Tony Nominee Amber Iman on Facing Her Fears for Broadway Bares | Playbill

Benefits and Galas Tony Nominee Amber Iman on Facing Her Fears for Broadway Bares

She is channeling Lempicka's Rafaela for her next stage appearance.

Amber Iman in rehearsal for Broadway Bares Michael Hull

June is a monumental month of firsts for Amber Iman. This month marks the first time she’ll be attending the Tony Awards as a nominee, fresh off her celebrated run as sultry muse Rafaela in Lempicka. And just one week later, she’ll be baring her soul (among other things) as a lead in Broadway Bares, the annual burlesque spectacular benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Iman made her Broadway debut in 2013 as Nina Simone in Soul Doctor earning her a Clive Barnes Award nomination. She followed that with Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed and the first national tour of Hamilton.

She’s a co-founder of Black Women on Broadway and of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, which received a special Tony Award in 2021.

During a break in her Broadway Bares rehearsal Thursday, just three days before this year’s Tonys, Iman chatted about her experience as a first-time Tony nominee, how Rafaela will influence her performance in Broadway Bares, and the importance of cultivating healthy fear in creative endeavors.

What are you most excited about as you head into Tony Awards weekend as a first-time nominee?
Amber Iman: 
I'm excited to sit down at Lincoln Center. There's so much stress right now with so many moving parts. Who's taking the pictures, who's taking the video? My hair, my makeup, what time am I leaving? I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends, sitting down at Lincoln Center, and finally having the space to feel excited.

And just a week later, you’re performing in Broadway Bares. Why?
Number one, because I’m a Tony nominee. Just kidding! But I’ve always wanted to be in Broadway Bares. I saw my first Bares in person last year and was like, “Oh, I’m scared.” I didn’t know when I saw it last year that I would be here this year.

I love to challenge myself to do stuff that scares me, and Broadway Bares is the epitome of that. I’m excited to be working with Maleek Washington, who is one of the most extraordinary choreographers ever.

To do Bares in this crazy year of my life, to be rehearsing this week, has been wild. I’m in rehearsal with one brain cell while coordinating, on my phone, when I’m getting to the Tony Awards. My brain is so frazzled, but I’m so excited. I’m so glad to be supporting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and to be taking a big leap and doing something scary.

How did your experience as Rafaela in Lempicka influence the way you show sensuality onstage?
I think there's a freedom that was unlocked over the past six years of building and exploring and figuring out who Rafaela is and how she moves through the world. It's made me a better human, a better person. There’s a freedom and an openness in me now that just doesn't care, in the best way possible.

Are you bringing any part of Rafaela to your character in Bares?
I mean, she is a sexy woman of the streets. I feel like I'm bringing all parts of me—Rafaela and every strong woman that I know. I'm bringing all of that to Bares. Why not?

What has been your favorite aspect of your first Bares rehearsal process?
Watching everybody just really go for it, 100 percent, every time. Everyone is so free and fierce, and they all inspire me. I'm like, “Oh, I’ve got to step my game up so I can look good like everybody else.” Everybody really is working hard and I think it's going to be a beautiful piece.

In your Instagram post announcing you'd be in Broadway Bares, you mentioned being afraid as good thing. What did you mean by that?
I always feel like if it doesn't scare you a little bit, you can't be doing it. I love things that are challenging me in some way. I feel like certain roles you take on or certain gigs, they meet you at a time when you need them because they’re there to unlock something or challenge something or question something. I like a little bit of healthy fear in everything. There was some healthy fear in Rafaela, and there's healthy fear going into Bares. It all just makes you a better person and a more well-rounded human.

In addition to making a difference through your work, you're also making a difference through your Broadway Bares fundraising, helping those in the business and strangers all across the country. How does that impact you?
Honestly, any opportunity I can to give back to my community is important. If it means stripping down to my nothings, to my nethers, and raising dollars, then I'll do it. I know there have been times when I was without, and Broadway Cares has helped me on many occasions. I feel like I have a huge responsibility to raise funds to be able to help others in need.

There have been so many times when rent was questionable, or through the food pantries they support, where Broadway Cares has helped out. Also, I’m grateful for Broadway Cares’ support of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition and Black Women on Broadway. [Executive Director] Tom Viola is just a man who has such a large piece of my heart. Tom always knows what's going on and is always willing to lend an extra hand, and I owe him and all of Broadway Cares so much.

Francesca Toscano is the Communications Content Manager for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Photos: Amber Iman In Rehearsal For Broadway Bares

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