A Documentary on Rita Moreno's Life Is in the Works—with Lin-Manuel Miranda as an Exec Producer
A documentary about famed performer Rita Moreno is in the works for PBS' American Masters series, and with Lin-Manuel Miranda on board as an executive producer, we're doubly excited. Slated for a 2020 release, Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go for It will delve into the life of the Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer.
At 87, she's showing no signs of slowing down—for starters, her Netflix show, "One Day at a Time," was renewed by Pop TV earlier this summer. Moreno's response? To retweet this post of her—doing what else but—dancing.
While Moreno is best known for her role as Anita in the 1961 film version of West Side Story, her career has spanned television, film and Broadway alike. In celebration of the upcoming doc, we're sharing seven reasons she inspires us—and we hope they 'll be expanded on in The Girl Who Decided to Go for It.
1. She launched her career when she was only 11.
Moreno was a go-getter right from the start. When she was 11, she worked as a voiceover artist for Spanish versions of American movies. Then, at 13, she debuted on Broadway in a play called Skydrift.
2. After Moreno won an Oscar for Anita, she continued to be faced with stereotypical casting as a Hispanic woman, but she persevered—and even called it out.
Moreno was the first Hispanic woman to win an Academy Award. But even after she took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in West Side Story, she faced difficulties in her career. In 2008, she reflected on the experience, telling the Miami Herald:
"What is interesting to me is having the vision so early and yet feeling so inferior to everybody else in the business for years and years because I believed I had to be subservient to anybody who wasn't Latino. Before West Side Story I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories."
3. She's one of only two people to EGOT and complete the Triple Crown of Acting.
Moreno, along with Helen Hayes, is one of only two people ever to rack up the awards necessary for both an EGOT—that is, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony—and what's known as the Triple Crown of Acting (an Ocsar, Emmy and Tony each in competitive acting categories). That doesn't even include the other major awards she's snagged, such as the Peabody Career Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Kennedy Center Honor.
4. Her first Emmy was for an appearance on "The Muppet Show."
A guest spot during a Season 1 episode of "The Muppet Show" in 1976 proved that Moreno could hold her own with the likes of Kermit, Animal and the gang. In the above dance scene, she partners a life-sized puppet, though she's most definitely not letting him lead her. Her humorous appearance earned her an Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
5. You may recognize her voice from a famous 1990s cartoon.
Moreno voiced the character of Carmen Sandiego in the TV series "Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?" from 1994–99. And, earlier this year, she returned to the franchise, voicing Cookie Booker in Netflix's "Carmen Sandiego" reboot.
6. She can rock the same dress 56 years later.
The award for Best Outfit Repeater of All Time easily goes to Moreno. For the 2018 Oscars, she rewore her gown from the 1962 awards. Back then, she was accepting her Oscar for West Side Story. Who wore it better: 1962 or 2018 Rita? The jury is still out.
7. She's currently filming a role in Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story remake.
While Moreno is passing on her iconic Anita role to the inimitable Ariana DeBose, Moreno won't be absent from 2020's remake. She quipped on Instagram that "an 87 year old 'Anita' just won't do." Instead, she's been cast as Valentina, a corner store owner (originally written as Doc) whose role has been expanded. We can't wait to see Moreno back on the silver screen.
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.