By Laquan Hayes
During the fall semester, Patten University offered a course in Asian- and African-American Theater. The African lessons were later dropped due to the professors scheduling therefore Asian theater became the main focus.
Terry Park taught the classes. He is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of California at Davis. Park has been involved in theater throughout his high school and college years. He started his own off-Broadway production group, Vassar, that featured a show called “38th Parallel.”
The production group focused on ethic diversity and presented acting opportunities for people of color. The show was picked up by Pan Asian Repertoire Theater. Park introduced his students to Kilusan Bautista, who is a hip-hop theater actor. Bautista also uses theater to advocate for racial unity.
Bautista was raised in San Francisco and moved to New York to promote his one-man theater act. He is currently promoting his act throughout California college campuses.
With a live D.J. on turntables, Bautista dances and single-handedly portrays multiple characters. He re-enacts the episodes he experienced growing up in an Filipino-American family with an alcoholic father.
Bautista’s father pressured him to learn to speak Tagalog, even though his father did not speak the language himself. He struggled with the trauma of living in a dysfunctional home. Bautista found solace through the hip-hop he heard in his African-American community of Sunnydale in San Francisco.
He had finally found a creative outlet that allowed him to represent his Filipino heritage.
While performing before a classroom of Patten theater students, Bautista grabbed the attention of his small audience. Accompanied by a CD playing on a boom box, he ran in circles, bowed as if to the sun, and did stomp tribal-type movements as flutes echoed throughout the classroom. His performance wowed the audience.
Theater student Phoeun You stated, “You can really see his passion. I like the way he just stepped out of the box… he made something out of nothing.”
During Bautista’s performance he was forced to improvise as the CD often skipped.
Bautista took his life experiences of being raised in a dysfunctional home to the stage. However, he said his family sharply opposed the idea due to Asian family codes of secrecy. He said he feels that by sharing his life experience, it inspires others to do the same.
J.C. Cavitt was a theater student and audience member who watched in awe as Bautista performed. Cavitt is also a theater performer for the Protestant Chapel drama team. Cavitt stated, “By watching his performance, I was really inspired. It inspired me enough to start thinking about doing a one-man performance myself. I’ve even jotted down some ideas. By watching him do it, I know I can do it too.”
Bautista said he is fully aware of the power of influence that theater has on others. “It starts with the heart. When you have a message, you have to be real about it. There is no one else to blame. The responsibility is intense,” he said.