THANKSGIVING AND THE WEEK AFTER
I had a weird Thanksgiving break. For some reason, I wasn't able to get the rest and the time I needed for myself even though I was able to go away from the city and retreat into my aunt's house in New Jersey. When I was in New York City I did mostly errands: clean the bathroom, do groceries, wash my clothes, do some field work for Queens Boulevard (by travelling to Queens Boulevard!) and rehearse for scene study class.
Fortunately, I do have more emotional support in my life right now (friends, mentors, free therapy c/o Juilliard Counselling Services). Upon speaking to some of my friends, my therapist, and a trusted teacher I realized that what I'm feeling is mainly exhaustion. I just really need a real break (like the Winter break that is coming up in a few weeks after Queens Boulevard closes).
YOUTUBE videos to watch when things begin to feel rough:
BEEN SO BUSY
I have exceeded my quota in terms of length of time in between posts. I do my best to post at least once every three weeks maximum but for the past five weeks I just had to prioritize the training and the work because there were a lot of stuff (good stuff) coming at me that I wanted to be fully in first and foremost.
THREE ROLES AGAIN (this is a good thing, though)
As soon as Top Girls closed (which was in my last blog post), we immediately went into rehearsals for our next project called, Queens Boulevard written by Charles "Chuck" Mee. I was originally cast in two roles for that project, which deceived me into thinking that I would have less to do for this play. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to recast for this one male part and they offered the part to me and after careful reflection I decided to take it. So I'm doing three roles for this play again (and working with three different dialects again, woohooo).
MAKEUP CLASS LOOKS:
From L-R: Undesirables, Frida Kahlo, Gender Swap, Animal (Owl)
One of the things that also kept us so busy the past few weeks was Scene Study class. Scene Study class often takes up a lot of time in the life of a second year and third year Juilliard Drama student because we have to read the play (more than once ideally), learn the scene, rehearse it with props and costumes (and find time to do that within our already intense 13-hour day schedule) and put it up in front of the class. We recently wrapped up our Shakespeare Scene Study class two weeks ago. I had a very fulfilling time in that class. I played Viola in a scene from Twelfth Night, Isabella in a scene from Measure for Measure and the Duchess of York in Richard III.
What took up so much of our time was that as soon as Shakespeare scene study class was over we had to transition abruptly into Master classes with Michael Kahn (who is an acting teacher/legend in the Juilliard Drama Division). I just did a scene from The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams (I played Rosa) for that class yesterday!
Even though at times I feel that things are not in the way I want them to be I do feel a calmness and peace that comes with the sense that I am doing what I need to be doing in my life and I have been and still am staying true to my path and what I have set out to do by embarking on this journey. Oftentimes, I frame it as the "Juilliard Journey" but I know that my journey is bigger than this four-year stint at Juilliard.
For the next couple of days, I'm spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my aunt's family in New Jersey. And then I'm going to prepare for a new scene for Michael Kahn's class and then work on my three dialects for Queens Boulevard (haha).
TOP GIRLS by Caryl Churchill
Working on "Top Girls" by Caryl Churchill has been one of the most rewarding projects I've embarked on my Juilliard journey so far (it's at the same plane as my work in Three Sisters as Irina). I was cast in three roles that were no small feats: Lady Nijo - a Japanese courtesan in the thirteenth century; Kit - a twelve year old Brit; and Shona - a twenty one year old pretending to be twenty nine applying for a job in a "Top Girls agency" in London. I had to learn three different accents for the three women: Japanese, Fen and Cockney. The faculty gave me quite a task, but I was very much up for it. I've always wanted to learn a British dialect, and I've also always wanted to learn an Asian dialect apart from the country I was born in. In addition to all that, my casting in this project gave me the opportunity to work on a wide variety of women that I have never had the opportunity to work on before. It was as if I was shooting three birds with one stone and a whole lot more with this project.
To prepare for Lady Nijo in the famous dinner scene of the play, I read her published journal, "The Confessions of Lady Nijo." Lady Nijo was a real Japanese woman in the thirteenth century Kamakura period. I sought the help of three Japanese women: Dawn Saito, Mari Miyamoto and Naoko Arcari who helped me with different aspects of her character i.e. walking, bowing, accent, Japanese culture & history and costume. As you know, I am not Japanese, I am a Filipino. I am not well-versed with Japanese culture yet it was very important to me to honor a woman of a different culture especially if the play was written by a white woman with predominantly white actresses in the cast. I felt it was my duty to bring her to life in the most accurate and three-dimensional way as I can.
For all three women, I had separate dialect guide sheets for each of them with my annotations on their specific diphthong/vowel changes and consonant shifts. I watched several movies that would help me gauge the specific internal landscape and culture where they lived. For Lady Nijo: Throne of Blood and Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa as well as Memoirs of a Geisha. For Kit, London Road and for Shona, Working Girl.
This was the process where I truly had the opportunity to apply all that I've learned these past two years. I no longer waited to be told what to do in rehearsal and I treated this play as if I was a real actress working on challenging material rather than a student in school learning some techniques. More and more I am using each new experience to gain more ownership of my process.
One of the most rewarding things about this project has been the opportunity to finally be able to share my work with friends and family. My Filipino relatives from New Jersey have never seen my work in Juilliard before as the first two years of the training were very much behind closed doors. Now we have a set in a studio with lights, sound, costume and wigs!
The gift of this phase of my artistic journey is the realization that I can "swim" now rather than climb a mountain. I don't have to be a "good student" anymore. I've done a lot of drilling, a lot of repetition, a lot of studying diligently in my first two years. A lot of those "techniques" have seeped into my bones and are there for me when I need them in the work. I feel more and more that I can allow my own spirit to shine through the characters I play rather than worry about being correct. I have a process, a large and ever-growing tool kit and a deep well of experience.
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
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.