UPCOMING PROJECTS: TOP GIRLS by Caryl Churchill
I am extremely lucky to have been cast in a production of Top Girls together with 6 other talented women in my class (Group 48) as our opening project in our third year of training. To give you a brief background of the play, it was first premiered in 1982 in London. It is “set in the Britain of the early 1980s and examines the issue of what it means to be a successful woman” (Wikipedia).
The play follows the journey of Marlene, a British woman who has been recently promoted as Managing Director of a high-flying employment agency. The opening sequence features Marlene’s fantasy of inviting all the “Top Girls” across history from various centuries: Isabella Bird - a Scottish woman who traveled extensively around the world between the ages of 40 and 70, Lady Nijo – a courtesan and later a Buddhist nun from Japan, Dull Grett – the subject of a Brueghel painting featuring women fighting off devils, Pope Joan – a female pope in disguise who was believed to have existed between 854-856, and Patient Griselda – a famous character written by Chaucer because of her extraordinary patience and marriage. They are gathered in a fancy restaurant celebrating Marlene’s promotion. The succeeding scenes feature Marlene’s life as a high-flying manager in her office alongside other women, as well as scenes from the small town she has left behind in pursuit of her ambitions.
The play is directed by Eve Shapiro, who directed this same play in the Drama Division in 1989. I am extremely lucky to be in this production which features an all-female cast and artistic team. It’s so refreshing and empowering to be working with a diverse group of women. All of my colleagues in this show work hard and are a joy to collaborate with.
I play three roles in this production and one of them is Lady Nijo – an Emperor’s courtesan and later a Buddhist nun. I’ve been very lucky to have support from actual Japanese women in the preparation of the show. Dawn Saito (Juilliard faculty) has been instrumental in pointing me to the right direction in terms of where Lady Nijo’s spirit lives, as well as her hand gestures, her walk and her bowing. Naoko Arcari from the Juilliard Costume shop has donated her own kimono to the school for the show, and has helped me and the costume staff with regards to keeping an authenticity with Lady Nijo’s look under time constraints and abrupt costume changes, and Mari Miyamoto (through a common friend) has helped me greatly with the Japanese accent as well as information about Japanese culture and the Kamakura period (the era in which Lady Nijo lived).
We are living in a time when conversations about diversity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity are heightened and so it was very important to me (as a non-Japanese Asian actress) to honor the culture of the character I’m playing especially if that character’s background falls under the minority in the United States. It is crucial that I begin to practice this in my process while I’m at school because it is something that I would need to take with me as I go off into the world.
REGINA DE VERA
Quezon City, Philippines