Meet the Students of RSP: West Side Story—Alia Antón

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By Anya Shukla, RSP Marketing Intern

Some Rising Star Project cast members have been in musicals since elementary school, but this is Alia Antón’s first professional show. But that doesn’t mean Alia, who plays Maria, isn’t ready to take on the challenge. Although she had always thought of herself as a mezzo-soprano, when offered her role in December, Alia was faced with a character whose voice sat several steps higher than she was comfortable singing. However, for the past six months, she has been working with a special voice teacher to access that upper register. Her work has paid off: at the most recent run-through, she appeared a natural soprano, with no apparent stress about hitting the high C. I sat down with Alia to get her take on Maria and RSP in general.

What’s your favorite song in West Side Story?

I love all of them so much, but I think “Somewhere.” I really like the hopefulness of it, how Tony and Maria are seeing what could be. Plus it’s just beautiful music.

What brought you to RSP?

The biggest reason for me was the experience. I just wanted the experience of what it’s like to be in such a professional setting and have that responsibility. Because high school theater is amazing, but this is just on such a different level. So I really just wanted to learn as much as I can, and I have. I’ve learned so much. It’s only been a couple months and I feel so many things have just clicked for me. 

I know you do some character work as part of rehearsal. Could you describe what you’ve discovered through that?

Maria’s so strong. Oh my gosh. West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet, but Maria doesn’t do what Juliet does at the end of the show, and I think that’s just one example of how strong she is. And in her songs and her notes–they’re such beautiful long lines of melody–but because they’re so high you have to have core strength. So in the music itself it’s written that she has this beautiful outlook on life, but she also has inner strength. 

What’s the hardest moment been?

Getting out of my head. Especially in the beginning, it was just: “okay what’s my next line, where am I supposed to cross, I need to get this right.” And then it wasn’t authentic; it wasn’t honest: it was robotic. When they told us to really listen to each other, that’s when it switched. Then it wasn’t that we were playing parts, but that we were telling this story. And also the music and the singing–I think that’s been really hard: finding a singing voice that I’ve never used before and being confident in it. I find myself every now and then thinking, “That note is hard. Am I going to hit it?” But I have to believe that I can do it, because if I hesitate, it won’t be there. I just have to tell myself: “I can do this.” 

If you had to choose one thing, what would your favorite part of the process be?

The community. Everyone’s working together with this goal: to tell the story as truthfully and honestly as possible, which I think is amazing. I love a good day off, because it’s a taxing show, but sometimes days off are hard for me because I just want to see everyone and work on the show. Especially because it’s going so fast: I just want as much time with everyone and everything as I can. 

Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself during RSP?

I just need to be open to everything. Everything can be a learning experience. Things aren’t going to happen the way I think they’re going to happen, but that’s okay. 

Rising Star Project: West Side Story runs July 12-13. Click here for tickets and info. 

Rising Star Project is a tuition-free program made possible through a generous grant from The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation with additional support from the following sponsors: The Hearst Foundations, The Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Charitable Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Susie and Phil Stoller, RealNetworks Foundation, Michael Amend and Jeffrey Ashley, Linda and Kevin Cheung – Start It! Foundation, GM Nameplate, The Jean K. Lafromboise Foundation, Tom and Judi Lindquist, Claudia and Bob Nelson, Todd and Donna Rosenberg, Seattle Rotary Service Foundation, Elizabeth and Gary Sundem, and Becca and Bill Wert.

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