Get to Know Vanessa Orozco, who plays “Nina” in SDMT’s “In the Heights”
Vanessa is a recent college graduate in Biology and Spanish from Santa Clara University, whose venture into theatre started early in childhood when it came time to choose which extracurricular to do. After performing in different musicals “In the Heights” quickly became in her top list of shows, so when SDMT’s announcement came along, she knew she had to audition! Get to know Vanessa a little more…
What inspired you to get into musical theater?
As a kid, my parents signed me up for softball and soccer to no avail. I was always asking to be taken out of the game and didn’t have the same competitive spirit as my teammates. One day, my mom tried signing me up for a theatre summer camp and I fell in love with it.
What are your favorite shows that you’ve performed in?
Well, this show has quickly moved up my list of favorite shows. If I had to list a couple others, I’d go with when I played Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Natalie in “All Shook Up”.
What is your role in “In the Heights” and tell us the significance of it to you?
I play Nina in “In the Heights”. In this show, Nina is coming home for the first time since she left for college at Stanford where she struggled so much that she has had to drop out. At the start of the show, she has yet to break the news to anyone.
I was lucky enough to play Nina once before in 2014 when I was 15 years old at San Diego Junior Theatre, also with Carlos Mendoza and Richard Morrison as director and musical director of the show. This was also the first time I realized that stories similar to my own were being told on stage. The opportunity to play this role came at such a pivotal point in my life when I wasn’t sure if there were any roles that I would ever fit into. It was the first time I was cast in a show because of my background and not despite it. Now, getting to come back to this show with the same artistic team 8 years later, I feel like I’m fully grasping the importance of not only the story of this show, but the impact it has on an audience and on the people who get to put it on.
How did you feel knowing you’d get to play Nina?
Incredibly nervous and excited! Before this show, I hadn’t performed in a musical in over 4 years and I let a lot of doubt sneak into my brain of whether I could really handle it. Nina is a big role with plenty of big songs, so I look at it as a vocal marathon and try to pace myself, take it one number at a time, and let myself become immersed in the story.
What’s your favorite aspect of this character, what parts of Nina do you relate to?
In a weird way, my favorite aspect of Nina’s character is that she’s learning how to deal with failure. She’s used to being the one with drive and potential and she fails massively at the one thing she has spent most of her life working toward. In this show, she is learning how far her family and her community are willing to go to support her in her times of need.
Throughout my time in college, I had many failures and I also began to truly understand that my family and friends would love me regardless of what path I took in my life. With their love and support, I got my B.S. and now I get to find and follow what brings me joy in life. Nina will fail many more times throughout college and the rest of her life but she, much like myself, now knows she is lucky to have an incredible support system to lean on during difficult times.
Favorite song in the show?
Paciencia y Fe. It’s difficult for me to watch that number from offstage without getting choked up. It makes me think about my abuelas and the struggles they’ve endured in order to provide the opportunities that my parents and myself have been given. My favorite line is, “Are you better off than you were with the birds of La Víbora?” I think that line beautifully puts into perspective the doubts and the fear behind making a decision as big as moving to a new country and trying to build a life for yourself. It reminds me of why I am so grateful to be able to share this story with my abuelas in the audience.
Nina in “In the Heights”! This show is a dream come true!
When she’s not performing, Vanessa works at Novo Brazil Brewing and in her free time loves reading new books, making cocktails and exploring the outdoors. We can wait to see what else you accomplish and perform in, Vanessa!