Why This Actor Fights for Representation and Diversity

Outside the Theatre   Why This Actor Fights for Representation and Diversity
 
Ari’el Stachel opens up about an issue that is close to his heart and the theatre community.
Ari'el Stachel
Ari'el Stachel Monica Simoes
Ari Stachel
Ari Stachel Monica Simoes

Who: Ari’el Stachel
Stopped: Outside the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on 43rd Street

What are you doing in the theatre district?
AS: I’ve been biking around from back-to-back auditions today.

So you’re an actor. What kind of work are you drawn to?
AS: I’m trained in musical theatre, but I’ve also worked in television. I love singing onstage but being on camera is a more sustainable way to make a living.

Are you from New York?
AS: I’m from Berkeley, CA. I got a scholarship to NYU in the undergraduate musical theatre program and that brought me here.

What’s your experience of being an actor in this city?
AS: It’s tough, but it can be really rewarding. On a day like this—with four auditions—when you’re doing what you love, it feels like your entire being is engaged. That might only be 10 percent of the time, but for me, it’s been enough to keep at it for three years, going on four.

What would you like to see more of, on Broadway or Off-Broadway?
AS: I think a wider range of stories being told, and that calls for a wider range of people at the helm — producers, directors and writers. I want to see more diverse stories and more diverse creative teams.

What show have you been in recently that really excited you?
AS: I recently rehearsed for a workshop of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s new musical The Visitor at the Public Theater; I played a Syrian drummer opposite Mandy Patinkin. As a Middle-Eastern American actor, I love that shows reflecting the culture of my people are starting to be produced. It’s disappointing though, that Middle Eastern actors are often not being featured in these shows.

I think it’s important to cast people authentically—particularly under-represented cultures. If you cast someone who authentically represents a region like the Middle East, it creates a platform for that actor to portray important issues and raise the visibility of Middle Easterners at a time when our people are increasingly stigmatizing by American society. That’s why representation and diversity is so important, particularly for cultures with underrepresentation on Broadway and few role models for young Middle Eastern people.

As a kid, I was ashamed of my background. I pretended I was African American for eight years of my life because there was nobody who I could look up to of my culture with any visibility.

This is a conversation that a lot of people in the theatre community are having right now, which is very important wouldn’t you say?
AS: Absolutely, it’s essential. It’s the most important thing. The more that you are able to introduce our stories onto the stage, the more it will allow American society to humanize these communities and hopefully make room for greater empathy.

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