As the temporary shutdown of Broadway continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
During Pride Month, the series continues with LGBTQIA+ artist Jose Llana, who made his Broadway debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 revival of The King and I and was most recently seen on Broadway as the King of Siam in the 2015 revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. In between he appeared in Rent, Street Corner Symphony, Flower Drum Song, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (earning a Drama Desk Award), and Wonderland. The actor's Off-Broadway credits include Here Lies Love, Falling For Eve,… Spelling Bee, Saturn Returns: A Concert, and On the Town, while his screen credits include Unconscious, Hitch, and Sex and the City.
Llana will be part of the ninth annual Night of a Thousand Judys June 24 at 8 PM ET to honor Judy Garland and raise money for the Ali Forney Center, which provides services for homeless LGBTQIA + kids. Click here for more information.
What is your typical day like now?
I try to keep on a somewhat regular schedule. After walking my dog, Charlie, I work out in the morning and save the afternoons for preparing for or shooting on-tape auditions or video submissions for various other projects.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
The best thing I've read all year is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I've also started rereading Ted Chapin's Everything Was Possible.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC 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?
I want them to be aware that it takes more than just a social media post and statement to make change. We are all capable of helping overcome the white supremacy that is ingrained in our industry. Seek out different voices, acknowledge your own biases, listen.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Reach out. Know that you are not alone in your struggle.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Thankfully, work has picked up a little for me, and I've been finding an outlet for those creative juices. Thank God for the art that is endlessly available to me on my television and streaming services. Between binging different movies, TV series, and docu-series, I've stayed (almost) sane.
How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in Lincoln Center's Restart Stages and gave my first live concert performance in front of actual live people a few weeks ago. It was terrifying and glorious. I was also lucky that that concert was to celebrate the Philippine Nurses Association, a group of heroes that don't often get singled out for much-deserved honoring.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
I say, if you are vaccinated, you have nothing to worry about. Trust in science and return to your normal life, which includes coming to see live theatre!!
Are there any particular ways you celebrate Pride Month each year? How will you celebrate this year?
I celebrate Pride every year the same way I celebrate it since I came out in 1994 when I was 17 years old—by living my life out and proud and with no shame. And since I got legally married nearly three years ago, I've been dropping the word "husband" as often as I can!
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
My go-to organizations are Broadway Cares and ACLU. And, during the pandemic I've been spending a lot of time on StopAAPIHate, Black Lives Matter, and Meals on Wheels.