"Call Me Adam" spoke with Angela Johnson last year when she was volunteering with Broadway Impact, really helping them in the fight to legalize gay marriage. Since then, Angela volunteered on Gavin Creel's "Noise" music video, continues her volunteering with Broadway Impact, is working at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, putting together their 2012 walk-a-thon, and introducing "at risk" kids to musical theatre through her mentoring program volunteer efforts.
1. Last time we spoke, you were heading up Broadway Impact's AIDS Walk Team. How did you come to work on Gavin Creel's "Noise" Video? That’s true, I was! I just stay current on what's happening for equality and when I heard about “Noise” I was game on. No credit to me for working on it; just a volunteer to the project. Not only because I believe deeply in its message but moreover, one of my favorite people on the planet, Andrew Keenan-Bolger was directing. Andrew captures the human spirit on film better than anyone in our community. Anything he and Gavin associate themselves to is only going to be for good and touch people in a positive way so taking part was a joy. Cheers to them :) Their product is outstanding.
2. What did working on the video mean to you? How do you think the song will help people? It meant that I was energy in a room lifting up love; awesome feeling :) “Noise” transcends boundaries and that’s why its message is necessary. For those who already support, it lets them know that the good fight is still there in the community. For those who feel alone or unseen, they’ll find comfort in Gavin’s open leadership. People who can’t fight for themselves need to always know others are fighting for them. For those who don’t yet see that love wins “Noise” gets the conversation going.
It’s my hope that with diligence and education understanding people come around. However, I have acceptance that not everyone "comes around." The nature of change is proof though-people will be forced to either rise to understanding or stand aside. I'm alright with it either way-stand aside and we'll gracefully pass you on our way to the top ;)
3. What made you want to volunteer for the play "8" by Dustin Lance Black? How do you think this play has helped in the fight for the legalization of gay marriage? My volunteer position for "8" was via a bat call request from Gavin. “8’ is developing at a perfect time. It's about to blow the roof off the fight for legalization of gay marriage. Broadway Impact and American Federation for Equal Rights are united for this project, and it’s brilliant. Not only is their mission unstoppable but they have hugely prominent figures in the community behind them. George Clooney just signed on for the LA production. Morgan Freeman, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Bradley Whitford were all in the NY production this fall…just amazing. So it’s helping in all the ways “Noise” is as well. It’s all the same winning fight :) I encourage everyone to read into “8's” history and keep current with its happenings.
4. You are also starting to work with "at risk" kids. Why do you want introduce them to musical theatre? If you could take them to any show, what show would you have them see? Ah “at risk" :) Using “at risk” is difficult for me because I just see kids as kids and I want them to see me as someone who is prepared to listen to whatever is on their heart; I'll build them up from there. Musical theatre because it's my background. Musical theatre is awesome because it’s so widely open to interpretation. For children and their development musical theatre allows them to see safe expression in a controlled environment. My most powerful experience with Musical Theatre was when I spent time with children at the Florida School for the Deaf & Blind-seeing them feel vibrations and be so deeply affected or seeing them just take it in with their eyes but smile because they were creating their own story in their head-best time of my life :) Kids are genius. I’d take them to see "Memphis." "Memphis" is a story of injustice, poverty, challenging the status quo, love, expressed hate...reality. I don’t believe in shielding kids or preaching. I believe in education, exposing them safely to choices, guiding their hearts with faith and then stepping back to see what choices they’ll make on their own. Stepping back is very hard when your work has run its course yet you still care deeply about something. It's a really eye opening experience.
5. If you could have any musical theatre performer come talk to these kids, who would you choose? I’m cheating with this one :) In alphabetical order: Nick Dalton, Brian Letendre and Brian Patrick Murphy. When you’re dealing with people, children especially, you need people who understand the development of nurturing; those three do. Awesome hearts who instill love in a profound way. Nick Dalton is also heavily involved with ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), Brian Letendre is not only the most nurturing person I know but he also graduated from Julliard and has been on Broadway ever since he graduated-he means the world to me. Brian Patrick Murphy teaches musical theatre students at Wagner College, is a certified fitness instructor on staff at Mark Fisher Fitness, a Southern heart, he and Brian Letendre are both uncles :) I can't say enough. Just..amazing men in our community who I love for the work they humbly do for the greater good.
6. If there was any message you could get to "at risk" children, what would it be? Everyone hurts. Everyone has times they feel lonely. It’s okay to go through whatever you’re going through. From my experience, it’s when people are at their most afraid, anxious, hurt or vulnerable that they turn to anger or release in a temporary way. It doesn't mean that they are "bad" "worse" or need harsh judgement because of those moments; it just means they are hurting. I firmly believe that there is longevity in genuine love. There is longevity in open communication. Someone will be there to listen if you let them no matter how extreme you feel your situation is. Someone will always love you through circumstantial pain. I for sure will :)
7. Now you are working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. How did this come about? Honestly, it’s primarily through my organization of Broadway Impacts AIDS Walk team that I now work in fundraising :) I am a Special Events Specialist within the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and it was the best timing ever because I was getting ready to relocate to DC for an opportunity within the Democratic National Convention and then…the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fell into place a week before my move. I was hired as the youngest in my office by a decade and feel extremely fortunate to be entrusted with my position.
8. If you could have any celebrity speak for Cystic Fibrosis, who would you choose? Oprah…in all seriousness, Oprah. Here’s why. Cystic Fibrosis is an orphan disease – a terminal illness that affects over 30,000 people in the United States alone; 70% are diagnosed by age two. Despite that, it’s not federally funded at this time. Oprah has prolific social influence and endless financial means. I’m a firm believer in asking big; so long as there’s intelligent strategy. Reaches aren’t as far as people may think :)
9. How do you think the Broadway community can help with the fight against Cystic Fibrosis? They already are! :) Hillary Elk of MEMPHIS and Lisa Karlin of ADDAMS FAMILY have already donated their time to lead backstage tours to auction winners; both winners were actually Cystic Fibrosis patients. Hillary and Lisa are rockstars and the impact they had was tremendous. Not only for the heart of the people they are affecting but from a financial standpoint-those packages are over $500.00; a little time of an individual in our community goes a long way. Another rockstar in our community, Nina Sturtz, has a best friend, Lydnsey, who lives with Cystic Fibrosis. Nina hugely champions her best friend and is vocally supportive to find a cure to Cystic Fibrosis. I’ve only been at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for four months, but I look forward to getting our community further involved in 2012.
10. What have you learned about yourself from all your volunteering? Entering every situation from a humble place with the pure intent to serve has not failed me yet :)