We Finished Blocking Into the Woods!
This past week was a marker for our production because we finished blocking the entire show last Friday! We were able to run the whole of Act 2 last Friday and Saturday and we’re getting ready to review Act 1 on Monday. This has been an unexpectedly enjoyable and meaningful process and I’m quite sad that it will be ending in a matter of weeks. In the beginning, I was reluctant to have our rehearsals over at the Signature Theatre (42nd street) instead of at The Juilliard School because I wasn’t used to commuting to another venue in order to rehearse. The Juilliard building has been such a familiar space for me and my dressing room has turned into another home where I have mostly all the stuff that I need from my own dishwashing soap, to my toiletries, to my study materials that commuting to another venue, where I don’t have a space to stow away my belongings or where I have to bring most of my stuff as I commute, didn’t seem appealing to me. Commuting pains aside, I found it unexpectedly refreshing to be working at a different venue outside of the school. It feels as if I am a little different and my colleagues are a little different outside the Juilliard building and we get along pretty well!
Fourth year continues to be a meaningful phase of the training in the sense that it feels as if I am getting this one extra year to refine minute aspects of the skills I’ve painstakingly worked to get into my body for the past three years. Sarna Lapine (director) is a sensitive, firm, imaginative and grounded captain of the ship that is our production of Into the Woods. What I find most rewarding in this process so far is that I don’t feel so much that we’re doing a musical – even though the Sondheim piece is very challenging musically – but more so like a Shakespeare piece set in music. The fierce rigour that I’ve applied to text and scenes for the past three years is proving to be valuable in this process. The songs feel like scenes and my solo feels like a soliloquy – which is very rewarding for me as an actress.
Ever since I’ve moved into my first apartment I’ve begun to question what it means to live a life and what kind of day-to-day existence would be most rewarding for me. I’ve been observing other people in my life and in asking them about how they’ve spent their weekends or their rare and unexpected free evenings, I compare them to how I myself had spent them and end up questioning whether I’m living my life to the fullest. This might be something that I would continue to question over the next few years. I remember when the first rehearsal of Into the Woods was fast approaching, I began to get jealous of my other colleagues from Group 48 who were in other productions that were to open earlier in the season (i.e. Nora and Detroit ’67) because they were to close sooner and will have more extra time as the holidays approached while me and my other colleagues in Into the Woods would be working hard even during the Thanksgiving holidays. Even if that is still the case, I realized that working on Into the Woods was the happiest I’ve ever been so far this school year, no matter how rigorous. Working with people who are extremely talented, who work hard, who are generous and mindful of their colleagues on a project that has a lot of meaning, and which makes us grow as artists – that is part of a good life.
Busy, busy, busy
I'm gonna steal a technique of a friend of mine wherein he sets a timer for 10 minutes and writes. Here goes...
I promised to post some behind-the scenes pictures of Into the Woods. Here are some costume sketches and design inspirations from our costume designer, Valérie Thérèse Bart, below:
Watch out for it:
My article about Josefino Chino Toledo's Agos, came out at the November 2018 issue of The Juilliard Journal. Once it becomes available online, I'll share it on my blog. I've also interviewed director Sarna Lapine for an article I'm writing for Into the Woods. It will come out in December.
Into the Woods!
We start Into the Woods rehearsals tomorrow! This will be a short blog post because I'm very busy but I don't want three weeks to go without a post.
I've been learning my songs in small increments for the past few weeks and I'm happy that I was able to learn all my parts before our first rehearsal tomorrow. Well, I haven't memorized them all but I do know what's going on when I sing them!
I don't really have a lot of updates. I've been busy either looking for scenes for Actors' Presentations, learning scenes for on-camera and/or audition techniques classes and work-study. As the days go on and I get more Into the Woods updates, I'll post more.
"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.
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.