As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Andréa Burns, who made her Main Stem debut in Disney's Beauty and the Beast and was most recently seen on Broadway as Peppina in the 2019 revival of The Rose Tattoo. The multi-talented singing actor brought a magnetic charm to the role of Gloria Estefan’s mom, Gloria Fajardo, in the critically acclaimed On Your Feet!, and she created the role of Daniela in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning In the Heights. Her Broadway résumé also boasts The Nance, The Ritz, and The Full Monty, while Burns' Off-Broadway credits include In the Heights, Saturday Night, Songs for a New World, and Smart Blonde. She has been seen on screen in Kevin Can Wait, Blue Bloods, Jessica Jones, Rescue Me, The Electric Company, and Sky Dancers. Monday nights finds Burns hosting #andreamondays on Stars in the House to benefit The Actors Fund.
What is your typical day like now?
Coffee with my husband, teaching online, planning creative projects, walks in my neighborhood, chats with friends, and reading as much as I can. A COVID silver lining: Our family sits together for dinner every night. Every Saturday night we have “Dealer’s Choice” movie night. Each of us takes turns choosing the movie, and we only reveal the title right before we hit “play.” Last week was Kind Hearts and Coronets (which, of course, inspired the Tony-Award winning musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder). We all agreed the movie was excellent.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Read: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Watch: Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett, a bevy of Super Women, and Norm Lewis!
Podcasts: Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us: the Dr. Ibram X. Kendi interview
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding Black artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
It’s time for BIPOC artists to have a seat at Broadway’s creative producing/marketing team table. During that magical moment in a theatre when the happy alchemy between artists and audiences takes place—whether it’s a stunning set, a groundbreaking directorial concept, stunning costumes, or a compelling story—audiences know on a gut level that Talent is Talent. Melanin amounts are irrelevant. Our current production process does not trust that comprehensively yet. I also witness a lot of head-scratching about “how to reach a more diverse audience.” My response to that is, where are the BIPOC-led marketing teams? Institutional and structural changes are crucial now to shift the limited Broadway lens.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Go on walks! Be still with nature, which is a constant in these uncertain times. Even in Manhattan, I find that walking through parks, focusing on the sky and the trees is a great comfort, a visual reminder that “this too shall pass.”
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Very much so. On Monday nights, I am the host of Stars in The House, a series created by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley. It’s a talk show with Broadway/TV/film stars and I love creating the content and producing #andreamondays. I invite artists I admire on for an hour of real talk. We do more of a deep dive chat than you may see in other interviews. We discuss making art, making the world a better place, or their own humanity. Honestly, it’s for me as much as for anyone else, I selfishly create the kind of hour I would like to be watching these days. It’s my Oprah for Broadway. My shows are live on Monday nights, and I always wake up on Tuesdays educated, elevated, and inspired to build next week’s program. All proceeds go to our friends in need at The Actors Fund.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Yes, I’m working on a project with Sergio Trujillo for Viva Broadway! that will air this fall. Also, I’m working on development of two musicals right now, one about Truman Capote and one about baseball! The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Douglas Cohen and Rob Roth and Love of The Game by Brooks Ashmanskas and Peter Flynn.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Black Theatre United, R.Evolución Latina, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and, of course, The Actors Fund!
Celebrate the Stage Career of Andréa Burns