Celebrating AAPI Joy: Meet Musa Hitomi
Actor, Singer, Dancer, Choreographer
Moxie: Musa! We are so excited to feature you this month - tell us, how do you identify as an artist?
Musa: Hi! I consider myself a Performing Artist- I am an Actor, Singer, Dancer, Choreographer, and Dance Teacher.
M: How would you say that your identity informs your work as an artist?
Musa: Right now, I'm not sure how my identity is making any impact on my work, honestly.
However, by growing up in a different culture with a different language, I do think I have kept my original creative soul - it might be showing in my choreography. I started learning traditional Japanese dance in NY and would love to keep on studying my own heritage as a performer. Also knowing a few different cultures and languages might be helping my character work as an actor.
M: Tell us a bit about your arts background - what got you interested in pursuing a career in the arts, what has your journey been getting to NYC, etc.?
Musa: My first musical theatre stage performance was when I was 10years old. Since then, I have wanted to be an actor who can sing and dance.
I also dreamed of working in the U.S.A., so those dreams came together after I graduated from the dance conservatory in Tokyo. I studied abroad at Steps On Broadway for a year and I had an opportunity to perform as a student in NY.
To be able to receive a working visa, I went back to Japan and worked as a professional actor for 5 years with the biggest theater company in the country. I got approved for my working visa and came back to NY to work here in 2013. It has been quite a journey. There were so many ups and downs in these 8 years, and I hated New York sometimes. However, I do love living here now. NYC has so much energy from all over the world and there are so many talented people.
M: I think we all feel that push and pull at times - can you tell us, where do you find joy in your craft - what brings you hope and elation in the arts, especially in these times?
Musa: Music is a nonverbal art, it really connects people all over the world. I love feeling the message that composers create with music and try to embody that message through my movement. Music will bring you joy and healing. I love expressing myself through music and always enjoy sharing with others. When we feel connected through music, we feel more joy and share more smiles. Even though we could not see each other in person, I learned that we can connect with music online through this pandemic. Right now, I'm trying to connect Japanese kids and American kids or anyone on Earth online to share music and sing along together.
M: What does the word "representation" mean to you as an artist?
Musa: I'm really proud of myself that I'm a working actor who came from another country.
I love Japan and I'm proud that I'm Japanese. But the place that I want to work is the U.S.A.
Like a lot of Asian actors who gave me encouragement, I hope my work will encourage people who are afraid to step out.
M: If you could rewrite the rules of commercial theatre (Broadway, Off-Broadway, etc.) today, what would the future of professional theatre look like?
Musa: I hope for equal and diverse opportunities for all actors while also keeping the best quality.
As a person who missed her chance to be an Equity actor during the pandemic, I wish there could be more chances for non-equity actors to be considered for an equity show.
M: Who are your arts heroes/who do you look up to in your career?
Musa: Jessica Wu is always working so hard to make the world and industry a better place.
She helped change the rules for joining Actor's equity, so that green cards are no longer required. Now, foreign actors have equal rights to join equity. This is wonderful news!!!
I have great respect towards Jessica Wu who always fights for justice. She also has tremendous talent as producer/director/writer/composer.
M: We love her too! Excited to see her next play in just a few days with our commission! Did you have a mentor along the way, or someone who guided you in your career path, and if so, what was that like?
Musa: Besides Jessica Wu, Minami Yusui (Broadway actor :My Fair Lady, MissSaigon, King and I) has been my mentor for a long time. We worked together in Japan in 2009. She helped me when I moved to NY, always supported me, and gave me advice. Her work ethic has always inspired me, and seeing Japanese actors shining on Broadway stages always brings hope to Japanese people.
M: Beautiful. So what sort of stories do you want to see next on stage?
Musa: Sadly, racism has been a problem in this country. If each person could change their mind even a little, that would make a huge change in the world. I really appreciate creators who are sending these messages to the world through their craft, and activists who keep raising their voices.
In the theatre world, I hope there would be more non-traditional, and diverse casting, and it would be great to have stories that break stereotypical images that we all have. I might be putting myself in the box categorizing myself as Asian and Female. But I want to break the box I'm in and would love to challenge unlimited things. I hope that I can make an inspiring new story for the next generation.
Want to see more of Musa? Follow her on Instagram at @musahitomi or check out her website at www.musahitomi.com