If I could nominate a Broadway President, Shoba would be my #1 pick. This woman is grounded in her roots, über talented, passionate, multi-dimensional, and one of the kindest people you will ever meet. Let’s get to voting but first, check out her journey to Broadway which has been full of self-discovery, determination, and curiosity. She is sharing a treasure trove of wisdom for you guys so take notes, open your heart, and learn from one of the best in the game about what it takes to be FIT FOR BROADWAY!
NOTE FROM SHOBA: Hi there! My name is Shoba 🙂 I’m so excited to be chatting health, well-being, and Broadway with you! I am a follower and fan of Fit For Broadway, and I am beyond honored to be featured alongside our awe inspiring Broadway community. Most recently, I made my Broadway debut acting-singing-dancing, running, violin-ing, stair-scaling and vodka toasting in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. I am also a Netflix, guacamole aficionado and a complete chocolate snob.
Q: Shoba, you are bursting with talent… I think my jaw was on the ground the whole time you were singing at the W Hotel for the Comet evening. I’m sure it’s been an amazing ride to your Broadway debut… what has been your journey to Broadway?
A: I grew up in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania – a suburb outside of Philadelphia. In my early childhood, I would perform (‘torture,’ if you ask my brothers) one woman variety shows for my family every night- directed, produced, and starring the one and only ‘Shoba’. My parents noticed my desire to express myself through performance. They enrolled me in music and dance classes in both Western and Indian styles – to keep me in touch with my ethnic roots. I caught the musical theater bug at nine years old when I auditioned for my first musical, The King and I. That experience made me realize that musical theater seamlessly blended my passions of storytelling and performance. Needless to say, I was hooked.
My parents, avid supporters of the arts and selfless supporters of my dream, essentially became a shuttle service. Every week they drove me to ballet, bharatanatyam and carnatic music (Indian classical dance and music), western classical voice, violin, and musical rehearsal. By the end of high school, I had competed and won a couple of International solo bharatanatyam competitions, and was a member of a professional bharatanatyam company.
It was an intense period. I don’t recall having any real down time, but I loved it all so much. I went on to the Boston Conservatory to train in musical theater, a major that would allow me to hone a diversified skillset. After, I moved to NYC to begin my journey into showbiz. I have had a diverse experience in the industry, working not only in theater but also in TV and film on projects like Quantico, Growing Up Smith, Gossip Girl, Coin Heist, Mistress America and Halal in the Family. Recently, the universe has brought me back to my first love: performing on stage. I made my Broadway debut in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.
Q: How have health and fitness been a part of your journey as a performer?
A: Health and fitness are of the utmost importance to sustain and meet the demands of this career. As a performer, you are expected to deliver work at your peak physical and mental conditions for the 8-shows every week. In order to have that kind of stamina and do justice to the art, you have to be incredibly mindful of how you are training your body and what you are using as fuel. Given the commitment, you basically need to function like a professional athlete.
Nothing is worse than not being well enough to do your job. I try to be as preventative as possible by exercising daily, stretching, warming up and cooling down before/after shows, yoga, meditating, rolling out and drinking a ton of water. Sleeping is the *best* because that is how the body and voice repair itself. Maintaining these habits keeps my mind in good health, and gives me an opportunity to check in with myself.
Diet-wise, I was raised vegetarian. This lends itself well to healthy eating, but a common pitfall is not eating enough protein to get through the day. I have to be proactive about this at each meal. My day usually looks something like this:
- Breakfast: Peanut butter toast or avocado toast with an egg on top
- Lunch: Pesto quinoa bowl with vegetables and nuts or a veggie burger (Morningstar is great!)
- Dinner: Indian daal (lentils) and a heavy-dose of curried vegetables
- Post dinner: I take multivitamins and throw a shot of apple cider vinegar into my tea for immunity
Q: What are the best practices to care for a #BroadwayBrain?
A: Everyday, find something to be grateful for. Forgive and have grace with yourself – this business can be tough on the heart. Always strive to learn more and continue to work on your craft. Have some experiences outside of the business. Have some friends who are not in the business. Travel. Listen to some music that isn’t musical theater. Expand your horizons beyond the business.
Most importantly, find the people who will support and love you unconditionally during the highs and lows.
Q: What are your top 3 tips for mental health on Broadway?
- Meditate or practice yoga. It will help you stay grounded and balanced. Not to mention it’s a fantastic pre-show warm up.
- Make an effort to have different experiences outside of your 8 show week.
- Practice gratitude. Be kind. Send out good energy.
Q: Any other holistic practices to stay #BalancedOnBroadway?
A: Massage therapy! I feel like it’s a necessity for Broadway performers. In The Great Comet, we were climbing a hundred flights of stairs and platforms, and high kicking on floors that were not sprung. For me specifically, I was playing violin and singing with my head cocked to the side and overusing one shoulder. Massages have helped me release tension, increase blood flow and reset my body. They re-energize me and help me feel more effective in my work.
Q: How important is it for you to have a support system around you for the ups and downs that come with being an artist?
A: Having a support system is essential to a healthy life and career. My boyfriend is my #1 supporter and if not for him, my family and my friends, I would not survive.
Q: Fill in the blanks…
A: The best part of working on Broadway is… There are too many! If I had to pick one it would be connecting with the audience members both within and outside of the show. For me personally, one of the coolest things about my last job was that I found out that I was the first South Asian leading lady on Broadway in over a decade. It was amazing to meet and hear so many South Asian- Americans express how much it meant to them to see themselves represented on Broadway. I was reminded of why I do what I do and that I should never take for granted the power we have as artists.
The most challenging part of working on Broadway is… The Times Square crowd. Haha, dodging the dreaded crowd on the way to the theater can be an actual nightmare.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: I am inspired by those who fight, pound the pavement and work tirelessly to do what they love, despite any challenges they face. I think this Teddy Roosevelt quote captures it perfectly:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Although man should probably be woman 🙂
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring performers who have their sights set on Broadway?
- Don’t try to be anyone else. Be proud of what makes you unique and special. That’s the thing that will make you standout.
- Embrace the people who embrace you. Find a community of friends who support and love you.
- Figure out what you want and work towards it with a ton of determination. There will be many bumps in the road. Be ready to pick yourself back up and keep going. Effort matters. Period.
- Being a kind person will go a long way.
- Believe in yourself.
Q: BROADWAY INSPIRES ME TO BE _Empathetic.
A: Broadway inspires me to be empathetic. I love that theater has the power to open our eyes and hearts to different perspectives.