As a vibrant ensemble member in The Rep’s production of The Wiz, cast member Myriam Gadri, has experienced difficulties along her own yellow brick road in life. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Myriam and her mother soon moved to Togo, Africa. As a young child, Myriam could be found running, creating music and most of all dancing. After noticing her talent, her mother began her search to enroll her into a ballet school. “My mother had a difficult time finding a school that would accept me because I was both black and white. Back then, Togo was very divided by race,” said Gadri.
Her mother’s persistence paid off and an all white school accepted Myriam into the school. “It was a completely new experience, I did not look like the other girls in the class,” said Gadri. “Growing up, I was constantly told I was the wrong body type or I was not cut out to dance.”
Myriam and her mother moved often. Myriam’s mother’s job with the International Federation of the Red Cross took them from Switzerland to Africa to Switzerland to England all within a few years. “I was bullied throughout school, but the school in London had great after school programs and every country we moved to, my mother made it her first priority to search for a dance school for me,” said Gadri.
While in London, not only was she studying the art of dance, but she was learning English as her second language. “At first, I was able to communicate through dance and movement only since I could not speak English well at the time,” said Gadri. It was at this after school program that “my teacher had recognized me for my talent in class and used me as a positive example to others in the class. This was the first time I felt encouraged.”
Myriam finished her remaining school years at The BRIT School in London. The BRIT School, according to their website, is an independent, state funded City College for the Technology of the Arts, the only one of its kind dedicated to education and vocational training for the performing arts, media, art and design.
“The BRIT School was the best experience,” said Gadri. “They taught me, you did not need to be any more than who you truly are.”
After acing exams at The BRIT School and adding credits The King & I at the Utopian Operatic Society, Annie Get Your Gun and La traviata at the Birmingham Operatic Society, Myriam received a full college scholarship to attend London Studio Centre.
Shortly after arriving to the school, she sustained a severe knee injury damaging her ligaments and putting her in physical therapy for three months. The injury kept Myriam out of classes for an entire year. She had to completely retrain her body by starting off in basic dance classes. “It was frustrating, my brain knew what I was trying to do, but my body was not at the level it was before,” said Gadri.
After two years of rehabilitation and dance classes, Myriam auditioned for Broadway Dance Centre and was accepted. “Broadway Dance Centre opened up a world of opportunities for me,” said Gadri. Myriam went on to perform with Maria Torres’ ensemble for the “Ugly Betty” Season 4 launch party, a MTE benefit hosted by Vanessa Williams and performed on the Today Show concert series with PitBull and guest Marc Anthony and Ne-Yo and the NYC Dance Parade.
“The Wiz is my first musical in America and this is my first show with an all African-American cast,” said Gadri. “Dance has always been my release. So many of these cast members have been in roles that I have admired from afar. I am so humbled and I am learning as much from them as I can,” said Gadri.
Myriam’s mindset gave her the motivation to continue to dance. “I did not take the criticism to heart. I don’t settle in and I don’t take for granted what I have,” said Gadri. “I wanted to try this as a career, I never wanted to say ‘what if’.”
The character Myriam relates most closely to in The Wiz are the Lion and the Scarecrow. Throughout the story “they are trying to find what has been within themselves all along.” Myriam offered this advice to aspiring artists like herself, “never give up, if you have a tiny flame inside of you-keep it alive somehow. You never know.”
To see more information about Myriam Gadri click here. Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of The Wiz closes April 8.