Karla Garcia is an actor based in New York City! She has performed on Broadway in Hot Feet and Hamilton, performing in the 2016 Tonys with the original cast of Hamilton! She was also in the NBC TV show Smash and is currently choreographing a new musical called Other World. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Karla an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Karla Puno Garcia
Hometown: Oxon Hilll, MD - a suburb outside of DC
Current City: New York, NY
Choreographer of OTHER WORLD, a new musical. Currently a swing in Broadway's Hamilton: An American Musical
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
Hamilton; NBC'S Smash; any of my own concept videos produced by me
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Be fearless in your ability to just DO. Create, create, create! Trial and error is how we form our voice.
How did you get your start?
I began dancing competitively at the age of 8. From there, I saw my first Broadway show that year and I was hooked. I majored in dance in college and then got my Broadway debut in a dance musical Hot Feet at the age of 20 while I was still in school.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
Doing the Tony Awards in 2016 with the original cast of Hamilton was undeniably one of the most exciting moments of my life. I had grown up watching the Tony's, and to be a part of history, performing with one of the most powerful shows of the decade was incredible.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
In the beginning, definitely trying to "fit in" to a certain mold of casting and what they would want was hard to get used to. Although rejection is inevitable, I didn't like how my happiness was subject to when I booked jobs as a dancer. As I started creating and choreographing and finding my voice more, I realized that's what really made me happy.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I was the first Filipina cast in any company of Hamilton.
I love this filipino dish called balut. It's basically duck embryo, and that freaks people out, but I can eat six in one sitting.
My dad taught me how to move my ears.
I say weird things like "open the light," instead of "turn the light on."
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids has been a huge blessing to a lot of people in my industry.
Who do you admire?
Kamala Harris!! She is paving the way for all females (especially females of color) who know how to get things done!
Do you have any mentors?
I have a lot of choreographer mentors - Josh Bergasse, Sergio Trujillo, Josh Prince, Joanne Hunter, Andy Blankenbeuler.
Some of my chosen family and close friends have honestly been my spiritual mentors. I think those connections are so important for growth and maturity.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I always wanted and knew I was going to be in the arts. I enjoy writing, so I minored in journalism, which I believe is still artistic. I see choreography as the physical embodiment of writing.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
When I saw my godsister perform in the National Touring show Fosse.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between shows to pay the bills?
I did a lot of things in college like worked at Express (don't do it), hostessed at a restaurant, passed out fliers. However, in between shows, my bread and butter was definitely teaching. I taught at many dance studios weekly. This allowed me to develop my love of choreography and my ability to pass on knowledge after each show experience I had.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I'm a huge movie buff, so I probably would be really good at movie analysis haha.
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
I taught a free class every Friday at the start of the pandemic and saved the classes to my Instagram Live. I encouraged everyone to donate to the highlighted organization each week. These classes are still available, and I would love to encourage people to take and donate if they can.
If you come from parents aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
My Dad was a musician/composer/playwright and my mom is a wonderful singer. I inherited a lot of my musicality and love of music and movies from my Dad. Our family instilled in us a refined taste in the arts at a very young age. We watched Broadway shows, listened to the Beatles, and had movie marathons weekly. This has obviously affected me as an artist and I'm so grateful to have had that upbringing.
Where did you study at?
a small studio in Oxon Hill, MD called Fran's Studio of Dance groomed me to be a Broadway dancer. Then, I got my BFA in dance from NYU Tisch.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
I don't see one. I have favorite moments like the Tony Awards, my Broadway debut in HOT FEET, my first professional choreography gig In The Heights at Virginia Repertory which I won Best choreography for ... but I realized success is what you believe it is, and it is always morphing. My ultimate goal is to choreograph Broadway shows, but then I'll have new goals after that. I think having a culmination of experiences is what makes me feel accomplished.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that my job constantly involves passion. It gives me joy and lets me meet incredible people each day. I love sharing what I create with others and passing on what I have learned throughout the years.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I don't have any regrets or ever feel like I made a mistake. I think the ability to accept rejection is something that I improved upon throughout the years. Finding my love of choreography allowed me also cancel out that feeling.
If you’ve crossed the table from performing to being on a creative team, what made you take the leap to writing or directing/music directing/choreographing, and how did it change your way of thinking?
I have begun the transition while I'm still performing in Hamilton and other projects. I think being on both sides has helped me incredibly. I believe I am more valuable as both a performer and creative team member having empathy for what dancers go through and also how one mounts a show. I don't think I'll stop performing anytime soon.
What inspires you?
Movies, personal experience like loss and love ... and most of all MUSIC. When I hear a piece of music that moves me, I am immediately inspired to create a thought through movement.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Joining Hamilton on Broadway provided me a bigger platform to teach, choreograph, and also share my story more widespread as a Filipina American artist. That was definitely a life-changing moment.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I'm extremely family-oriented and feel that this support system - my immediate family, my new family ( I just got engaged! =)), or chosen family ... connecting with people consistently has fulfilled me greatly, and I encourage that for others. <3
To find out more about Karla, please visit her at:
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