A YEAR IN REVIEW: THIRD YEAR AT JUILLIARD DRAMA
I understand I haven't posted anything in six weeks, I've been pre-occupied with life stuff and Romeo & Juliet. I wrote a blog for Juilliard Admissions entitled, "A Year in Review." I'm going to put that one up here:
This was a very good year for me in terms of artistic and personal growth. I feel very lucky to have had many opportunities this year to showcase my range as an actress being given at least three roles to play in each of all the three productions we had this year (Top Girls, Queens Boulevard and Romeo & Juliet). On the personal level, there were a lot of quieter, internal victories and shifts that happened in the second semester that will hopefully continue to grow in the fourth year of my training.
I don’t like playing favorites because I loved them all this year. I do like to mention some key roles that brought a lot of "gifts" that will forever be with me.
1. Lady Nijo in Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls.”
I was terrified of playing a Japanese courtesan from the 13th century given that it is so easy to fall into the trap of playing a stereotype. I truly wanted to honor her and do her justice. I read her published journal and interviewed three real Japanese women to talk about 13th century Japan (Kamakura period), studied courtesan movements and practices and recorded Japanese accents in English. My work was well received by my community and it taught me that being given something that might be scary at first can prove to have a hidden gift in it afterwards.
2) Aly in Chuck Mee’s “Queens Boulevard”
I wasn’t originally cast to play Aly - an Asian American guy with a four and a half page monologue on how white men have taken away Asian women from Asian men and why Asian men seem to be at the bottom of the dating pool. I had to cover for a colleague. When the role became vacant, my director had asked me if I was interested and willing to take over the part even though I was already assigned two roles for that show. After talking (and crying) to a mentor about how this part was triggering a lot of my own insecurities as a woman of color in America, I decided that taking this on would allow me to investigate my own fears in front of my community. The lesson I learned from playing Lady Nijo about leaning into my fears proved to do well for me in this instance again. It felt as if both Lady Nijo and Aly were roles that came and found me. Being given the opportunity to share that monologue in the form of a stand-up act in front of the community for a few nights at the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Drama Studio was healing and gave my comic skills a lot of practice.
3. Lady Capulet in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
Playing mothers was not initially appealing to me. However, upon seeing female colleagues from other groups play powerful mothers and stepmothers in All My Sons, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, I realized that it is a gift to have the opportunity to delve into the complexity and depth of being a mother in extraordinary circumstances. The energy work that my Alexander coach guided me through for this role was revelatory in how I can find ways to connect to experiences that I might not have access to in my life offstage.
There are a number of other non-Asian roles that I’ve played this year that have also expanded and revealed my range (playing the 11-year old Brit in Top Girls was a joy). That is part of what made this year so great - that I was able to take on roles that allowed me to embrace cultures and experiences that deeply resonated with mine as well as cultures and experiences that were distant from mine. I only hope that my fourth year will continue the process of my personal and artistic expansion.
We've Finished Blocking!
Can you imagine? We've finished blocking Romeo and Juliet and we have more than a month to go before opening! This has never happened to me before! We've got so much time! I'm off-book already. I've filed my taxes. I've got time to breathe now. It's going to be great.
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS
I don't think my family is going to be psyched that I've been working for the past three holy weeks that I've been in the United States. It's not as big of a deal in here as it is in the Philippines. I didn't even realize that it was holy week until my roommate told me he's gonna be gone for the weekend to spend Easter with his family. Religion is something that has largely been unquestioned for most of my journey in the Philippines. When I moved to New York City, there were no longer family members who could make me go to church on Sundays or practice any rituals from the Roman Catholic faith. As I proceed, I keep asking myself "why." Why should I go to church? Why should I fast? Why should I go to confession? Other than it's bad and I'll go to hell, or I'll lose points during Judgement Day, or because my family and my teachers have told me so? I have to find more compelling reasons than any of the above until I decide for myself what to do with my "religion."
After I completed the first seasons of Ugly Delicious, Queer Eye and The Imposters (this was over spring break), I started watching this Netflix series called "Love."
I was drawn to the series because it features Mickey, a woman in her early thirties with a drug, alcohol, sex/love addiction who was trying to get better. She's had a string of unhealthy relationships with men who weren't good for her until she meets Gus. Gus is a guy who doesn't fit into the mold of guys that Mickey has always dated, but Mickey opens up to him because she's at the point in her life where she realizes she deserves someone who is good to her. And I'm kind of in the same boat. Hey look, I don't have an "addiction." But I had a romantic history that compelled me to take a hiatus from any romantic engagements until I sorted out a couple of knots internally.
It's something that I've been thinking about because I'm almost done with my third year of training and I feel solid internally and emotionally after being single for almost four years now and have been in therapy for two and a half years, have learned to live on my own and take care of myself (in a foreign country!) and made healthy new friendships in a community where I feel loved and where I feel like I belong. So I think I'm in a pretty good place to start welcoming new energy in my life.
Mickey: They say that you go back to painful situations because they’re comfortable and familiar.
Spring Break, Final Callback Weekend, Shakespeare, My Birthday!
I have a lot of catching up to do! I had a lovely spring break last February 26-March 11. I stayed in New York City and balanced catching up with friends and family with doing some homework (yes we still had homework to do over spring break).
I don't recall following any "makeover TV shows" growing up. I perceive local TV hosts from the Philippines to adapt a kind of deprecating humor that I find counter-productive to self-improvement. That is probably where I have begun to carry a bias against makeover shows that works from an angle of seeing what is wrong and lacking from a person and then proceed to "transform" them - as if what was originally there was insufficient in itself. I love "Queer Eye" (the new one) because the "Fab 5" (Karamo - culture, Antoni - food & wine, Tan - fashion, Bobby - design and Jonathan - grooming) work from a place of seeing the potential that is already there in the person and then digging to see what direction that person wants to take his life next and what may be blocking the person from blossoming into this full potential. The Fab 5 are so generous, gracious, entertaining, kind and talented! I would love for them to makeover my father! (hi Dad)
The last TV series that I paid attention to over the break was "The Imposters." I watch it mainly because one my favorite actresses in the Juilliard Drama Division, Marianne Rendon (Group 45) is in this show and I am so proud of her! In the trailer below she's in the last clip that you'll see.
Final Callback Weekend
Over the spring break, I signed up to work for the Juilliard Drama Final Callback Weekend to find the next 18 people to comprise Group 51. I was lucky enough to be assigned to work at the check-in table during the first day as well as to work as their monologue room monitor - so I was able to meet all 50 candidates.
Romeo and Juliet
Rehearsals began for Romeo & Juliet and Richard II last March 12, 2018. I am cast as Lady Capulet, Lady Montague, among others in Romeo & Juliet which is set to run from May 1-9 at the Stephanie McClelland Drama Theater. A theme I have discovered consistent in my third year of training is that I have been cast in no less than three characters in each show in all of the productions (Top Girls, Queens Boulevard, Romeo & Juliet). Below are snapshots of costume sketches by our costume designers: Jessica Wegener for Romeo & Juliet and Andrea Hood for Richard II.
It was my 29th birthday yesterday! I was determined to set the conditions to make this year's birthday into a better birthday than last year (one of the worst but I can laugh about it now). I finished a lot of life errands last weekend and Monday (which included cleaning, laundry, cooking, tax stuff, etc.) so that I can chill out a bit on March 20, Tuesday. I was released from rehearsals early, got to celebrate with a friend (I got a plant!) and went home to my apartment to find a red velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery from my new roommates so a lot of things were already a step up from last year!
I promised Cabaret Photos
From Feb. 5-11, our group (Group 48) was busy singing (and some of us dancing) our hearts out at our annual Cabaret show. The Cabaret is a show that happens at the spring semester of the third year of training that culminates all the singing classes that have begun in the second year of training.
I've been in a couple of musicals in the five years that I've worked as a professional theater actress in the Philippines. In those musicals, I've always been put in the soprano parts in ensemble numbers - for a long time I believed I was a soprano. There was one Filipino composer/musical director who mentioned to me that he thinks I might be an alto all this time. It confused me then, but fast forward to months into my singing training at Juilliard, my singing teacher said that she thinks that my singing voice falls into the alto/mezzo range. For this Cabaret I was cast in alto/mezzo ballad parts and I loved it.
During my late teens and early twenties, I had bought into the notion that a "leading lady" or an "ingenue" was a soprano. I might have unconsciously forced myself into being a soprano because I wanted to be a "leading lady." Much of my Juilliard journey (which includes my casting and my work in scene study classes) have challenged all these ideas of "leading lady," "ingenue," "character actress" and so on. "All acting is character acting," one of my acting teachers said. I am very happy to have begun letting go of this hold to become of a particular mold and embrace my voice and my self and my soul as IS. I love that I am an alto. I love that I can sing deep notes. And I love that I can sing high notes, nevertheless. Having range is good.
One of the great things that I am reclaiming in this journey (framed under the "Juilliard Journey") is my Voice. Not only my inner voice, but my literal speaking and singing voice as well. It feels very affirming, after searching for so long, to arrive at my Self in this way, and to be able to move forward with a sense of more Wholeness.
Last Class with Stephen Mckinley Henderson
It has been a pleasure to be strengthening acting muscles with our Master class teacher for this quarter, Mr. Stephen McKinley Henderson. He's been in a couple of films (Lincoln, Fences, Lady Bird), he was in Group 1 of the Drama Division and was recently the commencement speaker of the 2017 Juilliard Commencement ceremony.
We're now on our spring break and when we come back we're gonna be on the last leg of our third year of training. Most graduate drama schools only have three years of training. Juilliard Drama has four years. We get three full years of pure acting training, and then we'll have the fourth year as the bridge to the profession. If one looks at it this way, I am then approaching the last leg of the real deal, and then the fourth year is probably going to feel very different (or not).
It is hardly spring in New York City (it was about 18F this weekend) but it's been a good winter for me so far as compared to my first two winters. Miraculously, I find myself hardly depressed and more calm and patient with how things are going. We are currently busy preparing for our upcoming show, "Cabaret: A Musical Revue." Cabaret is an annual musical show that the third years put up as a culmination of singing classes that have begun in the second year of training. We will share our work at the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Drama Studio, which was the same place we shared our work in Top Girls and Queens Boulevard last semester.
I have prayed for a quiet life for a long time especially in the height of my bed bug stress (that has been such a memorable time in my journey - I am amused that I still keep mentioning it), and even towards the end of the first semester of my third year of training (when I was doing three roles with three dialects again for Queens Boulevard). Now that I have it I am still "working" towards trusting it. A quiet and calm life is unfamiliar territory for me. I am more used to drama, stress, anxiety - or something going wrong. I have been more investigative and curious about other possible ways of living, and have been wanting to move specifically towards more lightness.
Over the past winter break, someone whose wisdom I seek every now and then has advised me to trust the flow of my life. I don't have to work too hard, she said. What I do need to do is to be present, to listen, to hear, to stay open. The flow of my life at present is very mild, quite smooth and calm. There is a part of me that has become impatient lately as there are a few things in my personal life that I want to start going but hasn't yet. When I get those feelings again I remind myself to be patient. There may be some things I want that are not available yet but there are many things that ARE in place. And I am taking the time to slow down and acknowledge them.
Cabaret photos to follow!
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.