RVC Starlight Theatres First Director Of Color
When he first learned he would be directing Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre's production of Dreamgirls, Mychall Cornejo felt a mix of shock, excitement, and fear. You see, Mychall is the first person of color to direct at Starlight Theatre. He is hopeful he will not be the last.
"It opens the door to so many possibilities that we at Starlight are trying to convey. Whether someone is Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or any person of color, we want them to be able to see themselves in our shoes and aspire to push the boundaries so that we can have a more diverse community," explained Mychall.
While Dreamgirls opened on Broadway just more than forty years ago, this powerful production is still relevant as it examines subject matter such as the rise of Motown and Black artists as well as equal pay and fighting the idea that women belong in the home and not the workforce. The musical focuses on a small black record label and how its artists crossed over to the pop charts. Further, it highlights the often complex relationships between the fictional characters involved in the movement.
As for Starlight, the production was originally slated to be performed in the summer of 2020 with a different creative team. At that time, Mychall was set to choreograph. "With a mixture of COVID forcing us to take a year off and wanting proper representation behind the directing table and onstage, we started looking for other options," said Mychall.
Starlight's Artistic Director, Christopher Brady, acknowledges the importance of inclusion and representation. "We work tirelessly around here to create a space where everyone can bring their authentic and whole selves to the theatre. Therefore, we sought to create a production team for Dreamgirls comprised of women and people of color."
Little did Mychall know that would lead to him being the first director of color at Starlight with one of the most diverse teams we've had to date.
Christopher and Mychall (pictured) agree – representation matters.
According to Mychall, "This level of representation is so important because it allows ANYONE of color to look up and hopefully be inspired that they too can create the beautiful shows we put on at Starlight Theatre."
Christopher added, "This piece of theatre and the adventure they will take us on proves the power of diverse stories told by actors of color. Representation matters, and story-telling, at its greatest, should reflect the community surrounding it while presenting what challenges it."
Starlight is intentional and thoughtful with its approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Both Christopher and Mychall hope to welcome new and diverse performers and audience members to the theatre. "We know we have the talent in the area, and we want to make sure everyone understands that Starlight Theatre is actively trying to encourage people of color to audition for and attend all the shows," said Mychall.
He continued, "It's going to take some time to shift the culture over to where any person of color can look onstage and say I want to be this character or I want to direct or choreograph this show, but we need to start somewhere, and we're really trying."
"I am so incredibly proud of Mychall and his entire team. They have created a beautiful piece of work that shows the importance of story-telling, especially from the standpoint of color," said Christopher.
This show has become so important to Mychall on so many levels.
"I will never forget this experience for as long as I live," said Mychall. "Right from the beginning, the excitement when our team was first selected, to the read-through where we saw a cast divided, to the rehearsal where people's walls came down, and friendships were formed."
Even on the so-called bad days, Mychall took it all in stride and leaned into his role. "We came back the next day, stronger than before, and each night after that kept getting better and better."
The outcome is a stunningly beautiful piece of art that showcases some of the best talent in the stateline area. Come see Dreamgirls before it's gone. For more information, visit RVCStarlight.com.