‘I’m Enough’: Gregg Mozgala on His Debut in ‘Cost of Living – The New York Times

We spoke to three actors and a playwright — Gregg Mozgala, Bonnie Milligan, Solea Pfeiffer and Noah Diaz — who are taking big shots this season.

“I love physicality. I love pushing myself.” said Gregg Mozgala, who makes his Broadway debut as John, a graduate student who lives with cerebral palsy, in “Cost of Living.”
Zachary Maxwell Stertz

The actor Gregg Mozgala has dark hair swooped back from their forehead plus watchful, heavy-lidded eyes. His upper body is muscular, his right arm etched with two elaborate tattoos, one showing a rooster mid crow. He credits his family’s focus on athletics for the vigor of his performances.

“I love physicality, ” he said. “I love pushing myself. I want to run and jump plus fight and climb and be just incredibly physical. ” He said this on a recent morning weekday early morning in a Midtown rehearsal studio, their body bouncing in the chair as he spoke.

Yet the role that he is rehearsing, in Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Cost of Living, ” the play about the complexities associated with care getting, discourages running and jumping. Mozgala stars as Steve, a graduate student at Princeton who else lives along with cerebral palsy. The stage directions describe his first entrance this way: “ David enters in a wheelchair. He is beautiful.

Mozgala, who doesn’t give his age, offers cerebral palsy, too, though in a less severe form, which manifests mostly inside a syncopated gait. The particular play, which usually also celebrities David Zayas, Kara Young and the Paralympian Katy Sullivan, begins performances at the Manhattan Theater Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater on Sept. 13. It will be Mozgala’s Broadway debut.

A graduate of Boston University’s competitive theater program plus a professional actor for more than two decades, Mozgala provides spent much of his career just trying to get a foot in the rehearsal room door. He has in order to fight with regard to each audition and rarely books roles that weren’t created with him in mind (“Diagnosis of a Faun”) or commissioned (“Teenage Dick”) by the company he founded, the Apothetae, which unites disabled and non-disabled stars.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Why have parts proved so elusive? “Well that’s an excellent question, ” this individual said, smiling, He had some answers, within the form of counsel that he or she received from teachers plus former managers: that he should not audition for “normal” roles. That directors didn’t know what to do with your pet. That he was not enough.

But John, the role which he originated Off Broadway and has also played in the Williamstown Theatre Festival plus Off Broadway, has taught him different lessons. “I can bring everything, all my life experience to bear through this particular character, ” he stated. “I was denying that for a long time, but this play enables me to step into myself fully. ” Mozgala distilled the experience like this: “I’m enough, ” he mentioned.

In past productions, he has emphasized John’s physicality, working with Majok as well as the director Jo Bonney to determine how Ruben should move and speak and work his limbs. This period around, he is thinking about the part differently and in ways that are potentially even more revealing than the nude shower scene. (By the particular way, he really enjoys doing the nude picture: “To show my body within the context of the particular play, that was super exciting, ” he said. ) The emphasis now is on John’s inner existence.

“It’s not really how disabled I can make Bob but how human may I make John, ” he stated. The play, he said, forced him to think about his own humanity and to understand and accept himself as a person who lives with a disability. “That synergy has been one associated with the greatest gifts I will ever be given as a human being and as a working actor, ” he said.

So Mozgala is evolving. And he believes that the entertainment industry is evolving too. “I believe we’re getting to a place where people are starting in order to realize that you should no longer have the disabled character that is not played by a disabled actor, somebody who has that lived experience, ” he stated.

He or she is happy to be at the forefront of this shift, hypervisible under the Broadway lights. But as an actor who has spent their whole profession fighting to be seen, the fight has not gone out of your pet yet. This individual wants to play more roles, across all kinds of media, including functions not explicitly typed as disabled.

“It’s beyond my wildest imagination, ” this individual said, associated with his Broadway debut, “and what I’m worried about is that will maybe We didn’t dream big enough. ” ALEXIS SOLOSKI

Matthew Murphy

When she has been at student at Ohio State University, Bonnie Milligan would watch YouTube along with her musical-theater-crazed friends and they would “do clips, ” as she put it. “I need Audra, let’s go Audra, ” Milligan said, recalling some prompts. “Give me some Alysha Umphress. Now we’ve got some Christine Ebersole. ”

These days, Milligan, now inside her mid-30s, is the one that fans might want to search for. They could be looking regarding one of her big numbers from the Go-Go’s musical “Head Over Heels, ” in which the girl played the particular gloriously vain Princess Pamela, or for some of the girl uproarious cabaret duets, especially the ones with her friend Matt Doyle — do yourself a favor and check out their cover of the Celine Dion-Barbra Streisand epic “Tell Him. ” It’s a safe bet YouTube will see more traffic when Milligan reprises the role of a gleefully brazen con artist named Debra in the Broadway transfer of the particular David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori musical “Kimberly Akimbo, ” which had a successful run in the Atlantic Theater last year. (Previews begin at the Booth Movie theater on Oct. 12. )

Music runs in Milligan’s family: Her parents met when the girl father, a pastor, started singing intended for the gospel group her mother performed with as a pianist. “I grew up singing because soon since I possibly could talk, ” Milligan said over lunch upon a recent afternoon within Soho. “I’ve always been an instinctual singer. I actually would sing along to the radio, I would sing along to Celine or Mariah. ”

This did not really take much longer for her to discover the power associated with humor. “Around fourth grade, I felt a little chubbier and I felt just a little various, so I began making fun of personally a little bit, because I did not want anybody to make fun of me, ” she mentioned. “I really liked making people laugh. It wasn’t always self-deprecating, but honestly, it’s exactly how it started as a kid, which is so sad. ”

Milligan knew she was talented, yet doubts crept in regarding having a career. Toward the particular end of college, a friend told her, maybe to help keep Milligan’s expectations low, that the lady wouldn’t create it being an actress because of her size. “I had been this super-confident kid that was like, ‘I know I am different, but that’s what makes me special, ’ ” Milligan said, “and this felt really hard to hear that quote-unquote truth. ”

Fortunately, she eventually reconnected with the girl confident self, thanks in part in order to therapy, plus threw herself into auditions. In 2018, she made her Broadway debut like a lead within “Head Over Heels, ” and “Kimberly Akimbo” will give more theatergoers a chance to experience her precise comic timing, charisma and power pipes.

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Doyle, a Tony Award winner for the particular recent revival of “Company, ” has been an early fan. The two had met doing Off Broadway musical “Jasper in Deadland” in 2014. “The second Bonnie walked into the room, I was so enamored by her presence and her humor, and then that ridiculous voice that she has, ” he or she said on the phone. “I must have freaked the girl out in that first week, because I was so hellbent on being her friend. ”

Another revelatory songs you might excavate upon YouTube will be Doyle and Milligan’s duet on “Suddenly, Seymour, ” so it’s not surprising to hear that “Little Shop of Horrors” is one of her dream shows. “A lot of times they cast the bombshell, ” Milligan stated of Audrey, a character who finds it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. “You can be gorgeous and think you’re not enough, but exactly what would happen if you experienced like a big girl who was like, ‘I don’t deserve something better’? ”

It is usually refreshing in order to see a good actress therefore unabashedly, so joyfully embrace comedy. Milligan’s Instagram bio describes the girl as “a beltress who also loves to make people laugh, ” suggesting that will on her the particular point is the connection with viewers. “There’s nothing like the joy associated with having an audience in the palm of your hand plus knowing that we’re about to do a dance, ” the girl said. “I’m leading, and we’re going to be great. ” ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

Monica Jorge for The particular New York Periods

Under the trees in Bryant Park in Midtown, on the sublimely lovely August morning, the playwright Noah Diaz was surrounded by birds. This was not ideal. At 29, he or she is affable company, quick to laugh, but he prefers the particular birds in order to keep their own distance.

“They’re frightening to me, ” this individual said, and seconds later some tiny feathered creature — a sparrow, probably — flew so close to his head that he or she flinched. Anyone would have.

Might the avian hordes have heard about his new Away Broadway perform? In Diaz’s strange plus poetic “You Will Get Sick, ” slated to start previews Oct. 14 at Roundabout Theater Company, enormous birds are agents of doom, ever threatening to swoop down on humans and snatch them away.

Diaz describes the enjoy as “a comedy along with weight, ” as in substance, and it’s been cast with stars to match: Daniel K. Isaac as a man with an illness he can’t bring themselves to tell their sister about, and Linda Lavin as the stranger he hires to break the news.

Its world premiere will be a belated Nyc first appearance for Diaz, who had been meant to make his bow with the different play and a different company 2 years ago, only to see that production vaporized simply by the pandemic. More recently another planned production, inside Los Angeles, furthermore fell through. So the Roundabout run can not help holding enormous significance for him.

“In ways good and bad, it means everything, ” he said. “In probably an unhealthy way, I keep waiting for shoes to drop. ”

Written in 2018, “You Can get Sick” had been supposed in order to be staged as Diaz’s thesis manufacturing in the spring of 2020 from the Yale School associated with Drama (now the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale). He remembers one of his instructors — the particular playwright Sarah Ruhl, whom he called his queen, his North Star and the reason he’d wanted to go to Yale — telling your pet he ought to change the title.

“Did We really? ” she mentioned by cell phone, and laughed. “Good to get Noah. It is important not to listen in order to your teacher sometimes. I actually think I had been picturing the box-office situation of individuals being scared and superstitious to order tickets to ‘You Will Get Sick’ and then receiving a ticket that said ‘You Will Get Ill. ’”

Whenever the world began obtaining sick with Covid-19, in-person instruction has been canceled plus Diaz left New Haven for his parents’ house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, Neb. That will geography is a vital detail for a playwright whose bio opens with a mention of their state-border roots.

As a good undergraduate with the College of Nebraska Omaha, Diaz had studied to become a sign-language interpreter — a passion he wandered into by choosing American Sign Language to fulfill a foreign-language requirement.

Though he took a semester off in order to play the particular Cat within the Hat at a local children’s theater (“paid handsomely, ” he recalled) and began writing plays just pertaining to himself, it wasn’t until he botched an interpreting gig on the Women’s March in Omaha inside 2017 that he realized his future lay elsewhere.

“Something snapped in my brain, ” he stated, “and that weekend I applied to grad schools for playwriting. ”

Diaz’s plays — including “Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally, ” the grown-up riff on the “Dick and Jane” primers, carried out partially in A. S. L., and “The Swindlers, ” a con-man tale inspired simply by Diaz’s grandfather — are suffused having a yearning for home and family, as well as an urge in order to leave them for the wider world.

“I miss where We come from, ” Diaz said. “But also, I might say that largely I kind of don’t. ”

His still left leg is definitely inked using a drawing associated with his childhood home, among 32 tattoo designs that Diaz said this individual acquired as a way of processing the outbreak. Home these days, though, can be Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, close to friends plus near enough to their retired parents, who lately relocated through Iowa in order to New Destination.

That early morning in Bryant Park, Diaz was just back from La, where he continues to be writing meant for Season 2 of the particular Hulu series “Nine Perfect Strangers. ” Later that will week, he or she would successfully pitch to a network the half-hour sign-language comedy he’s been developing with 20th Television. By pivoting to screen function, he offers come via a rough time designed for theater OK financially and fulfilled creatively.

Still, this did seem crazy in order to him that four years after writing “You Can get Sick, ” he got never however seen it on its feet.

“Theater, baby, ” he stated. “Man. It’s tough. Long, long haul. ”

Then he ambled past the birds to collect his car plus hit the road just for a short haul — up to New Dreamland, to see their folks. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

Stephanie Diani

For a young actor, it was the worst type of blow: After Solea Pfeiffer acquired been invited to participate, and then invested time, working on the new music “Almost Famous, ” the particular creative team informed her they were looking elsewhere for their Penny Lane.

It was a plum part in the high-profile show, an adaptation of Cameron Crowe’s beloved semi-autobiographical 2000 movie regarding a 15-year-old aspiring music journalist around the ’70s rock scene. Kate Hudson earned an Oscar nomination in the part, a wistful groupie who maintains she’s there for the music, not the men, until the lady breaks the girl own rule.

“I think it’s an important part of my story that I did that first table read, another few weeks associated with development, plus they actually do let me personally go through the project, ” Pfeiffer, now 27, said recently.

She spent two hours being “tragic, ” she said, after that sat down and wrote the creation a bold email, which usually she recalled this way: “I think you’re making the particular wrong decision, and I’ll do what I need in order to do to let a person know this is actually mine. ”

A year later, “through some cosmic forces, this came back. ” So it was Pfeiffer who played the function in the 2019 globe premiere at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego, and who will make her Broadway first in Penny’s fur-trimmed coat and platform shoes. The show, written by Crowe and the composer Tom Kitt, begins previews on the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on April. 3 and opens one month later.

The particular musical’s director Jeremy Herrin turned in order to a 1970s sage to explain what happened: “As Joni Mitchell says, ‘You do not know what you’ve got till it’s gone. ’”

That Pfeiffer had the voice as well as the look wasn’t the question. “She was slightly shy plus didn’t give herself permission to take up space within the space in those early workshops, ” Herrin said.

“The thing about Penny is certainly she’s enigmatic, so the girl has hidden depths, ” he added. “But you don’t want an actress to perform those depths, just to possess them. ”

Neal Preston

It’s hard to square the Solea (pronounced So-LAY-a) Pfeiffer one meets now, confidently arriving at The New York Instances office inside a knotted crop top and flamboyantly ripped jeans, with the shy figure Herrin explains. But the lady and he both say these people believe that she has evolved during the particular pandemic, bringing a more forceful thoughtfulness in order to workshops as the cast began meeting again this year.

The shutdown may have got scuttled a planned fast move to Broadway after the San Diego run, but this was only a bump on Pfeiffer’s professional glide path. Right out associated with the University or college of Michigan in 2016, she was tapped by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic to play Maria in a concert version of “West Side Story” in the Hollywood Bowl. Then: Eliza in “Hamilton” for a year inside California. Soon after “Almost Famous” wrapped in San Diego, she performed the name role associated with “Evita ” from New York’s City Center. (“Remember the particular name, ” Kyle Smith wrote in The National Review . “She commands the stage as an actress and handles the particular vocals with a combination of thunder plus silk that will brings tears towards the eyes. ”)

During the shutdown, Pfeiffer published and performed a solo show for the purpose of Audible, entitled “You Are Here, ” an exploration of her mixed-race identity that includes sterling versions of the theater tunes “Burn” and “Rainbow High, ” because well since Billie Eilish’s “My Future. ”

She memorably calls herself “a nowhere girl from everywhere, ” tracing in 90 minutes the personal history that required her from Zimbabwe, exactly where she was born, to Mozambique, where the girl grew upward speaking Portuguese. After many years of fieldwork, her anthropologist parents obtained teaching jobs in Cleveland and then at the College or university of Washington in Seattle, where the lady attended high school plus began performing in displays.

Being the child of a Black mother and a white father has been isolating, through her extended family and from her classmates. Yet it also allowed her to slide into parts — like Evita and Nancy — that she says would now not be meant for her. “Colorism is very real, ” she mentioned. “What opportunities have I actually been afforded because I am this particular palatable version of the woman associated with color? ”

Pfeiffer’s 1st movie role is in “A Jazzman’s Blues, ” a period piece written and directed simply by Tyler Perry that tackles the complexities of passing. It will certainly have the gala premiere at the particular Toronto International Film Festival this month before streaming on Netflix .

Residing in Harlem and right now well established within the movie theater community, Pfeiffer said she has found that will “my Blackness and the whiteness don’t have to become separated. I can end up being deeply whom I am. ”

And after hearing for yrs about Pennie Trumbull, the woman who have Crowe states inspired Cent Lane, Pfeiffer recently got to spend period with the girl at her ranch outside Portland, Oregon, where they will talked regarding music, gender and power, and the difference between the hanger-on plus a muse.

“She’s one of these people exactly who just claims yes, ” Pfeiffer reported. “It’s a mind-set that I’m getting to this experience — go along for the ride. ” SCOTT HELLER