I was thirteen years old when I first visited London and explored the city with my grandfather. My most magical experience was watching the West End musical ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. I was inspired and wanted to tell bright, beautiful stories just like the one I had seen.
A few years later, I returned to London to study and connected with family friends- Ashley Dartnell and Bruce Steinberg; they became my family in London. Soon I found out that their daughter Cara was living with type 1 diabetes. Cara faces her condition with tremendous strength and spending time with her gave me a closer look into living with the challenges of type 1 diabetes. My friends’ desire to build a better life for their daughter and others like her led them to support JDRF. I slowly learnt more about how the organisation is finding breakthroughs towards a cure for type 1 diabetes.
After university, I performed in Chicago’s theatre circuit and toured Asia with Disney. I was lucky to collaborate with three musical theatre greats – Stephen Schwartz, Chet Walker and Shaun McKenna. I was immediately drawn to Shaun because of his immense writing prowess and generosity of spirit.
While pursuing exams in London, I connected with many West End creatives and JDRF’s work lived with me. Shaun was generous enough to introduce me to a few of his industry contacts including Drew Baker, the creative director at The Piano Works West End. Once during our lunch, Drew offered to help me put on a show to showcase my work. I worked immensely to prove myself and to put on an exhilarating show. I knew I wanted to support JDRF through my work and I immediately asked the Dartnell-Steinbergs about partnering with the charity.
It took a lot of time and effort but my cousin and I brought together Courtney Reed and a dozen American artists to perform for our show and the stage was set to support JDRF’s work. It was especially moving to see Cara in the audience at the show. The family took the stage and shared their story and the amazing work JDRF does to improve lives. The show saw excellent attendance, raised funds for a cause close to my heart and was even featured in reputed news publications!
Shortly after, I headed to Hanoi, Vietnam to co-found a jazz dance showcase with another collaborator. While watching the students express themselves on stage, I sat back and thought about my summer. I was able to showcase my work, raise funds for an impressive cause and pass on my knowledge to a new generation of performers.
On the plane back from Vietnam, I found myself wondering about the night I saw ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. I was blown away by every aspect of the show- the amazing singing and dancing, the lights, and more. As an adult, I realized that the show was so great because every member of the team put in their best. Theatre needs collaboration to thrive, and our society works the same way. It took the hard work of many artists to make a car fly onstage just like it takes a massive group effort to run a charity like JDRF. I believe we can create something great alone, but when we work together, we can create magic.