With a rich career spanning a little more than 2 decades, the highly acclaimed actress is still continuously learning and honing her craft.
Angeli Bayani has had such an extensive career in theater, TV, and local and international film– a whopping 75 films, 58 TV appearances, and 39 stage productions in a span of a little more than two decades to be exact.
Most people know her most for her work in Philippine art-house and independent films, such as Lav Diaz’s Norte, The End of History, where she won the 2014 Gawad URIAN Award for Best Actress and Anthony Chen’s Singaporean film Ilo Ilo, which won the Camera D’Or at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
For theater audiences, they have most recently seen her play Harper Pitt in Atlantis Theatrical’s production of Angels in America, Babaeng Itawis in Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major, Charito in PETA’s Arbol de Fuego, and Johnna Monevata in REP’s August: Osang County, among others.
Currently, she’s a Teacher in Training at the Meisner Institute and is on her way to becoming the first Designated Meisner Teacher in the country. She is conducting classes for interested students online, which will last for 20 sessions. We talked to her to ask about this new phase in her career.
How are the film, TV, and theater industries dealing with this pandemic?
It’s a challenge, but I think everyone is doing their best to adjust in order to keep everyone safe. This virus is anything but predictable. There is work available but it is always a risk to step out. Most productions are limiting the number of cast and crew. Some are shooting or performing online. Our creativity is being put to the test. Old ways are being challenged. I think, as difficult as it is, it will eventually work out for the good of all.
You’ve been so busy working on local and international films and TV shows over the last twenty years, but what keeps you coming back to the theater?
Like most theater actors, I’ve always felt I was born onstage. I would never be the person nor the actress that I am today were it not for the training and the discipline that I received in theater.
What I love best about performing in theater is that you and the audience are living through a human experience at the same time. There is simply nothing like that simultaneous collective energy where you are on the same journey as everyone else, giving all that love and receiving it right back.
You’ve simultaneously conducted workshops while attending acting, dancing, voice, and acting classes yourself over the course of your career.
Do you think continuously learning is essential to becoming a good performer?
Absolutely. I had a dance teacher who taught me the meaning of the word “commitment”. In every class, whatever that may be, you learn more about yourself. Your strengths, your limitations–you learn to work with those limitations until they become your strengths. And all these inform you as a performer, as a storyteller.
The more you learn, the more creative you become, and the ‘more free’ you are. There is nothing more breathtaking than an actor who is free, open, and unafraid to tell the truth of a character.
Also, there’s this saying, “Neglect your art for one day, and it will neglect you for two.” Take classes. Read. Practice. Don’t be afraid to learn something new, whatever it is. A chef always keeps his knife sharp.
Why did you decide to teach now in a time of a pandemic?
Because the pandemic has not stopped us from dreaming. There is always someone out there who dreams of becoming an actor, and if they want it bad enough, teachers like me will be waiting for them.
In all your years in education, can you share your most valuable learning, or maybe a learning experience that’s never left you?
One of my teachers once told me, “If you want to dance, then you are meant to dance.” I didn’t understand it back then because of the limitations I had placed upon myself, but after all these years, I now understand that your passion is your calling. Not everyone dreams of becoming a doctor, just as not everyone dreams of becoming an actor. We are all meant to be different, and that is beautiful. And I understand now that whatever limitations we think we have, they are all in our heads.
No matter how many times people discourage you, you have to find the courage to believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself, you can do anything. Easier said than done, and it has taken me years to learn, but that’s part of the whole journey.
Can you talk to us more about the Meisner Technique? Why is it important to teach this particular course?
The Meisner technique is an approach to acting that was developed by the American theater practitioner, Sanford Meisner. The focus of the technique is for actors to “get out of their heads” and behave instinctively. Exercises are rooted in Repetition, in which actors learn to take the attention off themselves and put it on their partners’ real behavior, allowing it to affect them and cause a truthful reaction.
To use the ‘poor’ analogy of a toolbox, it might be enough that you have a hammer, but you might need a screwdriver someday. Or a wrench. Or pliers. An actor needs tools as well. There are acting techniques that are already quite popular here in the Philippines, so I would like to share one that’s been around for years but not many here know of. The Meisner Technique, to me, is simple and straightforward, and I believe that actors here will find it useful as well. I’m offering a new tool for an actor’s toolbox.
Can you tell us how you’ll be conducting classes here? Who do you think will be most fitting to join the course?
All classes will be online until we achieve herd immunity (laughs). Beginners are welcome, as well as professionals who are looking to sharpen their tools.
It’s P16,000.00 for 20 sessions, and there are payment options. I actually already started classes just last April 11. I had been planning on having my next batch of students in June or July, but I don’t mind opening another class simultaneously. For those interested, they can send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or send me an email.
What do you think is the most important thing to do for someone who wants to aspire to have a professional career like yours?
To not aspire to have a professional career like mine, or like others’!
They should aspire to make their own way, to carve their own path. Your path is your own, and only you can walk that path. The first step is knowing who you are, and what you really want. What does your heart tell you? Listen.
This interview was edited for clarity.