TRAINING COMES IN MANY WAYS
I have had a five-year professional career in the Manila theater scene in the phase of my life right after college and right before coming to Juilliard. I hardly speak about it with my colleagues for many different reasons, but it would be apt to dip into this for this post. I was part of a theater company that has an in-house company of actors who performed plays in repertory for an entire season – The Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines from 2010-2015. My days in that company had some similarities with my life here at Juilliard Drama in the sense that we would have acting, movement and voice classes from 1-5pm in the afternoon and have rehearsals for a play from 6-10pm (of course at Juilliard we would begin our days as early as 9AM instead of 1PM and still end at 10PM or 10:30PM). We would do original Filipino plays and musicals as well as adaptations and Filipino translations of Western “classics” (which unfortunately means mostly plays by white men like Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare, etc.).
Even before I got into that company I was already very hungry for the work and the craft. Over time, I had developed a personal routine that I practiced every morning to work on my voice and speech upon waking up before I commuted to go to the theater where we had classes and rehearsals every day.
I write about this because it has been a part of my training that helped my skill sets to come to the level that made me ready for conservatory training. But the deeper things that prepared me for an independent life in a foreign country away from family and community were the things that happened beyond the craft:
I commuted from our house in Quezon City to Pasay City (where the Cultural Center of the Philippines is) for 1.5-2 hours every day for five years. I would walk from my house to a sheltered stop under a tree with the Philippine heat (80F-ish or more) and wait for a tricycle that would then take me to a gas station near a foot bridge where I can cross to the other side in order to get into a public van (we call it an “FX”) or bus to get me to Manila. The traffic is often heavy especially in certain areas of the journey. The van or bus would take multiple stops to get people in and out of the vehicle as with all public transportation vehicles. The “FX” would have its last stop at a station in Manila, where I would need to get off to get into another “FX” that would finally take me to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I got around my professional life by commuting like this. Sometimes I would take the MetroRail Line Transit (our equivalent of the subway except it was above ground) where sometimes the lines would be so long that I had to wait for 5-6 different trains to pass by before I could squish into an already crowded “car.” When I was too tired or had extra money, I would take a taxi or an Uber. Sometimes I would bring a suitcase with me with my own costume and makeup if the company cannot provide for us for a specific production. There was one time when I had a sprain in my foot and had to fight to get into a van (there are no “lines” when waiting for public transportation in our area in Quezon City). All that hustling was as character and soul-building as my days spent training and rehearsing in the theater.
When I got into Juilliard and had to make my way around New York City, the subway system was very tame compared to the commute I had to make every single day in the Philippines from 2010-2015. Those five years of commuting, of making my own way, of listening to my intuition as I navigated my way through the streets, through my professional and personal life, trained me for life on my own in a foreign country. There are people here in my Juilliard Drama community who have told me that I exude a strength even when I’m being perky. My multiplicity and the different “languages” I’ve learned through all the paths I’ve navigated constitute my unique point-of-view in the work and the multiple kinds of people that are in my inner well. I am proud of my journey and I am intent on continuing it.
REGINA DE VERA
QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES