By Jeff Walsh
Anthony Lee Medina first caught my attention when he nearly fell on me during the Spring Awakening tour in San Francisco. I was seated onstage, and he took an impressive spill during 'Bitch of Living,' that only seemed to energize him more for the song.
I'm never quite sure what it is about seeing certain performers in a show, and you follow them after that show, but I've always kept up with Anthony (Facebook helps there).
Of course, since that time in 2008, I spent much of the time erroneously thinking Anthony was straight and not Oasis material, a notion that was quickly dispelled upon seeing his solo show, Anthony Lee Medina - About Me, after moving to NYC.
Now, Anthony is starting a new part of his career, as he raises the money to put out his first collection of songs, The Ladybug Articles, later this year. Most of the songs are inspired by his ongoing tumultuous relationship with a guy he is still in love with.
We met during the recent heatwave at Otarian, a vegetarian restaurant he turned me onto in the city, and we talked. A lot. Here's what we had to say:
I first saw you in Spring Awakening in San Francisco...
Oh, you saw us there? I didn't know that.
Yeah, until last December I lived in San Francisco for like 16 years. And you nearly fell on me in Bitch of Living.
Now, I don't know if you're supposed to almost fall, or fall, or what exactly was going on there.
I definitely tested my boundaries for the entire run, but San Francisco was early on, so I was still figuring out what to do. And there's definitely one point in my mind when I fell on somebody. A girl...
Yeah, you didn't fall on me, but it was very close like, "Whoa!"
That might have been on purpose.
And it impressed me, because it looked like you didn't intend to fall, but at the same time, it didn't look like you cared, and you kept singing, perfectly, on the ground while you recovered. That's what sort of lodged you in my head.
(laughs) There was one performance where I had to get up on a chair and jump, and the chair wasn't very stable, and I put it off kilter and I jumped and kicked the chair back and went down, like, mic to face, and there was that moment like 'Do I make this look like it's part of it? Do I keep going?' and I'm pretty sure I had scrapes on my face, and I was just like 'It's OK. It's all going to be fine...' That show was crazy.
And it was the Facebook era, of course, so I friended you then, but correct me if I'm wrong, because of course I was like 'Is he gay?' and you were listed as dating a girl?
I was... this is tough, because a lot of people try to say that you have define as far as your sexuality goes? And she and I just... it just worked for us. And I'd dated men before, and I've dated women and I'll probably always do that. I'm not saying I'm bisexual, but I'm one of those people where it's the person. Generally, men are more what I gravitate to, but if a woman can handle me and my lifestyle, we'll probably get along and be fine. And she was, and is, still pretty awesome.
But at the time, I was like, "Oh well, we lost one there..."
"... but he was still talented." And then, after right after I moved to New York, I saw that you were doing your cabaret show, "Anthony Lee Medina - About Me," and it was within a week or so of my moving to New York. So, I figured I should go check it out, and I'm looking and under the title of the show it said something about "Coming Out"?! And I was like, that doesn't make any sense.
Oh, so this whole time, you never figured out...
No! So, I was like, "That's an interesting title... is it metaphoric? What is he coming out of? Is he coming out of his shell?"
That would be a bad title for someone who is straight.
That's what I was thinking. And I'm like, he has to know what that means, he's in theater. So, then I went there, and I was like, "Oooooh, OK..."
Then you heard the whole story.
Yeah. So, that's the arc of how I know of you. It's basically been a big long misunderstanding. So, what was the Spring Awakening tour like for you? There are crazy tours, and sane tours, and...
Well, let me put it like this... I started the tour when I was 19, and shouldn't have been let out of a dorm room at 18, at all. It was crazy. I was among a sea of insanely attractive people who were all doing the same show. But we had a good time, and we were being treated like kings everywhere we went. We walked into a town and everybody knew who we were, and it felt like we were super famous.
In Los Angeles, it was like 'Yeah, all of you can get into the bar, you're Spring Awakening...' 'OK, cool... this is how it's going to be...great.' So, it was fun, and definitely such a growing experience. I started at 19 and I feel like I ended at 30. So many things happened on that tour within my family... me as a person, I was growing... it was a really groovy experience.
And then, I didn't get to see you in this, but I did see one of the original previews of Paul Simon's Capeman on Broadway... And Capeman was your first leading role?
My first time ever playing a leading role. Ever.
Was that more pressure, or is it just I'm onstage and this is what I do?
Yeah, if I start thinking whether there's pressure, I'd focus on that instead of doing my performance. And at the end of the day, it's an ensemble piece, we're all doing something. If it was just me onstage, that might be a different story. For that role, the only pressure was to arrive at the character that Salvador Agron is and was in the short amount of time we had onstage.
So, you had an emotional arc...
I did have an emotional arc. The scene where he gets taken to jail for Adios Hermanos is the most emotional breakdown I had ever had onstage in a show ever. During rehearsals, I wasn't really getting to where I needed to get. And the director made me take a break during one of our rehearsals, and spoke to me for a couple minutes about what was going on, and the severity of it all, and she made me do the scene again.
And she said 'You cannot say your next line until it comes out of you...' And the cast members are asking questions, and they're all behind me, and there are sounds of cameras flashing. And they're asking if I knew what I was doing, and if I thought it was right, and I remember heaving and hysterically crying, and the next thing I remember is Omar and Xavier were taking me offstage and saying 'Are you OK?' and I was like, 'Yeah, did I say all the lines?' And they said, 'Yeah, you did...' And I was like, 'Cool, OK...' and then I had to go on and sing, and it was like, what?! This is crazy...
Wow, I had a really weird Paul Simon experience when I saw the original Capeman...
I have to hear about that!
Ok, I was at the show, and Philip Glass was sitting behind me, and I'm eavesdropping and I hear him tell the person he's with that Paul said to meet him after the show, but he didn't say where they should go... and on top of that, my experience of the show as different, because I had like zero clue who Marc Anthony was...
Oh my God!
I had no idea. And in the Playbill, it was like "He sold out Madison Square Garden" and I'm thinking, Do they mean the smaller theater under the Garden?!
That's shocking to me.