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Lights, Curtain, Zaza!

By Chelsi Lasater - | Apr 7, 2022

Photo supplied, Sam Crump

Zaza Historia VanDyke, POC, trans femme, parent, performer, songwriter, and artist based in Ogden is lighting up the Ogden and Salt Lake art scene. She made her debut appearance at The State Room in Salt Lake on Saturday (pictured).

Zaza Historia VanDyke is a POC, trans femme, parent, performer, songwriter, and artist based in Ogden who is starring in the Utah premiere of “Passing Strange,” from April 6-May 15. VanDyke plays Heidi, the bassist, in the Salt Lake Acting Company production of the 2008 Tony award-winning musical featuring an all-Black cast.

“The music of this show is just amazing and you’ve never heard Broadway like this before,” said VanDyke, who is referred to as herself, Zaza, rather than Heidi in the play. “I’d bet money you will leave with at least one of these tunes stuck in your head and you won’t even be mad about it.”

“Passing Strange” is a genre-bending rock musical that follows the journey of an inner-city young Black male, Youth, on his adventures around the world in search for self-discovery.

When asked what it was like to be in a production with an all-Black cast, VanDyke said: “Working with an all Black cast on a musical created by us (Black folk) is just … beyond words, especially in this state where the Black population is less than 2% of the collective.”

The production was pitched more than a decade ago to Utah theater companies but never came to fruition. “I’m most excited to just give Utah something new for its pallet in the form of musical theater,” VanDyke said.

Photo supplied, Sam Crump

“It’s not often in this state that trans folk get to play on the big stage and so many people came out to support all of our passion and love. It was incredible. Definitely a highlight show of my career to date,” Zaza VanDyke said of her debut performance (pictured) at The State Room in Salt Lake City with Talia Keys and The Love.

“It reminds me of family — rehearsals are a party, nothing feels like work and we all get along as if we were family and have known each other a lifetime, and in a way, maybe we have. It feels amazing to be the majority for once in our lives,” she said.

VanDyke’s music journey started playing the upright bass in the junior high orchestra in Las Vegas, Nevada. After her mother told her she couldn’t have an upright bass until she showed that she was serious about music, VanDyke auditioned for the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts. Once accepted into their orchestra program, her mom took her to pick out an upright bass of her very own. It was during her school years, she said, that her love and passion for music really grew and evolved.

Zaza is hard to miss in the Ogden arts scene these days. You can find her “anywhere she can be loud and proud, ” with an instrument in hand, either playing the upright bass for ‘The Backyard Revival’ or playing guitar and singing her own original music.

Along with the first production of “Passing Strange” in Utah, VanDyke has other significant “firsts” to celebrate. She starred in “Fremont Junior High is NOT Doing Oklahoma!” with Ogden’s Good Company Theatre last year and performed at the iconic SLC music venue The State Room with Talia Keys on Saturday night.

Perhaps relating even further to the character of Youth in “Passing Strange,” VanDyke is a representative of the Utah LGBT+ community.

Photo supplied, Sam Crump

"It shows what we can create when we come together with love for the purpose of art. I’m most excited to just give Utah something new for its pallet in the form of musical theater," said Zaza Historia VanDyke, who is starring in the Utah debut of "Passing Strange," April 6-May 15. VanDyke performed for the first time at The State Room in Salt Lake (pictured) on Saturday, April 2, 2022, with Talia Keys and the Love.

“Being trans and being recognized in the theater world is amazing as in any community. Representation matters and I hope other transgender and non-binary folk see it and follow their dreams of being whoever and whatever they have always wanted to be.”

Tickets for “Passing Strange” can be purchased at saltlakeactingcompany.org.

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