We still have a long way to go but we can’t deny that we’ve made strides when it comes to diversity and seeing more women of color reflected in beauty, fashion, film, and television. But one thing we don’t talk enough about is the lack of diversity in theater. Afro-Latina actress and model, Sharon Gallardo can tell you first hand how it is. If you’re a fan of Beyonce and was obsessed with the Lemonade album — like most of us were — chances are you’d recognize Gallardo. She was actually one of the three women who modeled Beyonce’s merch during her Formation tour. She was also recently featured in New York Magazine‘s: The Cut. The Dominican-born and NYC-based beauty gets real about the lack of diversity that’s still very much a reality in the theater acting world.
“I feel like finding work as an actor is hard regardless of whether you’re Latina or not. But it’s definitely harder if you’re a minority,” she tells HipLatina. “Also the fact that sometimes I will submit for a Latina role but they don’t mean Latinas that look like me, they mean the Sofia Vergara type of Latina. A lot of people still aren’t familiar with the [idea] that being Latina also means you can be brown with curly hair.”
Diversity has been an issue in the theater for the longest. With the exception of musicals like Hamilton, On Your Feet, and The Color Purple, you still don’t see a lot of plays with Black, Latino, or Asian-Americans playing the leads. White actors still dominate. A 2018 study by the Asian American Performers Acting Coalition (AAPC) found that there’s been a 30 percent increase in theater roles for minority actors but it’s still a slow climb, especially for productions outside of Broadway.
It’s the lack of diversity Gallardo has experienced in acting in general (theater, TV, and film) that drove her to this one particular project: a play called The Pregnancy Test that made its way to the New York Theater Festival this month.
“The Pregnancy Test is a play written by a friend of mine that went to acting school with me here in NYC,” she says. “Her name is Lucia Gomez-Robledo and she’s an actress and writer from Mexico. When she sent me this material after she did the play in Mexico at the Microteatro, I was instantly drawn to the material.”
Not only did Gallardo like the script and wanted to support her friend, but the fact that the show was made up of all foreign actors really appealed to her. Play Wright Lucia Gomez-Robledo is from Mexico City, director Ron Tsur is from Israel, Actress Fleur Voorn is from The Netherlands, and Gallardo, as mentioned previously, is originally from the Dominican Republic. Being part of a diverse production written by a fellow Latina spoke to her and after receiving Robledo’s permission, Gallardo decided to translate the show and produce it in NYC.
“I was really excited to work on this because I’ve come to the realization that you gotta go do your own thing and champion your people as oppose to [waiting] for someone to give you a shot.
In the play, Gallardo plays Adriana, a 28-year-old freelance illustrator who suspects she might be pregnant and does not take it well. Her lawyer friend Alex (played by Fleur Voorn) tries to help her through this crazy crisis but in the end, Gallardo is left to make a decision.
One of the things that really stands out about Gallardo’s character — who is Latina — is that she doesn’t meet any of the negative stereotypes that we often see Latina characters associated with. Even the pregnancy possibility is approached in a way that feels relatable to any woman in her late 20s, still going after her career dreams.
“That’s the thing with my character, I feel like she’s this artist/free spirited person that has never dealt with a life-changing situation before and is not used to [asking] for help either,” says Gallardo. “I feel like there are a lot of roles that fellow Latinas avoid doing but to me depending on how they’re written, I believe stories have to be told and deserve to be told. As women, we can all be in this position and we all have that friend that has her life together [with] the shiny perfect office job or so it seems.”
Gallardo believes times like these inspire women of color to take matters into their own hands by writing and creating the roles they want to see.
“It’s important because representation matters… it makes me so upset see to see White people taking roles that were meant to be for an Asian, Black, or Hispanic [actor]. At least speaking for myself, growing up in the Dominican Republic and watching Mexican soap operas — nobody looked like me. [I didn’t feel reflected in acting] until The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came through and [I noticed that Hillary’s character looked like me]. Before that, I never felt like I looked like any actors on TV.”
As for what Gallardo would like people to take home from this production: a sense of empowerment.
“I would say that strong women should empower each other because at the end of the day Alex and Adri (the two best friends in the play) are very different but they both have fears and good days and bad days,” she says. “It’s like the famous quote, ‘everybody feels like everybody else, just not at the same time.’ The human experience is not exclusive you know and regardless of the ups and downs, having friends that are there for you is a big blessing.”
The Pregnancy Test will be running at the Hudson Guild Theater in NYC until Sunday, March 10.