5 Questions with Carly Prentis Jones, who Portrays "Camila" in North Carolina Theatre's Upcoming Production of "In the Heights"
by Anika Willis
North Carolina Theatre, the region's premiere nonprofit professional theatre, is gearing up for its first production of the 2018-2019 theatre season. Starting the season is Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, which opens on October 16th at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and runs through the 21st.
This show, from the creator of the hit musical Hamilton, focuses on the vibrant community of New York City, specifically in the Washington Heights neighborhood. It shares stories of people connecting with their pasts and looking to a future that is nigh at hand and having to choose what traditions, hopes and dreams to carry into that future and which ones to leave behind.
We were able to interview Carly Prentis Jones, who will be playing Camila in the show. She discusses several pressing questions with us about important themes in the show and about her own experience as a cast member.
First of all, what do you think is most relevant and modern about this show?
Everyone knows that good theatre needs to be relevant, and Carly found a lot of relevant things in In the Heights.
She started off by mentioning the "unique fusion of dance, music, and cultural influences, which illustrate the beautiful melting pot that is the Washington Heights community and many parts of our country."
Then, she went on to mention how "Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes collaborated to create a story that is filled with universal themes of family, hope, and love, while also tackling harder issues like gentrification, immigration, and higher education access."
As another point of relevance and modernity, Carly discussed how the show "tells the stories of a modern-day multicultural Latinx community in New York, which is not a story we see often on the stage." Carly brings home how "for any underrepresented community, issues of representation in the arts and culture are of vital importance."
What is your role, and what you have learned from playing it?
As mentioned, Carly plays the part of "Camila Rosario," a character Carly describes as "the strong-willed, hardworking mother of Nina who runs the neighborhood cab service alongside her loving, yet controlling husband, Kevin."
Carly explains how Camila is "the glue of her family and is determined to keep the family together, despite family strains and financial struggles."
Reflecting on what she's learned in her portrayal of Camila, Carly says, "I have learned to appreciate my own mother even more through playing this role because it has walked me through the hard work associated with raising a stubborn young girl." Carly also points out how "Women throughout this country make such sacrifices for their families and oftentimes are unappreciated or taken for granted."
In Carly's mind, "Camila's character celebrates the strength of all women."
How does this show compare, in your opinion, to the very-popular Hamilton?
Hamilton is currently experiencing a lot of popularity in the theatre community. And, since it shares a creator with In the Heights, it only seemed right to ask Carly to reflect on how the two compare.
Carly mentions how she "had the opportunity to see Broadway productions of both In the Heights and Hamilton" and how she "left both of those shows feeling like I had seen something relatable, new, and unique."
She discusses how "In both musicals, there are the elements of hip hop paired with beautiful melodies and harmonies that will stay in your head." She also mentions how Lin-Manuel Miranda has a definite, unique "'sound' to his composing, a sign of true greatness.
Perhaps most importantly, Carly mentions how "Both musicals are also cast with mostly people of color, which is an inspiring aspect, since that is rare and our stories need to be told."
Reflecting on the contrasts between the shows, she mentions that the "main difference is that In the Heights tells the story of a community that exists in America today, while Hamilton tells the history of America's roots in a new and compelling way."
If you could play any OTHER character in the show, who would it be and why?
Before answering this question, Carly expressed how "All of these roles are multi-dimensional and relatable," explaining that, "Every single character reminds me of someone that I know in real life, which is what makes the story so intriguing."
Finally coming to the big decision, she said, "I think I would go with Usnavi just so I can have an opportunity to show off my hip hop rap skills....that only exist at karaoke bars and in my dreams."
What do you think audiences will love most about this production?
Based on Carly's answer to this question, it seems there will be plenty to love about In the Heights.
She expresses how "This production will make audiences sing, dance, laugh, and cry all in one show."
"It truly is an inspiring story that celebrates cultural diversity, unity, love, family, and home," Carly expressed. She mentions how "these are all such important themes for us to be reminded of during a time in our country that is so divisive."
Finally, she points out the most exciting facet of this show: "[It] is unlike anything the Triangle has ever seen, and it will be the first time NC Theatre audiences see In the Heights on our stage!"
With so much to love and so much excitement surrounding the production, it sounds like this is definitely a performance not to be missed
North Carolina Theatre’s presentation of In The Heights opens this Tuesday, but don't worry. There's still time to get tickets!
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