. It’s still so surreal to me. I can see it in my mind. The memories will forever be with me. There’s nothing like it, and doing that opening number, all the beautiful people on Broadway together. I have so many friends… it’s just such an amazing feeling and there’s nothing like it especially when we did it live. There is nothing like that. And seeing all those people in the audience, there’s so much love and so much excitement. There’s nothing like it. It’s so special.
The memories will forever be with me.
Would you say that’s your favourite memory from your time with the show?
That’s not fair either! I mean, it’s definitely one of the top.
What are some of the others?
Just being able to create the show. I mean, it’s–this journey has been wild and everyone is so awesome at what they do and their craft and just as human beings. I’m just so blessed and grateful to be a part of this. I get to be a part of this moving show that’s changing lives and changing the theatre landscape. I try to remember to be grateful about it every single day.
What message do you want audiences to take away from Hadestown?
Oh my gosh. That the world can be a different place and we just have to lead it. And show people what we can be. Believe in yourself and have faith, and when doubt comes in, squash it. The world can be such a beautiful place and it starts with us.
The world can be such a beautiful place and it starts with us.
Have you learned anything from being in the show?
Yeah. I love learning, I love absorbing how other people work as artists on their craft and just seeing Amber Gray do her thing, and Patrick [Page], and everyone do their thing. I mean I think that’s what makes you a stronger artist, just keep soaking it in and learning. I learn a lot every day.
Would you say it’s different every day?
Oh, it always is. Just by a hair. We’re not robots. It’s cool to discover and to play around with intention without changing the story, you know what I mean? It’s always a little different and that’s also where your craft comes in, because sometimes it’s harder to do it because you’re not feeling up to it or you’re a little more tired than you usually are. Then you just have to zone in and do it and tell the story.
What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
I think it was—I want to say—it was definitely Footloose. It was a high school trip. And I remember going “I wonder when I’m gonna be up on that stage.” That’s why I think it was Footloose, because that’s when I thought that. I’m from Texas, and my amazing high school drama musical theatre teacher Peg Waldschmidt—she’s amazing. She gave me such an amazing foundation. Her son’s working on Broadway too, he’s in Kiss Me, Kate currently. She was an amazing force in my life and she took us to New York to see shows and I think Footloose was the first one.
That’s far from Texas to here!
I know! But we did it. It was cool.
Who are some of the other people who have influenced you?
Oh jeez so many. I say this earnestly: I really think everybody.
That’s a good answer!
Yeah! I’m all about sharing and learning, and everybody affects everybody in some way, and I’ve had fabulous teachers and fabulous other artists and friends and everybody has helped make me who I am. And God. He’s always got my back. They’re my church! Everyone’s my church.
Do you have any dream roles that you’d love to play?
That’s so interesting. I get asked that a lot and being Asian, and being–I love how Chavkin and casting cast this because you don’t think about it. Or you do see it, and you’re like “Oh, it’s so diverse,” and then you’re like “Okay, just tell the story” because you don’t think of it.
It’s just normal.
Yeah. Growing up it’s been hard to be like “Oh, well that’s a role for me,” so my cup of tea, which I love and I’ve been so blessed to be able to do, is to originate new stuff. So there’s a new role out there for Kay Trinidad, just waiting to be written or maybe it’s written already. I love to do new things. That’s my jam. So I like to look forward to new things.
Have there been any really strong responses to how diverse the show is?
Yeah, and all positive! Just how beautiful it is. And being Asian-American, it’s so cool and I love hearing from fans of the show and people outside to sign how much of a difference it makes to see another Asian up there not in the back or not a token Asian. It is so moving that I can inspire somebody to say “Oh, that could be me.” That’s what I needed when I was younger. Luckily, I had a strong enough, my parents gave me a strong enough backbone to be like “You can do whatever you want, just go.” And whenever I would see breakdowns, I was in college and we had newspapers back then–you know what a newspaper is?–backstage, and the casting calls were “Caucasian. Caucasian. Caucasian.” I was like “nope. I’m going in.” So I never listened to those breakdowns. I would just go.
That’s amazing! And I think a lot of Broadway is moving more towards that inclusiveness.
Yes. Absolutely. But we still have a long way to go. So this is just the beginning! And I’m so grateful for it, but we’ve gotta keep going.