Friday, February 19, 2016

My letter to Anne, part 4

In 2002, I applied for a scholarship in the University of the Philippines Theater Arts Program and passed. I studied for a few years, and then went on to become the actor I always wanted to be. I worked in customer service for the money, and at night, I went to rehearsals.

Anne, you continued to write and write more books, but I thought I was too grown up to go back to them. I would run my finger down the spines of Merrick and Blood and Gold but never buy them. I would tease myself by reading the first page, and instantly get drawn again to the language, the words. Then I'd close the book shut. They reminded me happily of my high school years, and I relegated them to that part of my life. Maybe I was still afraid to go back to your books. And I turned my attention to reading purely non-fiction. Books about the acting craft. About theater.

In 2005 Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt came out. You shocked the world with that offering. I purchased it and read it. When I read the last page, I prayed to Christ. I felt the beginnings of faith in him again, in his Person, not God-as-told-to-me by someone else. But Jesus, for who he is.

Two years ago I joined a production of Aeschylus's Orestea. I've had several acting stints to my credit, have had trainings and workshops, worked with and learned from the best Filipino theater directors, but I was having so much difficulty in a particular speech in the tragedy. Young actor that I am, I asked help from Frances Makil, a celebrated and respected actress here, and who was playing Clytemnestra. We were walking home from the theater after rehearsals one night.

I said, "How come during rehearsals it seems you have a sixth sense as to how to say a line right, and where and how the character stands and moves... almost by instinct? It's almost as if every time you make a choice on stage it's always, always right. I know... many actors have told me 'it's there in the text,' but I keep looking and looking and I feel I'm missing out. Is there a secret?"

Frances smiled, and graciously replied. "Read novels."

That's what she said. I thought she was going to say something like, "Take a breath before you speak on stage," or even recommend an acting tome by Stanislavsky or Meisner or Hagen or whoever. To read fiction was the last thing I expected to hear.

She clarified for me, "You see, if you only read plays, you only get the dialogue, and it's up to you to figure out the characters' motivations and inner life. But the novel gives you all of that and more. It brings you inside a character's mind, and the plot in unfolding events. It gives you the setting. It feeds your imagination and your heart. And don't care what other people think! If you love an author, you love an author, even if it's a horror writer like Stephen King."

"I love Anne Rice," I confessed to her.

"Then read her," she said, smiling. Actors are known to be generous, and helpful towards fledgling artists. I am grateful to Frances for two things: for her expert advice to me as a young actor, and also for giving me permission to read your books again.

I began collecting your books again. I read them secretly at first, and then more openly. I met Toby O'Dare. I met Reuben Golding. And then Lestat returned. Lestat. The Prince taught me how to act after all.

I found the Anne Rice Philippines group on Facebook. Louella is, of course, part of it. And through Todd Barselow I received from you a signed paperback of The Vampire Lestat! I wanted to have all your books in hardcover, hopefully first editions. Thank God for Amazon, and booksellers everywhere, that I was able to acquire beautiful editions of your earlier work. And my friends—the characters you created—returned to fill my world and inform and fire my work in the theater. I began a blog to chronicle and celebrate my reading of your work. And thanks to your encouragement to go where the pain is, to go where the pleasure is, I am also now penning my own novel.

Happy Birthday, Anne!

With love,

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