I hadn’t realized that it’s been a little over a year since I wasn’t cast in a show that I thought I wanted to be in. Those who know me well were surprised that I actually cried over this one. I hardly ever cried in my life at least until that point. Funnier still, I was crying and I had no idea why.
It’s just a casting. I’m still alive. I was crying because somehow my body knew what was going on and left my brain to figure everything out on its own. Like something other than my own desires knew better. Like my body craved for an epiphany.
I’m actually composing an email to someone and it contains an apology and an account of certain things. This post is supplement to that email because I feel that I have to let it out to the world anyway. More importantly, I’m also writing this to build a framework of grace in my own story because every time this comes up, I feel gross. And gross isn’t the life I want to live or believe in. Bitterness is no story to weave.
Just thinking about writing about these things is painful. Not being cast was like a hit to my gut or like muscle cramps in both calves. I was so lost in not being cast but knowing that I’ll be leaving for New York six months later, I thought I’d start anew and forget everything.
Last Sunday at Hillsong, Carl said
No matter how lost you feel in the wild, God will always remember what you look like.
Feeling forgotten, and despairing at the time I would have spent doing something else, I thought that I’d quit. That quitting theater and singing altogether would do me good. That I had no future in performing. Besides, I was sitting in the midst of a theater company and no one was making use of my worth. I was believing that I was worthless.
Then someone found me.
yelled shared his message last Sunday, I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was talking about this epic voice teacher who heard me one Sunday, after a mall show that our family provided rehearsal space for. Edgardo Crisol introduced himself to Micko. Micko then introduced me to him. Edgardo took us to be curiosities. New voices to hear. New challenges. He appraised me.
“Talk to me,” Mr. Crisol said. I vaguely remember talking about my life after college, hopefully leading to how I ended up in theater but before I was starting to lose sense, he raised a hand like wizards do when they’ve heard enough.
He asked “Do you sing? Are you a singer?”
“Yes, I sing.”
He turned to one of his students standing next to him, a young tenor, and said “Do you hear that? She has a deep speaking voice but you can hear the high timbre of her head tone. And her speaking voice is velvety.” He turned to me again. “Very velvety. Do you sing soprano?”
He took a breath and spoke some more. “You are a natural lyric soprano,” He said. He was pointing a finger at me as he spoke, telling me this as if I was at fault for not knowing this information since kindergarten. “Like Kiri Te Kanawa. Velvety and fine. Run a search on her so you have an idea.” Sparing no awkward moment, he offered an invitation. “I hope that you and Micko would sit down and have voice lessons with me. You would make a great team.” (Micko is one of my best friends. We were already a team!)
That was all I needed. Someone who heard me. Someone who knew better. Someone like Edgardo Crisol who took the time to be curious about me and actually tell me what I am. By the time he asked me to talk to him, he already knew what I had. He knew what I could do. He knew what kind of songs I could sing. I looked up Kiri Te Kanawa that evening and thought “he heard that?”
Singing warm ups at the top of every lesson informed him of various things. Like if I was having my period, or if I was tired. If I was sleep deprived or if I’m adjusting to November temperature changes. He also figured that I had anger issues. He figured this out in the middle of my first session.
He was exasperated about those anger issues. At the first session, he was getting me to reach a high E flat. I couldn’t reach a high E flat and he was making me reach it because he could hear it “There’s something there. There’s something there,” he insisted.
“I’m thinking of the note but I can’t figure it out,” which is how I work when I sing. I hear the note, I think about it and sing it. Like how your brain will always know that the letter “A” is the letter A. He did say that that there was one good thing that I have going for me: “You have a very good ear for music. Very good.” But there was something keeping me for from that E flat. I could hear it. I know what it sounds like but I couldn’t get it out.
Finally, he hit the nail on the head. “You have anger issues!” he said. “But come on. I know you have it. Show up, PJ.”
I’m trying to get reach something I should physically reach with my voice and I’m learning that my anger is an obstacle. I was confused. I was sweating and clueless. I could feel my throat expanding. My voice is bouncing around every crack in my skull. I’ve been singing since I was five but I have never gone through anything like this. It was like my soul was being laid bare, like was being stripped naked.
Then he couldn’t let it get past him. He let go of his keyboard in surrender and said “PJ, come on. Let’s have it. You’re very angry. What’s going on? Tell me, ano ba yan?” I turned to Micko who was hiding his face in his music. Micko knew everything but I’m sure he didn’t see this coming. I gave Edgardo the bottom line. My thoughts stuttered but he listened. At the end of it, I couldn’t wait to see what else he could get out of me, what else he thought I could actually do. Sundays were amazing and Micko and I figured that at some point, we’d already become friends with him.
I’ve only known him for five months and the last time I saw him was in April. He was at his sharpest, most energetic, and most witty, which is the way he would have wanted to be remembered.
He didn’t make it to the recital he urged for me to have. He died before we could even send him a burnt cd of the show. He died about two weeks after my recital, almost exactly a month before I arrive in New York.
Mine was the last recital that he would have seen. They say he waited for me. They say I was his last investment before leaving this earth. Strangely, our visits prompted him to organize his files into folders and there was a constant issue with last pages in his photocopied sheet music for us. Little things that foreshadow. Later on, we found out that he knew he was going to die soon but never told us.
On my first day of lessons, he said that performance has got to do with self-confrontation. You have to deal with yourself before you go out to an audience. You have to deal with yourself. The evening after he passed, I decided to get up on my feet and face the object of my anger. That was the last time I saw the theater company I dedicated myself to for five years. I never intended to see them again, but as a small celebration of his legacy in my life and for my own sake, I faced facing them. And it went well.
The timing and circumstance of our first meeting and the timing of his death defined not only what I should do in New York, but also what I should be doing to my life. One of them is to sing, which I’ve been doing without fail. Another is to write.
I’ve been keeping this story from being written because I’ve always been pissed off and passive aggressively angry every time it comes up even in conversation. I feel like shit thinking about everything and I was sick and tired of that feeling.
Obviously, I’m writing about it right now but it’s taken me almost 24 hours. How do you organize grace into words when you don’t have grace just yet? How do you organize pain into words when your story conjures bitterness and words are the very things that are hard to come by? How can I tell this story without offending anyone?
Then again this is my story. I’ve been offended for far too long and I have moved on, as they have. The words will come and hopefully, grace will be attached to them. For all I know, they didn’t know any better and still don’t know any better the same way I have no idea what will become of me here in New York. At least one of us is excited for me and the healing is just about to begin.