"Put your hands up and go along for the ride. There is something really beautiful to be experienced and had"

Actress Kalyn West shares her journey being part of the cast of The Gardens of Anuncia, the Old Globe's upcoming production

Kalyn West in The Gardens of Anuncia. Photo by Jim Cox.
In the middle of 2019, going through life pandemic-free, Kalyn West was finishing up her participation in The Prom on Broadway. She received the script for a new piece that was going to be developed in San Diego. After reading it, something clicked. It spoked to her. "I was very moved. So profoundly moved, I had to go to another room because I started crying. It was that moving". 

The Gardens of Anuncia is a Globe-commissioned world premiere musical inspired by Argentinian dancer and choreographer Graciela Daniele 'Grazie', who has been working on Broadway since 1964, and will be honored this year at the Tony Awards for lifetime achievement in theater.

Once the engines had started, so did the pandemic. And as with many projects, everything held until further notice. "I was really upset and worried that this was not going to come back..."

Kalyn will be portraying the role of younger Anuncia. With the opportunity to have Grazie in the room and compare notes."She is such a playful, bright, effervescent kind of spirit" It was very special".

Graciela Daniele is also responsible for the direction and choreography of Anuncia. West describes it as a story about single women, powerful women, and women who had to overcome odds and find their own strength within themselves. "I resonate with that very powerfully. I saw a lot of my family in this story. I can relate even though I have my own history. It felt like it was mine in a way".

Rehearsals and a fast block

The Salt Lake City native is enjoying the beautiful setting in Balboa park surrounded by the San Diego sunshine. 

"The Globe and all of its family has made us feel welcomed and held. Acknowledging this time where we are coming from. There is a deep awareness moving into a different territory with a different environment mixed with new intentions".

(from left) Carmen Roman appears as Older Anuncia, Mary Testa as Granmama, Eden Espinosa as Mamí, Kalyn West as Younger Anuncia, and Andréa Burns as Tía in The Gardens of Anuncia. Photo by Jim Cox.

With the new normalities, West confirms that the piece was blocked at a good and fast pace being that everybody is in a collaborative state that is also playful and experimental. An incredible group of people true with their intention and vulnerability. "I feel very safe with this group that we have. Everybody is a 'yes and' kind of person. Safety is a huge gamechanger". 

Tackling a role based on an actual living person

Having a person direct and choreograph a show based on their life might feel a little intimidating, to say the least. Daniele took the pressure off Kalyn and fellow actress Carmen Roman who plays older Anuncia.

"We are not trying to imitate her. We are not literally doing imitations of Grazie and putting her on the stage. She has given us freedom to discover who this version of her within this world is. That is very freeing in a big way because it allows me to bring a lot of myself to the table"

Graciela Daniele. Photo courtesy of The Old Globe.

"It's been fascinating and such a gift. We are building this homage to her life and to these incredible women who shaped her. Talking to her, looking into her eyes, and holding her hands. You are getting a direct window into her world and that is a unique experience. I have the blessing of having the woman in the room! she does not give me direction, she gave me a memory! it is such a tremendous gift".

What can audiences expect? 

Whether familiar or not with Graciela Daniele and her journey through Broadway, Kayla assures that you do not see many shows like this.

Michael John LaChiusa. Photo by Warren Abbott.
"I am very proud of what we have put up. It is a heart piece, it is a soul piece, it is going to pull strings that you didn't know were there and I do not know how Michael John does it. His orchestrations get down to the deepest levels of your heart and your soul tapestry and he just knows where the strings are and how to get to them with the tiniest amount of effort.

This is about the women, the history, the relationship, about lessons, guidance, and forgiveness. 

It is very magical. "

What is next?

After this, Kayla will bring her own spin to a new role coming her way. Something exciting that has to be a secret for now. In the meantime, Kalyn is aware, ready to shine in and with San Diego and also shares some thoughts on the current climate.

"I just hope that everybody is taking the time and the space that they need and hope that everyone is breathing. It is ok to reevaluate your boundaries with things. Making ourselves a priority in these upcoming months and years as we heal and move forward is going to be really crucial. I am wishing a lot of self-care and grace to everybody that comes and does not come to the show."

The Guardians of Anuncia is currently playing at The Old Globe Theatre until October 17. With book, music, and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. For more information go to www.theoldglobe.org 

Get a glimpse of rehearsal here:

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