Here we go, life.
I had been looking to expand my cooking repertoire for some time now and wasn't sure where to look. Fortunately, I came across a book title while listening to a podcast while in San Diego this summer. The book is called, "Midnight Chicken" by Ella Risbridger. The speakers in the podcast gushed about the beauty of the prose of the author. This was no ordinary recipe book, but a book to fall back in love with life and the world.
This - this collection of recipes - is the story of how I learned to manage again: a kind of guidebook for falling back in love with the world, a how-to of weathering storms and finding your pattern and living, really living."
More accurately, the Tall Man taught me to cook, or more accurately still, he taught me that cooking was something I wanted to do. He taught me to enjoy cooking, to delight in cooking, to use cooking as a kind of framework of joy on which you could hang your day. A breakfast worth getting out of bed for. Second breakfast. Elevenses. Lunch. Afternoon tea. Dinner as glorious reward for a day done well, or consolation for a day gone badly, or just a plain old celebration of still being there, of having survived another one. Supper. A midnight feast.
"I love to cook because it's all about intuition and invention, about looking deep into the stew and trying to predict what it might want and need."
I read from the book every night before I go to bed and it calms me down. In a way, the book provides a map to a life I want: rich, warm, hopefully with some magical company. When I am having a dull or a rough day, cooking dinner grounds, re-centers and comforts me (the cat helps, too). I am hoping that this book will give me a set of clues as to how to continue to rebuild my life, according to my terms, moving forward.
"There is a moral here, maybe: there will always be a time when you want more than toast; there will always come a time when you remember that life had something else in it besides crying. Woman cannot live by toast alone - and although it might feel, at some points in your life, as though the effort to make anything else might kill you, that will not last. There will be another feeling. You will wake up one morning and remember other things: the ripe sharp-sweet burst of a good tomato; the kick of a chilli; the salty, meaty bite of an anchovy. Nutrients. Vitamins. Colours."
I apologize for not having updated my blog in so long. So much life has happened while I was in San Diego and I had to prioritize a number of things over my blog. I've been back in New York City for almost two weeks now and have been pleasantly surprised by the number of auditions I’ve had as well as how productive I've been in attending to important life stuff.
San Diego, CA
My last update about The Underpants was about opening night! So much has happened since then. My stay in San Diego has given me a lot of space to deeply reflect about what has happened to my life so far, what I have learned, as well as what I want more out of life. As some of you may know, The Underpants was my first professional acting job after graduating from The Juilliard School this May. The Underpants was a moment of great transition. I am grateful that it accompanied deep healing and most of the time, magical moments between nature and between people.
I am going to share with you some production photos, as well as some of my adventures in San Diego, California!
Photos by Jim Cox
Scene Design by John Lee Beatty
Costume Design by Alejo Vietti
Lighting Design by Philip S. Rosenberg
The Underpants was directed by Walter Bobbie
SAN DIEGO ADVENTURES
New York City
I am happy to report that I've not been as lonely from missing San Diego and The Underpants as I had anticipated. I've been extremely productive: going straight to a part-time job (a life-saver), getting vaccinated (HPV Vaccine!), enrolling in a health insurance plan (thank you, Actor's Fund), going into four auditions (hell yeah), seeing Felix Starro at Theater Row (an important event for Filipino Americans), deep-cleaning our bathroom (very proud of it), among other things.
I am contemplating on the idea of "thriving" and how I would like to integrate more ease into the way I move through the world. "Survival mode" as a way of being had been deeply ingrained into my psyche as a result of where I came from and what I needed to do in order to get to where I am today. Part of how this emerged into my awareness is how I've noticed that I am finally surrounded by a close-knit group of people whom I feel safe with. Within this close and intimate community, I feel a part of my soul thriving. In my conversations with some people in San Diego, I have felt deeply seen, heard and appreciated for who I am. I was once reminded of the healing power of another person's attention, compassion and generosity. I took the love I received and brought it with me back to New York. I hope to keep that love alive in the face of the uncertainty of the path I've chosen.
"The soul selects her own society."
- Emily Dickinson
While it is true that I had been very busy these past few weeks (but not as crazy rigorous busy as when I was still at Juilliard) - I did have a pocket of time to explore a few magical places in San Diego. I didn't take many pictures because sometimes I think that the act of documenting an experience can take away from the actual experience. I did manage to get some videos, but I don't know how to post them here! These 'magical' experiences involved a cliff overlooking the sea, three pelicans, a sunset, a rainbow (while the sun was setting!), several scoops of gelato and sea lions.
Tech and Previews: The Underpants
One of the things that made me truly want to do this project was the potential artistic growth that I can derive from exploring and playing Louise Maske in this play. I was drawn to her journey of her coming into her own as a woman which was triggered by a wardrobe malfunction. New characters come into her life as a result of this wardrobe malfunction and she gets to have new experiences because of these people. In contrast to Mother Courage, who makes things happen in order to survive - life happens to Louise Maske (although I am still doing a ton in this play). I was interested in a journey of listening, allowing and responding - something that was different from many characters I have played in the past, and very different from how I am used to operate in the world as myself. I was also very excited about playing a woman who discovers that she is a sexual being - an aspect of the human experience that wasn't as present in the roles offered to me within the last five years.
There are some excellent articles that came out in the past week relating to The Underpants. Here are links to some of them:
1) Manila's Regina De Vera 'loses' underpants in Steve Martin farce, Inquirer.net
2) Revival of comedy 'The Underpants' brings Steve Martin's comic voice back to the Old Globe, San Diego Union-Tribune
Previews and Opening!
We've finally opened the play after four previews and it feels like a somewhat "magical" time - despite the occasional feelings of self-doubt. I'm going to ride this wave and see where it takes me.
This will be quick:
I've officially announced on my Facebook and Website that I am doing a play at The Old Globe this summer! I flew in from New York to San Diego on June 30 and started rehearsals for The Underpants on July 1st.
Believe it or not we are already off-book and have already staged the first draft of the show as I type. We are moving really fast and there is a certain level of preparation I need to bring in to rehearsals to keep up with the pace. Hence, I am very busy and won't be able to indulge in the nitty-gritty of what has been happening to me so far.
The thing to know is that I am really, really happy to be here in San Diego and I love the role I'm playing (Louise Maske - lead) and I thoroughly enjoy living through her journey in the play each rehearsal day. I'm also working with a great cast - which is one of the best things about this experience so far. Also, San Diego is such a great place to be in during the summer. It's always sunny but then there's a breeze so it's not too hot - perfect for strolling!
Alright, I need to review my lines and my blocking now. I'm really proud of the work we're doing in the play and I hope that a lot of Filipinos can see it!
This might be what retirement looks like...
I've been on a staycation since the beginning of June because my OPT/EAD Work Card was only approved on Friday, June 14 and I can't do any kind of work in the US without it. In a way, despite all the anxiety it caused, it did allow the space for me to rest. I had some money saved up. Knowing myself, if the approval notice and the physical work card came sooner, I would've started to work right away. I do truly, deeply, need a break and I'm glad I've taken advantage of it.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program Approval delays are real:
Read: "Visa Delays at Backlogged Immigration Service Strand International Students" - The New York Times.
This phenomenon has affected me and my other colleagues who were on similar VISA statuses. On the one hand, I was comforted at the fact that I wasn't alone. The constant refreshing of my Case Status online to see if anything has changed, the calls back and forth between my prospective employer and the Juilliard Office of International Advisement, checking in on other colleagues to see if they had heard anything from their end. Realising that this was a phenomenon across many educational institutions in the US this year, not just Juilliard, and not just me - validated my concerns. Apparently, I wasn't just some crazy paranoid person waiting for my work card to arrive.
On the other hand, I am furious. It astounds me that a group of people who had this much power to affect the lives of thousands of people can take their jobs this lightly. Don't they understand that their processing times affect the financial positions of graduating international students who rely on jobs and internships right after graduation to pay rent, buy food, and basically, live? Many graduating international students from different schools have either lost their jobs or their apartments because they couldn't do any kind of work in the US without their OPT/EAD work card.
In other matters:
Read: This is a comforting interview with Claire Foy about dealing with her anxiety.
Claire Foy, "My anxiety was a tool to survive."
I could definitely relate to this deep-seated anxiety. The inward spirals of "What if's" (What if things go wrong, what if my OPT card doesn't arrive in time, etc.), the constant monitoring of my body for bites or rashes (New York City can be a filthy place to live - I'm sorry to say), the constant monitoring of my apartment for weird insects, the frenzied attempts to keep things together - have all been survival tools to compensate for my feelings of fragility and at times, isolation. These are probably after-effects from a traumatic time when I felt that many things were falling apart all at once and I have felt deeply and miserably, alone.
I have been in therapy for the past four years and this has helped a lot. I've also let go of many toxic relationships and leaned towards healthier ones. I'm at a point in my life wherein I can feel a growing desire towards LIBERATION, to unburden myself from old stories, old narratives, and make space for new things.
And then, indeed, to new things:
The terrific news is, my OPT/EAD work card finally did come through this week and so I'm off to do a play somewhere out of town beginning July 1st. I am not yet allowed to make any online announcements, but I'll be sure to let you all know once I get the go signal!
I am an actress currently based in New York City. I received my acting training at The Juilliard School. Take a look around!