As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
We launch the series with Telly Leung, who played a 20-month run in the title role of Disney's Aladdin and has also been seen on Broadway in the new musicals In Transit and Allegiance, the revivals of Flower Drum Song and Pacific Overtures, and the final Broadway company of Rent. Leung also originated the role of Boq in the Chicago production of Wicked and played Dalton Academy Warbler Wes on Fox’s Glee.
What is your typical day like now?
I live in a small one-bedroom in Hell's Kitchen with my husband, Jimmy. We are both very grateful that he is still salaried and WFH (working from home), especially with most of my spring/summer concert dates canceled or postponed. We both get up early on the weekdays and go to our separate "offices"—aka him in the bedroom, and me in the living room!
I've been keeping myself busy with teaching work, which is something I've always done to supplement my performing career. Now, I just do more of it since I have the time, and it's mostly on Zoom! It's been a challenge for all educators to shift their curriculum to a virtual format, but with some creative on-your-toes teaching and my students' patience, we've all managed to make the best of a challenging situation.
I spent the beginning of this strange time emotionally eating (and drinking) everything in sight! Admittedly, there are moments I still do that when the anxiety gets the best of me, but I've found exercise and home workouts to be very helpful. It's 45 minutes or an hour of meditative distraction from the madness, and it gives me a chance to sweat the anxiety away. Working out in a small apartment (with neighbors that live downstairs who are also WFH, with a child that's being homeschooled and my husband WFH in the next room) is also a challenge, but I'm so thankful to all of my friends in the fitness world who are posting stay-at-home workouts during this time. The exercise helps keep me sane.
I'm in charge of cooking in our household, so I spend the late afternoon prepping. We both try and end the workday around 5 or 6 PM, and have dinner together. We try to order in a few times a week from our favorite Hell's Kitchen restaurants that are still delivering in an effort to support them during this difficult time.
I find that I have more time to cook, more time to connect with friends (virtually) on Zoom, more time to connect to family (to check on their health), more time to read and catch up on that TV show I've always wanted to binge. I try to take a nice long (socially distant) walk at least every other day to get fresh air.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I'm a big RuPaul's Drag Race fan, so I'm glad there's a new episode to look forward to every Friday. I started bingeing Ozark on Netflix, and of course I obsessively binged Tiger King with the rest of world when it first came out to see what all the fuss was about. I'm also loving this action-packed season of Westworld on HBO. My husband loves Lego Masters, so I watch that with him. Very sad that Modern Family is over.
I am usually a news junkie, but I find I have to limit the amount of news I consume or my anxiety goes through the roof. I tune in to Governor Cuomo. I tune out the President. I get alerts from the New York Times. That's it.
As for reading, I'm reading a lot of plays. Julia Cho, Lauren Yee, and Matthew Lopez are among some of the playwrights on the list. I also have so many friends who are using this time to write, and I've enjoyed reading outlines and drafts from my talented writer friends.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Everyone is feeling the effects of this necessary, life-saving social distancing. It's doing a mental hit job on everyone. Social media has long been criticized for driving us apart as a society, but now it's our only way to connect to the rest of the world and feel not so alone. Reach out. If you feel like you have no one to reach out to, reach out to me! @tellyleung.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Teaching keeps me creative and on my toes because I'm constantly trying to negotiate how to best help my students in a virtual classroom. Singing is like breathing to me, so I have to keep doing it somehow. I'm thankful for my keyboard so I can keep playing, singing, and making music. I've done a few live stream concerts to benefit the Actors Fund, and I've posted a few songs on my social just for fun. I'm donating all of my Cameo fees this month to BC/EFA and their emergency fund for COVID, so it's been fun making personal musical messages.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
No, I'm not. I've always had an idea for a show. I guess now I have plenty of time to do the research, make an outline, start a draft, and reach out to collaborators... or I can have another glass of pinot grigio and watch the next episode of Ozark. (This is a daily struggle.)