We Made Something Beautiful.

I woke up today with Damien Rice in my head. His sound is eerie, delicate and bittersweet. And that’s exactly what I felt this morning — bittersweet.

Early November of last year, I auditioned for a little play called, This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. The audition was strange. We were to recite our favorite children’s poem and then participate in a group improvisation exercise. I was intriqued and recited Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I thought Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss were too obvious. For the improvisation part, I recall pretending to cry and collecting my tears in a mug. In any case, I got a part, a main part, and yesterday was closing night, our last performance.

Today, the realization that it was all over had set in. Bittersweet.  That word is such an oxymoron. But alas, all good things have to end right? The transient part of it makes it all more special to me, makes me grateful for the people I met, the personal evolution I developed as an actor/person and the pride I felt in creating something magical. I was a part of something bigger than myself and it made me happy. Days weeks months lived well.

The play, written by Finegan Kruckemeyer, is about three girls who are sisters, who are triplets. They’re related and so close in age but so so very different. They get abandoned in the woods at age 12 by a broken hearted father who was influenced by the evil step mother. The oldest, Albienne, is all about venturing out and moving forward, discovering the world and new places (This Girl Laughs). The middle child, Beatrix, wants to go in the other direction, back to search for Father as to why he could do such a thing (This Girl Cries). As for the youngest, Carmen, she stays in the woods (This Girl Does Nothing). The play follows the girls in their decision and their journeys that were set forth from that fateful day in the woods until the ripe old(er) age of 31.

Damn. I’M 31 RIGHT NOW. I AM 1 OF 3 DAUGHTERS. MY SISTERS AND I ARE RELATED BUT SO DIFFERENT. This play pulled at me in so many different ways and I felt I could play almost all the characters. I related to Albienne because she was the oldest. I’m the oldest in my family. She’s also about taking charge and being a leader. She’s an extrovert, meeting people and building communities. ALL ME. I related to Beatrix because of her attachment to the father. I have a wonderful relationship with my dad. He is the most interesting man in the world to me and I’ve walked the Sai Gon river with him.  I wanted to be the narrator of the story, because I’m a storyteller and a substitute teacher, and this play was written almost as a poem/children’s story in which I slay every day in the classroom. The only role I could not see myself in was Carmen. And guess which role I got. CARMEN.


Developing the Character

It was a struggle to figure out Carmen. She literally stays in one spot for YEARS, for the whole friggin play (the most I ever stayed in one spot was a month and that was a mandated isolation due to tuberculosis). I am not about that and despise people who are inactive and lazy. I saw Carmen as weird, not being curious of the world. I saw her as selfish because she didn’t want to help others anymore, she just wanted to help her own kids. That’s another thing, she gets married and has kids. She’s a mom. I’m soooooo far from that in my life right now.

I asked the directors, Bekkah and Lauren, why the eff did you choose me for Carmen? What did you see in me that resonated Carmen? Bekkah told me that I had a seriousness to me. Carmen has the most practical, blunt lines in the play. She usually has the last word in the scenes, the punctuated, emphatic end of a poem, because she’s wiser beyond her years, though she’s the youngest, she makes the most perceptive observations. She sees things the way they are and acknowledges them.

Is Bekkah saying I’m old? Alright alright so Carmen’s deep. But how do I show that? Bekkah gave me a note at the beginning, “Thi, your character does nothing, but you have to show different ways to do nothing.” MIND BLOWN. Bekkah kept posing challenging questions that really helped me get to know Carmen. Because how else could I? Carmen doesn’t respond when I talk to her. All I have are her words in the script, and that’s limiting. Bekkah asked, “What have you learned? What would 31-year old pregnant mom Carmen tell her 10 year old self?”

It took me 4 months to develop Carmen and I’m proud of what I came up with. But I really couldn’t have done it without the directors. Bekkah’s direction and notes made me more aware of things I could discover for Carmen, from her mannerisms to her internal expression of emotions. Lauren, the assistant director really gave me the encouragement that I was heading in the right direction in developing the character.

Al Pacino was asked once and I’m paraphrasing, “Which out of all the characters you’ve played, is most liked you?” And he answered, “Well, all of them. They’re my face, they’re my voice. It’s just some characters highlight different facets of me more than others.” Objectively speaking, Carmen is the least like me in personality, but what I’m most proud of is that I found myself in her emotions throughout the play. I felt everything she felt, because they were my feelings and I bared it all on stage. I grew as an actor because I was able to do that. I grew as a person because I found relation to someone that was so unlike me.


The Team

The play was produced by this 2 year old theatre company called Flat Tire Theatre Company. I had reservations coming into a group of people that all knew each other from college. Also, the average age among them was 25. What do they know? A WHOLE LOT. I was astounded at their skill set, their organization, their creativity, their work ethic, their kindness and their humility. Shae the stage manager, knew every cue, every set piece movement/change, she knew our meaning even when we were speaking gibberish. Martin, the publicity guy went all out to share about the show to the point that we had 5/6 sold out shows! The design team, Sam and Michael, and their resourcefulness and creativity managed to create a magical, imaginative world and tone with limited resources from dyed cloths, lights, free music and shadows.


photos courtesy Flat Tire Theatre Company, cast and crew


Something Magical

I have a lot of trouble with self promoting or even talking myself up. I think it’s due to years of Catholic guilt (I’m flawed and forever a sinner), first generation guilt (can’t validate your parents struggle as a broke ass actor), and Eastern values (it’s not about you, it’s about how you can serve the group). When I was a younger actor, I struggled with telling people about the shows or things that I had done or were a part of. There was a sense of shame that my acting wasn’t good, why would I want to burden people with that. I had social anxiety that it wouldn’t entertain people and they wasted their time seeing me. I was a coward, I couldn’t bear for people to see my art and judge it. So, I didn’t tell people. And when things I had worked on got unnoticed, shows I was in where no one I knew was in the audience, I felt sad.

I need that validation. I’ve always known that. But now in my 30s, I finally accept that part of me. But it’s not even about validation. It’s about being seen, being heard, being understood. Even if it’s with someone I don’t know. There’s an experience that was shared, a memory created and perhaps remembered forever.

No one in this production got paid. Cast and crew committed a lot of time and work and effort into this. Into something that closed yesterday. Something that is now gone.

After our first run through, day before opening night, Bekkah said something that really hit me that I was a part of something magical. She said, “We made something.” It’s not easy to make something. In a world of instant gratification and fatalistic destruction, it’s easy to consume, to destroy and to forget. What we made may have been temporary, but the fact that we made it, not for money, not for fame, but simply just to share it, has bred endless possible connections. Connection between performers and audience, connection among strangers through shared emotion and experience or time and space. Connection between colleagues, friends, and/or families. Those connections can be lasting. Those connections can be forever and even transcendent.

To me, those connections are something beautiful.


As some ppl say, “The theeeataaa”


cast photo














The play is over. Yesterday was the final performance of “so you wanna be a vampire.”  Couple of questions came up: how was the experience? How do you feel? And what’s next?

How was the experience?

I had a great time! This was the first performance I booked in LA. So, after years of auditioning and hearing nothing back, I was finally rewarded with a chance to perform. To play! To have fun! I was finally validated that I can act and that I’m wanted.

The theater is such a different medium from movies and television. There’s a live audience. We had two performances each week for 6 weeks total. That’s a lot of chances to improve one’s performance. Closing night had better be better than opening night. And lucky for us, it was! You could feel it. During closing weekend, the cast was finally having fun instead of worrying about forgetting lines or if the blood pump was going to work [reminder: we had a splatter zone ;)].

This was also black box theatre. Literally everyone’s in a black box (ceiling, walls, floor, stage all black). It was intimate. Small-scale production. Small cast. The play wasn’t well known and so sometimes, we had more people on stage than in the audience. Cast was made up of six ppl.  With so little ppl in the seats, I could hear every laughter AND every non-laughter.

I’m an extrovert. Hands down. And I define extroversion by being energized and thriving off from being around others. I would say most of the cast are extroverts as well. And I make this assumption because when we heard ppl laugh, it drove us. It fed us. Our performances were stronger.

With a live audience, you can tell if what you’re doing or what you’re saying is landing, is affecting the audience IMMEDIATELY. So based on their reactions, you can decide whether or not to change or to keep what you’re doing for the next show.  The whole live aspect was something I never really thought about for film and television. In acting class, I was taught that the most important person in the scene is the person your character is talking to. But with live theater, not only is it that other person that’s the most important, but the AUDIENCE as well!

Silence then, became an indicator that something was wrong or something wasn’t working. However, there is a caveat to this conclusion. This play was a dark comedy and what makes it a dark comedy is because the protagonist was so pathetic that you should pity her, but instead you laugh, and then you feel bad for laughing. So silence isn’t a really good indicator of any bad acting, since ppl may laugh, but just inwardly so as not to look like an asshole. Hahah!

How do you feel?

So, another indicator of whether or not you’re doing well is actual feedback from the audience! How did they feel? How did they like it? Everybody who came said they had fun! They loved it! The director said I was everything and more of what she wanted. The writer said I made an awesome bitch. And my friends told me I killed it! So, this makes me feel awesome!

What was even more awesome was all the support I got. Ok, another caveat. Feedback from the audience might not be as objective if it’s all coming from your friends and family. Hahah, they’re obviously biased. But, it says a lot when they show up and take the time to come out, to buy a ticket, to sit through a black box, and to endure a little bit of fake blood splatter. And even for the ones that couldn’t show up, everyone around me was so encouraging! I had cheerleaders, I had people believing in me. It felt really good.

When I was younger, I watched e-true Hollywood stories of successful ppl in entertainment. A lot of the stories would start off with the person saying how they went against all odds, that no one believed in them, that they succeeded in spite of all the flak and doubt they got. My situation is the complete opposite. I have SO MANY people believing in me. I want to succeed not in spite of them, but for them. To validate their good opinion of me. It’s just a really motivating thought to have in such a business like this.

So, what’s next?

While this was a great experience, I’m more than ever motivated to be on set. While theater has the live audience and the time to work out the kinks and improve, filmmaking to me is a miracle. And I want to be a part of that miracle. For a film to be awesome and to live on in pop culture legacy, every component of that project has to be fucking awesome, not only on it’s own, but it has to work well with everything else AND be done in the dark of no immediate audience feedback.  Sound. Music. Story. Performance. Cinematography. Costume. Lighting. Etc.

Interstellar blew me away because it was such a powerful cinematic experience. What I saw on screen matched up perfectly with the sound, the music and cooper’s struggle. So much so, that I was able to suspend reality and just throw myself in that movie in spite of all the plot holes (I know I know).

This theater experience gave me that extra push and motivation that I know I’ll need to take on this coming year. For 2015, I’m nowhere near quitting. Looking back at this year, there were many things that happened that I could’ve taken as a sign to quit. Getting fired from my day job and getting let go from my commercial agent are some of the lowest points of my career. And they both happened THIS YEAR. But even despite the lowest, I have felt the highest from everyone’s encouragement. So much so, that I’m just gonna keep on going. Let’s fucking do this, 2015.


Happy birthday to me.

Yes, today is my birthday. And I’m the type of person that doesn’t like making a big deal about my birthday. I don’t list it on Facebook and I don’t really tell anyone unless they ask. I guess it’s a way not to set myself up for disappointment if people forget. But then again, who cares if they forget? I’m no expert on everyone else’s birthday. And why should I be special if everyone has a birthday? What is the big deal about it?

But it is a big deal. Kinda. Somewhat. A little. At least right? Here’s the thing, I get the birthday blues. I don’t know what it is, but in past years, I’ve suffered from this annoying self-indulgent nuisance! I get super sensitive. I hate planning anything and when it’s ones birthday, if you don’t plan anything and if you don’t tell many people it’s your bday, add on that it’s a weekday and your friends are adults with jobs and families of their own, it would be no surprise if no one showed up to your last minute birthday thing. Being fully aware of my self made predicament, I planned something for only myself today. Skydiving. After a rough summer, all I wanted to do was jump out of a plane and fly.

So as the days neared to my birthday, I was getting increasingly excited. Not for my birthday, but for skydiving. Skydiving took away the unwarranted attention and expectations that came along with birthdays.  I found myself telling people about my birthday just so I could tell them I was going skydiving.

So imagine my disappointment when 2 hours before my jump, it got cancelled. BLT strikes again. (Bad luck Thi). Due to high winds in Ventura. Ugh. And inland it’s like 90 degrees with no wind, but who’s keeping track. 😦

I was super bummed. That completely took the air out of my excitement. (I’m still going to skydive later in the month). Now, I really had nothing to do and no one to hang out with! The one thing I wanted to do with myself by myself became not possible. So lame. Yet, I still wanted to treat myself to something. I wanted to do something different, if not skydive, what else?

There’s this place in Pasadena called the Huntington library. I had heard a lot about it, but never had the chance to go. Until today. I got in my car and drove. When I got to the gate, the guard stopped me and asked if I had a reservation. I didn’t. He said it was a free day and you had to have a reservation to come in. I asked if I could just buy a ticket and he said that wasn’t possible for free days. I knew about the free days and the reservations. I also knew they were out of reservations. I was about to use the bday card to get in, but the guard was a step ahead of me and just let me through. Score! Whoo!

The place is known for their various themed gardens.  It’s a perfect place to roam and reflect. However, I couldn’t really get into deep thoughts because I was getting texts, emails and calls from everyone for my birthday! I had a live whatsapp chat with my Spanish family from Spain! They made cookies in my honor, took a picture of it and the youngest told me I could eat it from the photo, all in English might I add ;).  My college friends texted me, my HS friends emailed me. And my actual family called me. I gossiped with my mom and talked about the good wife with my dad. It was awesome!

It’s nice to feel special and I’m not going to play self-deprecating/humble today. It’s my fucking birthday! But as I finally AM reflecting on the last hour of my birthday, a quote from a guy I share my bday with comes to mind: “where there is love, there is life.”  – Mahatma Gandhi yo!

I didn’t need skydiving to make my birthday a success.  I just needed love. And I have it. And I have life! I’m healthy and I’m a strapping 28-year-old young (oxymoron!) lady.  And I’m living the dream. At 28, I finally BOOKED SOMETHING! YAY! And my friends and family are going to see it! It’s a dark comedy about vampires and I play a vampire groupie.  There will also be a splatter zone! And just in time for Halloween! Opening night is on Oct. 24th and it’ll run until Dec. 6th! Friday and Saturday @10:30pm. check out the website here: http://eclecticcompanytheatre.org/?portfolio=so-you-want-to-be-a-vampire

I know it’s not Shakespeare, but dude, we have a splatter zone! Can you tell me if Shakespeare had a splatter zone? Oh no he diiidin’t! Booyah! Here’s to officially being in my late twenties!