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February 26, 2022 4 min read


Jay Adana is a songwriter based in fabulous Las Vegas. Though a middle school play piqued her interest in the Arts, it wasn’t until Adana saw Bernadette Peters’ performance in Into The Woods that she decided to pursue a career in entertainment. After receiving her BFA at SUNY Purchase Acting Conservatory and attending several other schools for music writing and production, she’s gone on to win the Richard Rodgers Award for The Loophole, the Vivace Award for Vera and the Battle of New Seoul, and The Jonathan Larson Grant, and has had her work produced on the prominent stages of La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, New World Stages, and more. Her advice for young artists? “Take business classes and listen to your gut always.” An advocate for creating a broad foundation, Adana recommends budding performers and creators get as much experience in as many disciplines as possible – and to get comfortable asking for help. Read on to learn more about Jay and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

Name:   Jay Adana

Heritage:   Korean/Irish

Hometown:   Santa Clarita 

Current City:   Las Vegas

Current project:   The Jordan & Avery Show

What are some of your favorite credits/projects: 

“I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens.”

Any advice for young people getting into the arts? 

Take business classes and listen to your gut always.

How did you get your start?

I was the comic relief in a 4th grade production of “Gold Dust or Bust”. Completely hooked.

Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?

The very first love song I wrote was used as someone’s wedding vows. It’s the highest compliment I can imagine receiving.

What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?

Musical theater is hard to produce and incredibly expensive.

Do you have any mentors?

Mei Ann Teo has been an incredible friend and champion of my work. Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, and Jeanie O’Hare have also been life changing to my work and I’m so so grateful. I’d also be lost without my friend and frequent collaborator Zeniba Now. 

When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?

I watched the VHS recording of “Into the Woods” by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and there’s a moment where Bernadette Peters squishes an imaginary bug on the floor and the moment was so juicy and delicious, I needed to make more. Like tasting your first donut and knowing you need to be a baker.

Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?

Oh man, I worked at a karaoke store, I was Pepe Le Pew at Six Flags, I have worked in many a dingy dive bar. I worked at Subway for 15 minutes before they showed me the big vat of pickles and I ran away. 

If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?

My mother was interested in the arts and told very firmly by her immigrant parents that was completely unreasonable. There weren’t any American actresses who looked like her. So, she encouraged all of my artistic impulses and called me her revenge.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

Study broadly. Having a broad base of knowledge can only help. And if there’s something you think it would make your life easier to know, ASK FOR HELP! Often other people love to teach you something they thought was interesting enough to take the time to learn.

Where did you study at?

SUNY Purchase Acting Conservatory for a BFA in Acting, #BARS at The Public for writing and performing verse driven theater, DGF Fellows for writing musicals, and Garnish Music School for music production.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I have a lyric or two that make me feel like I can die happy, but the best thing about my life by far is the wild overflowing love I have in it. Friends, family, my incredible partner. I’m hesitant to call my relationships accomplishments, and then I think about the really tough days when love is hard and remember love is the highest accomplishment I can strive for.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love waking up with a new idea. It makes my time feel electric.

What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?

I was really lucky to have a trusted peer prod me into talking about it. I let it sit and fester inside for way too long and talking about it really put the whole thing in perspective and freed me up in way more aspects of my life than just my career.

How do you think your creative process has changed over time?

I keep getting better at listening. Which is the most valuable skill I think a person can hone, but especially artists.

As a storyteller, how do you pick the stories you want to work on and what goes into putting a story together, whether on stage, page, or film?

Musicals take a very long time to make. It could be hard to maintain inspiration on a single project for a decade if the story and the characters don’t speak to you. I pay attention to what’s demanding my attention when the veil is thinnest. Who wakes me up in the morning and doesn’t let me sleep at night. 

To find out more about Jay Adana, please visit her at: 


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