Sushma Saha is a singer, dancer, and performer based in New York City (with the same size hands as Michael Jackson and the ability to sing the alphabet backwards). Encouraged by her sister and mother to pursue musical theatre, Saha attended Ithaca College and got their start through the department’s email, which led to a casting call for the new musical Interstate by Melissa Li & Kit Yan at New York Musical Festival. Finding representation in that work, ze submitted and booked the show. Now, Saha’s credits include Girlfriend (the Matthew Sweet jukebox musical), The Wolves, and most recently Broadway’s revival of 1776! Offstage, she’s working on an EP (“This Isn’t About You”) to be released this summer and makes it her mission to “represent the underrepresented and to be a voice for the voiceless.” Her advice for young artists? “Making art for a living is a doozy because art is usually a source of joy and part of our identities . . . but you also gotta pay the bills, ya know? Just know there are going to be jobs you take to serve the former, jobs you take to serve the latter, and the lucky jobs you get that serve both purposes.” Read on to learn more about Sushma Saha and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Sushma Saha
Heritage: Indian/South Asian
Hometown: Harrisburg, PA
Current City: NYC
Current project: 1776 Broadway revival
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Interstate by Melissa Li & Kit Yan, Girlfriend (the Matthew Sweet jukebox musical) by Todd Almond directed by Sivan Battat at The Drama League’s DirectorFest 2022, and The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh to name a few.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Making art for a living is a doozy because art is usually a source of joy and part of our identities… but you also gotta pay the bills, ya know? Just know there are going to be jobs you take to serve the former, jobs you take to serve the latter, and the lucky jobs you get that serve both purposes: never take those jobs for granted and soak up every second on those kinds of jobs.
How did you get your start?
I went to Ithaca College for musical theatre, where we got casting calls for a bunch of professional jobs through our department email. One casting call we got during my sophomore year was looking for someone to play a genderqueer South Asian kid who could sing mezzo soprano for a new musical called Interstate by Melissa Li & Kit Yan that was being featured at New York Musical Festival that year and I was like “woah, that’s literally me” so I submitted for it and booked it! 4 years later and I’ve been working pretty consistently since: forever grateful for that experience and the doors it opened for me career-wise.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Anytime I get to meet someone who tells me they felt seen and understood because of the work I did as a queer actor and/or as a Desi/POC actor has always been my favorite part of my career. It reminds me why I do what I do and why I love my job.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Unlearning the things that I think are obstacles in my career when in reality it’s just my own insecurities getting in my own way. As unkind as this industry can be to people like me, I’ve found that other people are way more kind toward/confident in my talent than I am sometimes, so muting the mean and unproductive chatter in my brain has been (and still is) the hardest part for me.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
Who do you admire?
My older sister. She’s one of the most level-headed and grounded people I’ve ever known who makes active choices to live a happy, healthy, and well-rounded life, which I struggle to do.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I actually didn’t plan on pursuing the arts seriously until my sister and mother sat me down one day the summer before my senior year of high school and asked me: “Have you considered becoming a performer and studying it in college?” I immediately started crying because I thought deep down that’s what I wanted to do but didn’t think I could handle it or even make it. But they seemed to have so much confidence in me that I felt like it would be a shame if I didn’t at least give it a try. I’m so glad I did!
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?
I don’t even know where I’m going to be tomorrow, let alone in a few months or few years. I live by the philosophy that time is never promised, so I try not to set expectations for my future self, who might be somewhere completely different and want different things.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
I worked at a kids store after moving to NYC and before I started working consistently: it was a LOT of work, but I got to come home with all kinds of crazy stories (good crazy and bad crazy) that I can look back on now and laugh.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I can play the harmonica! I also can sing the alphabet backwards, which I think is more important if you ask me.
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
I’m releasing an EP next summer called “This Isn’t About You” – first single is out June 8th, second single is out July 15th, and the whole thing will be out August 9th 2023!
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?
I get my ambition from my mother, and my work ethic from my father, both of which have helped me so much to get to where I am I think.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
You’re really great. I encourage you to see that in yourself before everyone else does.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
My ability to adapt to any situation physically/emotionally/mentally.
Where did you study at?
What is your greatest accomplishment?
My daily commitment to be intentional and kind to the world around me.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
If my work makes even just one Brown and/or queer person feel seen and understood, a big goal of mine will have been achieved.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that what I do can make people feel seen and understood. I also love that what I do can hold a mirror up to people and make them re-examine the way they live and their behavior and their morals. But I love how what I do can be a fun escape for people too.
What inspires you?
My main inner fire is stoked by the desire to represent the underrepresented and to be a voice for the voiceless whenever I can. I know so many incredible people who don’t necessarily have a platform to spread the good they have to offer on a grander scale like they want, so as my platform grows I want to make sure I’m amplifying them with mine.
To find out more about Sushma Saha, please visit them at:
YouTube: Sushma Saha (2 channels)
Comments will be approved before showing up.