Lost and Found in NYC

Last month I revived my willingness to perform and my hunger for art. The amount of feelings and thoughts that awakened in the entire process of Beyond Workshop Series 2024 (BWS 2024) and the showcase of Barba, The Musical, were overwhelming. This was an empowering experience that threw me again into doing theater, as I was used to, with a lot of passion, joy, and commitment.

To understand how big are the feelings running right inside of me, I must start by the very beginning of my journey. I lived my first 16 years in Mosquera, a small town near Bogota, Colombia’s capital city. There, I started my career as an actor and learned the fundamentals about theater. Our after school program teacher was passionate about carnivals and street theater, so we learned a lot about festivities around the world, music, dance, parades, hyper-expressive characters, puppets, and every year we staged a street play related to carnivals. Those were my favorite moments in life, when I felt truly happy, surrounded by friends, enjoying what I was doing, and touring with them around the country doing theater.

Because of my strong vocation doing theater and some success at regional theater festivals, I decided to become a professional actor. So I went into college to study Performing Arts. There I realized the immense reality of theater. It wasn’t only about carnivals, indeed, I confronted myself for the first time with a lot of theater studies, genres, styles, acting techniques, and I found that amazing! While studying, I was becoming a strong, committed, and complete actor, until my personal life out of college started to interfere with my career.

I lived in a very violent environment and we had money issues at home that made me walk away from my path. So during my last years in college I was depressed. And then, just to make everything worse, the pandemic came through my last year of college, so I did my final performance and received my degree via zoom. Almost all of my cohort friends waited for two years until the pandemic ended just to be able to do their final performance in a theater, but that was not an option for me. We were struggling at home to pay the rent, and shop for groceries. So once I got my degree, I looked for jobs everywhere: call centers, teaching at community centers, schools, but all those circumstances stuck me into a spiral of frustration and depression. I left acting and performing on the side because I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and that’s the worst feeling in the world for a performer.

The time passed slowly for two years. I found relief and strength in being in love with my partner who motivated me to come to New York City and see how things could go here, so I did, the plane landed last year in June. It wasn’t until 5 months later that I heard of R.Evolucion Latina for the first time. I sneaked a peek at different activities on the website and saw the open audition for BWS 2024. I thought that auditioning in New York would be an amazing experience, so I auditioned just for fun, just to witness how an audition in the Big City would be, but I was not expecting to be part of the whole BWS and Barba Showcase experience. That’s how serious my lack of self-confidence and practice on performing was after those sad last years in Bogota.

So I got it, and at the beginning of the workshop, I felt focused, energetic, with a lot of disposition and motivation, but something inside me was not okay. Maybe feeling like I did not deserve that, not talented enough, a broken English individual, not part of the community, anyway, a total dummy. But one day, a Thursday morning, on a cloudy cold day, Luis Salgado gave us an amazing speech (he’s really good at it). I will never forget it. It was about the kind of actor who always has a wild hunger for doing his art. Any person could say those exact words, and I have probably heard those words before a lot of times. But while hearing them on that very cloudy cold Thursday, with that unique intensity of Luis, they produced a tiny combustion in my heart, and they reminded me of myself as a performer, before the entire spiral of frustration.

I finished the BWS 2024 empowered. They gave me an amazing opportunity to perform in Barba as “Macale”. When rehearsing at Pregones I was committing a lot of mistakes. I actually cried the day after dress rehearsal, because I was not feeling ready. So one of my ways to go beyond was getting there early on the dress rehearsal day and stumbling through the entire play on my own, taking notes of my cues, traffic, and lines. But what I found even most important about going beyond was, constancy. After all these years, after the BWS lessons and Luis’ speech I dared myself to keep the same energy, focus and discipline, in every performance, and I did, it felt really good. This is how I dared to go beyond, and understood what I need to perform in New York City as a professional, and this just feels like the beginning.

Thanks Luis, thanks R.Evolucion Latina and Pregones.

By Santiago Orjuela

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