Personally, I do not care for the word "inclusive." To me, "inclusive" means that we are still "othered" and that we have been "welcomed" or "allowed" a seat at the creative table. That is simply not good enough. I envision a world and atmosphere where we are the leaders and the innovators of artistic progression and the gatekeepers of our own stories.
Theatre Artist, Educator
Manhattan, New York
Devin Ilaw is a Filipino-American artist, storyteller, and educator best known for his critically acclaimed portrayal of Thuy in the Broadway revival of Miss Saigon. He performed Thuy’s death scene during the 2016 Tony Awards. Born and raised in New Jersey, Devin now resides in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Devin's love for theatre extends to more than being a performer on-stage: he has participated offstage, backstage, in the pit, in the creative collaborative process, and as an avid audience member. He is also an educator: Devin is a classically trained pianist who has operated his own singing studio, Devin Ilaw Vocal Studio, for over a decade, and his students have appeared in countless Broadway, off-Broadway, national tour, and regional productions. He is currently the Ambassador Coordinator for the Arts Education non-profit Broadway's Babies and is also a veteran ensemble actor of Visible Ink, which brings the literary works of cancer patients and survivors at Memorial Sloan Kettering to life on stage.
Devin mentioned his kinship with all of the work that he has done: “Somewhere along the way, I began to really believe and truly embrace that all the work/projects I have done or been a part of are important; if to no one else, then to me. If I were to name a specific work, I am most proud of my work yearly with Visible Ink, and I am most inspired working with Broadway Babies and as an educator, because to work with youth is to help shape the progression of societal and cultural change for the better as well as ensure the lasting love and appreciation of Art and Culture. I believe that if theatre should have any impact on its audiences, it should inspire us all to be more understanding, accepting, empathizing, and heart-driven humans singularly as individuals as well as a collective.”
When asked about when he realized that theatre was for him, he answered, “I am Filipino! Performing, music, and theatre are in my blood. I have always known it was a part of me and will always be so.” He also added how he connects being a Filipino to his practice of the craft. “In the history of Les Miserables on Broadway, there have only ever been two Asian actors who have played the role of Marius, Adam Jacobs, and myself, and we both happen to be Filipino. Every time I stepped on stage, every time I opened my mouth to sing, I shared with the audience through my eyes and my voice the love, passion, and soul of my heritage, my upbringing, and my hope for all aspiring Filipinx Artists. Like the Filipinx people who have survived grave oppression and countless occupations by outside sources and cultures for hundreds of years, my sole presence onstage and the way I choose to interpret roles is a testament to the resilience and passion of my people.”
In his practice, Devin actively engages in conversations about what it means to be a Filipino Artist and challenges the industry when proposed roles that are not fit for him: “As a Filipino actor, I have made a personal stand to proudly celebrate community and success among all Asian artists, but also be sure to make it known that Asians are not a monolith: we come as different as a spectrum of colors. And I am a Filipino. I have declined auditions when I feel I culturally do not fit a role, and I have openly expressed dissatisfaction when I think a role is written with a stereotypical/racist lens. Conversely, I actively choose to seek out and amplify work that I feel appropriately describes who I am as a human, as well as a Filipino gay cis male of color.”
Devin shed some light on how he views the word “inclusivity” and how moving forward, we should recalibrate our relationship with it: “Personally, I do not care for the word "inclusive." To me, "inclusive" means that we are still "othered" and that we have been "welcomed" or "allowed" a seat at the creative table. That is simply not good enough. I envision a world and atmosphere where we are the leaders and the innovators of artistic progression and the gatekeepers of our own stories.”