A lot has changed in the post-Hamilton theater landscape. Diverse, inclusive castings, storylines centered on marginalized communities and emotionally complex character arcs are no longer tokens to the norm, but rather conversations that are finally being played out on stage.

And while the push for wider representation is far from over, this Broadway season's new wave of performances, be it unconventional originals, like Hadestown and The Prom or reimagined classics, like Oklahoma! and Fiddler on the Roof, continue to usher in the industry's commitment to change.

Below, curtain's up for 11 actors that are leading the charge, challenging audiences to think differently about established characters they think they know and those they meet for the first time.

Ali Stroker: Ado Annie, "Oklahoma!"

Earring & Rectangle Ring: Bakari, Blazer & Blouse: Smythe

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

When I was in high school, my first kiss was on stage. I was playing Jeanine in Ordinary People, the play. It was my first kiss and the director knew. It was very cute. I think the director might have cleared the room or something sweet.

In what ways has the theater landscape changed since you began?

Especially with Oklahoma!, I feel like musical theater is beginning to do more than entertain, like to challenge people's thoughts and perspectives. All the representation is really important and so essential to art making. And for audiences, it's really refreshing to see all kinds of people being represented in roles that maybe we've only seen in one way for so long.

What's something that goes on backstage during intermission that the audience would never expect?

Sometimes we eat the leftover cornbread. Cuz they serve chili and cornbread at intermission and then after that sometimes we eat some of the leftovers. It's so good. It's kind of like cake.

"It's really refreshing to see all kinds of people being represented in roles that maybe we've only seen in one way for so long."

Amber Gray: Persephone, "Hadestown"

Earrings: Bakari, Blouse & Skirt: Topshop, Blazer: Aled Couture

What's something that goes on backstage during intermission that the audience would never expect?

I religiously pump milk for my baby boy.

What draws you to a role, or, how do you pick parts you want to audition for?

The story has to be one I can personally get behind. It has to be an overall energy I want to be putting out into the world eight times week. These days, I really hate stories about despicable people who do not change by the end of the play. Our world does not need those stories right now.

Complete the sentence: If I wasn't on Broadway, I would be __(profession)__ in __(location)__

If I wasn't on Broadway, I would be a chain-smoking lounge singer in seedy Reno.

What were you wearing in your first headshots?

A rare army-surplus mosquito net hoodie. Man they were cool, and I miss that thing.

"These days, I really hate stories about despicable people who do not change by the end of the play."

Celia Keenan-Bolger: Scout, "To Kill a Mockingbird" 

Earrings: Lady Grey, Blouse: Baum Und Pferdgarten, Scarf: Echo New York, Gloves: Wing & Weft, Dress & Pants: See by Chloe, Belt: ASOS

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

I went to a Performing Arts High School in Detroit, Michigan so it feels like there are too many to name. However, I was in a children's luncheon theater called The Peanut Butter Players where we served hot dogs and salads to the audience, changed into our costumes and then did a show. The idea was that if we wanted to be actors for our life, we needed to learn how to wait tables.

What were you wearing in your first headshots?

I think it was a velvet tank top that I kept the tags on and returned after the shoot.

What's one top-of-list show you'd like to star in or character you'd like to play?

I want to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

What do you hope the audience takes away from To Kill A Mockingbird?

I hope audiences feel both inspired and called to action when they leave the theater. And I would love if there were thoughtful conversations with their fellow theater goers about where we've been and where we're going as a country.

"The idea was that if we wanted to be actors for our life, we needed to learn how to wait tables."

George Salazar: Michael, "Be More Chill"

Trench, Suit, Sweater & Pant: Topshop, Shoes: Christian Louboutin

Tell me about some of your opening night / pre-show traditions or rituals.

Before every show, I sit in the dark and take a moment for reflection. It's almost like a mini-meditation. Once the show starts, it's pretty high-octane, so I've found it really important to silence the noise in my head and start the sci-fi musical madness of Be More Chill with a blank slate. During this moment, I say a little thank you for the show, for the incredible company I get to be a part of, and for the energizing audience we get to do this show for eight times a week. And then I dedicate that particular show to someone: sometimes it's a family member, sometimes it's a stranger in the audience; I do this because I've found that when I make something for someone, not for me, the work is better, it's honest, and it's way more satisfying.

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

Oh man. Our high school production of Little Shop of Horrors was selected to be performed at the Florida State Thespian Festival. We were in a sold-out theater one night: about a thousand high school students were watching. I was sitting in the dentist chair during a scene and was overacting and split my pants, but also split my boxers, and, well, I was... quite exposed. Thankfully, I realized what had happened because I felt a draft up my pants, so I adjusted my blocking accordingly and only a few dozen people noticed. At least I hope only a few dozen people noticed.

What's the most elaborate lie (i.e. unusual skill or a second language proficiency) you've put on your resume? Were you ever tested on it?

I have to be honest, I've never lied on my acting resume. I'd be terrified that they'd ask to see the lie in person. Just never thought that it'd be worth it. However, my restaurant server resume... many, many lies. Basically just a page of lies.

What's the most powerful lesson you've learned from playing Michael?

I have learned so much from playing Michael. I have to say, I have become a more compassionate person and such a better listener and friend from playing Michael in Be More Chill. Michael exists on this plane of pure love, acceptance, and forgiveness that I think is so rare in humans and it's been really interesting to see his qualities leak into my own life. He's also taught me to love myself more; to appreciate my weird qualities and find ways to view and use them as personal strengths. I've never been prouder of a character I've helped breathe life into.

What's something that goes on backstage during intermission that the audience would never expect?

Every Friday, the company participates in "Dollar Friday." Before the show, people from across every department throws a dollar in one of those bingo cages that I always wanted as a child and during intermission, I've assumed the responsibility of pulling the winning dollar and announcing the lucky someone over the page system. I don't participate in "Dollar Friday," making me a neutral party. And I don't participate because A) I don't like gambling, B) I enjoy feeling like one of those models who announce the Powerball numbers, and C) I honestly just love speaking into the page system.

"I've never been prouder of a character I've helped breathe life into."

Hampton Fluker: George, "All My Sons"

Coat & Suit: Sandro, Turtleneck: Topshop, Belt: Cole Haan, Shoes: To Boot New York

What draws you to a role, or, how do you pick parts you want to audition for?

I ask myself if I'll learn something and grow from the experience and if the answer is yes, I'm all in.

What do you hope the audience takes away from All My Sons?

We all lie to ourselves in some capacity and I hope they take away that doing so only removes us from reality. The truth, as hard as it may be at times, is always better. There's a lot of love in this family, so much love... but this love is suffocated by the lies. The lies characters tell themselves and each other. Honesty is so important and it's one of the pillars that helps to hold up any healthy relationship. Without it, the foundation of a relationship, even the relationship you have with yourself can and will crumble.

What were you wearing in your first headshots?

A white and blue button up that was way too tight and a loose red tie. I looked foolish.

"Honesty is so important and it's one of the pillars that helps to hold up any healthy relationship."

Josh Lamon: Sheldon, "The Prom"

Outfit: Indochino

Complete the sentence: If I wasn't on Broadway, I would be __(profession)__ in __(location)__.

I have no clue. I've always had a passion for criminal psychology, but I'm a terrible student, so If I wasn't on Broadway, I would be screwed in NYC.

Who would you want to play you in a musical about your life?

A chubby and hilarious newcomer that no one has ever heard of and I hope the part makes him a big star. I would like Josh Gad And Bonnie Milligan to play my cats, though.

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

My senior year we did Bye Bye Birdie. The cast list went up and to my horror, I was not cast. Not at all. I was heartbroken. And very dramatic (imagine that). I went up to our drama teacher with a few friends who were comforting me and I looked him in the eye and yelled, "Mr. Wilt! You're going to have to change the name of the show from Bye Bye Birdie, to Hello Shitty!" I then burst into tears and fled the room. At the end of the school year, Mr. Wilt was not asked back to the school. Not that it had anything to do with me, but at the time I felt like justice had been served.

What draws you to a role, or, how do you pick parts you want to audition for?

I love putting as much as myself into characters as I can. I have gotten a bit pickier, but the only projects I immediately pass on is if it is a character that is only there to be a fat joke. I can't tell you how many scripts I've read where the character's only trait is their size and their lines all revolve around their size. That is a solid "no" for me.

What's the most elaborate lie (i.e. unusual skill or a second language proficiency) you've put on your resume? Were you ever tested on it?

The first regional theater audition I went on was in 2001 and my resume was total fiction. I don't recommend people doing that, but I had no credits and just felt like I had to make it up. I am so lucky the theater didn't question it. I was very fortunate and got hired for most of their season so I was able to actually build a real resume. Don't judge me.

"I can't tell you how many scripts I've read where the character's only trait is their size and their lines all revolve around their size."

Nik Alexander: "The Devouring" at the Time Square Edition, Paradise Club

Hat: Ruslan Baginskiy, Outfit: Delacruz, Shoes: Sergio Rossi, Earrings & Ring: Lady Grey

What's one top-of-list show you'd like to star in or character you'd like to play?

I'd love to play James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls. That musical is written so well and it's become a classic. I hear it's coming back to Broadway soon. Tell the producers to call me.

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

I spent my freshman year of high school at Farmingdale High School on Long Island. The drama club had an annual underwear contest and I won of course. I met my first boyfriend at that party and fell in love for the first time. It was crazy, magical, surprising and beautiful. That night changed my life. It wasn't a phase after all.

"I'd love to play James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls. That musical is written so well and it's become a classic."

What's something that goes on backstage during intermission that the audience would never expect?

I'm not backstage too often during the show, but I hear that all the dancers lip sync to me singing to entertain each other. I would love to see that. It probably looks like a fierce ass "lip sync for your life" on Drag Race.

Russell Harvard: Duke of Cornwall, "King Lear"

Suit: Rowing Blazers, Sweater: Maison Kitsuné, Watch: Shinola, Belt: Trafalgar, Shoes: Vans

What's your craziest high school drama club experience?

When I was a freshman, I borrowed a dress from the costume shop to try drag for the first time after seeing To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

Who would you want to play you in a musical about your life?

Truthfully, who can play me better than myself? As far as it goes with singing, I could use the voice of Andrew Rannells or Adam Pascal. Another take would be creating the symphony for each song performed in American Sign Language.

What's the most powerful lesson you've learned from playing the Duke of Cornwall?

I learned how to poke someone's eyes out. Kidding. I've learned that he's not just a villain, but a human being that has a story to tell.

"Truthfully, who can play me better than myself?"

Sophia Anne Caruso: Lydia, "Beetlejuice"

Earring: Laura Lombardi, Gloves: Wing & Weft, Blazer & Turtleneck: & Other Stories, Sweater: Baum Und Pferdgarten, Pants: Whistles

Broadway schedules are notoriously grueling. What do you like to do on your day off?

I like to sleep in as long as I can and then spend time reading and rolling around in bed. Once I'm finally up I love taking The Class by Taryn Toomey! It's a training class and it focuses on letting/clearing emotions out.

What's the most elaborate lie (i.e. unusual skill or a second language proficiency) you've put on your resume? Were you ever tested on it?

Once somehow comedian was put on my resume under special skills. I was tested and I told a horrible knock-knock joke after saying "umm" and thinking really hard for a minute. After that I had it removed!

Who would you want to play you in a musical about your life?

That's a hard one. I feel like Michelle Williams would make a good adult me, I would play young me, and perhaps Laurie Metcalf as my mom?

"Once somehow comedian was put on my resume under special skills. I was tested and I told a horrible knock-knock joke."

Steven Skybell: Tevye, "Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish"

Suit & Shirt: Theory, Tie: Emporio Armani

Tell me about some of your opening night / pre-show traditions or rituals.

I don't necessarily have an opening night tradition, other than trying to give everybody gifts. For Fiddler, I brought a humongous cheese spread for everyone since I played the dairy man. I do have a pretty detailed show ritual, which is just about how I like to get ready for each show. That includes warming up and steaming my voice. I come very early, earlier than I probably have done for any other show, just because I don't like to feel rushed with Tevye and I just really like to take my time and slowly get ready. So I'm usually there like 2 hours before curtain.

Over time as you perform a role over and over again you can shorthand how much time it takes to get ready, but with Tevye, I just want to make sure my body is absolutely ready to meet the physical challenges and then also hand-in-hand, the emotional challenges. And then as an actor, you do get a little superstitious about your rituals so I wouldn't want to try and now shorthand it because I feel pretty good about it.

I still to this day run the entire script. This is part of my pre-show ritual, I'll do the first act, just get all the sounds in my mouth because there's no time during the first act to do the next scene — it's literally scene after scene. But in the second act, there's a little downtime before each Tevye scene, so I will run the scenes in Yiddish, just in my mouth, before I do them because there is a brain-mouth connection, so to have that not be interfered by English is a good thing.

What do you hope the audience takes away from Fiddler?

I'm fond of saying this is your grandfather's grandfather's fiddler, that it is pointing back to another time, but it's also pointing to today in a way. I have said this in the past about Fiddler, but it is a perfect musical. You don't come across a musical that just is perfect — has stood the test of time. It's so relatable because it's about parents and children and about that generational struggle, so everybody obviously identifies with that, but the thing that people are really taking away is the final movement in the musical, which is about a group of people being told "Get out." That is the thing that I think — I've heard this from non-Jewish people — that they empathize with it in a way that they never have: The plight of the Jews, which is also just a plight. I'm so grateful that people are responding and taking away all of that from this musical which is bonafide Broadway musicale. It really has a message and it's very deep, so people are getting all of that.

What were you wearing in your first headshots?

I don't really remember. The thing I remember more is that I had a sort of '80s bouffant Jewfro-ish thing going on.

Complete the sentence: If I wasn't on Broadway, I would be __(profession)__ in __(location)__.

I'm a quilter: it's like my passion and hobby. So I would be quilting in Paris, because why not?

"I still to this day run the entire script. This is part of my pre-show ritual, I'll do the first act, just get all the sounds in my mouth."

Jeremy Pope: Eddie, "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations" and Pharus, "Choir Boy"

Outfit: Hugo Boss

What's something that goes on backstage during intermission that the audience would never expect?

The audience would never know that during intermission we have massages and physical therapy happening so that we can get through the second half of the show. It's the most physically and vocally demanding project I've ever been a part of. So, it's helpful to have someone making sure our bodies stay loose.

Who would you want to play you in a musical about your life?

My younger brother, Jordan.

What's the most elaborate lie (i.e. unusual skill or a second language proficiency) you've put on your resume? Were you ever tested on it?

At one point I had "Caribbean dialect" on the special skills section of my resume and in my audition for Six Degrees of Separation on Broadway the writer, John Guare, asked me to do my entire two scenes in said dialect. He mentioned he had never imaged the character played that way and wanted to see how and if it could work.

In what ways has the theater landscape changed since you began?

During traumatic times art will always thrive. Folks begin to long for work that speaks to them and through them. Work that allows us to speak our truth and minds while hopefully offering empathy and compassion. I love being able to share art that asks hard questions. Most of the time these questions have unsolved, messy answers and it takes our art and the theater to begin a conversation about it. That being said, I'll always long for more diversity and stories of the untold or misunderstood: Stories that maybe change our way of thinking or stories that follow a narrative of a character we don't see very often.

"[Ain't Too Proud] is the most physically and vocally demanding project I've ever been a part of."

Photographer: Katie Levine
Photo Assistant: Jason Roth
Photo Assistant: Sara Jensen
Makeup: Olivia Barad
Makeup Assistant: Tomoyo Shionome
Hair: Kabuto Okuzawa
Groomer: Tara Lauren (using MAC Cosmetics)
Groomer Assistant: Nana Kumi
Stylist: Chelsea Volpe
Stylist Assistant: Brittany Lovoi
Location: The Times Square EDITION

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