On Opening Night for Here Lies Love, Jose Antonio Vargas Makes History as Broadway’s First Undocumented Lead Producer

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Media Contact:
Leezia Dhalla

Define American celebrates cast and crew of the groundbreaking musical on a night of historic firsts on Broadway

NEW YORK, NY – Define American is celebrating the cast and crew of the groundbreaking musical Here Lies Love on a night of historic firsts on Broadway.

Here Lies Love marks the first time a Broadway production features an all-Filipino cast.

Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder and President of Define American, continues to shatter glass ceilings as the first known undocumented lead producer on Broadway. This achievement follows a string of “firsts” by an undocumented individual, including: Jose’s 2011 New York Times Magazine story in which he came out publicly as undocumented; his 2012 TIME Magazine cover with fellow undocumented immigrants; and his 2014 film Documented, which chronicles his journey to the United States from the Philippines as a child. This year, Jose made history again as the first undocumented and first Filipino regularly appointed trustee of the California State University System, the nation’s largest public four-year university system.

Here Lies Love is being produced on Broadway by Hal Luftig, Kevin Connor, Patrick Catullo, Diana DiMenna for Plate Spinner Productions, Clint Ramos, and Jose Antonio Vargas. This historic binational producing team recruited an unprecedented number of Filipino producers, including actress Lea Salonga, singer-songwriter H.E.R., comedian Jo Koy, and rapper Apl.de.Ap of the musical group Black Eyed Peas.

From Grammy®, Oscar®, and Tony Award® winner David Byrne (concept, music and lyrics) and Grammy Award® winner Fatboy Slim (music), Here Lies Love officially opens tonight at the Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway at 53rd Street). The groundbreaking new musical tells the story of former Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos’s rise to power and subsequent fall at the hands of the Philippine People Power Revolution.

The production transforms the theatre into a nightclub where the audience is literally immersed in the story, witnessing history up close.

“Producing this groundbreaking musical with Broadway’s first all-Filipino cast and the largest group of Filipino producers–many of them from immigrant families–has been the experience of a lifetime,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder and President of Define American, who has previously been nominated for a Tony Award®. “It’s been a thrill to collaborate with artists from all backgrounds who are working at the peak of their careers in telling this story about how an uprising of everyday people brought down a dictator and changed history.

“Because I’m undocumented, I haven’t been back in the Philippines since I left in 1993. Working on this show is the closest I’ve been able to get to feeling like I’m home,” he added.

Filipinos were the first Asian community to come to the United States in 1587. Today they represent the country’s fourth-largest immigrant population yet continue to remain underrepresented across American pop culture.

Stories of–and by–immigrant storytellers and artists are necessary to defining the experience of being American. Yet all too often, immigrant creatives, including the 45 million immigrants who call the United States home, face systemic barriers that prevent them from accessing opportunities to tell their stories through art, largely due to their immigration status.

“We’re proud that our Founder and President Jose Antonio Vargas is continuing to break barriers, this time on Broadway,” said Define American Executive Director Rebecca Neuwirth. “Jose’s work alongside the incredible David Byrne and an all-Filipino cast will open the door for more immigrant artists.”

Entering its 12th year, Define American continues to build on the critical work of changing the narrative around immigrants and immigration. Most recently, the nonprofit launched Creativity is Boundless, an inclusive guide that shows how arts organizations and funders can support all immigrants regardless of immigration status.

For more information on supporting Define American and our efforts to create an America where everyone belongs, visit www.defineamerican.com.

For more information about Here Lies Love, visit www.herelieslovebroadway.com