After decades on Broadway, Chita Rivera had plenty of stage secrets to share when she visited musical-theater students at the University of Florida. But her foremost advice applies to any field: “Don’t lose your sense of humor,” she said. “It will get you through a lot of stuff.”
The two-time Tony-Award winner received an honorary doctorate at the University of Florida’s commencement ceremony May 4, where three College of the Arts students performed in her honor. Then she joined students, faculty and donors for a question-and-answer session led by professor Tony Mata, the head of UF’s musical theater program.
“What’s your secret for having such amazing passion for theater for over 50 years?” Mata asked.
“Insanity,” Rivera laughed.
Rivera reflected on her roles in the original cast of “Guys and Dolls,” “West Side Story” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” her upcoming Tony Lifetime Achievement Award, and what it was like to win a Presidential Medal of Honor, which she wore pinned to her commencement regalia. When she complimented senior Valerie Torres-Rosario, who sang “Somewhere” during the ceremony, Rivera mentioned a casting call for an upcoming “West Side Story” movie. Torres-Rosario’s classmates shouted out the good news: Torres-Rosario had already auditioned — and got a callback. Rivera jumped up to give Torres-Rosario a congratulatory hug.
“I’m just thrilled to death to be here,” Rivera said. “I’m not going to forget you guys.”