Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Being a Theater Actor

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — My relationship with theater is closer than normal. I do theater, while others just watch it. Appreciating the art of theater is a very positive thing – much so in my case as an actor.

I know that there is a stereotype in people’s minds about theater actors. They imagine an actor to be very flamboyant, loud, obnoxious fellow who is constantly smiling and talking and singing. I believe I am that kind of fellow, except perhaps being obnoxious.

If necessary, I can become the person a situation calls for or people like – in real life. I think my theatrical exposure has given me the skill to a blessing rather than a curse to others. I can make them feel good in my company.

Theater actors in general are very welcoming, accepting and empathetic individuals to be around. They have a deeper understanding of people because of their portrayal of many different characters in various settings. And each character they play requires serious effort to get into the ‘inner life’ of the character.

My involvement in theater started way back in grade school. My teachers then would call me to lead the “Pledge of Allegiance” or the “Morning Prayer” in class. They’d choose me not necessarily because I was the best or the only one who knew how to do it – but because I was always willing to do it.

This was in our provincial town in northern Cebu. The kids there at the time were really “probincianos” – shy and reticent, especially in the presence of authorities like teachers. Apparently, those little performances in class were such big feats for any kid.

In no time I moved up to acting in class plays. In high school, I was already the driving force in the major school plays; and in college I was moving from one play to the next, whether in or out of the campus, either as an actor, a stage manager, or a technician. Then I was totally hooked.

Theater did not get in the way of my academic studies, though. It had previously instilled in me the discipline of compartmentalizing my life events, where necessary.  It was like – on the stage I would be this character I play, but at the same time I’d remain to be the person that I am.

I managed my time wisely. I still found time to study my lessons even if we rehearsed until 12 midnight or beyond and I had a major exam the following day. It had to go like that at times, especially if the play’s opening night was on the following night. I was able to do it because I had the self-discipline to shut off my phone and focus on the necessary tasks.

Being a theater actor has allowed me to experience things that I would not necessarily encounter in my own life – war, rape, extreme poverty, varying religions, as well as many other situations that give me a broader perspective on life and the world. I have learned to appreciate people of other circumstances, allowing me to have a better understanding of their emotional hardships, therefore increasing my own ability to empathize.

Having to face the crowd during a play performance has helped me a lot in eventually gaining a robust sense of self-confidence. I have been able to conquer my fear of facing people, people of rank especially. And this has helped me in getting parts in play productions abroad, as I am now able to hold myself up with poise.

Poise, as we all know, has practical application in the job market, as well. A person coming to a job interview who appears to be in full control of himself would surely impress his prospective employer in a positive way. And I speak comfortably in answering interview questions; theater has taught me how to psych myself up – usually pretending that it is just a ‘role’ I had to play well.

When I get the day job that I applied for, I grow most of the time. I know how to work with people, to collaborate with co-actors, set people, costume crew, technicians, everybody. I also know how to work around problems that crop up unexpectedly, because I have experienced that on the live stage anything can happen. Theater has taught me all that.

During a performance, if someone forgets a line you can’t simply turn to the audience and say “Oh, sorry! Let’s try that again.” You have to do something and force the scene to continue as naturally as possible. Theater actors have improvisational skill that helps them in the real world more than anything they’ve learned in school.

But, no, theater has not made life any easier for me. I still get refused in auditions, get turned down in job applications. I still get caught in life situations that will make others want to give up.

Life is still difficult, to some extent. Yet, whatever comes up “the show must go on.” Thank God, theater has given me so much more than just the skill to entertain. - Lexter Manloloyo


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