January 15, 2019 – Carla Delgado
I fell in love with theater unexpectedly.
And if I were to tell my younger self that someday I’d be working on big theater productions as an adult, I wouldn’t have believed it.
When I was younger, my parents would always take my sister and me to watch ballet shows and theater plays. We often went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Aliw Theater to catch various performances. I was a child back then so my appreciation for the shows was more or less short-lived. It was great and pretty, I had fun, the end. It just wasn’t the kind of thing that we were really into.
The first theater play that really stuck with me was “CATS: Now and Forever.” We watched it when the tour went to the Philippines in 2010. My sister and I really loved it! We enjoyed its lively songs and the colorful costumes. We particularly loved Rum Tum Tugger and Skimbleshanks! It was the first international play that we ever saw. I remember that there was a verse from “Memory” that was sung in Filipino. We searched interesting bits of information about the play online, like the touring cast and the song lyrics. We learned that they sing a verse of “Memory” in the local language of the country they are performing at.
For me, that pretty much sparked my interest in theater. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
It was when my sister joined a theater organization in college that I learned more about the workings of theater. Before that, all I knew was what I got to see on stage. I got to see her working on some documents and plans when she was at home, and I also got to watch the plays that they produced. Since she actually worked on theater productions, I got to ask her sometimes (out of curiosity) about the tasks that she and her friends did. I learned about the work that goes into staging a play as well as how difficult it is to procure the props, make the set, and solve the logistical problems that arise.
Over the span of many years, we continued to watch more theater plays together. We got to watch international plays that toured here in the Philippines such as “The Phantom of the Opera” (2012), “Wicked” (2014 & 2017), “Chicago” (2014), “Singing in the Rain” (2015), “Les Miserables” (2016), “West Side Story” (2017), and “The Lion King” (2018). We also supported a handful of local theater and watched straight plays and musicals.
My actual participation in theater (other than being part of the audience, of course) took place when I was a freshman in college. It was my very first semester at the university and I saw that there was an annual theater play looking for actors.They apparently only accepted freshmen for auditions. It’s literally a now or never moment. If you change your mind next year—well, just your luck, you can no longer join because by then you won’t be a freshie anymore.
I had no previous theater experience, but going to a university where I didn’t know anyone really gave me the boost of confidence I needed. The fact that this play was a one-time opportunity really stuck to me and compelled me to show up for an audition. My sister also encouraged me to try it and see how it goes. Luckily enough—I got to be part of the cast!
The play that I joined was “Isko’t Iska 2014: Break the Chains, Start the Change,” staged by a community-based socio-cultural theater organization based in Los Baños, Laguna. The Isko’t Iska plays were first staged in 1983 before it became an annual production since the year 2001. The organization’s goal is to bring light to the struggles of the Filipino masses through different forms of art, mostly through (but not limited to) theater. This is the main point of this annual “Isko’t Iska” play, aptly titled as the common terms used to refer to students of the University of the Philippines.
As actors, we had to listen to educational discussions about the conditions of different sectors of society, as well as criticize the problems in the current political climate. We also integrated ourselves within a community of peasants and workers to increase our social awareness and listen to first-hand stories.
That play happened to be the best decision I ever made. I made lots of new friends, I had a fun and exciting extra-curricular activity, and I got to experience being part of a theater production. It helped me break out of my shell. I am always reminded of that particular experience whenever I am thinking of trying something new. That was a lesson for me—don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. It also completely changed my path in life. I had planned to get Writing as my major, and I ended up choosing Theater Arts instead.
Before I graduated, I managed to be part of 20 theater productions, both inside and outside the university. I got to try different jobs and be part of the different aspects that makes a play. I’ve been a publicity head, marketing intern, actor, head stage manager, director, and many more. Among all the theater productions I’ve worked on in college, my proudest moment would have to be working on “TINGKALA.” It was a production festival formed through the collaboration of four theater classes. We staged 8 different plays in the campus in a span of 5 weeks. One play was even performed in Candelaria, Quezon.
I love the blackout before
the start of a new play,
the feeling of anticipation
between you and the rest
of the theater-goers,
the uncontainable excitement
to witness a performance.
Being the Head Stage Manager for the final class output of three major theater courses (Directing, Community Theater, and Theater for Children) was very difficult as I had to be on top of everything that happened in the production. I would say that the most difficult part was scheduling the rehearsals of all productions as there were some overlaps when it came to the preparation period, but it all worked out in the end.
Trying on different hats in this field is important because it gives you more insight as to how all these different roles work together to stage a production. Like any other field, the key thing to remember is to never stop learning.
There are always new methods and better ways to do things, and you can’t possibly know everything there is to know. The best thing to do is to always be open to expanding your knowledge and to be humble enough to ask questions.
Working in theater definitely made me a better person. I got to develop the utmost discipline when it comes to many different aspects. As they say, “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” I also got to explore my creativity and develop new skills that I can apply to any chosen field.
My organization and problem-solving skills are continuously being put to the test. Theater also helped me learn to work with different kinds of people, each with their own capabilities and strengths that I picked up a thing or two from. You can’t have a “me, me, me” mindset in this field (or any other industry, for that matter) because you are always part of a bigger picture and everyone else’s role is just as important as yours.
I fell in love with theater because you really get immersed in its world. You step out of reality for a moment and focus on what is being shown to you—what you are working on. Theater is also based on truth. The script, the direction, and the intentions are all very real. These make plays very relatable to any person who enters the theater. I love the blackout before the start of a new play, the feeling of anticipation between you and all the other theater-goers, the excitement to witness a performance. I love working on a production and seeing so many other people as passionate about it as you are, which is really motivating to witness.
What I learned from all this experience is that I should never hold myself back just because it scares me. If I had turned back from one particular opportunity to go out of my comfort zone, I could have missed out on all of this and would have grown to become a different person. To be honest, every single production I work on still scares me a bit. I know there are lots of things I have yet to learn and new people I will work with, but that’s the thing exactly—you must feel the fear and do it afraid. You just might learn something new about yourself.
CARLA DELGADO IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND THEATRE PRACTITIONER. SHE HAS A PENCHANT FOR GETTING LOST IN THE STORIES SHE FINDS IN BETWEEN THE PAGES OF A BOOK OR THEATER ACTS. AS A RECENT COMMUNICATION ARTS GRADUATE, SHE IS TRYING HER BEST TO CHASE AFTER HER MANY INTERESTS IN LIFE.
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