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Tiny Epiphanies

In the Wake of Such Cruelty

Unlike 50 people, today, I got to wake up in the morning... but there's a pain that comes with that privilege, because the country I open my eyes to continues to make the kind of history it could avoid.

In many ways, posting my thoughts on this platform feels like preaching to the choir, and I'll admit there's some solace in that, which is why I want to offer you, friends who've proven yourselves to be so thoughtful and empathetic in your grief, a token of my gratitude: Not comfort itself, because I find it essential to validate whatever feelings overtake us in the wake of such cruelty, but a (hopefully comforting) request...

In one tragic event (and the way it's been handled), we've witnessed and continue to witness a public display of the intersection of too wide an array of systems of oppression (homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, the persisting deafness of our political institutions in understanding the importance of regulating accessibility to weapons, and - I would add - our communal negligence as a society to educate and value cultural diversity, sexual diversity, and emotional literacy). These are all crippling ideologies we've fought tirelessly against, and it's only natural to feel something in our souls dampen when we're faced with what seems to be the culmination of our failure.

But what I ask from the depth of my sadness, friends, is that we do not ever give in to the poisonous idea that there is absolutely nothing we can do, whether or not it's true.

Be in the gutter for as long as you need to. Let the darkness of the sorrow do its work, but please don't ever forget to do your best to come back to us. As you are. In your anger. In your pain. Always come back to us, and do whatever you can within the confines of what your hands allow. Any effort on your part will do.

We need you.
We'll always need you.

To Discover

So much love from so many places in so many forms in so little time.  #BlueBloods #familia 
Thanks to everyone who congratulated me for being a hooker and having cleavage 😂
As a feminist and thinker, I have to add that the reason these types of comments are funny is the fact that they're not coming from merely anyone, but - sarcastically - from those who know me, those who I'm comfortable with, and those whose eternal, underlying message has always been "Congratulations for the things you've made with your own hands, for the stepping stones in your life that prove that women, people of color, and those who did not grow up in upper class families can and should have the same opportunities as those born with unfair advantages over them, and for constantly working towards the life you have always wanted. We love to watch you grow." #boobsarejustabonus (...#andonlysometimes)

It'll be hard to forget how my family threw a building-wide, Hollywood-themed viewing party back in Puerto Rico just to see me say a couple of lines 😂 ‪#‎proudlatinofamilies‬, how I could hear neighbors who I'd barely even met cheer for my parents in the background as I spoke to my sister on the phone, how I reconnected with friends I hadn't seen since middle school as they messaged me that they were also tuned in, how I received pictures of TV screens and popcorn bags and excited faces I've known since before I learned what a face was, and how - alone in my room, tucked in with hot chocolate and my open laptop on what I thought would be a night for me to mostly analyze my work - I was everything but lonely.

Getting cast in the show was always exciting, friends, but I hadn't realized that the best part of it would be to discover the many people in my life who would adopt my joy as their own.

You've given me more than I dreamt about when I was four. 
It'll be hard to forget last night.
That's a promise I give you in return.

The Audition Chronicles: Episode 2 - More Than It Takes

In the whirlwind of emotions that were the months following my college graduation, when I desperately sought out any kind of insight regarding how to become a working actor in New York City, I was eased by accounts of veterans of the "hashtag actor life" claiming that there comes a time in which the faces surrounding you in audition rooms become recognizable. As though the focus sharpened on the lens of chaos and erratic impulse through which most view my artistic pursuit, this point in the acting career would be allegedly marked by an office-like quality. There would be routine. There would be familiarity. There would be support. There would be a "See you next week" and a "How's that project going?" and an interminable bank of "Things are slow now, but they'll pick up again. They'll pick up again. You'll see." 

I've been an actor in New York for a little over nine months now, and, today, as I attended a voice-over audition, my peers' not-so-long-lost predictions smiled at me within the waiting room of Endeavor Studios in the form of my friend Gabriel from The Actor's Project, who approached me with incomparable grace and genuine interest in my current happenings.

And though this may seem simple to you, to me, it was the living, breathing reminder of the life and career I've so persistently struggled but managed to build in a city that ultimately gives more than it takes, as well as of the beautiful community that every day propels me towards the sky and only the sky --- never the limit.

Un regreso

Ayer mi madre me dijo que, en el fondo, todo en la vida es un regreso. 
Así como si nada. 
Como siempre suelta sus verdades.
Como si estuviera hablando del clima o de aquella transacción bancaria que tanta ladilla le dió. 
Como si lo que expresara no fuese impactante. 
Como en algún momento al rededor de mis ocho años me dijo que lo que más sentía por el mar era respeto. 
Y allá a mis ocho retorné ayer al tocarle el brazo a mi otra mitad, la pequeña Lía, con un "Manita, porfa, llévame a la playa. Lo necesito." Y allá en mis ocho me lancé como la isleña que siempre he sido, sabiendo que la marea sabe lo que hace, que no me pusiera a desafiarla, que la dejara hacer su trabajo. 
Y allá una ola se llevó mis ocho y me trajo mis dieciseis, donde recorrí las calles de Condado con mis amigos de secundaria bromeando acerca de los curiosos factores que determinan la estructura de nuestra sociedad, llorando nuestras penas a puras carcajadas, retratándonos en las aceras, bebiendo más de lo que deberíamos y asegurándonos de que cada uno llegaría a casa bien. 
Y allá a todos mis noviembres he vuelto esta mañana, al levantarme con un dulce "Aleeeeeeeee" de mi padre que vibra al son de las ollas y los trastes que se oyen desde la cocina como una parada que celebra el hecho de que mi casa se prepara para la cena de Acción de Gracias. 
Y acá, al bajar las escaleras y dar con la risa de mi hermanita Miranda, mis años de infancia vuelven en destellos que bailan en mi mente y se van con un saludo que me dice que pronto regresarán. 
Así, como las olas.
Al ir y venir de la lejana voz de mi madre, que se destaca entres los ruidos matutinos en lo que le confiesa por teléfono a una amiga querida en Santo Domingo, "¿Tú sabes? Nosotros pasamos más que un forro 'e catre hasta que tú llegaste."
Así, como si nada.

How Simple

I've been feeling the emptiness of not frequenting a playroom with friends dressed in all black, so the last few days have found me—among many other exciting things I'll update you on soon—scouting for an acting class. A dear friend of mine recommended AMAW, which sent me straight into an audit of their Tuesday-at-6 class yesterday night. All I can say to them [after months of energy (rightfully) spent on marketing] is thank you for bringing me back to the source.

The Core of the Argument

Wow, friends, how terrifying it is to realize how much we've been apologizing in our attempts to advocate. It's very telling of how deeply engrained sexism is in our socio-political system, dominating the conversation even from our own podiums.

More articles and approaches like this one, please, that recognize the female experience as the core of the argument instead of reducing it to the image of a tenuous weapon that defends us feebly against the colossal opinion of the patriarchy.

"We’ve been reactive rather than proactive. To deflect immediate attacks, we fall in with messaging that unconsciously encodes the vision of the other side. Abortion opponents say women seek abortions in haste and confusion. Pro-choicers reply: Abortion is the most difficult, agonizing decision a woman ever makes. Opponents say: Women have abortions because they have irresponsible sex. We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies. These responses aren’t false exactly. Some women are genuinely ambivalent; some pregnancies are particularly dangerous. But they leave out a large majority of women seeking abortions, who had sex willingly, made a decision to end the pregnancy and faced no special threatening medical conditions. We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat."

Sometimes

Dear future children, 

I refuse to apologize for how much I'll overwhelm you with stories about this past week and its historical significance in the ongoing battle for human rights in our nation… but if it’s challenging for you to assimilate history into the personal frameworks of your minds, do not dismay, because these unremitting sermons will be coupled with the amusing image of your mother at 23, wine in hand, resting on a balcony in plain summer sunlight, thinking about you for the first time in a long time - playing guessing games on the sizes of your eyes, the ideas endemic to your heads, the questions burning in your chests - and feeling a glimmer of hope at the thought that you might just be born into a country that’s on its way to loving you as much and as completely as she will. 

Love, love, love (which sometimes wins),

Mami

The Audition Chronicles: Episode 1 - With Sarah

New York, you've been kinder to me this time around. When I look at the last two months, I feel enveloped by an industry. Not held by it. Not yet, at least. But enveloped, surrounded, as though I was standing in awe in the eye of a hurricane of lights and mikes and slates and piles of resumés held down by coffee mugs without which they'd be flying around in the breeze. And in the midst of this ever-changing storm of activity, I'm cradled by something a little more solid that peeked its head shyly from behind the chaos's skirt. Let me talk to you about that something...  

I've lost count of how many auditions I've gone to since I landed on The City that Never Sleeps, but the first one was immediately upon arrival. The afternoon of April 9th found me in a hallway of Columbia University, waiting for my turn to audition for a short film I was rather excited by the prospect of booking. Most people would think that I was prepared to annihilate the competition, but I've always believed that we get so much more from helping each other, especially if we're reaching for the same thing and could use some kind shoulders to push us towards it. That day was no exception, and that was how the girl waiting next to me, the talented, diligent, and incredibly kind Sarah Albonesi, became my first new friend in the city. 

I didn't get that part, but I got her. 

And with her, a new idea, or rather the dusting off of an old, precious one: The reminder of the importance of being part of a community, and the way in which this opens a myriad of new doors. It was Sarah who exposed me to the Actor Networking Event held by Backstage, and the people and experiences I had there have, in turn, moved me further in my mission to be a part of the wonderful, intricate net of actors and artists in the Big Apple. This concept of camaraderie is one that keeps highlighting itself in every event that's taken place in my life since I came to the belly of the beast, from moving into a house of musicians with top-notch souls to being cast in the very exciting "Tenderloin Towers" to coming out of every audition room with more than stories to tell. I owe a domino effect that led me to countless opportunities to the simple decision to make one friend. Or two friends. Or three friends. And so on. Yes, I feel enveloped by an industry... but held by a community. 

If you feel stuck, dear listener, may this serve you: Show up prepared, be kind, give, and this city will reward you, even if it isn't in the way you expect. 

Bleeped

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I know. I know. I KNOW. I've been so bad about updating you, but here I am. Well... Here I've been, actually, because a great deal of fortune allows me to say that there's SO much to go over. Let's begin with one of the most beautiful experiences I've had making a short: Bleeped

You know when you meet people for the first time simply to discover that they've always been your friends? Well, that's what that mid-April weekend in Boston shooting this film felt like to me. 

Bentley University student Waleed AlQahtani had contacted me via Backstage when I was in Puerto Rico to invite me to audition for a project he'd written that was then titled Politically Correct. After reading the script, the silly goose in me jumped up and down at the thought of making some quirky comedy happen, and the Skype audition with the extremely well-prepared and welcoming Waleed did nothing but convince me further that I wanted to participate. It was no surprise, then, that the concept of hesitation was temporarily eradicated from my mind in the moment when he said "It's yours if you want it." 

I moved to New York City shortly after, at the beginning of April, and less than ten days after dropping my luggage in The City That Never Sleeps, I was dozing off in a Bolt bus on my way to Boston. Waleed and I had Skyped with Alexander Gauthier, who would be playing the lead role and thus my love interest (and the object of my Babysitting Skills), a couple of days earlier, and in that virtual meeting, a further comprehension of the story and the characters' relationship came hand in hand with laughter and connection to people who were unmistakably kind, talented, and devoted to the craft. With this in mind, wrapping my head around the fact that I was heading to Boston to meet everyone who was working on this film for the first time was difficult.

What's more - It still is. 

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Forget being floored by the entire team's efficacy, passion, talent, and dedication. Playing the blasphemous game of pretending those qualities aren't essential, let's forget that for a second, because it was something else about them that took me to a place I'd never been before but found inexplicably familiar: their humanity. Everyone on set was different, and I mean different. The age range stretched farther than a decade, and the level of diversity in terms of ethnicity and nationality made a constant debut in every new accent and "I come from..." Yet there wasn't a single stranger in that room. Everyone worked, everyone laughed, everyone helped each other, as if there was some underlying script of love and compassion we'd all unknowingly memorized before arriving.

It was only days later, after resuming my business back in the Big Apple, that I realized just how special the brief experience had been. If you ever run into Waleed AlQahtani and he offers you a space in any of his projects or a part in his life, take that second to forget what Hesitation means. 

And, without further ado, I give you the very quirky Bleeped: 

The Tide and the memory: thoughts while Filming The Waterfall

"This system is a fake fantasy, and escaping it without revolution of thought is [also] fantasy." 

I've been pulling sand pebbles out of my ear for almost two weeks now, after BlueFace Design's The Waterfall's last shoot in the sandy shores of El Viejo San Juan, and yesterday I was sent back into the sea to film a continuation of the same beach scene. As they finished wrapping some takes that only required my fellow actor, I looked at the water and, feeling the already existent heaviness of my shoes and cargo pants, I mentally prepared for what I thought would be a mostly uncomfortable experience... As it turns out, when "Action!" was screamed, surrendering myself to the waves came so naturally and felt so good that I wondered why I'd wasted so much time pondering on it.

Maybe the soul that left its mark on the dock might just be onto something: As long as we're not putting our lives/health/dignity/self-respect or those of others in danger, we should make our thinking direct us towards doing things, not running away from them. Fear, especially of discomfort, is not only paralyzing; it's unoriginal. 

And talking about mini-life lessons, let me not digress too much from this tid bit: Fellow actors, here's something I learned that might be useful to you. As a very young girl, I'd been constantly commended for my sharp memory. I could recite an entire paragraph after reading it only once or twice, and I prided myself on being one of the only kids in my classroom to learn texts verbatim, but then... I went to college. Let's just say those Freshman year parties and sleepless nights threw my biological clock into a frenzy, and with it many of my sharp attributes, memory being the most prominent. As a result, I've spent my last few years memorizing through pure diligence, focus, and repetition. It hasn't come easily, which I know is the norm for most of us, which brings me to what happened yesterday afternoon: As we rode to the film site, my very kind co-actor put his headphones on my ears to the sound of classical instrumental music. "Recite your lines to yourself now," he said. And as I looked out the window to the ground moving underneath us and disappearing into the distance to every peak and trough of each song, I was taken on a journey with the things I was going to say. By the time the car came to a stop a few minutes later, my lines and I knew each other very well. 

Try it. Maybe those of us who get carsick when we read can still find some time for action in the passenger seat. Put those headphones on, take your lines by the hand, and enjoy the ride. 

The day ended in a rooftop of El Viejo San Juan, capturing the moon rising with the film's producer, who happens to be my partner-in-everything (almost including birth), Lía



Who Would See You

Panteón de los Héroes, República Dominicana. 2010. 

Since a very early age, I’ve had to apologize for any kind of patriotism I’ve felt naturally inclined to express. “Mamita, you’re not Dominican; you were born in the States.” “Loca, why do you call yourself Puerto Rican? Your family came here from the Dominican Republic when you were eight.” “Welcome to the Ivy League. Where are you from? You can't be American. I mean, you have an accent, and, like, look at you.” 

Wow. Yeah. Look at me. For a while, I thought they were right. I should shut up. My saying I belong in this place is offensive to those who’ve spent their whole lives here and whose skin and blood wave one clear flag. And so I adopted a culture of silence and confusion. I made out of “I don’t really know where I’m from” my introductory phrase, I’d feel self-conscious about singing any national anthem, and I must’ve changed my Facebook Hometown at least twenty times before beginning to realize that perhaps my feelings were also valid. 

I’ve lived my entire life being told that I don’t belong where I find myself, and it took a lot of walking within the narrow limbos between nationalities to realize that repressing my sense of love for each piece of earth that held me was not only unfair but also unnecessary.

I was born an immigrant. Many of us were; many of us turned it. But all of us have, at one point or another, felt a sense of belonging somewhere, even if it has only lasted one brief, majestic moment. Why neglect this wondrous instant? Why negate us immigrants such an integral part of our humanity? Any living, breathing person knows that feeling connected to something larger than themselves is a very precious, very elevating, very necessary experience, and, for those of us who've spent our lives adjusting to a new place, it is also a fragile flame, not to be put out nor repressed. It is to be celebrated. Enjoyed. Recognized. Shared.

I have roots in three places. Three places have blessed me with space to grow. My heart is not fickle; it’s just happily stretched out across the sea. And today it celebrates Dominican Independence with the reverberating words of my great-great-grandfather Gastón Fernando Deligne, national poet of Dominican Republic: 

 

“¡Que linda en el tope estás,

Dominicana bandera!

¡Quién te viera, quién te viera,

más arriba, mucho más!”

 

[You look so beautiful at the top,

Dominican flag!

Who would see you, who would see you,

higher up, so much higher!]

 

 

Well, I’m looking at you, Dominican flag, and with my Puerto Rican slang and my American passport... I, too, see you.

The Windows Are Also Helping

Last night, I went from fighting the sea and sand with clothes on (and failing miserably) as we shot a scene for BlueFace Design's The Waterfall to being hosed down completely naked in the chilling night air of my eighth-floor balcony. Acting comes hand in hand with shivering adventures. Anyway... My funny blog and me find ourselves in the beginning stages of our relationship, but while we get to know each other, I want to share with you the most difficult and rewarding project I've ever been the author of from roots to leaves. I first published it on the internet on the 23rd of November of 2014: 

"In a battlefield... and I thought of you. How could I not tell you?"

Okay, friends, here it is: my solo show. Today, six months after its closing, I look back on it with wonder, amusement, tenderness, and gratitude for every soul who made it possible and who came to see it. Little did I know the morning of May 23rd, 2014, that I was about to live one of the best days of my life. 
Ever-so-slightly greener to the idiosyncrasies of the so-called "real world," the girl who wrote and performed The Windows Are Also Helping captured the feeling of being on the cusp of a new kind of adulthood and left it here for this one to share and for you to enjoy half a year later. 
This is a show about self-discovery, about the experience of being a woman, and about getting to know your parents. This is a show about learning how to love, about cheesy red dresses and ridiculous questions and the beauty of the road that leads inwards. It’s about discovering the surprising proximity between who you want to be and who you already are... but, most importantly, this is a show for you. For you, for you, for you. If everything seems to be collapsing around you and you feel yourself falling into a black hole, I hope that so much as a second from this hour-long experience feels like coming back for air. I hope you laugh. I hope you enjoy. I hope you feel things. And I hope someday you come to understand how much I love you for listening.

Credit to the incredible Andreas Nicholas for capturing it on camera.