A New Play in New Jersey + Sundance Recap!

Guess who’s back in Central Jersey? It’s me! I’m currently in Long Branch, New Jersey (about 30 minutes from where I grew up) for the next little bit, working on my current project. Running down the boardwalk next to Seven Presidents Park has been a wild trip down memory lane – I’m suddenly RIGHT back in training for my high school cross country team, with the salty sea wind in my ponytail. I’m here to perform in the world premiere of ESSPY, written by my dear friend Nandita Shenoy and directed by another wonderful friend, Peter J. Kuo, at New Jersey Repertory Company.

This project is very close to my heart, partly because I helped develop the play close to ten years ago (and it is amazingly – and sadly – still relevant today), and partly because the play is set in the world of Standardized Patients and medical simulations, a field I’ve worked in for almost 15 years. Standardized Patients, or SPs (SP…S…P…ESSPY! Get it?), portray patients in simulated medical environments to teach medical students and other doctors communication skills and, to put it frankly, bedside manner. In ESSPY I portray Anu, an actor who works as an SP in between acting gigs. Because apparently sometimes art can’t help but imitate life! The core question the play asks is, “Can empathy be taught?” I think that’s a profound and important question to ponder in today’s increasingly disconnected, divided world. More information on the play is below, including a discount code for tickets if you’re near Long Branch and would like to join us!

I am also quite excited about this pic:

That’s me a few weeks ago, in front of the step and repeat at the second annual 1497 South Asian Lodge at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival! 1497, the nonprofit I co-founded in 2020, was thrilled to return as an Official Partner of Sundance, and we hosted 16 (?!?!) events over its opening weekend in Park City, Utah. Though 1497’s mission is to uplift and support artists of South Asian descent in the American film and television industry, it was important to us to create a space where we could highlight our community while in conversation with other communities, without making anyone feel excluded. I and my team are incredibly proud that all anecdotal and documented feedback reports that folks felt our Lodge was one of the most welcoming, warm, inclusive spaces at Sundance. And our programming, all at the intersection of art and advocacy, delved into pressing issues in a way that fostered dialogue and deep reflection. Check out our full lineup and watch our new recap video to get a sense of the space we built.

But back to the photo…to activate the Lodge, I played the role of event producer, which meant I was overseeing all logistics leading up to and during our time at Sundance. I will be the first to admit that I am an incredibly organized person, but I had never event produced before. I was – perhaps understandably – VERY ANXIOUS at all the multitasking and spreadsheets and expectations but it turns out, I’m kinda good at it? And I really appreciate our photographer Jarell Mique snapping the above pic – I can’t even see how nervous I felt! I think I look downright calm, confident, and comfortable. Major gratitude to stylist extraordinaire Noelle Quanci Giallorenzo for taking me shopping and helping me find outfits that made me feel really good in my own skin! More major gratitude to the Groundwork Events team, who were truly wonderful collaborators in building our Lodge (hire them)! And even MORE major gratitude to my 1497 team (check out our adorable team photo below!) for their incredible work and for providing constant support, joy, and snacks all weekend and always <3

Returning from Sundance and basically heading straight into rehearsals has me feeling a bit tired, but I’m also really happy, and my heart is so, so full. More photos/videos from Sundance are below, and you can see more behind-the-scenes pics by following me on FacebookTwitter, and *gasp* Instagram. You read that right! I’ve hopped on the bandwagon and now have IG. That’s what the cool kids call it, right?

Come See ESSPY!

Featuring: Ching Valdés-Aran, Tim Liu, and me!
Dates: February 22-March 17 (Thursdays-Sundays)
Tickets: use code LT2435 for $35 tickets HERE
Full Creative Team: HERE

1497 South Asian Lodge Highlights

Want to know what it was like to be at the second annual 1497 South Asian Lodge? Check out 1497’s brand-new recap reel and some of my favorite photos, both of which highlight my time at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival!

Photo/Video Credit: Sarowar AhmedJarell Mique, and Getty Images

Team 1497 (Sarah Khan, Kamran Khan, me, Adeel Ahmed, Nabilah Jiwani, Aishwarya Bhadouria)

The gorgeous 1497 South Asian Lodge stage

I was thrilled to meet SAG-AFTRA’s Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland at the (In)Famous IndieWire Chili Party, which 1497 co-presented with SAG-AFTRA

With my 1497 Co-Founders Kamran Khan and Adeel Ahmed

I was honored to represent 1497 and speak on an IMDbPro/AmazonPrime panel called “Intentionally Intersectional”

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