"Agos, for narrator and chamber ensemble"
The world-premiere of Josefino Chino Toledo's Agos (Flow), concluded last Tuesday, October 2, 2018 and I was very happy with how the work turned out. I'm writing an article for the Juilliard Journal about the event so I won't say much here.
I do want to underscore the origins of Agos. It all began with typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, which ravaged Tacloban, Philippines in 2013. Filipina writer Soleil David wrote an incredible article in her blog entitled, "Resilience is Dirty Word."
It’s a word that seems like a compliment, but it’s also a word that excuses the circumstances that led to resilience. It’s a word that does not assign accountability. You’re resilient, so nothing I hurl at you can break you. Never mind that the effects of climate change has such a devastating effect on a country whose carbon emissions are negligible, the people in that country are resilient, they’ll keep going. The truth is that the people in my country are resilient, because they have no choice but to be resilient.
Filipina poet Joi Barrios-Leblanc then wrote a poem inspired by the article called, "Sumpa ng Kawayan/The Bamboo Curse."
The Filipino version of the poem is where Josefino Chino Toledo built the narrator and chamber ensemble piece from. I served as the narrator. The New Juilliard Ensemble played the music. Joel Sachs conducted. I have a lot more to say about the process of putting the different elements of the work together, but I'll save that for when the November issue of the Juilliard Journal comes out. If you are curious about how the event played out, you can read a review of the concert here.
Ms. De Vera gave an equally emotional reading in Tagalog, so emotional that it resembled Schoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw. Musically, Mr. Toledo varied each verse with consummate skill. Initially an orchestral rolling and roaring, then what sounded like a Luzon folk song, followed by more tumult and more folk material.
Into The Woods
We officially begin Into the Woods rehearsals on October 22. A number of us, me included, have begun to study the score. Our singing coaches, Deborah Lapidus and David Gaines, are giving us extra support in this process, which I am very grateful for. Again, I didn't have this much support and guidance in my singing when I was working in the Philippines. Then, it was something I had to seek out and pay for on my own in my limited free time. Now, I've got people who are going out of their own way and creating time for me (and the rest of the cast) to give extra support. It's so much easier and faster to grow this way than to be hustling and figuring it out on my own.
Fourth Year Is Great So Far
I'm having more free time than I am used to and sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. This is something I anticipated given the feedback I received from past fourth year students. I'm not complaining at all, I think it's great! It's what I've always wanted - to have more free time! For the past few days, I've been walking around Juilliard with a deep sense of gratitude and "presence." I am deeply aware of my great "luck" and this gift of the universe of allowing me to embark on this journey. There is also a sense of having earned this phase of my training; that I worked very hard and maximised each phase and have taken no short-cuts. Now I feel as if I can enjoy more time to myself, play more in the work and also enjoy the fact that I am cast in two great roles in two great plays this year.
I don't know how else to express it. It's as if all these good things are happening and I feel, "I deserve this, I really do." And I walk around the Juilliard building having a sense of that. It's very hard to describe and I feel the need to articulate it to anyone who cares to read or listen.
Also, I want to clarify that even though I feel that I've worked very hard to earn this phase, I am aware that the work is not over. What I do feel that I have outgrown is the phase where I was perpetually in "survival mode," and now that I'm finally beginning to sense my feet under me I can move through the world and life with more grace and ease.
My classes this year (so far), begin at different times. Some days it begins at 9:30AM, some at 10AM, some at 11AM and so on. I no longer have the 9:00AM - 10:00PM schedule which I've had from first year to third year. Rehearsals for Chino Toledo's "Agos" doesn't begin until September 22 (and even that is not an everyday thing), and rehearsals for "Into the Woods" doesn't begin until October 22. If I do have something Juilliard-related in the evenings, it's mostly ushering jobs I've signed up for or "Audition Techniques" classes.
Audition Techniques classes are so interesting and new to me. We have actual casting directors in the industry facilitating those classes. We were even at the Warner Bros. Studio in Manhattan last Wednesday! I thought that I would be terrified of this final year, given the uncertainty of what the next phase presents. Interestingly, I've been very excited and filled with a deep sense of faith and trust. I have such faith and trust in my journey and the intangible things I have built for myself with hard work, integrity, love and trust that I don't imagine it turning into something terrible.
I've also met a new Filipino American, whose name is Gaven Trinidad. He works as an Administrative Apprentice for Academic Year 2018-19 of the Juilliard Drama Division so I see him at the Drama office every day! He has an MFA in Dramaturgy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and he is one of the few Asian American dramaturgs in New York City. He also has a great website and a blog! Check him out at https://www.gaventrinidadtheatre.com. In addition to Juilliard Production Manager Cristina Sison, and faculty member Orlando Pabotoy, I have one more person at Juilliard I can speak to in Filipino every day. I am so glad to have him in the community just as I am ready to bridge into the profession!
I'm sensing from myself more readiness to start moving out of my Juilliard bubble in a social way. I've begun to move out of the Juilliard bubble by living off-campus and working for Mr. Jerome Butler at his office mid-town. But what I mean is, I am more curious to learn more about the Asian American film and theatre community and welcoming the idea of speaking to people in the professional industry with a sense of possibility to work together or collaborate in the future. I want Asian American industry practitioners to know that "I am here - hire me." I think this is also one of the things that I appreciate about this new phase. I am coming out of a deep period of hibernation, investigation, skills acquiring, training, solitude and healing. Now, I feel a deeper sense of grounding, of my own beauty as a human being, of my talent and skill as an artist and my own worth as a person.
BEEN CAUGHT UP
I'm sorry I hadn't posted in more than a month! I had been caught up with several "life" stuff, which included renewing my passport at the Philippine Embassy, chasing after my ex-landlord for my old apartment's security deposit (a pain in the ass but I got my money back), finishing up the last stretch of my internship, and preparing for fourth year.
Smokey Joe's Cafe
There were some good things that happened and are happening. One of them was getting to watch Smokey Joe's Cafe on Broadway last August 11. Very few people know how in love I was with the original cast of Smokey Joe's Cafe when I was in high school. I consider Smokey Joe's Cafe in the same league as Singin' In the Rain and West Side Story in terms of inspiring me to pursue a life in the theatre. My godmother gave me a DVD of Smokey Joe's Cafe in high school and I would watch it every day on the floor in a split position while taking notes on how to perform because I wanted to be flexible and a great dancer like the performers.
When Juilliard announced a ticket offer for the revival production of Smokey Joe's Cafe, I ordered two tickets so that my uncle can join me. It's better to share my joy with other people rather than go through this experience on my own. An especially poignant moment for me was when the cast sang "Stand By Me" during the finale, and I felt like crying. It has been a long journey for me. Starting as a young starry-eyed teenager and to come to see the show live as I enter into my fourth year of training at Juilliard Drama at 29 years old made me think that all the failures, the shortcomings, the sacrifices and the work has been worth it after all. If something like this can come full circle, then there must be some deeper meaning and purpose to my journey.
I normally do not stay after New York City shows to have pictures taken with performers. But this was special, so I bought myself a poster and had a picture taken with two of the performers who stayed after the show:
Internship with Jerome Butler (Jobu Productions)
One of the things that have kept me busy this summer, apart from moving into a new apartment and summer work-study, is an internship with one of my dialect coaches, Mr. Jerome Butler. Early this year, I was thinking a lot about arranging special dialect sessions to refine a general American dialect as part of my skill set so I can play a wider range of characters (i.e. Asian Americans born and raised in the United States as well as new immigrants). I figured this will be a basic, practical and highly important skill set that I need to acquire if I want to work in the United States at the completion of my training.
I am very grateful that this internship has worked out. I think I might have been the first Juilliard actress to intern for Mr. Jerome Butler, and I have submitted a grant proposal to the Juilliard Office of Career Services specifically for this endeavour. Jerome Butler is a great boss and a highly conscientious and culturally sensitive dialect coach. My perception of dialect work, the different ways in which people from various cultures speak, has broadened to a great extent not only because of our exercises, but also because of our in-depth conversations about language and humanity in general. What was also personally empowering about this experience, was the way in which Jerome has welcomed my voice and opinions in the room that made me feel that my voice was valuable. It also helped that since I was the only Juilliard person in the room, I didn't have to fight or compete with anyone to put my voice on the table since I had no competitors. The new-found sense of worth I have acquired by working with Jerome has proven valuable when I had to face my colleagues in the rehearsal room once again.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
Okay, I have to talk about "Crazy Rich Asians." No matter what you think about the movie, I think that this movie is good for the Asian American community. It reveals a different side of us apart from what is usually presented in Hollywood films. There are no Asians doing Kung Fu or martial arts in the movie or being made fun of by non-Asians. Instead, we have a diversity of actors and actresses of Asian descent who fall in love, get heart-broken, are torn by family ties, reunite with old friendships, etc. In short, we see people who look like us in human experiences represented onscreen that were once only available to white people. Also, as an artist who has come from a country with a history of colonization, it mattered to me that people from other cultures can see images of Asians in high status positions, without anyone making fun of our accents.
Whatever you think about this movie, it will open doors for more stories with Asian characters represented onscreen.
Plus, I'm afraid Henry Golding has ruined all men for me. Ahem, ahem, he's married.
FOURTH YEAR! Playwrights' Festival
On a personal note:
I am grateful for all the shit I've pulled together this summer with the help of other people and the universe. New apartment, the internship, head shots, passport renewal, life stuff, etc. I remember how scared I was during my first summer in New York City back in 2016. I was scared of living with strangers, scared that I didn't know how to cook, scared to live outside the comfort zone of the Juilliard Residence Hall, there was so much I didn't know. I remember feeling a vast void upon returning to New York City from visiting the Philippines in 2016. Slowly, I have developed a few healthy relationships outside of Juilliard and have been more adept in living in New York City (I am also a great cook and make epic meal plans). This year, 2018, I managed to pull out of a terribly unhealthy old apartment and living situation, move into a larger, less expensive, and healthier living situation and work in a setting outside of Juilliard through the generosity of Mr. Jerome Butler. I'm making progress.
Also, I am very grateful for my casting this year and I will announce my roles as the productions approach. In the mean time, here is my performance schedule:
By Josefino Chino Toledo
Text from Joi Barrios-LeBlanc’s “Sumpa ng Kawayan” (The Bamboo Curse)
Conducted by Joel Sachs
Performed by Regina De Vera (Narrator) and the New Juilliard Ensemble
October 2, 2018
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
INTO THE WOODS
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Sarna Lapine
December 6, 2018 at 7:30pm
December 7, 2018 at 7:30pm
December 8, 2018 at 2pm and 8pm
December 9, 2018 at 7pm
Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater
By Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Moni Yakim
February 17, 2019 at 7:00pm
February 20, 2019 at 2:00pm
February 23, 2019 at 8:00pm
February 24, 2019 at 2:00pm
Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater
“While Juilliard Drama Division performances are not open for review, we invite members of the press to enjoy these productions featuring the next generation of actors.
Extremely limited tickets for $20 will be available beginning September 20 at juilliard.edu/calendaror at the Juilliard Box Office. Full-time students may purchase tickets for $10, only at the Juilliard Box Office. Tickets may get released closer to the date of the performances, so please check back.”
Juilliard Drama 2018-19 Season Press Release:
One of the things that I was looking forward to in visiting home was in allowing myself to "regress" into a somewhat child-like state where I allowed myself to be taken cared of by other people. A welcome relief from my New York routine of grocery-shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry - as well as a recovery period from an extremely busy (and somewhat stressful) apartment moving process. In spite of still a number of errands and medical appointments in Manila, for a couple of days I allowed myself to sleep, eat and spend time with family.
Because of the threat of a typhoon, my best friend and I aborted our plans of going to La Union. I didn't want to spend 5-6 hours on a bus only to be greeted by rains on a beach. We instead spent a number of days food-tripping and museum-hopping around Manila.
The National Museum of Natural History opened May this year. I was so psyched to find out that we finally have a space where we can view our physical history, specifically endemic to the Philippines. We didn't have a lot of time to get around the museum because it took us a while to hail a cab from the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and the line at the Museum of Natural History entrance was long (a good sign). So I specifically requested that we spend time only on those things that speak about our "largeness" as a country - a part of us that I believe has been largely overlooked. A lot of that has to do with colonialism, wherein our American colonizers have once chosen certain species that are "small" as our national symbols - a propaganda to make us feel "small." I am largely interested in subverting that, as well as understanding who we were before our colonizers came - but that's another blog post.
I am back in New York City now, coping with an internal tantrum of having to do "adult" errands again. This time though, in a new apartment with a bigger room and more responsible roommates. I think I'll allow myself to take it easy. I feel like this summer has been a lot - even though it has turned out for the better.
As I do my best to take care of myself the way my family has taken cared of me, I will look back on these photos with some nostalgia. I am still opening myself up to new ways of living and being even as the demands of my life and work require me to deal with situations with greater complexity.
Metro Manila Musings
I’ve been in Manila for a “vacation” for nearly a week now and it has already made an impact on my internal makeup. I’ve spent most of this first week getting stuff together (i.e. New headshot photoshoot for fourth year at Juilliard, a trip to the salon, studying a script for a play I’m doing in fourth year, going to the bank, having a dress altered, scanning copies of newspaper articles with my names in them). Most, if not all, of these errands involved commuting.
Commuting was my M.O. in the five years of my “professional” life in Manila – from the time I graduated from college up to my last year in Manila before I came to New York City for graduate training. “Commuting in Metro Manila” to me means a number of things: tricycle, FX, LRT, MRT, jeepney or "jeep," bus, the occasional “taxi,” and the rare "pedicab." Those five years on the road has made an impact on how I saw the world and how I saw myself in the world as much as my work as a practicing theater artist. They have undoubtedly prepared me for New York City, where I got around 99% of the time through walking, the subway, and the occasional bus. I rarely hail a cab or an Uber in New York.
Fast forward to July 13, 2018 (Friday, Manila time), I set myself to do three things that afternoon: 1) Go to the bank to have my dollars exchanged into pesos 2) pick-up the dress I had altered and 3) go to either UP or Katipunan to find a decent but inexpensive photocopying service for all my newspaper clippings for my portfolio.
It didn’t matter to me that it was Friday the 13th – I’ve been through many a Friday the 13th before and managed just fine. I did see that it was dark and cloudy outside, so I brought an umbrella, a plastic to protect the folder containing my newspaper clippings and called it a day. When I got to the bank, the manager said that today was pay-day – that there were likely to be a lot more people in the bank today than usual. It didn’t matter to me, I was able to get my dollars exchanged with minimal waiting time (I had visited a new branch) so I considered myself lucky. I was also able to pick up my dress with no problem. Two errands, check!
I took an FX to Philcoa (if you’re not from Manila, these terms will probably sound alien to you), crossed the pedestrian footbridge and searched for jeeps going to the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. UP COOP – the compound where I used to have stuff photocopied and printed has been destroyed by a fire. A friend recommended Vinzon’s Hall in UP for me, instead. No luck. I showed my newspaper clippings to a staff member and basically said he couldn’t do what I asked him to do since the newspapers where too big to be resized/reduced into short bond size. He referred me to the scanning service next door, no luck either. The woman said their scanner was too small to scan full-page newspaper articles.
By this time, rain began to pour aggressively. I had another option in Katipunan which had a very good review at Yelp called YZA Coloured Printing at Prince David Condominium. It took me a while to get a jeep but eventually did. The paper bag I used to carry my dress and folder already gave away due to water damage. I tossed that once I got to YZA. YZA had large print and scanning machines so I was able to get all my newspaper clippings scanned (terrific service). Whew! All three errands done!
It was past 6pm now. All I needed to do was to get home. Rain was pouring intensely. I had an umbrella, but walking the Katipunan stretch to try to hail a cab drenched my pants and my shoes. I was really cold by now. I decided to make a stop at Cello's to check out their donuts (haha). I texted my parents to ask if I can hitch a ride with them. They were both in Makati, my dad was waiting for the traffic to subside himself. "Rains plus pay day is formula for clogged streets," my dad said. I didn’t want to use the “Grab app” because I didn’t want to pay Php200 to get home (Uber was phased-out in the Philippines due to legal issues). I had a budget for my Philippine trip and I wanted to use that money to have lunch with a friend. When I decided to get out on the street again, the taxi drivers who I hailed refused to give me a ride home because my house was not “on the way” to where they wanted to go (typical Filipino taxi bullshit). As I stood there, drenched in the rain, I was looking for something or someone to blame. Was it 1) My parents for giving birth to me in this country 2) Myself for getting myself in this situation yet again or 3) God, for allowing this to happen to me? After a while, none of those three options seemed to help me cope with the situation. After 30 minutes of walking, hailing and by now, shivering, I resigned myself to take the long way home: 3 jeepneys (with different routes), a bus, and walking. It was still raining hard by now.
In the three jeepneys I rode home, similar faces greeted me: exhaustion, resignation, and contained anger. These people must have been travelling longer than I have. It was the same in the bus to “SM Fairview” – which was standing room and where we were all squished together like sardines. I wondered, what would it be like if the average, middle-income Filipino could get to work and go home with a less than 30-minute commute every day? What would we do with our time? We would have more time to our families, or even to ourselves. We would have more time to LIVE.
I got home safely, albeit drenched, near 9pm. After almost 3 hours of trying to get home from an area not so far from where I lived. As I type this the day after, I was nursing a slight fever and a cold from being “basang basa sa ulan,” hopefully recharging as to not let my inner light dim out after less than a week in Manila.
Here's a fan-made parody of one of my favorite Filipino songs.
Note that even though the video comedically captures what I've been through and how I felt, I did have an umbrella that day.
Notes to self for the remainder of the trip:
• Beware of pay-day
• Check the weather!
• Health first!
On a lighter note:
Long-time collaborator Kamole Orense and I are upgrading www.reginadevera.com this year and I can't wait to share the new photos with you all! Here's an (unedited) sneak peak:
Photo by Kamole Orense
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.