Kids have been dominating the local stage as of late. From last year’s The Sound of Music and Matilda, to this year’s The Lion King, you’re bound to see a young star holding their own just as well as the adults. Whether it’s delivering multiple pages of dialogue, tap dancing off the stage, or hitting those high notes, these kids have done it all, and in front of hundreds of people multiple nights a week.
In BGC Arts Center’s Zobel De Ayala Recital Hall, eight of today’s young stars of the stage got candid with TheaterFansManila.com and talked about their sizable careers.
11-year-olds Felicity Kyle Napuli (Matilda, The Lion King) and Krystal Brimner (Annie, The Sound of Music), 12-year-olds Albert Silos (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan?) and Gabriel Tiongson (Scrooge, The Lion King), and 13 year-olds Rayne Cortez (Hansel and Gretel, A Christmas Carol), Tory Cortez (Newsies, The Sound of Music), Katie Bradshaw (What’s in the Dark?, Fun Home), and Noel Comia Jr. (Ang Buhay ni Galileo, Pinocchio) share the joys and challenges of performing, how they take on complex roles, and the best advice they’ve ever been given.
What was your first experience performing in front of people?
RAYNE CORTEZ: Before, my parents always wanted [her and twin brother, Tory Cortez] to sing in front of our family and friends, but then I would always be shy. And then we started doing theater productions. The first one I joined was Trumpets, and then that’s when I performed on stage in front of an audience.
FELICITY KYLE NAPULI: My first experience was performing in front of my family in a videoke. I was so curious, so I tried it, and then I realized I could sing!
How old were you?
KYLE: Um… five?
GABRIEL TIONGSON: Mine was in a workshop for Trumpets. My mom [Sweet Plantado-Tiongson] wanted me to do theater because she also does theater. I was really scared, but when I tried that, it was really fun, so I just continued doing that.
KRYSTAL BRIMNER: My first experience was in school. It was a school play–Cinderella–then my mom noticed that I could sing and do all this stuff, so she started getting me in, like, theater stuff.
KATIE BRADSHAW: I never liked performing in front of my family. Of course I was forced to, so I did it sometimes. But, my first professional one was The Sound of Music and that’s when I realized that I really liked theater, and that I could sing.
ALBERT SILOS: My first time performing was with my little sister when she was doing voice lessons and I also sang her songs. Then my mom was like, “Can you sing that in front of us?”. I was 4 I think? Or 5? And then my first professional theater production was The King and I.
NOEL COMIA JR.: My first time performing in front of people was a gathering for a Christian community, Kids for Christ. But my first professional one was for Kids Act Philippines. It was a recital.
TORY CORTEZ: My first one, I honestly don’t remember. I was like 3 or 4 in school. But one of the first, kind of professional but not really because it was a workshop, was with Rayne. I wasn’t supposed to start acting, but instead of laying in bed playing games, sleeping for the whole summer, my mom wanted us to do something. I thought of going to computer class, but then Rayne wanted to start acting and there were no workshops for computers that really hit me. So I just thought, whatever, I’ll just join Rayne. That’s what sparked my interest to act.
For the others, what was your first professional role?
KYLE: My first one was in [Repertory Philippines], A Little Princess. I played Becky.
RAYNE: Mine and Tory’s first professional debut was Hansel and Gretel, also by Repertory Philippines.
GABRIEL: Mine was Scrooge, also by Repertory Philippines. We all started from Repertory!
That’s also where a lot of our biggest stars have started.
KRYSTAL: My first biggest role was Annie. That was from Full House Theater Company.
Have you ever experienced anything funny or scary on stage or off?
NOEL: I remember one! I was in Scrooge with Albert. We were in the dressing room and we had this costume with gloves, and Albert’s had rubber things. So, we left the dressing room and when we entered again, it smelled like smoke! We checked and it was the rubber gloves! It was kind of burning because it was near a bulb.
ALBERT: I was like, “That’s my glove!”
TORY: Actually, in Hansel and Gretel, we had the same experience. For some reason, we were kind of dumb enough to think that dropping water on a lightbulb would be a good idea. We got into trouble. The lightbulb, at some point, cracked. And that wasn’t the worst part–
This was you and Rayne?
TORY: It was the guys’ dressing room. A couple of days after that, for some reason, the sink broke. The sink just fell.
KATIE: It’s all your fault!
TORY: My friend was trying to carry the sink. It was super heavy. It just cracked off. He was trying to carry it, and the water was pouring out everywhere.
They think you broke the sink?
TORY: I don’t think it was that, but a lot of bad things started happening after that.
KATIE: In The Sound of Music, I don’t know why, but I put tape on the lightbulb and it melted.
NOEL: In Repertory–it’s at OnStage in Greenbelt–there’s a ghost there. Maybe that’s why a lot of things are happening. In Scrooge there was a ghost in the restroom.
KATIE: They’re always in restrooms! I don’t know why!
NOEL: Our co-actor saw the ghost and the light switch was going up and down.
ALBERT: One thing that happened to me was, I’ll say in Scrooge. A lot of things happened in Scrooge. Gabriel made a prank that there was a killer outside.
NOEL: (Points to Gabriel and Albert) We were together!
ALBERT: I locked the door in the downstairs dressing room of the boys, and now no one could get through. They had to cross the backstage instead of outside because I locked the door, and we didn’t have any keys.
NOEL: We tried opening it with a hair pin.
ALBERT: It didn’t work, obviously.
Did you get into trouble for all your shenanigans?
NOEL: Well, there was a company call after that, but then I forgot what happened.
TORY: I was kind of scared to meet [Baby Barredo] for the first time because I’ve heard so many stories about her like, throwing chairs at people. So I was like, oh my god!
KYLE: Yeah, me too!
TORY: she’s a really good actor, and the things she teaches you are amazing. She once taught me in Hansel and Gretel that when you play a role, you’re not you. You turn into the character. Every character you be, you live their lives. And I’ve kind of brought that with me all the way through [my career]. It’s one of the things that I remember the most, and that’s one of the reasons that really pushed me to becoming a better actor.
So, when you finally met her, she wasn’t that scary?
TORY: Oh, no. She was!
NOEL: She kind of pushes people to be the role. And we have this experience–Albert and I– in Pinocchio. Our co-actor was being scolded by Tita Baby–
ALBERT: I was personally scolded.
NOEL: She was like, “Goddamnit!” and then she looked at us and said, “Don’t say that word. That’s a bad word.” But I’ve witnessed her throwing things.
ALBERT: The time she scolded me personally was when I was saying my line, and I was so shy. She was like, “Project your voice! Not even a cockroach can hear you!”
NOEL: There’s also one, he’s a really good director, he’s one of the best that I’ve worked with. We (Points to Albert) worked with him at the same time. We’re always together. (Laughs.)
ALBERT: We’re always together! Like, whenever we go to an audition, we see each other.
NOEL: Direk Jamie del Mundo, he’s really good right? So, first day of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it was the rehearsal for the trade show. A lot of actors were talking and he said “Quiet!” the first time. “Quiet guys,” and we were still speaking. And then the third time, “Quiet!”. It was so loud, the parents outside could hear it. We were all scared. He said, “If I say quiet, you have to stay quiet guys.”
KATIE: I experienced ghost activity in Meralco Theater. In the girls’ bathroom! I was in the bathroom just washing my hands, and then I tried to go into one of the stalls but it was locked, and then all of a sudden, the toilet flushed! I looked under and on the seat there was a person and I was so scared!
NOEL: Why did you look under?
KATIE: Because I was scared!
GABRIEL: If you’re scared, you run away!
KATIE: There was nobody there, so I ran out. It’s always the bathrooms!
Aside from the ghosts (Everyone laughs.), what do you love about performing?
KRYSTAL: What I love about performing is that I get to show people my talent. I get to show them what I can do, so that in future projects, they can get me and they know what I can do.
GABRIEL: For me, it’s really fun. I love doing it.
If you had to pick your favorite thing about performing, what would you choose?
GABRIEL: What I like about it is that you’re somebody else. You’re not you. Sometimes, you want to make yourself part of that character so it makes it you, but not you.
ALBERT: It’s kind of like a simulation of possession.
KYLE: I get to express myself because at home, I have no playmates or anything. And then I’m with my co-actors, which is really fun, and I treat them like my brothers and sisters.
RAYNE: What I really love about theater, besides meeting new people and making new friends, is also making people happy. The reason people watch shows, is because they want to be entertained. I love telling stories. Every single show is always different. There’s always gonna be a different story and a different character.
KATIE: My favorite part is telling the story and making new friends. Your friendship grows bigger and bigger until you just cry when it’s the last show. But mostly, I really love the choreo. I love doing choreo. It’s really fun!
ALBERT: What I like most is, like what Gabriel said, putting yourself in the character’s shoes and going through the things that the character is going through. I also like blocking. I love tech week because even though it’s tiring and it’s stressful, it’s the first time you get to see the set, the costume, you get to try everything else.
NOEL: With the experience that I have with theater, it’s about the actors that you’re with for a very long time. You get to learn a lot of stuff. You get to be the character, like what everybody else had been saying. I also like tech week because I get to hear the orchestra. I really love the orchestration of every play.
TORY: Being in theater, you make new friends. Singing and dancing, most importantly telling the story. And to be in the moment because when you’re there…
KATIE: It feels like you’re the actual person.
TORY: Yeah. In their shoes. It’s like a whole other life that you’re in.
What do you find is the hardest thing about being theater performers?
KATIE: The hardest thing is reaching the notes.
KYLE: Memorizing the script.
KATIE: Reaching the high notes or meeting new people. Sometimes I’m really good at it, and sometimes I’m not.
ALBERT: Analyzing the character and putting yourself into them, because it’s actually kind of hard if your role is the opposite of you. And it’s actually hard to put yourself into their situation if you yourself don’t understand theirs.
NOEL: For me, the hard thing is, if you’re doing a lot of shows at the same time, it’s getting pretty hard to switch yourself. Like, if you’re this character, and then you’re gonna do the other show and you’re gonna be another character. It’s hard to change mindsets or yourself. And because you have to memorize a lot of things at the same time.
ALBERT: Imagine all these adults that have multiple roles? Like, whoah! What the heck?
TORY: Well, there are a lot of things that I find hard. Like, sometimes, even reaching high notes. Especially going through the age I’m at now–going through puberty and stuff–it really is sometimes kind of hard to hit those notes perfectly. But in general, the hardest thing for me are the interviews, honestly. You can’t see it, but I’m actually shaking.
RAYNE: The hardest thing for me isn’t actually the show itself. I think the most challenging thing for me is the auditions.
KATIE: I get so nervous.
RAYNE: When you’re in the show, even if you’re nervous, it’s okay because you still have a lot of time to practice. But during auditions, you don’t know if you got in or not. So you’re still nervous. But that’s the good thing about theater, being challenged because it keeps you on your toes. And I don’t think anyone stops getting nervous.
Anything you don’t like about theater?
GABRIEL: Waking up early!
KYLE: Yes, sleepless nights sometimes.
ALBERT: Like how I get nervous every time the show is about to start. Like, I’m freaking out. I forget almost everything before the show, and then at the last minute, when the show’s about to start and you’re about to step in, you’re thinking, “Oh no! I forgot something!” You’re just like, I’m fired. That’s it. I’m done. And then you realize when you get on stage, “Oh, it’s actually on pre-set.”
KRYSTAL: When the show ends. That’s the only part I don’t like.
Is that hard? The separation anxiety?
GABRIEL: Sometimes. But we just get to see each other again.
NOEL: There’s not a thing I don’t like about theater because I really love it, and it’s really fun. The show may be done and that’s really hard, but you’re gonna see each other again. The journey still continues. We’re still going to be able to meet each other again.
ALBERT: And, the world is really small.
RAYNE: It’s like what everyone said, saying goodbye…Oh! One part I found challenging in The Sound of Music was our costume changes because we had like 6 costume changes, and the Brigitta’s and Gretl’s, our fastest one was 16 seconds!
KRYSTAL: Yeah, it was like, super fast.
RAYNE: One part I freaked out because when it was Maria’s wedding, we had gowns and then when we exited, when I was trying to get it out, it got stuck.
TORY: The most anxiety I got from a show, I think, would be The Sound of Music because we learned it only in a month. We had really little time and it had to be perfect.
RAYNE: And we didn’t even rehearse with the whole cast!
TORY: Yeah. We didn’t rehearse with the adults. We only rehearsed with the adults during tech week.
KATIE: Same with me. My Sound of Music also. I had a really fast quick change. I did a 10-second quick change. I was only 6 years old!
TORY: All of the guys, we would be laughing–well, not really laughing but it was kind of easier for us because there’s a scene where the curtains close and then we have 16 seconds to change. And for the guys we just put a coat and a hat and we’re done. And the girls they have to change their dress, their pants right there. So we’re just looking at them, we’re already in line waiting for them. And the curtain’s slowly opening already, and we were like, “Oh my god!”
We didn’t notice that!
TORY: Yeah. Actually there were a couple of bad things. [Gwyneth Dorado], her dress, when she was going down the staircase, it got stuck on a hook. It was amazing because even though she was stuck, she was able to go to the other side of the stage in perfect timing. It was cool.
GABRIEL: It just always comes through.
Any other stressful moments?
RAYNE: In our bedroom scene, you know when we’re singing and there’s thunder, there was a part when we’re on the bed, and then there are pillows and blankets. But then, our children’s director, she told us that when the scene changes, they take out the whole bed. And then the pillows and stuff can’t fall on the floor because the next scene is in the garden. And if they take it out, there will be no one to bring in the pillows and they’ll have to stop the whole show to take it out or else there will be a pillow in the garden. So, once when I was on the bed, we had to go down and I accidentally kicked the teddy bear off the bed. And then when the lights changed, I freaked out so I grabbed it and ran out.
ALBERT: Imagine a teddy bear on the garden!
NOEL: One of my stressful moments was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the second run because my voice is already changing and the notes are really high. So I had to practice reaching it.
Rayne already started talking about auditions. How do you find out about shows?
TORY: A lot of times, my parents. A lot of times, other directors or producers. And sometimes Facebook.
KATIE: My sister [Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante].
GABRIEL: My mom.
ALBERT: Facebook, and whenever someone says, “Hey, audition for this!”
KRYSTAL: For Annie, since that was my first one, I found it out on TV, so I decided to audition. And then the rest, those were just connections.
KYLE: Since the theater world is very small, and we know where auditions are, if there’s an audition, we come directly and we don’t care if we pass or not. As long as we auditioned and we tried our best, that’s the main goal.
RAYNE: But it’s also good that you always audition, because even if you don’t get it, they know you exist.
NOEL: Yeah. Just in case this person gets sick…
KATIE: Or if you have another show, they’ll have you in mind.
Do you pick the shows you audition for, or do you go out for everything?
TORY: Sometimes if I really don’t want to do it, I say no.
ALBERT: My parents ask me, “Do you want this?” and most of the time I just say yes.
NOEL: For me, opportunities only come once in a lifetime, so if there’s an audition, even if you don’t like the role but the opportunity is there, you still have to audition for it. But then, you’ll get to love the character.
KATIE: You think you’re not gonna get into the role, or you just don’t want to, but then you get it and then you’re like, “Oh I actually like it!”
ALBERT: I had the same experience in Fun Home, ‘cause what happened was I got called for callbacks, but I had a show so I couldn’t go. I thought I was never going to be in Fun Home anymore, but then someone called and said, “Hey, can you come back for Fun Home and do the callback again?”
KRYSTAL: Sometimes I choose and sometimes I don’t. Whatever’s there for me, I’ll just do it.
What would make you say no to a role?
TORY: Honestly, I don’t know. It’s just sometimes I get a gut feeling. Like, I feel that I just don’t want to. But sometimes, there are days when I’m just really tired and I don’t want to do anything. So when my mom asks me, I’m like “Can I answer you the next day when I feel better?” After Hansel and Gretel, honestly I was not a good actor. No, I’m not kidding. When I first started acting, my face was nothing. So then after Hansel and Gretel, it was a long process. A hard process. There are many days that I went home crying. So after, I told my mom that I didn’t want to act for a while after that. But then a couple of days later, my mom’s like, anyway, “I know you don’t want to act anymore but we got you an audition.” And then I said, “But mom I don’t want to do it.” And she’s like, “Okay if you really don’t want to do it, then don’t.” And I’m like, “I’ll just check it out.” So we tried it out, we got in, and it became really cool ‘cause I made more friends and they pushed me towards acting.
Do the rest of you have any kind of experience like that? Thinking ‘Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore’?
KRYSTAL: Well, not really.
GABRIEL: Me, sometimes. If I do a show and then it’s a long period before you do a next one. In between that, you feel like, “Should I do theater?” And then, “Oh okay! Theater it is!” It’s a cycle.
NOEL: Yes. Well, not really. Not at the moment. For me, it’s really time management. It’s hard to manage your school and theater and TV and movies.
TORY: That’s why we’re home-schooled now because our old school didn’t support our acting.
NOEL: Yeah. There are some schools that don’t support acting.
TORY: They want us to stop already because it was a conflict with our school. So, my parents said choose and we really wanted to pursue this, and that’s why we chose to continue acting.
KYLE: Yes, because when I started acting I was very tired after a show and I’m like, if I would do this again, I will be more tired. And then I do it again and then, “You know what? I take my words back.”
RAYNE: Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood. I don’t know why I have those feelings that I don’t want to do it anymore, but then after awhile I just realize I was wrong, and that I still want to continue.
KATIE: I have one show–I’m not gonna name it–but I didn’t like it so much and I was trying so hard to keep on doing it. But at night, I’m like, “Do I even want to go to rehearsals tomorrow?” because there were no kids with me. I was the only kid. But it was good. I met someone that I liked so I was like, “Fine.”
NOEL: I know this show.
ALBERT: Since you didn’t name it, we’re not gonna name it.
GABRIEL: It’s called “Voldemort.”
NOEL: There’s a show that shouldn’t be named in the theaters. A superstition. It’s William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. You shouldn’t say that!
How do you prepare for auditions?
TORY: I drink Salabat. Before I drink Salabat, I would have all kinds of things to warm my voice up because everyday when I wake up, I have rhinitis.
KATIE: Me, I keep on warming up my voice, like, in the car. But I don’t like doing it with my mom around! (Everyone laughs.) The thing is, whenever I’m about to go into the room to audition, I get so dry. My mouth is so dry. So when you sing, you sound really bad. But I usually try to learn the song as much as possible, like a week before.
ALBERT: I get so nervous about everything beforehand. I just forget everything and then I keep on studying, and my phone’s low-batt na because the lyrics were there and I just keep on checking and checking the lyrics. And then sometimes, when I feel too confident about the song, I just–
KATIE: Mess it up right?
ALBERT: Mess up. I feel like, “Oh, I know this song so well, I’m just gonna relax and I’m gonna chill in this song.” And then, I’m like… umm… ohhh… And then you make up different tunes.
KATIE: Yeah, and you’re like, “Oh no! I thought I was gonna be good!”
ALBERT: I felt like I made an apocalypse in this one room.
TORY: Yeah, but you know the show must go on.
NOEL: It depends on the audition because some auditions require you to learn a certain song, or certain songs and certain dance steps, but some auditions require you to sing whatever you want and dance whatever you want. So, if an audition requires you to prepare one song from any play, you have to learn it again and again, and you have to learn it by heart, not just by your head because you memorize it, but you don’t really memorize it, if you know what I mean.
KATIE: I get so happy when they request a song that I already know.
GABRIEL: I’m not like them. I’m not that nervous, but I do it. ‘Cause I know if I get in, then I’m in. If I’m out, then they don’t really need me, or I’m not the right person for this show.
NOEL: Some auditions also require you to have a certain height.
KATIE: Yeah, I hate that!
NOEL: And a certain age.
KATIE: Or, you should have a certain height of that age!
KRYSTAL: I drink lots of water. I warm up my voice. Also, praying for me really helps. It keeps me very calm. So praying’s my one tip.
KYLE: Yeah, a lot of water. No cold stuff or sweet stuff. And then I do my research about this musical so that I have many ideas about it and the songs as well. Where it originated, stuff like that.
RAYNE: And the character. I think I do a mix of everything. Drink water and practice the songs so that I really know it. Because sometimes you think, like when you’re at home and you’re singing it, you’re like, “Oh I’m so good! I’m totally just gonna go walk in there!” And then once you’re there, you just kind of freeze because you’re thinking of being there so much and then you just forget everything.
You have been part of these really big productions. Some of you have been leads. Can you tell me what you felt when you found out you were gonna play roles like Annie, or Matilda?
TORY: For me, the first time you find out, it doesn’t really hit you yet.
TORY: It’s still floating in your head.
ALBERT: Yeah. It’s not sinking in yet.
NOEL: You’re still processing.
KATIE: It’s like, I feel so proud of myself! Lead role!
TORY: But then the day after, the week after, or the month after, that’s when it hits me and I’m like, wow!
KATIE: I’m so special!
TORY: It’s like, you’re just shocked. When I find out I get in I’m just like, really shocked. I like to keep the confidence that I’ll get in, but at the same time, I don’t want to sound selfish. I don’t want to sound narcissistic.
KATIE: You’re just proud of yourself.
TORY: Yeah. I feel really proud.
Krystal, how did you feel? How did you find out that you were going to be Annie?
KRYSTAL: Well for Annie, they just called all the people in, all the kids that they feel are good? And then they start calling out names. And that makes me very tense. Are they gonna call my name? Are they gonna call her name? So there’s a lot of pressure. But once you know you got in, there’s so much relief. Like, finally. I got in.
NOEL: When I found out I got in for this certain role, to play Pinocchio in Repertory, they got us through email. So my parents are like, “Hey you got in”: And I’m like, “Yay.” But then after a few minutes, I’m like “I got in! Yay!”
GABRIEL: For me, because I made a deal with my mom that if I get into The Lion King, she would buy me a Switch. (Everyone laughs.) So when they called my mom when she was doing a show with her group The Company, she found out just then after their show and told the group.
Before she told you?
GABRIEL: Yeah, before she told me. When I went in, they all started going around me, like hugging me so tight. I was so confused. I was like “Huh? Really?” And then they sang, ‘Hakuna Matata.’ I was so confused. And then my mom said, “You got in.” And I was like, “I got in? Do I get the Switch now?”
ALBERT: So what happened was, my mom got an email from [Chitty Chitty Bang Bang]. I got Jeremy Potts the role. I was at my sister’s school so I can’t really burst out and scream. Mom was like, “Oh hey, you got in! And you got like this role!” So I was like, “Okay.” But then, when I got home and I was about to change my clothes, I was like, “Yes! Oh my god! This is so… oh my god!”
NOEL: And then he found out that I was with him.
ALBERT: So I was like, “Yay! Noel… again.” (Laughs) Excited, yes, because you’re gonna be with your friend again, but it’s also like… again.
KATIE: Sometimes I’m like, “Okay, I got the lead role.” I’m happy about it but I just don’t show it as much. I just go, “Okay.” But like what Tory said, whenever I get into the show, that’s when I realize, oh wait–I’m the lead role! That’s not bad. But I’m not somebody that would scream about it. I would just be like, “I better reserve my voice!”
ALBERT: Actually, I’m fine with any role. If I get into this one big production and I just have a small role, I would still be like, “Yeah boy!”
KATIE: I get to meet new people!
ALBERT: I get to meet new people.
NOEL: At least you’re there.
ALBERT: At least you’re there. If you’re in a movie, you’re in the credits. But it’s theater, so you’re in the programme.
KATIE: Because people usually leave for the credits for the movies, but on the programmes, you buy it and you read it!
What about you Kyle, when you found out that you were going to be Matilda?
KYLE: At first, I was like, “I think I’m not gonna get this role because there are a lot of other kids that are better than me, that had more experience, and then when they announced that I’m part of Matilda, and as Matilda, I’m like, “I’m not worthy!” (Everyone laughs.) And then when I realized that the script and everything else is long and hard I was like, “I’m really not worthy.” (Laughs.) And then I did it, and I’m very happy that I achieved it.
RAYNE: The first time I got my first lead in Hansel and Gretel, we didn’t actually audition for it. So when they told us we got in, we were really shocked. We only did, like, one theater workshop.
TORY: Actually, we didn’t even know that theater was a thing.
RAYNE: Yeah, we didn’t really get into it. We just did the one before for fun. We didn’t do it because we didn’t think we were ready, me and Tory. But after we joined the Repertory summer workshop, our teachers, teacher [Cara Barredo] and teacher [Matthew Barbers]–
RAYNE: Yes! They asked us if we could audition for Hansel and Gretel. So since the auditions were already done, we already went there but it was rehearsals. We just joined the rehearsals and then at the end, they were like, “Okay, so you’re in!” And we were like, “What?! But we didn’t even do anything!”
TORY: No, but the scary part was that our mom had us prepare a dance and a song before. And that’s what I was nervous about. I was so glad that we didn’t have to do it anymore.
How do you guys feel when you find out that you didn’t get a role?
KYLE: For me, I’m like, okay I didn’t get this role. I’m sad and also I feel like there’s something that’s gonna come to me. Better.
RAYNE: But then you also feel proud that you did your best.
KATIE: Mine is, it depends on what role I’m auditioning for. If it’s a role that I really want, and I don’t get in, I do feel sad but I don’t cry or have a meltdown. I’m just like, “Okay. It’s alright.” I’m not super sad but there’s a weight, but like what everybody else said, there’s always another role out there.
ALBERT: Sometimes you just always ask yourself even though you already understand why they didn’t get you, but sometimes you just ask yourself.
KATIE: Yeah, what did I do wrong?
ALBERT: Was I not enough or something?
NOEL: Was I not tall enough?
ALBERT: Yeah, there are these times that you ask yourself that question even though you already know the reason why you didn’t get in.
KATIE: Because there could be other reasons that they just don’t want to tell you.
How do you memorize lines?
GABRIEL: For me, I just do it along the way. I just do it along the way of rehearsal.
KATIE: Me too. I’m like that also.
ALBERT: I usually do it in blockings because in blockings you basically go through stuff and you go through scenes. So whenever you go through a scene, you have to memorize the blockings and at the same time, the lines just get into you as well.
NOEL: Well for me, when I was in Fun Home with Ms. Lea Salonga, because you know she’s a really great actor, and she memorizes her script even before rehearsals. So I was like, “I have to memorize this.” But in other plays–
Without Lea Salonga.
NOEL: Without pressure, you know I just have to–you have to feel it. You have to be in the role. You have to feel it. You have to memorize it in your heart even without your co-actors.
KATIE: Also in Fun Home, sometimes if I was so tired that night and then I woke up late, I would just–usually in the car ride with Mikkie–I would ask her to help me, and we would help each other. But usually the way I would do it if I had time, I would read all the lines and I would cover the lines, and if I can’t remember something, I would just look back and put that in my mind.
RAYNE: To be honest I don’t even know how. Like, I get surprised with myself when I actually do remember. But I remember when we still went to school, our bus ride going there was really far, so I think I would just bring it and then just always read it over and over and like what Katie said, I would like think of it in my mind and if I don’t remember it then I would just look back on it.
KYLE: In Matilda, they had a script in songs so I listened to it like almost every minute of the day. And I’m like okay, so this thing I will listen and listen and listen to it until I memorize it. And then I’ll listen to the other one, and then I’ll memorize it. And I don’t know why, it just comes naturally.
Is it easier to memorize musicals?
KRYSTAL: Well I don’t know, it’s so weird. I just look at the script like a few times and then later on I’ve apparently memorized it? It’s so weird!
KATIE: Give me the powers!
GABRIEL: The powers of Krystal!
Even for Annie?
KRYSTAL: Yeah. I don’t know, it’s so weird! It just sticks to my head.
ALBERT: The funny thing is, when you’re done memorizing your lines, you end up memorizing everyone else’s lines.
NOEL: If they forget it in rehearsals, you say it out loud.
KATIE: Like in Fun Home, we would always recite everyone’s lines as they were saying it.
ALBERT: Which is definitely not a bad thing, because if you’re in a scene and your co-actor forgets his or her lines–
NOEL: You can adlib. Guide.
KATIE: You can help him and say, “Oh you forgot that line,” or “You did that line wrong.”
NOEL: But also one thing, you can’t tell your co-actors notes because you’re not the director.
KATIE: Yeah, you’re not the director.
TORY: You can’t tell your co-actor, you know if they do something wrong, you can’t tell them. You can try to help him–
NOEL: But don’t be straightforward.
TORY: Yeah. That’s a rule.
NOEL: That’s a basic rule. I had this experience in a straight play once. So I had this really long monologue, I think 2 pages, A4 paper, I had to memorize it. So, like what Katie and Rayne did I just covered the script and I memorized it in my head. And then after a really long time I get to memorize it without even thinking.
Is it easier to memorize English or Tagalog?
NOEL: It depends.
TORY: I’m not very good at Filipino, so English.
NOEL: For me, I think it’s somewhat easier to memorize Filipino lines because I started in Filipino and I’m in the Philippines right now, and I use the Filipino language.
Like Ang Buhay ni Galileo, that was easy? Because I saw you and your lines were very, very long.
NOEL: Yeah. It’s one of my Filipino plays. But I get to use the Filipino language more than English.
KYLE: Yes, that’s true.
NOEL: But you know, I didn’t actually know how to speak in English before. I learned it because of theater. That’s one advantage.
KYLE: That’s true!
Who else learned English in theater instead of speaking it at home?
ALBERT: I learned English in theater.
GABRIEL: English is my first language.
KYLE: I wasn’t that confident in English, but everyday in theater you need to speak in English.
How do you get into character? Share your process.
KATIE: I note all the scenes, I think of how they would feel in those scenes, and I just put them all in my head. And then, for some reason, if the character gets emotional and I think of that scene, sometimes I get emotional. So that’s how I get into character. I just think of what’s gonna happen.
RAYNE: You try to step into that character and think of their backstory, and the reason why they’re like that, and then I think it just kind of comes. Like sometimes, when you’re off stage, you know you’re you, but once you step on stage you’re a completely different person.
KYLE: For me, first I have a very very good mentor, Teenee Chan, and also Steven Conde. They taught me how to speak in a British accent. And then, how to internalize and how to be it actually.
ALBERT: I just basically read the script, and then read the character’s lines, and then what Rayne said, you just think of your backstory and put them in there and their emotions in that scene, and how they felt by what happened.
GABRIEL: My first step is to know what the character is. I already knew what Simba was ’cause I watched the movie because everyone watched the movie. You know he’s this cocky prince who’s gonna be a mighty king. Once you know what the character is, for me, there’s this barrier from outside and on stage. When you cross that barrier, you’re a different person. You’re that person, you’re not you, and then you go back to yourself.
NOEL: It depends on the plays because you know there are some musicals and straight plays that are adapted from books or adapted from movies, so you have to watch the movie or read the book. But in other cases, if it’s an original play or an original musical, I just read the script, use it like a book and imagine what’s happening and internalize the character that you’re gonna be.
KATIE: No, but if it’s an original one, my director would usually explain what the backstory is and I just remember that, so I know how to be the character.
Is that also your experience Albert? Because you’ve also worked on an original.
ALBERT: Yes. So like in [Tagu-taguan Nasaan Ang Buwan], [Noel Comia Jr. and I] had the same role. (Everyone laughs.) Our director and assistant director guided us because it was an original play. Actually, the role wasn’t that hard because it’s like me. It’s really close to me.
TORY: In Newsies, we were actually told not to watch the movie, so we could make our own. The director really wants us to make the characters. He wants us to not just be the characters, but to create the characters– create the storyline and their backstory. It was really cool. The director always has a vision. Sometimes, he may tweak things, which is normal. You shouldn’t be afraid. Because sometimes when I was younger, every time someone changed something which I did, I’d get scared. I would be like, “Oh, did I do something wrong?”
RAYNE: I also did an original play, The Glitter Trap, and it was really challenging at first since it was the first time that we were doing it and showing it to the world. There weren’t any videos or anything I could have watched to see how I could have done it, so I had to be the character. But it was also really easy because like what Noel and Albert said, it was modern and I could really relate the character to me because at that time I was 12 and she was also. We were both also in middle school, and she was having so much problems in middle school, which was like the same thing, something I could really relate to.
How do you do emotional scenes?
NOEL: Define emotional.
KATIE: If I’m crying, I just think of something sad that could happen in my life, like my dog dying. I have, like, a funeral for it or something. When I think of that, I get sad.
RAYNE: Yeah like in Christmas Carol, me and Krystal, we–
KRYSTAL: Had to cry.
RAYNE: Yeah, we had to cry in the beginning because Grace Smythe, her mom died. At first it was hard, but then I did the show twice, so like on the second show it was already really easy to just internalize. But then what I would think of, yeah like Katie said, sad stuff and how I would feel if my mom died. And then after it would just come out.
What about you, Kyle?
KYLE: Same thing, and then I usually ask for help.
Ask for help how?
RAYNE: Pepper spray. (Laughs)
KYLE: What reasons would make me cry, because there’s not a lot of problems.
So, what would make you cry?
KYLE: Yeah, my dog dying.
ALBERT: Stop talking about dog deaths! My dog just died.
GABRIEL: For me, it’s just when I’m that character and something bad happens, like Simba when Mufasa dies in that scene, it’s just… his dad died.
KATIE: You gotta think of that.
GABRIEL: You gotta think of that. His dad was laying there and got stepped on by a bunch of bulls.
KATIE: Everybody cried in that scene!
ALBERT: I think those were antelopes.
GABRIEL: Well, wildebeests.
What about you, Krystal? For Annie? You had to cry in Annie.
KRYSTAL: There’s only one scene that I had to like, just one teardrop.
GABRIEL: One single tear.
KRYSTAL: Yeah, and I was thinking about sad stuff. Like dogs dying.
TORY: You really gotta think of sad stuff. I don’t really want to get into the things I think about…
RAYNE: But on the last show, you know I always think about everything ending.
NOEL: It depends on your definition of emotional, because emotional could be happily emotional. But when you’re speaking of sad-emotional, like crying, if you’re really into the role, and you feel it in your heart, you’re the character and then things happen, you’re gonna just burst out in tears without even knowing.
ALBERT: That’s also what I do, except if there’s something that actually hasn’t happened, like something happened to [the character] that hasn’t happened to me yet, what I always do is put myself into the character. Instead of thinking of dog deaths, I pretend I was him. Like in one play I was in, I was Basilio. I look at my mother, who is Sisa. So what happens is, if I was Basilio and I saw something like that, I would burst out. But I mean I never saw that in my mom. That would be just so weird. But I was Basilio, so I cried. My brother just died, and so did my mom. So I just have to be him.
RAYNE: There was one time in rehearsal, I tried to cry but I couldn’t so when I stepped on the stage, I cried because I couldn’t cry!
KYLE: Wow. Amazing.
NOEL: I cried because I didn’t cry.
Some of your shows have mature themes or more grown-up themes. Who usually explains the mature content?
GABRIEL: We already know it.
ALBERT: Our director.
KATIE: Yeah, he’ll say that “You guys have to understand, okay?”
NOEL: Yeah, our director’s like, “Kids! You’re still young! Don’t do that a! Don’t do that!”
ALBERT: Like, the theme of Fun Home is like the theme of family and of course, LGBT. So I think that made me kind of matured for some reason.
NOEL: Opened our minds.
ALBERT: The message of Fun Home is accepting them.
How about you, Kyle? Matilda is very complex and a lot of things are happening to her. Did anybody explain it to you?
KYLE: Yes, teacher Steven. Like, this happened to Matilda and that’s why she’s like this. She’s trying hard to be independent because her parents are not that kind, which every kid knows that her parent should be kind. And then that’s how I understood that. That not every kid has kind parents.
ALBERT: You know sometimes you just feel like everything is so bad but then when you look at the other side, you actually feel so lucky that you have that life ‘cause others are suffering right now and then you’re crying over PS4.
Krystal, how about for Annie? Her story was very sad. What did you understand about it? Because you were 9 right?
KRYSTAL: Yeah, nine. Yeah, her story was very sad. And I was 9, and I didn’t experience anything of her story. It was hard getting into her character. Her back story’s very harsh. Yeah, it was hard for me.
How was it explained to you?
KRYSTAL: It wasn’t really explained to me. I had to do my own research. I had to search about her backstory, what happened to her. So yeah, they didn’t really explain it. It was just my own research.
RAYNE: In The Sound of Music, they made everything really clear to us. And you know when you think of The Sound of Music, you think of like classic, kiddie movie but then it’s like a lot more deeper than that because it was about Hitler and the Germans.
TORY: And their mom who passed away.
RAYNE: Yeah, it’s like that was a really bad time and it became history, and I think it’s really important that a lot of people learn about it. After we did The Sound of Music, for home school, we learned about the whole story and stuff. But I won’t get into that. That’s too much.
No, you can expound.
RAYNE: Like they told us how in the real family, the whole play, they just changed it all.
TORY: They Disney-ized it.
RAYNE: Yeah, because it was too gory. Actually in the play, there’s a part where Uncle Max, he was only Georg’s friend because of his money and stuff, but in the end he actually saved them. He helped them escape, and because of that he sacrificed his life and they killed him because of that.
Katie, in Fun Home you sang ‘Ring of Keys’ and the theme of the song is very complex. Did anybody explain to you what it means?
KATIE: Yes actually, yes. I think it was my sister or was it my director. It was my director and my sister. They were telling me what ‘Ring of Keys’ meant and I was like, “Oh, okay!” I was fine with it. I just knew what it meant, so I was okay with it.
I saw you and I thought you captured the emotion of it.
ALBERT: She’s so flattered.
KATIE: Thank you.
How did that translate to you, if you didn’t really feel the same?
KATIE: Since I like to become my character, I like to imagine that I’m in the area in the diner and I see this girl walking in and for some reason, I see them in slow-mo ‘cause like the song. Yeah I’m fine with it. I had a hard time understanding it at first, but now I fully understand it.
Albert, you were also in Kinky Boots as well as Fun Home, and the themes of these shows are about acceptance and LGBT awareness. So what does it mean for you to be part of a show that has that kind of message?
KATIE: I love telling the story. I like to think that it will change a lot of people’s minds.
ALBERT: Yeah, ‘cause even though there are lots of people trying to change people’s minds, there’s still like 60% or 40% of the people who hate, or who don’t believe in the LGBT. Accepting them is an important thing because some people go beyond than just not believing. I’ve heard news of people beating up gay people, and actually that’s just really sad. Having a chance to be in a play that could change the minds of people, it’s really heart-warming and it’s really nice because you’re part of a cast that probably changed people’s lives.
KATIE: At the end of the day, instead of thinking about my recognition or anything, I like to think that hopefully, it changes as many people as possible.
NOEL: These musical plays are really instruments for people to understand. It’s also up to us actors to get the message to the people so they can understand the message of the play.
How do you juggle work and school?
KRYSTAL: When I start grade 6, I think I’m going to do home school since I have showbiz. That’s what I’m busy with right now.
TORY: Well right now since we are home-schooled, but the thing is we still have to learn, it’s just that we…
TORY: Yes, we manage, thank you. We place it into certain areas so that it’s easier. But when I had school, it was really hard since they really didn’t support it at all. They kind of did, like my friends supported it a lot. It was really cool because my friends were really nice about it. They were really helpful. Sometimes they even like if you had a script, they’d read it back to you even though they’re not even in this play. But how do I juggle it with school? It kind of just happens.
GABRIEL: Now I’m in home-school. My teachers are just gonna make me focus on Math and Science.
NOEL: When I started theater, that was in 2011. I was already home-schooled, so I didn’t have to manage that much of my time because the school allowed me to have theater and my theater was actually, like Gabriel, my grade for Arts.
So how does that happen? Like your teacher watches it and then they grade you from that?
NOEL: No. (Laughs) It’s up to them. But last year, I was given an opportunity to have a scholarship in OB Montessori. So, I was in regular school for the year end of 2017, so I was having trouble managing school and theater because it was tech week and I had to miss school. And then when I got to school, I had to catch up with a lot of missed activities, quizzes, but the school is really kind about it. So they let me have special classes just for me to catch up.
TORY: Just for you. (Laughs)
ALBERT: I’m home-schooled so I can basically do my activities and stuff wherever and whenever I want. So I’m basically cool with studies and it’s actually not that bad.
TORY: Wait– are other kids gonna see this? We’re not trying to encourage you to leave school.
NOEL: We’re just saying learn how to manage your time.
KATIE: Stay in school kids!
GABRIEL: Stay in school!
KATIE: Don’t be like us!
RAYNE: Don’t turn into us!
NOEL: If you don’t know how to manage your time like me when I started in regular school while doing theater, it was really hard for me. I was really stressed. I slept really late sometimes and I had to learn last minute before exams so I could get a passing grade. So just learn how to manage your time. It’ll be fine.
KYLE: For me, I’m the exact opposite of Gabriel. I don’t skip class just because I’m too lazy or too tired to wake up.
GABRIEL: Lazy? Rehearsals are to midnight!
KYLE: Yeah, but I still try my best to attend school because I don’t want to miss anything. But late at night, I still try to message my classmates and ask “What did you guys do? Did you guys have a quiz? Can I do it tomorrow morning?” So that I can catch up and not let my grades go down.
You love school, don’t you?
KATIE: Since I am home-schooled, I was the same as Albert. It’s literally the same thing.
ALBERT: Home-school buddies.
You’ve been home-schooled since you started acting?
KATIE: No. Like my entire life.
RAYNE: When we weren’t home-schooled, sometimes we would be like half-day then we’d do homework in the car. But our school was laidback. We didn’t do quizzes everyday. We were more focused on the arts like drawing. We had choir, and violin, and gardening. It was a weird school.
TORY: And woodwork.
ALBERT: Actually, that’s fun.
RAYNE: I think the one who was most challenged was my dad because we had to drive back and forth or we would take the bus, and he had to pick us up somewhere nearer to our house. But I prefer being in home-school more because you can make time to do acting. And for our PE we just do dance.
Do your friends watch your shows?
KRYSTAL: During Christmas Carol, I invited my classmates. Kind of all of them, but not really. So I was expecting to see them, but they didn’t come. Actually, I was so happy during Annie because the principal, she made an effort to do a field trip to Annie. So the whole school came. That was really nice.
NOEL: Because I was home-schooled from grade 2 to grade 6, most of my shows were, you know, my friends were in theater. So they were technically there already.
GABRIEL: We all watch each other.
KYLE: My teachers and my classmates did not watch Matilda, but my other classmate yesterday watched The Lion King!
Do any of you get recognized?
TORY: I have like maybe twice? Most of the times you get recognized it’s right after the show. But I have gotten noticed like twice. They just asked me if I was in Newsies or they saw me in Sound of Music. But they don’t really engage. They don’t really go to you, but they know you. Sometimes they do ask you if you were in Newsies and they say, “Hey. You did a good job.”
GABRIEL: Kyle does.
KYLE: No I don’t.
GABRIEL: Yes you do.
KATIE: Three times or 4 times I was here in BGC and this mom and this girl came up and said, “Oh hey can I have a picture?” And I’m like, “Okay…” I didn’t know I was this recognized. I thought I was just a normal person.
NOEL: Maybe they mistook you for another person.
KATIE: You’re horrible, Noel!
NOEL: Because I do TV, people recognize me like in malls and pointing fingers.
TORY: Can I have your autograph?
NOEL: But that’s because I’m in TV and movies but in theater, because I already did quite a lot of shows already, most people in auditions for plays, they ask for pictures from me. They say, “Hey, you’re really good in that show!”
GABRIEL: Si Noel Comia! Si Noel Comia!
ALBERT: Please! Pwede pa-picture?
KRYSTAL: Sometimes I do. Especially when I go grocery shopping, people recognize me because Noel and I we’re on TV and we have this show together.
GABRIEL: Thank God I don’t!
How does it feel whenever you guys get recognized?
TORY: In Hansel and Gretel, we’d walk out and we’d keep our make-up on. The funniest part is that they’d point at me, ‘cause I had long hair, they’d say “Oh that’s Gretel! That’s Gretel!”
RAYNE: Our make-up was so weird. It was like so much, so much powder, and like on a circular lid they’d put on lipstick and stuck it on our cheeks so there’ll be like red circles. When we would be rushing to go, we would take off make-up in the car, but then people would look at us and be like, “Oh my God!”
ALBERT: In Pinocchio, we were supposed to be wood, so there was literally wood stuff on our faces. Like, there would be these weird brown lines on our faces and then we just have a short quick change where they remove our make-up. But then, it’s not completely off. So there are still some lines in some scenes.
NOEL: Eyeliner also.
ALBERT: Yes there’s still eyeliner. We look like emo people.
NOEL: But it feels good to be recognized because before, it was really my dream to be recognized by people.
KATIE: Because there are only a few people who recognize me, I’m fine with it. So I’m like, “Okay, at least somebody knows me.”
ALBERT: I feel happy actually.
You don’t feel disturbed when you’re out and about and people come up to you?
NOEL: It’s part of the business.
RAYNE: You bump into another theater person, ‘cause it’s like once you join theater it’s like such a small world.
KATIE: You know everyone.
RAYNE: Everyone knows you.
KATIE: And you’re just gonna be like, “Oh, hi!”
KYLE: “Oh, I know you!”
GABRIEL: If you watch one show, so many people you know pop up.
ALBERT: When I watched Newsies, like half of the people I know in theater were there.
KATIE: Yes, they were there! Also for me! We watched it together!
How about you, Kyle? It gets busy after the show, right? Everyone wants to grab and get a selfie? Is it okay for you?
KYLE: For me, I feel very flattered ‘cause the people might have sat at the back and then they still recognized me. So I’m like “Ah! Thank you!” And then I feel very happy that they recognized me.
There’s no one who pinches your cheeks or anything like that?
TORY: I would feel kind of violated if someone did that to me.
ALBERT: They pinch my cheeks! But the thing is, I’m so used to it. I’m like, “Fine. Pinch it. I don’t care. Just pinch it. Whatever.”
NOEL: People just drag me around and kiss me after a show.
KATIE: I don’t even know you, we’re not close, so please, please don’t.
NOEL: It’s okay, basta not on the lips.
Other than acting, what do you love to do?
KRYSTAL: I love doing YouTube videos on my YouTube channel.
GABRIEL: I also do instruments. Like guitar, ukelele, piano.
KATIE: I like to learn ukelele songs.
KYLE: Ukelele, yes. I like playing the ukelele and also I love arts and crafts.
GABRIEL: Calligraphy! [Kyle] does calligraphy everyday in the dressing room.
RAYNE: Whenever we’re with our tita we always bake, like cakes or brownies. Since there aren’t any upcoming shows, Tory and I have just been doing a lot of dance. Like everyday.
TORY: Yeah, recently I auditioned for a scholarship at STEPS mainly ‘cause kuya [PJ Rebullida], ever since our Newsies, something hit me really hard. I woke up one morning and I was like, I really want to pursue this, but I’m not sure. He told me that I should go to STEPS, because that’s where he started. So then I auditioned for it. They were all really good. I got in as a scholar. I’m doing jazz, contemporary ballet, and hip-hop.
NOEL: Wow. Very Nice.
TORY: It’s really fun. It’s kind of scary and nerve-wracking but it’s a really fun experience to be in, and like all the people, the new people you meet, it’s kind of intimidating to be near them because everyone’s really good. And the ballet class I’m in, it’s advanced ballet so everyone’s really good. But it’s a really good way of learning. I feel like I really improved ever since.
RAYNE: Yeah, so we’re taking a break from theater. Well for now because there really aren’t any upcoming shows.
KATIE: Especially with our age. (To Noel) You get to go on TV!
GABRIEL: More kid shows!
ALBERT: 13 the Musical.
KATIE: 13 the Musical!
NOEL: I kind of don’t have that much time, but if there’s some time, I just like to sleep. Second thing, I like to sleep also because that’s one of the important things a person should have, sleep. And I also play with my friends if I have time. And the fourth thing is, I like to sleep.
ALBERT: I draw a lot. And I made this one short skit but I didn’t show anyone yet. It’s animated. It’s literally just 22 seconds, but it was so hard. It took me a whole day to animate a 22 second skit.
NOEL: I also like playing instruments. I play a lot of instruments– the guitar, ukelele, piano, violin.
GABRIEL: I play the recorder.
RAYNE: I used to play the drums. In our school we had to learn the recorder. I learned the violin but I just gave up on it. It was so hard.
KATIE: Drawing, sleep, eating, gaming.
NOEL: Well you know, one of the things I love about theater is the orchestra. I really love listening to music, like orchestrated music.
KATIE: Mostly what I do is, I just go to Mikkie’s house and I just stay there. I just like to stay at their house because they have a lot of electronics. PS4, Nintendo Switch, like [Nyoy Volante] always has all these electronics. So okay, I’ll just stay there.
How is acting on TV and films different from theater?
KRYSTAL: My first movie was Honor Thy Father, and I had to shave my head for that. Like, I really shaved my head. Some people think it’s just like prosthetics and stuff but I really had to shave my head.
How did that feel?
KRYSTAL: It felt good ‘cause it was summer. (Everyone laughs.) It felt great. I did that when I was 6 I think? I’m not sure. But I was very young the time. And I had a few other commercials. Right now I have a TV show with Noel.
How is that experience different from theater?
KRYSTAL: For theater, it just goes and goes on. You can’t cut. You can’t stop. But for film and TV you can stop and fix your mistake. So for me it’s very different.
NOEL: Yes. For me it’s quite a big difference. I can’t remember my first film but I can remember Kiko Boksingero. One of the few things is that because theater is really big and the stage is big, you have to project everything. I had to tone it down a lot quite a few times. When you’re a theater actor for a very long time then you switch to TV, you tend to–
GABRIEL: Scream it.
NOEL: Overact, and that’s very not good and the director gets mad. ‘Cause it’s just the screen and it’s this small and you have to act in a very small space. And it’s also like what Krystal said. There’s a second take, there’s a third take, you can make mistakes. But in theater you can’t. That’s different also, but you know I try to practice it that I only have one take. Just like what I do in theater. So I don’t give my co-actors a hard time.
ALBERT: It’s really different because you have to not over-act everything. Like, there was this one take I had in one movie I had, I did everything in the theater way. Like my eyes were moving around. There was this one square I was thinking of and then I thought that was the audience with the camera. But even if the camera was there I was just rolling my eyes around everywhere and I was moving so big, but then I didn’t realize that I was actually in close-up in the camera so that was like so stupid. There are many takes you can make in films and TV series and not that it’s a lot better that you can make as much mistakes as you want, ‘cause that’s not good, but in theater, you only get one chance. If you make a mistake, then that’s it. No going back. The show must go on. And if you make a mistake in a film, you don’t have to adlib that much. ‘Cause in theater when someone makes a mistake you have to act fast, make an adlib, make a new thing to stop the silence.
RAYNE: But after the show, you can use that mistake to be better.
ALBERT: Yeah, exactly.
NOEL: One thing different with film is, in theater you have a few weeks of rehearsals, one month or two months. But in film, some films or some TV shows don’t have workshops so you have to really use your experience to be in a film. You don’t have that long of a preparation. You have to prepare by yourself and memorize the lines in the short period of time.
ALBERT: Yeah, you basically just go there and you memorize your lines and then you know your character, you know how to act it, go there, go in front of the camera, and then you have a take, and then if it’s good, then it’s good.
Krystal and Noel, you guys have won acting awards. Do you feel that winning awards is important?
KRYSTAL: Well for me, since I shaved my head for that certain movie…
NOEL: I better win an award! I shaved my head!
KRYSTAL: I sacrificed my hair. I loved it so much, but it had to go. I think my hard work paid off when you get an award. So for me, it’s very important to get an award. But, if you don’t get an award, it’s fine.
NOEL: But for me, the Aliw Awards, the Gawad Buhay, and all these awards in theater, they’re just recognitions of your hard work and all the things you did. It means that the audience really felt what you were doing, and you were really the character. But for me it’s just recognition. You don’t have to focus on those awards. The Cinemalaya Award that I got was really, you know, parang ‘banta sa buhay’.
NOEL: Yeah, like a pressure thing that you have to be good in every single thing that you do. Because if you’re not good at that, they will use it as–
KATIE: As like a threat.
NOEL: Yeah, as like a threat to you. “Hey I thought you were a Best Actor? How come you’re not acting as good as you claim?”
It’s like a double-edged sword.
NOEL: Yeah double-edged sword.
Do you have performers that you look up to?
KRYSTAL: Ms. Lea Salonga.
GABRIEL: I don’t really have one.
NOEL: (To Gabriel) Your mom?
KATIE: We usually switch to different role models.
KYLE: Lea Salonga.
GABRIEL: All of you are Lea Salonga?
RAYNE: I think when we did Hansel and Gretel I really looked up to [Bituin Escalante] because she was just a really humble and kind person, and she has an amazing voice.
KATIE: Lea Salonga of course. In Fun Home, she helped me with a lot of things. Like one time, I had to do a show for my alternate because she was really sick. All her friends came to watch her, but she wasn’t there. So I was like, I don’t feel right doing this. So she was helping me, saying it’s fine, it’s normal, and a lot of these things happen. She even made me laugh backstage. So she’s really a role model for me.
ALBERT: Actually, Lea Salonga but that’s what everybody has been saying. Can I just say that I look up to Robert Downey Jr.? The thing is, if you’ve seen his life story, he’s been a drug addict and he recovered from that. Not that I’m a drug addict, but he proves that whatever mistake you made, you can always get back from that. And no matter how bad people judge you, there will still be more people that loved you. I mean, look at what he did in Iron Man and the Charlie Chaplin thing he did. That was just amazing. Though his past was dark, but then he changed himself and made a light in himself. He made his own light because he did that.
NOEL: Because I’ve been in quite a few many things, there are a lot of actors that I look up to. Like Ms. Lea Salonga in Fun Home, she taught me if you feel tense, if you think that you’re not gonna reach that note– ‘cause I have a high note– she told me that you have to relax your body because if you’re tense, and if you think that you’re not gonna reach it, you’re really not gonna reach it ‘cause you know it’s your mind. And I also look up to many actors in Repertory, [Naths Everett], [Cara Barredo], [Ayam Barredo]–
ALBERT: [Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo]
NOEL: A lot of titas and titos and kuya’s and ate’s. In PETA it’s Kuya Pepe Herrera, and a lot of people actually. A lot of people I look up to.
TORY: Well the person that I look up to the most would be Jef Flores. Ever since we watched Tick Tick Boom, and he was the main lead, and he was amazing. Like the way he acted, the way he did the things, you know his choices, and the things he did, it was just amazing. It was kind of scary to me the first time when I met him in Newsies, but he helped me out a lot. Not just in acting, but he became like a best friend to me. He became like an actual brother to me. He’s a really cool guy. Like when he teaches stuff, he doesn’t do it so seriously, you know, he laughs and makes jokes with you. And the way he shares his tricks and tips and stuff, it’s just amazing. He’s a good guy. I look up to him.
NOEL: One of the guys who’s good in theater.
Do you have dream roles?
KRYSTAL: I don’t know, whatever’s there for me.
GABRIEL: I wanna play Evan from Dear Evan Hansen. I love the music, I love the character. The music. Mostly the music. It’s really nice.
KYLE: Me, I want to be Eliza in Hamilton, and Kim in Miss Saigon, and Elphaba in Wicked.
RAYNE: I don’t know, honestly.
KATIE: I don’t even have a goal. I just want to do theater. I just want to experience more theater.
ALBERT: Whatever comes to me, but Marius from Les Miserables is a common choice right? But I also want to be that kid, you know, that guy also in Les Miserables? Yeah, Gavroche. Because he’s awesome and he’s played by Gaten Matarazzo.
NOEL: Well, because I have been training in theater for a very long time, I have a lot of characters in mind. But theater has taught me to accept everything that the director gives me. Anything. So whatever role comes up, just accept it.
TORY: I’m with everyone, you know whatever role comes up, but honestly if I had to choose a really dream role that I want to go for, it would be Billy Elliott.
TORY: And Pippin.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
KRYSTAL: With advice, not really from a popular person, it was just my teacher. She was talking to me about school and my work and she said don’t ever forget school. Finish school. And that’s one advice that’s really great ‘cause I’m gonna finish school. I don’t want to end it or anything.
KYLE: For me, it’s “Don’t be afraid to reach your dreams” and “Always be humble.”
RAYNE: Never give up and always learn from your mistakes, because you know whenever people make mistakes, you want to feel bad about it but then you should just use it to bring each other up and just do better the next time. Always be yourself, unless you’re playing another character. (Laughs.) Yeah just try your best and be true to yourself.
KATIE: This is advice for everyone out there, and it was advice for me also: have fun and stay grounded. Don’t let fame get to your head. I was told this multiple times. People used to say that our Fun Home was better than the Broadway Fun Home, but they were saying that don’t get that into your head.
ALBERT: Of course, all of the best advice come from my parents, but Ms. Lea Salonga herself had advice for me.
KATIE: All of us. She even said “stay grounded” to me.
ALBERT: But the one that stuck with me the most was, [Andee Achacoso] asked, “What do you think about the people that claim that their kids are the next Lea Salonga?” and she said that the people who idolize someone, when you idolize someone, you don’t have to be that person. You don’t have to be exactly that person. You don’t have to copy their clothes, or kind of acting. Everyone’s different. Tita Lea said she made her own path and so should everyone. Everyone should make their own paths. You just have to follow that. You don’t have to be all in the same path following someone.
KATIE: They can be your role model.
NOEL: Yeah, inspiration.
ALBERT: Yeah, they can be your role model. But you don’t have to be them. Copy, or be the next them. Or be the new generation of them. You just have to use them as inspiration and carve your own vase.
NOEL: Just be yourself. Don’t stop dreaming and just follow your road. Follow whatever you want to be. Learn how to manage your time. Always respect other people and their privacy, and their rights. Never forget to thank God for everything and be humble and stay on the ground. I could say a lot more.
TORY: I’ve taken a lot of advice throughout my whole life. The things that hit me the most are the things that Rayne said. Another thing that someone told me, is that if you’re in theater for the money, the fame, then you just shouldn’t be here. Because you should be here to tell the story which I really agree with. But I’d say like 15% of me is still there for the fame. (Laughs.) But I don’t mean it in a narcissistic way but I kind of want to go somewhere. I don’t just want to stop there. Try to tell the story, be in the moment, and to really just do what you feel is right. If you believe in something then you should really go for it.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
With Additional Reporting by: Elfrida Tan
Venue: BGC Arts Center
Special Thanks to: Erickson dela Cruz, John Mark Yap, and Yvonne Russell