Lainie Sakakura is a director, choreographer, and writer based in NYC with an impressive 33 year career in the Arts! Her credits include starring in 6 original Broadway casts, including Fosse and Chita Rivera The Dancer’s Life, and she’s been awarded the Joe A. Callaway Award for Outstanding Choreography and the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Choreography! Sakakura also became the second AAPI Radio City Rockette since Setsuko Maruhashi in 1985. Her creative team experience led her to direct and create the book for Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a new musical adaptation of the NY Times BestSeller,Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, as well as co-conceiving and writing for Celebrating Asian Americans on Broadway and 60th Anniversary of Flower Drum Song for BCEFA’s Red Bucket Follies, and acting as the writer and director for every NYC Alvin Ing solo show! Offstage, she serves as co-founder for both Rockettes of Color Alumnae and Sakachez, and advocates for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, National Asian Artists Project, and more! Her advice to young artists? “Do something for your career each day,” take special care of your mental headspace, and know that “your happiness is your success… [which] doesn’t necessarily live on Broadway.” Read on to learn more about Lainie Sakakura and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Lainie Sakakura
Heritage: Japanese American
Hometown: Born in Oakland, CA
Current City: NYC!
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I’m 5’6, 1/2 Nisei, 1/2 Sansei, and very Japanese in my morals and values.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
There have been a lot of moments in my 33 year career. A fun one is when I reconstructed “Big Spender” featuring Chita Rivera and Ann Reinking for Cy Coleman’s Memorial. Annie asked me to stay after rehearsal to go over her choreography privately, but my friend, Robert Tatad who was babysitting my toddler already brought her back. Without missing a beat, I put my daughter on my hip and did Annie’s “Big Spender” choreography with her. I wish I had a picture of that moment.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Do something for your career every day. Work on your craft, take class, go to an audition, vocalize, read, watch great artists, and be ready for when that opportunity comes along. Never type yourself out. The breakdown for my first show was the opposite of my type and the Tony winning director/choreographer had never hired an AAPI performer before. Show up. Take care of your emotional health and focus on the joy of the process. Don’t wait for your imaginary version of success to arrive, before you let yourself be happy. Your happiness is your success. P.S. – that can look like anything, and it doesn’t necessarily live on Broadway.
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Balancing motherhood with my career. Everyone says you can have it all if you just work hard enough. It’s not true, and that idea puts too much pressure on women. Being 100% there as a mother and 100% there for my career is mathematically impossible. Balancing both requires juggling priorities back and forth and outside support. I’m not saying you have to give up on one but this idea of being 100% both 100% of the time just makes you feel like a disappointment in both. Artists don’t have a 5-day week 9 to 5 work schedule. We work at least 6 days a week, many times 12 hours a day, plus training, homework, prep, PT, and traveling out of town. My husband’s contracts are almost always out of town so that made it even harder with a two show-parent household. Yes, I performed in two Broadway shows after having children, but I also turned down countless opportunities as well. I have to weigh every decision carefully and make hard choices every single day.
What skills did you find most to be the most helpful in your career?
It’s not a skill, but a point of view. I found a deeper meaning for my existence in our industry that has nothing to do with personal gain. It’s kept me strong, fulfilled, and motivated to persevere and keep moving forward.
To find out more about Lainie, please visit her at:
Instagram: @LainieSaka and @OfficialSakachez
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