Dreaming of Life ‘In the Heights’

December 3, 2012
Celina Polanco, left, in ‘In the Heights’

Actress and Associate Director of Admissions Celina Polanco recently returned from the second national tour of In the Heights. The musical is known for its acclaimed run on Broadway from 2008-2011, winning four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Celina spent 10 months on the road, traveling from Pennsylvania to California, and everywhere in between. “I fought a long time for this role and experience, and I feel that in some ways, living on a bus for a year was not the dream I would have imagined, but it’s the one I was waiting for,” she says.

Celina explained that she started auditioning for the show while working for New York Film Academy, before the show opened off-Broadway. “I had 19 callbacks throughout the process. I was working in admissions in New York for a couple years,” she says. “After 16 callbacks, the next day NYFA offered me a transfer to the Los Angeles campus. I lived near Broadway, and didn’t want to walk past that marquee every day. So I chose a different path and moved to Los Angeles.”

But after a year of working at New York Film Academy’s LA campus, the wait was over. Celina booked her dream role as Camila Rosario, one of the mother figures in In the Heights. She explains, “There are multi-generational stories. It’s about the families we make, are born with, and create. It’s about home and family and finding where you belong. I was raised by crazy-strong women and they were able to see the show. It was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to pay tribute to them.”

She’s no stranger to travel, often traveling the world auditioning actors for NYFA open houses. “New York Film Academy has schools all over the world. We have something for everyone,” she says. “It’s all about trying to figure out what fits into their life, budget, and world. I have a soft spot for auditioning musical theater students, because that is my background; I got my degree in Musical Theatre. I think if you give someone direction and lead someone to experiencing an authentic moment, they will never forget it.”

Time will tell what the future holds for Celina. “I try to not be too attached to any one dream, but I know the direction I’m going in includes everything that I love: time with friends and family, growing into a position with NYFA, and pursuing goals for TV, film, and stage. I’m not the type of person who is going to turn down an opportunity. The future holds amazing things.”