[Community Corner💌] Acting As Storytelling: Lessons from a Senior PMA Student 🎭
By Duoer Jia
Acting attracts me for many reasons.
For one, the pure connection formed between each actor on stage is magical. Being “present in the moment” comes first and foremost. In rehearsal, there are no distractions from the outside world — no phones, no computers. Everyone leaves all their worries of the day outside and enters the space completely open and ready to play. Freed of such burdens, these moments have the potential to feel more real than certain experiences in our day-to-day lives.
I see theatre as a quick escape from my busy everyday life, a place where I can forget about myself and focus on moments of human connection with my fellow cast members. After years of training as an actress, I now also remind myself to be in the present moment, whether I am onstage or off.
To me, acting is not the idea of life, but life itself. Acting trains me to pay more attention to human behavior and gives me the opportunity to have different experiences.
In preparation for the production “The Wolves” by Sarah DeLappe directed by Professor Beth Milles, eight other actresses and I underwent soccer training for two months, during which we learned necessary soccer skills and developed a strong sense of team spirit. At the end of our closing performance, as we huddled together as a team and chanted, “We are the wolves!”, my eyes welled up with tears. They were not only for our sold-out performances but also for the bonds I’ve built with my “teammates” which I’ve never experienced before.
🎤 My Voice in Performance
Off-Campus On-screen: Cornell Life Under Covid-19
In the fall of 2020, Performing and Media Arts professor Rebekah Maggor initiated a film project titled Off-Campus On-screen: Cornell Life Under Covid-19, a collage of student-led short films about COVID-19’s impact on the lives of Cornellians.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the notion of what constitutes a “border” has become increasingly significant. Our international community faced the daunting prospect of returning to or remaining in Ithaca under strict travel restrictions and in a climate of extremely tense international relations. Many students were left to deal with their situation without any organizational support.
As an international student myself, I felt a strong need to tell my story and raise awareness of challenges the international community faces during the pandemic. Thus, I created a piece called You Can’t Return, which centers around a Cornell junior from China who faces an imminent travel ban. As the writer, actor, cinematographer, and designer of the piece, I felt the power of storytelling on a myriad of levels. Making a film during a global pandemic was a challenging and fascinating experience.
Over my three years in the PMA department, I have been fortunate enough to participate in several theatrical productions at Cornell and portray various characters.
However, I’ve never seen an Asian character in these shows, no role that represents me on stage. I would spend so much time studying and developing characters that didn’t tell my story. So I decided that if there wasn’t an opportunity presented to me, I would be the one to create it.
I’m currently directing a play called Asiamnesia with my colleague Sara Pistono. Asiamnesia is about the representation of Asian and Asian-American women in the entertainment industry. It explores the stereotypes that plague Asian and As.-Am. actresses throughout their careers, and celebrates these women’s versatility and endurance.
Our cast consists of five talented Asian actresses, and our production designers are mostly Asian-identifying individuals. It truly makes my heart full working on such a powerful and special production during a time when racism towards the Asian community is at a peak.
I highly encourage everyone to try out acting whether you consider yourself an actor or not. Acting offers a unique and beautiful lens through which to look at life, and is also a great way to ease the self-consciousness many of us carry. If someone were to ask what the best decision I’ve made during college was, I would say pursuing acting has made me who I am today.
Duoer Jia (DJ) is a senior double majoring in Information Science and Performing and Media Arts. She can found in theatre acting or directing, by the beach surfing, or in cafes around the world creating better user experiences.
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