Rebecca Lee Lerman is an actor, singer, dancer, and writer based in New York City! She is also a staff writer for Hapamag, an online magazine for mixed race Asian, and wrote an original musical called Her Hotel which won Jury Selection Best Production at the Women’s Theatre (Virtual) Fringe Festival this summer! Keep reading to find out more about what makes Rebecca an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Rebecca Lee Lerman
Heritage: Chinese and Ashkenazi Jewish
Hometown: Teaneck, NJ
Current City: New York City
My current project is Her Hotel, an original musical written by me! It won Jury Selection Best Production at the Women’s Theatre (Virtual) Fringe Festival this summer. You can watch it On Demand for $10 Here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/herhotel
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
My favorite roles are Leah in Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey, Ermengarde in Hello Dolly and Cynthia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Zach Theatre.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
My advice is to be yourself, there is only one of you and you are enough. Stay creative. Work begets work. When you make your own work, I find that more opportunities find you.
How did you get your start?
I loved watching Mikhail Baryshnikov dance and I dreamed of partnering with him. I started with ballet, and because I had a Chinese mom, piano. One day I started to sing along to Eponine’s On My Own from Les Miserable, and my mom said I had a huge belt! So I started voice lessons. When I was 9 years old, I got the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at a Jewish sleep away camp. I was hooked for life.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
One of the first big things that I ever booked was a reading of The Peony Pavilion by Maury Yeston. It was a work commissioned by Broadway Across Asia, directed by John Rando. I was so intimidated. I was the lead and the cast was composed of the already successful Asian American Broadway Heavy Hitters: Ann Harada, Ann Sanders, Kay Trinidad, Joanne Javien, Devin Ilaw, Enrico Rodriguez, Alan Ariano, Ray Lee...I was getting imposters syndrome. After the reading, Kelvin Moon Loh told me that someone remarked to Maury Yeston that he had never heard a certain lyric before and asked if he had changed the lyric? Maury said to him, “No I didn’t change it. You just heard it this time because she sings it well.” I will carry that remark in my pocket anytime I feel lesser than.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
The biggest challenge is probably my own self doubt and insecurity. I may not have a Broadway Credit under my belt, and I may not have been acknowledged by certain people who I feel are the “popular kids” in this industry, but I have to remember that I have come a long way. I use to self sabotage my own auditions by hunching over and apologizing for just being in the room. I have come a long way from that. I wrote a musical. I booked a Broadway Property on a National Cruise line. I have to remember not to compare myself to others and remember how far I have come.
Interesting facts about yourself?
I have two cats! Trogdor is a black cat named after a song from the animated Flash Web cartoon, Homestar Runner. And Dren, my Tiger Striped Kitty, is named after the disturbing creature, Dren from the movie Splice!
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with that you’d like to highlight?
This year I got involved with TIPAC (Theatre Industry Political Action Community) and with CTCtogether (Changing the Conversation Together), and deep canvassed door to door in Pennsylvania to stop Trump. They train us to use our personal stories to elicit vulnerability and empathy from the voter to encourage them to vote for our democracy. It was a scary thing, but I can say that I made a small difference in turning PA blue! I am also a staff writer for Hapamag, an online magazine by Mixed race Asians for everyone. I write about health and yoga as well as my experiences as a mixed race person.
Who do you admire?
I admire my best friend, Alex Chester, who referred me to you! She started Hapamag and is a champion for diversity and representation. She’s also the more generous person I know. And she can cook too!
Did you have any mentors?
My late voice teacher, Kenneth Kamal Scott, I would have considered my mentor. Before him, my soprano voice was a squeak in the wind. He’s got me sounding full and operatic. He taught me how to sing healthy. He was my biggest champion. No matter how I was feeling during the lesson, he made me feel like my voice was so special. When he was auditioning for Broadway, back in the 60s, someone whispered in his ear, “Sorry, we’re not hiring any (N-words) today.” He became one of the original Wizards in The Wiz on Broadway. He was prolific in Opera and Jazz. When he passed, I don’t think I have ever sobbed harder. No one can replace him as a teacher. He means so much to me.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
I worked at a Doggy Day care for a little bit! I really enjoyed being amongst dogs all day. If they had paid more, I would have stayed.
Do you have any other “special skills?”?
I was getting good at pole dancing, but man, those classes are expensive. And with Covid, I’ll have to start from square one again.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Where did you study?
I studied at Sarah Lawrence College.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
So far, the musical I wrote! Here is the link again https://vimeo.com/ondemand/herhotel
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I’d like to start learning how to become a professional film editor. I have done a lot of my own film editing out of necessity, when I couldn’t get someone to edit my own passion projects. I might as well learn the professional programs like Avid and Adobe.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love connecting with people. As an introvert, it can be hard to do. Working on a Theatre piece makes it easier to bond with others. There’s also a special connection that happens with the audience.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I don’t know if I’ve had a biggest failure. I beat myself up after auditions that I feel I could have done better at. Yoga, breath work, meditation, the occult (Tarot Cards, candles, chanting, astrology, sage) and self care (salt baths) and healing foods really help. I’m a certified Reiki Level One practitioner. All kinds of healing modalities really help when I feel like I have failed at something.
If you’ve crossed the table from performing to being on a creative team, what made you take the leap into directing/music directing, and how did it change your way of thinking?
I always wanted to write. Half out of necessity because there are so little opportunities for someone mixed race like me, but also because I love the feeling. Whether or not it gets realized, just writing something down on paper is an extremely empowering feeling.
What inspires you?
John Cameron Mitchell and his musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The musical is about striving to love yourself just as you are. It’s a universal feeling and unifies us all. It’s the best musical in the world.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Letting go of my 14 year relationship. He was someone who cheated on me and told me I wasn’t enough. I kept holding on and chasing after him because I thought I had to prove my worth to him. He actually said to me once, “What else do you have to offer, besides theater?” When I was finally able to let go, that’s when the light came in and healthy relationships and opportunities started to find me.
To find out more about Rebecca, please visit her at:
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