What is BAD?
The BAD stands for Bay Area Diversity.
We live in a unique era when the pain of oppression still lingers, but also a time when we are more motivated than ever to push for change.
In casting, so many actors are pushed aside and artistically silenced for factors that stand irrelevant against their talents. BAD Musical Theatre is here to show that colors, sizes, genders, beliefs, and abilities should never stand in the way of our desires as artists: to tell a story and to make an impact.
We hope to transcend traditional theatrical imagery, and likewise inspire ideas among theater-goers that push for a more accepting world. We hope that our audiences will embrace this concept with us, spread the love, and accept the idea that diversity should be the new and improved norm of the performing arts.
Like it or not, we are all different. And this makes us stronger. BAD is prepared to break the rules and challenge the way you see musical theatre.
Who's on the team?
Chloë Angst (she/they) is Artistic Director and co-founder of BAD Musical Theatre. She has been performing since she could walk. Throughout her well-rounded career, she has experimented in various artistic genres including opera, singing-songwriting, choral music, visual art, screen printing, punk rock, and even post-mortem restorative art. She finally realized that musical theatre is where she is the happiest; the art form that she wants to use to make a positive mark on the Bay Area community.
As a genderqueer and Latinx individual, her goal is to disturb gender binaries, promote anti-racism, and challenge traditional white ideas in community and semi-professional theatre. Through BAD, she hopes to demonstrate to our musical theatre scene that social constructs must not stand in the way of sharing artistic talent with audiences. She believes that the process of presenting impactful stories on stage should no longer remain static with the ways of the past. Representation in all forms MUST be the new normal, in order to keep musical theatre interesting, electric, relatable, inclusive, and thriving.
Since joining the Bay Area musical theatre community eight years ago, Chloë has primarily taken on roles as an actor and musician. Although she is new to leading a collaborative team for an artistic project, she is learning along the way, and absolutely has the heart and dedication required to take it as far as it can go. She holds a BM in vocal performance from California State University, Sacramento and an MA in applied anthropology from San Jose State University. She is grateful to have had the opportunity to perform the traditionally male role of Emcee in Cabaret as well as the title roles in local productions of Evita, Jekyll & Hyde, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She hopes she can use BAD to give artists from marginalized communities an outlet to show the Bay Area the rich talent, perspective, and earnestness that they've got to offer and set a fresh example for other local theatrical organizations to follow.
Anastasia Helfinstein (she/her) is the Technical Director for BAD Musical Theatre. Her passion for acting started at age 3, when she took her first drama class at Sunnyvale Community Center. Primarily a performer in her youth, she began to explore behind the scenes during college at UC Santa Barbara, where she co-founded a club dedicated to student-run musicals (Shrunken Heads Production Company). As Executive Director and Production Manager, she handled everything for their first production (Legally Blonde) from securing rights and funding to scouting an appropriate venue, recruiting a creative team, designing programs, and so much more.
Since moving back to the Bay Area, Anastasia has explored many aspects of theatre, from performing onstage to deck crew/ASM to light board. Theatre has been a lifelong passion and she's constantly seeking opportunities to learn and grow. She's excited to continue that journey with this diverse and incredibly talented group of artists.
Anastasia is deeply committed to equity and inclusion in all aspects of life. In addition to promoting the establishment of new ideas in the artistic community, she works to build Accessibility tools into Chromebooks. She also volunteers as a member of the Trans@Google Product Inclusion team to give feedback on the usage of gender in various product and communication contexts. Anastasia is excited to bring her perspective and experience as a neurodivergent trans woman to help improve equity/inclusion in Bay Area theatre and to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals. She is inspired by the work that the founders have done and continue to do towards this goal.
Valerie Valenzuela (she/they) is a performing artist born and raised in San Jose, and is the resident choreographer for BAD Musical Theatre. As an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and director, she’s been grateful to enjoy many opportunities in the South Bay, both on stage, and from behind the casting table. Since 2010, she’s worked with companies such as Silicon Valley Shakespeare, Peninsula Youth Theatre, WVLO Musical Theatre Company, South Bay Musical Theater, and Pintello Comedy Theater. She knew from a young age that the deep fire and passion in her life was rooted in the performing arts, creating, and temporarily existing as someone else for a while. Or on the contrary, being fully, truly present as herself, depending on the work at hand.
As a Chicanx individual who grew up in the lower income bracket, Valerie understands the importance of intersectionality and the varied levels of opportunity and privilege—and lack thereof—that directly impacts many of us. While she has been active in theatre and dance from a young age with public school plays and summertime community center programs, she didn’t start formal dance training until she was a sophomore in high school—which put her way behind the kids that had been in ballet since they were 4. She hungrily played catch up, and has been growing and evolving ever since. It is deeply relatable for a human to be curious about experiencing what life could be like on the other side of the street. It is also incredibly validating to see one’s own reflection and experiences—and the OPTION of potential realities—depicted in the arts. She's observed how perpetuated, stale casting practices continue to affect the self-esteem, perceived maximum limitations in achievement, and ideas of what theatre is supposed to be for today’s performers...and it is disappointing. Changes will be made. She stands with the incredible creatives that make up BAD Musical Theatre. Together we are determined to bring theatrical experiences with genuine opportunities and representation to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cordelia Larsen (they/them) is a nonbinary Asian American actor from San Jose, California who has dedicated their life to fighting for social change in theatre and beyond. She manages social media and is the EDI Director for BAD. From a young age, Cordelia has been intensely interested in challenging the status quo, especially norms involving the oppression and/or exclusion of others. Growing up, their life quite literally revolved around theatre, having two parents and a step-parent who all worked professionally as stage technicians and theatrical designers in the greater South Bay. This instilled a deep love for the performing arts and the beautifully diverse community built around it. Even as a child, however, Cordelia noticed a striking amount of inequality both on and offstage, from the lack of diversity in shows, to the difference in how their parents were treated in their professions as a white man and Asian American woman. The lack of support for marginalized communities was amplified even more so in college, when they moved to New York City to study at The Institute for American Musical Theatre in 2016. Time and time again, they were met with unjust and even cruel discriminatory actions in casting rooms, classes, and performance spaces throughout their time as a student. It was clear that even at the Broadway level, racism, transphobia, and ableism were tangibly and openly barring thousands from their dreams.
After moving back to California in 2019, Cordelia rejoined the Bay Area theatre community they were raised in and loved with a new drive to challenge the normalized, underlying bigotries of this industry. In 2020, they helped create a new EDI team at South Bay Musical Theatre, and began openly speaking out against prejudiced behaviors and outdated practices of many South Bay performance companies. Through using their voice to connect and uplift other marginalized and underrepresented communities, Cordelia connected with Chloë Angst and wanted to help build her mission to create an inviting space for anyone that has felt “othered” in the Bay Area musical theater community to come explore their artistry and create without fear or rejection or bigotry.
Guillermo Morales (he/him) is the master of creative ideas and BAD's Resident Director. He has lived and performed in the Bay Area for his whole life, ranging in everything from music to plays to musicals, onstage and backstage. He is someone who is passionate about storytelling and believes in the power of theater to expose injustices, force engaging discussion, challenge the status quo, and engender as well as unite people into communities.
Several of the stories, songs, and characters in popular American theater have personally impacted and shaped Guillermo into who he is today, however being a first generation child of immigrants, he has struggled compartmentalizing between these shows and characters he feels a personal connection to, and the dedication by local producers and directors to the supposed race, height, gender, age, weight, sexuality or any number of factors that are believe to be needed to tell the story, or far worse, convince people to buy tickets.
Some stories are written, but the best stories are discovered; and once written they don’t belong to the author, they belong to the reader, they belong to the performer, they belong to the public. It is that spirit that has drawn him to BAD Musical Theatre, with the hope to tell powerful and engaging stories in new and interesting ways, with diverse, marginalized, and talented people who, just like all of us, have a story to tell.