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Checking In With… The Phantom of the Opera Star Ali Ewoldt

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 Ali Ewoldt, the first Asian-American actor to play Christine Daaé in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. She has also been seen on the Main Stem in The King and I and Les Misérables, while her other theatrical credits include Anne of Green Gables: Part I, The Fantasticks, and West Side Story: In Concert.

Ewoldt can currently be seen as Rose Smith in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Meet Me in St. Louis: A Holiday Special in Song and on Screen, which is available for streaming through January 2, 2021. For more information click here.

READ: Checking In With… Tony Nominee Norm Lewis, Star of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, The Phantom of the Opera, Side Show

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What is your typical day like now?
Oof, it really depends! Definitely one of the challenges of this time has been a lack of consistent routine. I try to do an online yoga class (thank you, Yoga with Adriene!) once a day. I have my wonderful dog/fur-child Mia Belle to take care of, so we walk at least three, if not four times a day. We live close to Riverside Park, so it has been lovely seeing the seasons change. Oftentimes I’ll have some sort of video to put on tape, and that requires a lot of rearranging my studio apartment to set up, so that can take some time. And, I’ve been spending great amounts of time texting/calling/Zooming/Face Timing/etc. with friends and family or seeing them outside in person if possible. Also, a lot of Netflix.

What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
There is so much wonderful content out there. It’s so baffling to me that we as artists have to keep insisting that our work is essential while just about everyone has used art to try to stay sane during this challenging period. It’s not new, but if you haven’t seen 13th on Netflix, please do so immediately. I’ve recently been enjoying I May Destroy You, The Crown (season 4), Schitt’s Creek, The Great British Baking Show, and Dash & Lily, just to name a few. I recently read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which was incredible. Podcast-wise, I’ve been enjoying Code Switch, The Daily, and my personal dorky favorite, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

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 would love all of us to continue to examine what we think it means to “be American” and how all of our biases inform those thoughts. For example, should I not be considered an “all-American type” because even though I was born and raised here, my mom immigrated from the Philippines? And then to think about how these biases (many of which can be unintentional) reflect how we cast people in shows and what stories we are willing to tell. And then to realize that if we expand this casting and these stories to better reflect the people of this country (and the world) that we could create even more incredible theatre and art that could make the parts of our population that have been historically under-represented feel included and inspired.

What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
This is a very difficult time—there is no shame in struggling right now, and there is no one correct way to deal with a global pandemic. Try not to compare yourselves with the curated lives others are posting on social media. And, please reach out to loved ones or professionals if you need help. You are not alone.

Ali Ewoldt Courtesy of the Phantom of the Opera

How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I find that my creativity and bandwidth to do projects comes in spurts these days. I spent four months at my parents’ house (the house I grew up in) in Westchester County from March to July, and while I was there I felt inspired to do creative projects for my sanity. I organized our entire block to do a Les Misérables sing-a-along and drove all over town to sing with local performers and friends. Lately, I’ve been channeling my creativity into making traditional Filipino Christmas decorations with friends over Zoom!

Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I recently completed a 10-day shoot of Meet Me in St. Louis with Irish Repertory Theatre from home! It was a brand-new experience for all of us and quite the adventure. The Irish Rep provided us with green screens and lighting/sound equipment, and we listened to our directors and fellow actors over Zoom while imagining them in the space around us. The cast was absolutely incredible, the company was so kind and generous, and it was quite heartwarming to be telling such a classic, optimistic story during this time. While it’s not quite the theatre we all are accustomed to, I am very grateful to have done something theatrical during this time!

What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Oh goodness, there are so many! The Okra Project and Southern Poverty Law Center are wonderful. I just volunteered with God’s Love We Deliver through BC/EFA, which was wonderful. And, I’m a Broadway Ambassador for Broadway’s Babies, which is doing the incredible work of bringing music education to children who otherwise would not have access, from New York City to Haiti to India and beyond!

Checking In With… 3-Time Tony Nominee and The Prom Star Kevin Chamberlin

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