Actress Resa Mishina Shares Her Journey As An International Performer in NYC
New York City is said to be the ultimate melting pot of cultures, and representation onstage is becoming increasingly important. With hit Broadway musicals such as Hamilton, The Band's Visit and Once On This Island, the topic of diversity is hotter than ever.
And rising international actress Resa Mishina is determined to continue the conversation.
Originally born in Tokyo, Resa moved to America in 2013 to study Musical Theatre at Rider University. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her BFA and has since studied and worked closely with Broadway veterans such as Robin Lewis (Beauty and the Beast, Fosse), choreographer Chase Brock (Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark), and Tony Award winning team Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (Urinetown).
Her most recent professional theatre credits include leading roles in Pioneer at the West End Theatre in NYC, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown (Woodstock) and Annie (Duffy) at Flat Rock Playhouse, and Miss Saigon (Yvette) at Interlakes Summer Theatre. She is currently signed with The Luedtke Agency.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Resa about her journey to America, her goals for the future, and her life as an international performer based in New York City.
Read on for the full interview below!
Maggie: Growing up in Singapore and Japan, how did you initially get involved in show business?
Resa: My mother loves to go see anything performing arts related... so from a young age she took me to a bunch of concerts, ballets, plays, and musicals. Eventually, I wanted to be on the stage instead of in the audience seats. I took some dance classes and went to theatre camps for a few summers. I also became an advanced gymnast, training six days a week and competing in national and international competitions.
In 2009, you represented the city of Tokyo at the International Olympic Committee session for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games city bid. What was it like speaking on behalf of your city and traveling alongside Japan’s most distinguished Olympic medalists?
I think my involvement with the Olympics will forever be the most special memory. It was such an honor to be representing the city of Tokyo and my country at such a significant international platform. It was like a dream.
All of the Japanese Olympic and Paralympic athletes were so kind and open to sharing their wisdom with me. I was initially starstruck by Gold medalist Koji Murofushi... but he was so sweet. He picked me up and put me on his shoulders as we paraded out of the presentation hall!
After graduating high school in Japan with an International Baccalaureate diploma, what brought you to the US to pursue theatre?
When I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in musical theatre, I knew I had to go to the states. There are only a few universities in Japan that offer a degree in musical theatre, and I knew I would get more advanced and extensive training in the United States. The theatre scene in America, the way it is loved and celebrated by its citizens, is amazing.
As someone who grew up speaking and watching musicals in English, I was never satisfied with the professional theatre industry in Japan. Productions in Japan were produced strictly in Japanese... and I think the artistry and beauty in English dialogue and lyrics were frequently lost in translation.
In 2013, you earned one of the coveted spots in the musical theatre department at Rider University. Tell me about your experience pursuing your degree at one of United States' most prestigious collegiate theatre programs!
I was so excited when I received my acceptance from Rider! I had already fallen in love with their faculty and program when I auditioned for them.
Growing up overseas, I always felt alone in school since I was the only one who loved theatre. Suddenly I was surrounded by students and professors who were just as passionate as I was. I grew so much over the four years as a performer and as a person and I feel very lucky that I got to have such extensive training.
As an international performer now based in New York City, what is the most rewarding quality about being an actor?
I love being in New York. There are so many opportunities and I'm constantly inspired by other performers, whether in audition rooms or on stage. I've also started to do more on-camera acting with some independent and student films, which have been a blast.
The community of artists that I've found here is incredible. We are so supportive of each other and we all pursue this career because we truly love it. I always come out of a job learning so much as a human, partially from the storytelling that I get to do and also from the fellow artists that I get to work with.
I hear you met and performed for Broadway legend Baayork Lee... Tell me more!
Oh gosh, it was an incredible experience! A Chorus Line was the first show I did after coming to the US and our director, Luis Villabon, has been Baayork's assistant for a long time. So she came to see the production. I couldn't believe that I got to perform the role of Connie for Baayork herself (a role she created in the original Broadway production)! I remember freaking out before and during the performance.
After the show, the whole cast got to meet her, and afterwards she pulled me aside and I got to talk to her privately. She told me all of her personal stories and struggles that are portrayed in the show and also offered me some incredible advice as an Asian performer. As soon as I stepped out of the theater I got overwhelmed by what had just happened and I started to sob. I got to audition for her a few times this past year and she remembered me!
Diversity on Broadway is increasing onstage, according to a new study by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition. What are your thoughts on the direction American show business is heading?
If you look at this past Broadway season, all of the new musicals except for The Band's Visit have stories that are unrelated to race/ethnicity. And the cast of those shows are so diverse. Growing up, it never was my dream to be in Miss Saigon or The King and I. Don't get me wrong, they are wonderful shows, but there are so many other shows that I know I could be in, like Oklahoma, and Hello, Dolly, and Mamma Mia, where my ethnicity plays no significance in the storytelling.
I love that more and more people are willing to have conversations about diversity and representation. I think when directors or theatres get called out for something casting and race related, it stems from their lack of willingness to communicate with minority performers and hearing our perspectives. So we just have to keep the conversation going.
Any advice for international performers aspiring to pursue a theatrical career in the US?
Be ready for a roller coaster ride. There are a lot of hurdles as an international performer as there are a lot of logistics with regulations, visas, and unions.
But the opportunities, the quality of theatres, and the talent that you will be surrounded by in America are astounding and so rewarding.
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