This week Playbill catches up with Q. Smith, who created the roles of Hannah & others in the Tony-nominated musical Come From Away, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
Smith, whose Broadway credits also include Mary Poppins and Les Misérables, toured in A Night With Janis Joplin and Mary Poppins. Her screen credits include The Good Fight, Evil, I Take Thee Zoe, and The Black Box as well as the Apple TV+ film capture of Come From Away.
What is your typical day like now?
My days are now early due to my very active two-year old. I used to be a night owl—still am, can't help it, but now instead of waking up at nine or so, I'm awake a lot earlier. Once I wake up, I don't sit down until his first nap. Cleaning, cooking, changing diapers, playing, gym for me, then it's lunch time for him and a nap. My husband is a great support! We do it together. When my son naps, I finally get to my emails, texts, projects, and shower. I prep dinner, eat by 4:30 and head to work at 5:45. It's non-stop!
Can you describe how it felt to be back in a rehearsal room the first day you and the company reassembled following the Broadway shutdown?
It was quite special. I think I had a bit of anxiety about remembering the lines and choreography, etc.... I had been out a lot longer than most because I was on maternity leave. My body felt different, and I was in a totally different mind space, but soon as I saw everyone's faces....soon as I heard the music, it all came flooding back. It was such beautiful energy in the room, and I think we all relaxed after seeing one another and crying together for a good while.
Are there any parts of your role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
All of it. Always. It's sad, but true. I say it's sad because our world seems to continue to repeat the worst parts of history. It's also beautiful that we have been given the gift to share what it's like to be kind. It never gets old.
As you celebrate the fifth anniversary of the musical's Broadway opening, can you share one of the most memorable moments onstage and one of the most memorable moments offstage with this company?
There are so many memorable moments onstage and off! This is difficult to answer. I'll start with the most recent one—Emily Walton's surprise graduation at curtain call. I probably cried more than she did. Haha! So stinkin' proud of her! Another one is the "reopening" of the show. I mean, the energy in that building was something else! I felt like we were going to blast off like a rocket at any moment. As far as offstage, I would have to say, during the pandemic, we stayed in touch. We never let go of each other. There were organized Zoom calls weekly for over a year. We needed one another, and I'm so grateful to have had them.
What would you say to audience members who may still be feeling uneasy about returning to live theatre?
I know it's scary and a bit unnerving, but please allow our show to bring you back to theatre, bring you back to yourself, and get you out of your pajamas and out of the house! You'll be okay.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I definitely feel like now, because of what we all went through as a country, BIPOC and other marginalized artists are way more confident about making their voices heard and making sure we are seen. It is much easier to hold the industry accountable when you don’t feel like you are out there on a limb by yourself. What came out of the last 18 months was a solidarity that we can do better, and we must do better. Doors will swing open wider because there is this sense in the air like, “Yeah, this has always been an issue. It’s time to change it.” And, that's both in this country and in this industry.
I want people to wake up! This world is so big, and it doesn't and shouldn't revolve around any group or any one, it's all of us. We BIPOC artists make the world go round. We really do! We are not asking to be included; we are telling you to include us on every level. Time is up for the side-eyes and the "this is the way we used to do it." Let's move forward on all fronts and create beautiful art!
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
See what you can do to help the cause. It doesn't have to be anything big. It can start with the simplest act of kindness. Really reflect on who you want to be in this world and how your presence can have a positive impact on the world. Start with you, and I promise you, it will get better.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
I'm stronger than I ever knew.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Hope Center for Kids in Omaha, Nebraska, my hometown. We have to educate, encourage, and love up this next generation. TherapyforBlackGirls.com, although we are strong, we need mental support, and I found it here, during the pandemic. And, RealJusticePAC.org.