Thursday, July 4, 2013

JUGGLING: When Theatre Actors Decide To Do Both Corporate Work and Feed Their Passion


by Jha Briones

“You cannot work for two different people, organizations, or purposes in good faith, because you will end up favouring one over the other.” – The Free Dictionary

Or so they thought.

In this fast-paced world, and a generation where everyone wanted to prove something to either their families, friends or just to themselves; working in a corporate environment, at the same time doing what you love and following your passion on the side, doesn’t seem to be impossible. This post aims to create awareness on actors who have the passion but cannot do full time acting. This also aims to enlighten everyone on how these fellow “Jugglers” managed to serve two masters at the same time, and what challenges came along their way.

 In following your passion for the arts while having a day job according to Robie Zialcita, presently the Head of Student Life at Enderun Colleges in Taguig, and who has been performing professionally for 18 years on Stage, and Television; sustaining the education and upbringing he envisions for his family by acting alone will not suffice considering the fact that acting does not pay enough, made him decide to get a corporate job. He may have one to three shows in a year depending on his schedule, but this also brings him the challenge of time management. For him, Time is one challenge.

Robie Zialcita
“I have to ensure that rehearsals do not overlap with my work schedule. If they do then my theatre will suffer; I will not take on the project. Also, if I do get to work the acting project then my time with my family suffers as well because work and stage take up the whole day”, says Zialcita. He was part of Repertory Philippines’ Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure and Shakespeare in Hollywood (both in 2011), Sweeney Todd (2009) and Moose Murders (2007) among others; and Atlantis Productions’ Xanadu in 2010 to name a few.

Adrian Flor

Adrian Flor on the other hand, a Lawyer by profession who is currently based in Australia and a former Repertory Philippines actor as well, only engages in theatre in an amateur capacity (meaning not full time). To be involved in a professional capacity in theatre in Australia, he experienced that these opportunities mainly come up in Sydney and Melbourne, and to juggle a full-time corporate job with performing arts in this country can be rather difficult (if not impossible). A stage actor who has performed in a year and 5 months here in the Philippines, he became part of eight shows including Much Ado About Nothing, Scrooge and A Midsummer Night's Dream with Repertory Philippines; and Dreamgirls with Atlantis Productions, before he returned to Australia and has since then been performing on the side while working for about 4 years. Having about 3-5 shows in a year, gives him the challenge of needing a supportive workplace to engage in both a corporate job and acting career.

“I've experienced corporate settings in the past that were not exactly happy with me trying to juggle both. Admittedly, one does suffer for the other. For example, I can be tired in my corporate job during the week leading up to the opening of a show (due to long hours in the theatre) - but I always manage to complete corporate objectives and, ideally, a workplace should understand that. But the capacity in which I manage to fit in an acting career (on the side) allows me to have a steady income while maintaining my involvement in my performing arts passion”, says Flor.

Maritina Romulo
As a part-time Producer for Corporate Social Responsibility projects and films for a content provider and production company called SimpleTruth, Maritina Romulo also just participated as an actor/performer in One Billion Rising Philippines with Monique Wilson. Together with other actors, she also performed Eve Ensler's Over It/Sawang-sawa Na Ako in Tagalog at the Feb 14th rising on Tomas Morato, in which they also sang Do You Hear the People Sing at the finale of the program. Performing professionally for 15 years in stage, television, and film (Cinemalaya), she was recently seen in the movies Mga Mumunting Lihim,  Henerasyon and Requieme among others. She was also internationally recognized for the shows United Nations Holiday For Peace and Valentine in November (both in New York City 2010) to name a few.

“Aside from being able to sustain myself financially, I would also like to also be able to contribute to our entertainment industry by producing quality projects that will awake the Filipino consciousness. It is extremely difficult to be a producer and a working performing artist as you have to be on top of many things and must have follow through. There just isn't enough time to do a lead role. By mid last year as I was learning the ropes of production work I had no time to perform at all”, says Romulo. She also mentioned that the number of shows/acting projects varies from year to year. When she did two cameo roles in Cinamalaya Films, she did not have enough time to do theatre.

M.M. Gigante

M.M. Gigante is rendering her last few days as a Consultant-Editor for a subsidiary of one of the biggest television networks in the Philippines. Soon she’ll be a Human Resource Desk Analyst by profession. A stage actress and band vocalist at the same time, she was given the opportunity to tour with one of the renowned theatre companies in the Philippines, Gantimpala Theater Foundation for the show, Si Snow White at Ang Pitong Dwarfs in 2010.

“There will come a time when you have to compromise because you need to give time and focus to both. Yes, I did offset my absences and filed unpaid leaves at work to join the tour”, says Gigante.

Theatre actors each have their own preference on what type of theatre they rather do. Some prefers Straight plays, especially when it is in memorizing the lines and delivering them without such movement of dance and singing vocals like in a musical type of theatre; that makes them comfortable. Others may prefer Musical, if the challenge of doing everything (act-sing-dance) in one performance, captivates their soul.

Zialcita prefers a straight play mainly because it challenges him to memorize more in terms of lines. Also because he doesn’t really see himself as a dancer so doing musicals can be a challenge, even though he can sing. And even if his corporate job came first, his musical theatre experience began after he himself was made to audition when his intention was just to accompany some friends.

Flor mentioned that although he likes to appear in both straight and musical theatres because according to him, they can exercise very different skills sets; shared he prefers musical. Same is through with Gigante who said, “Music is my life, with Theatre it is love”. And even if the corporate job came first for her too, she said that her career is her partner in building a concrete and secure future, but performing is her passion. It sustains the beating of the heart and feeds her soul.

Romulo on the other hand said, “I would have to say straight plays as I consider myself to be an actor who can sing. I have to work much, much harder to do a musical. However, I love musicals as I come from a strong dance background too.” She was a ballet dancer at the age of five and would perform in recitals. Her Aunt Chloe Romulo was her first ballet teacher. She got discovered in Brussels, Belgium by Director Adam Brown, when she was watching her voice teacher perform in a theater production, then she was asked to audition for LIAT in American Theater Company of Brussels South Pacific. The performing arts came first.

Given a chance to do theatre full time, some thespians will immediately grab such opportunity, but others won’t. Romulo and Zialcita wishes to do theatre full time, because they both enjoy doing it. While according to Romulo, it doesn’t feel like work because performing makes her happy, Flor, said he doesn’t want to do theatre full time because he found a nice blend where he can have his corporate day job but have fun doing shows that he really wants to do without having to worry about the shows supporting him financially. But when Flor was asked if he will ever consider dropping theatre and just focus on his day (night) job, he said, “No. Theatre will always be a part of me.”

And while Gigante has only one professional theatre experience under her belt, her fascination with the world of theatre never ceases to have her wishing for growth as a performing artist. For her, she may consider dropping theatre, but just for a while, because for her anything is possible.

Yes, there are things holding them back to do theatre full-time. Let me state them one by one: Stability of income and Standard Talent/Rehearsal Fees (above minimum wage).

If Thespians were offered medical insurance and if Theatre Acting is treated like any other job, with benefits and all; these jugglers will never consider dropping theatre.

So you think you can do it? The decision still lies on you. If you are a true thespian at heart, regardless of what profession you are in, nothing or no one can ever stop you from reaching your dreams. It is when you finally found where or what truly makes you happy, can you then be sure of what path to take. Either you focus on your corporate work alone, or do full-time theatre given the circumstances of wage and lack of medical insurance (though I know some local theatre companies are already addressing these issues now, like the Philippine Theater Actors Guild, Inc.), or do both, it’s all in your hands.

As for us, Jugglers, we didn’t wait for the right time to come. We just seized every opportunity that came along. Never will we consider dropping theatre, at all. As Theatre has, and will always be, a part of our lives.


Jha Briones is also a juggler and a proud member of Philippine Theater Actors Guild.

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