Fil-Am Performers Unleash Their Talent at FringeNYC

Fil-Am Performers Unleash Their Talent at FringeNYC


This is not Marisa Marquez’s first time to perform at FringeNYC, but her excitement is almost exactly the same as last year’s when she premiered Yellow Brick Wall: Angry White Men Played by Two Happy Asian Girls last year with her friend, writing partner and co-producer Siho Ellsmore.

“FringeNYC is the best place to premier new work and with Producing Artistic Director Elena Holy at the helm – her passion for independent theater is infectious and inspiring -  I knew this would be the safest place to premiere my first solo show,” Marisa said.

Even with her entry last year, Marisa didn’t expect to be included in the lineup again this year. All she knew was she had to fulfill all the requirements and submit her materials on time.

This year marks the 17th year of The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), touted as the largest multi-arts festival in North America with programming from 185 of the world’s best emerging theatre troupes and dance companies. With about 20 venues in downtown Manhattan and an attendance topping 75,000 people, FringeNYC is considered as New York City’s fifth largest event.

Asked about her reaction when she was notified that she was a part of the 2013 lineup, Marisa replied, “To be honest – absolute fear.  I found out the day before I was running my first half marathon.  I was already nervous about that, but when I was running I kept thinking, ‘If I can run 13.1 miles, I can do a solo show.’  I think running for 13.1 miles is easier…I didn’t share some of my darkest secrets when I crossed that finish line.  That fear has not gone away.”

For Kilusan Bautista, who is premiering his show ‘UNiVERSAL self’ this year, it was all about being thankful.

“I felt so blessed when I found out that I was accepted into the 17th annual New York International Fringe Festival. It came at a perfect time because I was disappointed in myself for not taking home first place at The One Festival. Despite UNiVERSAL self placing amongst the top 3 productions, all I could feel was disappointment because I knew I gave it my all. But God really does work in mysterious ways because when I found out I was accepted into the FringeNYC I was so grateful to have gone through both the feeling of disappointment mixed with the feeling of accomplishment. And as a Scorpio, I felt whole,” Kilusan shared.

Kilusan premiered the show in India last year. He later realized that he needed to establish his production more within the NYC Theater community.

He targeted three NYC-based festivals – The One Festival; The 17th Annual New York International Fringe Festival; and the Under The Radar Festival.

“I have been fortunate to have UNiVERSAL self accepted into 2 of the 3 festivals and after the FringeNYC, I plan to set my focus on the Under The Radar Festival which takes place at The Public Theater in January of 2014,” he added.

As a performer, Kilusan learned about the Fringe Theater community by acting in the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington DC. Back in 2010, he acted in “Every Night I Die,” written by fellow Filipino American playwright Amada Andrei. He commuted back & forth from NYC to DC in order to support one of the few Filipino-themed productions at the Capital Fringe Festival. It was there where he discovered an amazing cohort of Filipino American artists who encouraged him to submit his one man show into the New York International Fringe Festival.

 A Fallopian Fairy Tale

“The idea was to explore fairy tales, past and present while reflecting on my own upbringing with a Catholic Filipino background.  It is a comedy about communicating the realties of being a modern sexual woman and some of the miscommunication that happens with parents,” Marisa said, describing her show.

Born and raised in Sacramento, Marisa graduated from Fairfield University where she had an amazing time with Theater Fairfield, she continued her theatrical education abroad at the British American Drama Academy.

“It has been a very weird ride,” Marisa said, describing how it is to be a Filipino-American minority in the industry. “In the beginning the doors were not open for my ‘type’.  I am Asian with a Hispanic last name.  Everyone saw me as mixed – I was either too Asian looking or not Asian looking enough.”

It came to a point where she wouldn’t even consider auditioning for film, television or commercials.  In theater, she said, no one knew what to do with her.

“When I started writing, that was when the real doors open. Telling stories that I wanted to act in.  I took hold of my career and my future.  The funny thing is because of my last show in the Fringe I got a manager and booked a USA Network and Google commercial, “ Marisa said.

Any advice for aspiring young Fil-Ams who want to be performers/writers some day?

“Follow your dreams and write what you know. Embrace that you’re different and you are the only one who can tell your story-so tell it already!” she said.


UNiVERSAL self is a high-energy production where Kilusan plays over 10 different characters from his life, which reveal intimate stories about the urban Filipino American experience.

“The artistic aesthetics that I express go from Hip Hop to martial arts, poetry to animation/multimedia, theatrical storytelling broadcasted over both indigenous sounds from the Philippines and contemporary music,” he said.

Inspired by the one man shows of John Leguizamo, Lemon Anderson and Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Kilusan said these men of color provided a frame work for him to follow in their footsteps so that the story of Filipino Americans are represented to mainstream audiences.

“And personally, the people in my life who have influenced me the most went through a great deal of struggle just to survive which inspires me to share these lessons to the world. I felt compelled to write & perform UNiVERSAL self because my experiences can be related to so many different people and communities, while simultaneously projecting a Filipino diasporic world view with universal appeal,” he added.

Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, Kilusan is proud to be the first member in his family to obtain a college education. The University of California at Santa Cruz provided him with a foundation to establish himself as an artist.  He traveled throughout the United States of America doing poetry throughout college with 8th Wonder, a Filipino American poetry collective based in the Bay Area, Californa. He produced his first full length theater production, “A Tuyo In The Sun,” in 2002 at UC Santa Cruz. He majored in American Studies and he has over 15 years of experience working within non profit organizations from California to New York City. Most of his professional work experience revolves around building cross cultural unity & personal empowerment through the performance arts.

Kilusan’s family is from Lingayen & Santa Barbara, Pangasinan as well as Davao, Mindanao. Both of his great grandfathers were veterans of the Philippine Scouts during World War II.

“As a result, my family has been immigrating to America since the 1950s. My family is my heart! They are the reason I stay perseverant in my active pursuit to be successful within the entertainment industry. It is important that I create new stories and broader representations of Asian Pacific Americans so that mainstream audiences can better understand and build with our community,” he said.

Kilusan feels fortunate to have mentors in the industry such as the King of Latin Soul Music, the Afro Filipino himself, Mr. Joe Bataan to provide him with personal support and guidance.

“Overall, like any dream, it is often times extremely difficult and very lonesome of a process but I believe there is a light at the end of the struggle. I am determined to make a name for myself and for Filipino Americans within the entertainment industry through hard work, faith and perseverance,” he added.

His personal advice for aspiring young Fil-Ams who want to venture into performing arts some day?

“Like Tim Cordova, Filipino American playwright/artist, once shared with me, ‘always be universal in your art!’ I personally want to encourage young Filipino Americans to define your own unique identity and go all out while your expressing it. Our community is in dire need of original artists who are not afraid to explore new concepts and innovate art forms, while still preserving our Filipino essence,” Kilusan said.

[UNIVERSAL self will have a 5 night performance run at The Theater At The 14th St Y (344 East 14th St., New York, NY 10003): SUNDAY 8/11 @ 1:30; WEDNESDAY 8/14 @ 2:00; FRIDAY 8/16 @ 7:45; MONDAY 8/19 @ 7:15; FRIDAY 8/23 @ 6:00.

A Fallopian Fairy Tale will run at CSV Kabayitos: 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington & Delancey) on the following dates: SAT 8/10 @ 12:30; SAT 8/17 @ 6:00; WED 8/21 @ 5:30 (w/ FringeHigh talkback); THUR 8/22 @ 8:45; FRI 8/23 @ 9:30; SAT 8/24 @ 8:00. For tickets to these and other shows, visit] 

(NYNJ August 2, 2013 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)

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