JUILLIARD DRAMA 50TH ANNIVERSARY
This weekend was a generous reminder of journeys, tradition, belonging and love for the work. One of the things that were said by one of the playwrights who spoke during the evening celebration at the Sharp, and some of the alumni who were interviewed in the video presentations: (paraphrased) that we were all invited to be a part of this community because we already ARE the kind of actors, playwrights, artists that we needed to be. This made me reflect upon my motivations as I continue in the training. That I’m not here so that I can learn how to be a white person by talking, speaking, walking, thinking like a white person or any kind of artist that fits into a narrow mold. I’m here because the people who have invited me in have seen that I have a Self that is large that is worth magnifying even more. That my strength lies not in me belonging to a specific mold but in my multiplicity, complexity and simultaneity. That what I am doing here is not to change my Self but to acquire tools so that I have the technique to support my Self that is already large.
I also want to take time to reflect upon the people of color, especially the other Asians and Filipinos who came before me in the Juilliard Drama Division. I may be the first Filipino to be accepted into the MFA program of Juilliard Drama since its inception in 2012, but there are a few other Filipinos who had been accepted into the BFA program of the school before I have been. The first one being Ana Valdes-Lim (Group 13) whose picture is above with Alexander Technique teacher Judy Leibowitz. I do want to recognize that I am standing on the shoulders of the people of color who have come before me and I am grateful to them for braving the four years of training even when there are so few people with similar backgrounds to them in the community.
I am acutely aware of how hard it is for people who are outside the United States to come to this school. As of now there are only 8 international students in the entire Juilliard Drama student community and only two of those are from South Asia.
As the Juilliard Drama Division continues to navigate its way and find its new identity in making space for other people's narratives, I feel like it is our responsibility as an institution to create more opportunities for people who are outside of the United States to come and train in this school. And once they are in, to be responsible for creating the conditions for their own voices and narratives to be seen, heard and sharpened.
A Year of Reclaiming
Truthfully I have set aside or put on hold several aspects of my life and my self during the first two years of my training. Mainly because I have deemed those aspects of my self as "bad," "old," "no longer useful," "didn't work for me," etc. in order to make space for a larger Self to emerge. It bears noting that in the first half of my 20's, especially between the ages of 23-25, I have attempted to carve out an identity molded from my ideas of the kind of woman I thought I was meant to become only to find out that beneath the veneer of a self image I've created lay a small child, scared and feeling unworthy and unfit to be loved.
This current phase of my life, this "Juilliard Journey," has been a kind of pilgrimage. I've stripped away the "woman" idea that I carved out in my early 20's, held the hand of that small child and walked her through several stages of healing. I am quite proud to say that at the beginning of this third year, I sense a bridge being built between the child and the woman.
“Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people live only for their image”
There were some things about me that I threw away upon coming to New York that I'm beginning to realize were not bad in and of themselves. It was my former motivations that made them skewed. My motivations are ones that at times either serve me or not serve me. I am looking forward to slowly walk my way through integrating some aspects of my former self into this larger Self that I have made space to emerge.
Favorite New Classes:
Shakespeare Scene Study
Rituals and Beginnings
The path of growth is not a straight line!
There are many things that I hope for myself this year. In the welcome emails that we've been getting from some teachers, there is this sense of looking forward to a year of transformative growth (one teacher even went as far as, "going beyond your greatest expectations of yourself this year"). Frankly, I do not know what to expect. Most of the early part of second year was me being obsessed with growth - as if I was a plant that wanted to be pulled up in the direction of the sun as quickly as possible. I learned that I cannot control the pace of my growth. I can only set the conditions for it to happen - some of it is "mental," too.
I have noticed that there are some aspects of this specific journey of mine that triggers a melancholy aspect of my psyche - I have a hunch I might have absorbed this at home. Also, the trauma of some second year challenges (i.e. bed bugs and other domestic problems, and race) still feel alive in me and somewhat conditioned my body and mind to anticipate that something bad might happen anytime.
I've been observing or studying other people in my life who haven't gone through what I've gone through last year and I feel that their outlook in life is much different. They're a little more hopeful and a little more positive. I've also been reading a couple of Buddha doodles and been mentally reciting some affirmations to myself.
Without being too specific, there are things that I want and hope for but I want to make peace with the fact that whatever happens, I will be okay. And I want to create a space in my inner landscape to allow for what I desire to happen, happen.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
A Poem to BEGIN:
If there is one thing I am truly tired of, it is the narrative of unrequited love. Sometimes feeling rejected for far too long makes a dent in one's self worth. I want to make this year a year where I reclaim my self worth and love even if it means standing alone. I am never truly alone, I've got friends and people behind me that remind me that I am worthy just as I am. I am starting this new school year strong and this poem is a declaration onto the universe:
I tore your note
in the subway.
Left the pieces
in the train
as I got out.
You are the train
I'm letting past.
Never opened the doors
for me anyway.
- Regina De Vera, 9/9/2017
Note to self: Please hang out more and work with people who are healthy and good for you.
Last Three Weeks of Summer!
School begins next week! Can you imagine? Well, perhaps I can. I made sure I savored every single moment of free time this summer and I'm slowly getting back into the pace and rhythm of being a Graduate student at The Juilliard School.
It's been quite nice being able to alternate homework (we've got assignments for singing, Shakespeare scene study, political speeches, and our first production), rest, binge-watching and getting coffee with friends. Although there has been a lot less binge-watching happening this week and more getting focused back on the work.
I know I haven't posted in three weeks, which is beyond the time I usually give myself in-between posts. However, it was important to me to allow myself the space for "non-doing" while the circumstances allowed for it because I know that life at The Juilliard School will throw a lot of elements back into the mix again. The inner serenity that I have rediscovered this summer will come in handy once training, life, interpersonal relationships, etcetera will come to engage with it once again.
And there you have it! I'm guessing there would be a lot more pictures coming your way this school year, as third year will bring full-blown productions (i.e. wigs, makeup, costumes, etc.) open to the public!
Developments From Home
I've been struck by a handful of developments from the Philippines which I've been following online from New York City. The biggest one is President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of the "Free Education Bill," the law that will provide free tuition for 112 state university colleges, local university colleges, and state-run technical vocational institutions.
Read: Duterte signs law for free tuition in state colleges via rappler.com
I have no idea where the Philippine government will get the money for this but I can't tell you how happy this news made me when I first encountered it on Twitter. I have always believed that education is one of the primary ways we can narrow the gap between the rich and the poor in my country. I was constantly frustrated with how Manila seems to be building more malls rather than building more schools or help fund or improve the facilities of public schools. Finally, the Philippine government is putting money on something that matters. We may not feel the effects of this in the short-term, but in the long-term, more educated people also means there are more people who will demand more from their leaders. The less likely will we bring under-qualified, corrupt people into power - but my head is probably in the clouds now. I'll have to see how much of this gets implemented in the school year 2018-2019.
While that's underway, President Rodrigo Duterte's war against drugs is still going strong, with more poor Filipinos being shot without being given lawful warrants. He has threatened to have human rights advocates killed. It's easy to brush this off when you are a middle to upper middle class Filipino living in a gated village (or in New York City). It is always the poor who pays the price, because there is something in our collective unconscious as a culture that find them dispensable and easy to forget. I don't think we can continue to progress as a nation when we willingly allow our brothers and sisters to be treated like pigs. While America is currently going through its own trials, I think the Filipino people should begin to stand up to these human rights violations as a community - and not just in social media.
1898: Our Last Men In The Philippines
When I was home in the Philippines for summer vacation my best friend mentioned this movie about the last days of the Spanish in the Philippines. It was set in Baler. He mentioned how the last Spanish soldiers made Baler Church (also called San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish) a fort and they remained there refusing to surrender even as their soldiers languished due to diseases, lack of food, etc.
One uneventful evening I was looking for available movies on Netflix when I saw a title that caught my attention, "1898: Our Last Men In the Philippines." Looking into it more, it dawned on me that it might be that very movie my best friend told me about and so I decided to watch it.
You can watch the trailer here.
Watching a historical film created by artists from a foreign country that includes the Philippines made me nervous. Will they depict us as indios and barbarians - the way colonizers have oppressed and made my people feel small for centuries? One Spanish soldier had a line, "They were fighting for their freedom. Us, for an empire." Once I heard that line somewhere in the beginning of the movie, I was appeased for a while. Towards the end, when news from Manila came that the Spanish government has sold the Philippines to the American government for $20 million, one defeated Spanish officer coming from Manila tried to convince a stubborn Spanish lieutenant in Baler, "The Filipinos attack because you've got no right to be here."
Lines like those make me want to shout, "Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!" There is a nationalist in me that gets triggered every time I hear lines or images that depict my country's wars against the Spanish, American and Japanese colonizers. When I see Filipinos fighting I also want to scream, "You have no business being here! This is our land!" Oddly enough, this sounds like the white supremacists in America who would like to send all the immigrants home. It is completely different when it's coming from people who are fighting for freedom in their native land against their oppressive foreign colonizers.
My issues with the film are with some of the war costumes, make up and the role of the one female speaking role in the film as a local prostitute (making the one woman in the movie as yet another symbol of male fantasy and sexuality). As for the Filipino soldiers' uniforms, I don't think it is accurate. I've done a couple of plays in the Philippines set during both the Spanish and American war at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and I remember the Filipino soldiers' uniforms being a striped white and blue instead of brown. Then again, I'm not a historian. As for the makeup, there was this scene with a Filipino soldier convincing the Spanish lieutenant to surrender: when the Filipino soldier smiled, it displayed a set of rotting yellow teeth which I thought was unnecessary and made us look like barbarians. I was delighted though that an actual local Filipino actor, Raymond Bagatsing, was cast as the head of the Filipino battalion in Baler. He gave his character enough dignity and honor (minus the rotting teeth). As for the local prostitute named Teresa, I wasn't a huge fan of the fact that in a lot of her scenes we see her clothes in danger of exposing her breasts any time. She wasn't submissive to say the least, the actress playing Teresa made her fully aware of the power of her sexuality and actively used it.. However, I am tired of these stereotypical gender dynamics that often gets played out in historical movies.
If you are a Filipino, I'd still recommend that you watch it. It's not a perfect movie but it provides an interesting angle to our history that is often not taught in our schools.
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.