My childhood dream was to be an astronaut. That was my goal in life until I was 23 years old. I grew up watching science fiction films due to my mother’s fascination with them. When others were watching The Lion King, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, I was watching Alien, The Terminator, and Predator. So when I transferred from a Mechanical Engineering major, with an interest in Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, at Polytechnic Institute of NYU to a Theatre Arts major at Kingsborough Community College, part of the CUNY system, I was lost among classmates who would exuberantly squeal at the thoughts of playing the characters from those shows.
I went into the mechanical engineering field because I wanted to be a space explorer. As in the movies that I had watched when I was younger, I wanted to discover new worlds and name them as I pleased, I wanted to meet new life outside of this planet, I wanted to be the first person on Mars and Saturn and every other planet.
I left engineering because my professors shot down any idea I had, any inkling of inspiration from the science fiction films I love. They would tell me my ideas were impossible. I vividly remember my Statics professor, and undergraduate advisor, who told me to kick any of that “nonsense” to the curb and focus on real issues. I was among students who wanted to design cars or motorcycles, who were forced to attend the university by their parents, who wanted to make money in a “stable” career. Nobody allowed their imagination to flourish, to drive their designs forward. They were comfortable fitting into a nice, little box for the rest of their lives.
I could not bear it. The immobility of each semester, following a strict regimen of coursty, and the homework: the endless rinse and repeat of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. I could not budge the rigidity ingrained in the career. The school and profession was a well-oiled machine with one function: to churn out identical prototypes. I was a cog that did not fit into the expected mold. Acting has no mold. It has granted me a creative freedom I felt my life was lacking. Surrounded in engineering school by a mostly male population that stuck rigidly to gender roles and growing up with a mother who dreamed of birthing twin boys, who explicitly instructed me never to cry, I spent the majority of my life swallowing my feelings. Being an actor means living by the antithesis of this idea. It is the first place where I have allowed myself to be naked, both figuratively and literally. I can show my deepest emotions to an audience, while simultaneously remain hidden. I do not have to worry about my language and can use whatever profanities and strange mannerisms I want, as long as they serve the character I am playing. The stage allows me to be myself, freely. It is the process of making these specific decisions and building personas that makes me feel like the creator of spaceships I dreamed of becoming. I am part of a bigger equation, but the freedom and elasticity afforded are unlike anything else I have been permitted, especially in the ego department.
When asked by Dustin Hoffman why he acts, Laurence Olivier replied, "Want to know why, dear boy? Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me." I want to be in the spotlight. That has always been a quality of mine. I love to be the center of attention. I love to entertain and astound people. I love to create silences in a packed house and, moments later, bring an audience to unrestrained tears or uncontrollable laughter. In high school, I grew out my hair waist-length just so people would look at me. I would turn heads, in and out of school. Selfish as it sounds, I revel in the feeling of being in everyone’s sight.
I have always been drawn to the villains in films, specifically those who are hated by the audience and still talked about after the film is over. They are always remembered by the public. When I discovered the villains of Shakespeare, I was enthralled by them. All of his characters are profoundly interesting, but his villains are magnetic. I want to become Iago, Richard the Third, Cassius, all of them. I want people to empathize with them. I have always believed them to be misunderstood. As in my case, my large frame has held me back. My intimidating personage has transformed me into a quiet giant. Because English is not my first language I learned early on to keep quiet. It is for these reasons that I my diction needs improvement and I struggle connecting my words with my body.
In engineering school an expression tossed around frequently was “math is the universal language.” It is my belief that human physicality is the world language, and my dream is to be wholly understood as an actor, even by people that do not speak the same language as me. If given the chance to study stage acting professionally I will learn how to be heard, not only as an actor but as a human being.