Part of their world: Four actors on bringing fairy tales to life

Cover art Erka Inciong

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Digital Reporter

Storytelling performances bring magic to any occasion. With beloved characters coming to life  singing and dancing to classic tunes, kids and even adults are whisked away to the fairy tales of their youth.

But before each production comes rigorous preparation. Before they can don the costumes of creatures and princesses, actors undergo their own transformations — days of memorizing, rehearsing, and honing their craft.

So what is it like to be real-life fairy tale characters? We found four actors to tell us some stories — this time, their own.

Name: Alex Reyes (IG: alexreyesplease)
Number of years as a character performer: Two years
Background:

Alex’s first exposure to acting was by chance; a friend invited her to join a musical theater workshop. But after landing a gig performing at a Christmas mall show, getting paid, and realizing she could make a living out of work she enjoyed, Alex decided to pursue it. She’s taken on a wide range of roles since then, from Mimi Marquez (RENT!) to one of the leads of the local adaptation of “Hi-5”.

It was during her stint in the latter when a co-actor suggested Alex audition for Madison Events. She was booked the next month to play Disney princesses, portraying Moana, Jasmine, and Belle, among others.

What is your most memorable experience as a character actor?




Performing for sick children in hospitals tops Alex’s list. “There were no lights and no microphones to amplify the singing,” she said. “I had to perform the script five times each for five rooms in the cancer unit, but I didn’t feel tired at all. The encounter felt a lot more genuine than any other P10 million-budget party.”

What challenges have you faced at work?

More than technical difficulties like faulty mics or sudden adjustments in choreography, Alex has had her fair share of encounters with unsavory characters. One time, she and her co-actor had a photo-op with barangay officials during a barangay fiesta. “There was a drunk official who came running up the stage and immediately put his arm on [my co-actor’s] shoulder and firmly pressed it. I had to come up with two tactics to remove his hand off of her,” she said.

How sustainable is character acting as a career?

Since there are more slow months than peak seasons for events, Alex finds that it may be better as a part-time job. Being a freelance actor herself, she makes it a point to always stay busy by getting performance gigs like recording for radio ads and teaching theater to kids during summer.

Do you have any advice for those who want to get into this line of work?

Basic performance skills like singing, acting, diction, and dancing should be honed. Alex recommends continuously joining workshops so that the learning never stops. It’s also important to appear physically appealing, so learning how to apply makeup and maintaining a fit physique are musts.

Name: Jessette Namin (IG: jessetten)
Number of years as a character performer: Three months
Background:

Jessette has been singing since she was four years old, largely influenced by Barbra Streisand and Lea Salonga. Her passion for performing pushed her to attend theater workshops growing up, even choosing Theater as her college degree in UP.

What is your most memorable experience as a character actor?

As a fresh graduate, Jessette has so far played Charity Barnum from “The Greatest Showman” under Jive Manila. She especially loves how she can put smiles on her audience’s faces through her performance. “It replenishes my passion to do more freelance work,” she said.

What challenges do you face at work?

With so many gigs going on at once, managing a schedule can become a headache. During a particular week, Jessette had to juggle two theater plays for Dulaang UP and three events at the same time. While this amount of work would’ve driven anybody crazy, she just takes it all in stride, choosing instead to focus on the lessons she picks up along the way.

How sustainable is character acting as a career?

Freelancing gives Jessette the benefit of making a decent living while being able to pursue her passion. To supplement her earnings from acting, she also works as a stage manager for shows.

Do you have any advice for those who want to get into this line of work?

According to Jessette, it’s a matter of plucking up the courage to pursue your goals against all odds. “You have to trust your gut,” she said.

Name: Nini Torres
Number of years as a character performer: Eight years
Background:

While Nini has been a fan of theater since she saw “Annie” in fifth grade, she never really saw herself performing onstage. She started out with backstage work like management and props-making for Make Believe Productions, but it was the company’s creative director that encouraged her to take up acting. From background roles, she was eventually entrusted with more important characters such as Max from “Where the Wild Things Are” and Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder from “Tangled”.    

What is your most memorable experience as a character actor?

Nini got to fly for real thanks to her role as Peter Pan for a private party. While she described the whole experience as “invigorating”, it was also challenging since she had to sing while being pulled around the venue on a harness.

Villain roles have likewise given Nini great memories. One time, kids started throwing small pieces of paper at her when she played the Mouse King in “The Nutcracker. “I love when they hate me as the villain because that’s when I know I really play the character to the hilt,” she said

What challenges do you face at work?

Anything goes once an interactive live show starts, so a performer always has to be on their toes to make sure that the ball goes rolling smoothly. Whether it’s a volunteer who gets cold feet or throws the story off-script, he or she needs to get creative in order to bring the story back on track.

With so much effort put into this kind of performance, Nini has also experienced feeling drained physically, mentally, and emotionally. Rigorous preparation takes place way before the show starts. “From the first script-reading all the way to the dress rehearsals, every minute demands one hundred percent of your presence,” she said.

How sustainable is character acting as a career?

Performing is more of an additional opportunity for Nini, since she works mainly as Make Believe’s workshop program lead. But for those who want to pursue character acting as a full-time job, she recommends affiliating with a production company to help make gig-hunting much easier.

Do you have any advice for those who want to get into this line of work?

Since work can already get so tough on one’s morale, Nini recommends not taking oneself too seriously. “I believe I owe my success… to the fact that I love laughing at myself. So whatever role I play… I make sure that I have fun doing it because the joy I feel translates to how I perform and the audience really see that.”

Name: Ivy Wong
Number of years as a character performer: 5 years
Background:

Just like Nini, Ivy was exposed to acting only when she entered Make Believe Productions. She credits the team for being her rock during her learning process. “[They have] always been supportive of my physical, emotional, and mental transformation when it comes to studying and portraying characters… which makes my experiences always incredibly healthy and holistic.”

What is your most memorable experience as a character actor?

Ivy found a kindred spirit in Rose from “The Little Prince”, one of the characters that she’s portrayed. Through this role, she was able to face her personal issues and accept herself. “[Rose] ultimately allows me the space to be vulnerable and embrace emotions that I personally wouldn’t allow to the surface on a normal day,” she said.

What challenges do you face at work?

The roles that she plays doesn’t stop with her performances; aside from being an actor, she’s also a production manager for Make Believe. With such different temperaments needed for both jobs, she exerts extra effort to reconditioning herself when switching from one role to another.

Do you have any advice for those who want to get into this line of work?

Ivy’s rule of thumb is simple: Always have fun!



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