Q&A with Denise Mordeno Aguilar

17 February 2014 | Journal


Denise is from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. Her training in theatre began at 14 years old where she trained in an acting workshop with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Tanghalang Pilipino’s Nonon Padilla, Irma Adlawan and Olga Natividad in Cagayan de Oro City as a scholar. Since then, she was actively involved in various production and stage manager roles in theatre before becoming a performer and trainer with Pasundayag Community Theatre. As a theatre practitioner and educator, she believes in the arts as a powerful way to share stories and experiences that represent the complex dynamics of our society, ultimately using theatre as a creative pathway to peace and community engagement. It is with this intention that she decided to apply to ITI, and in the process equip herself with the wisdom of Asia’s great theatre traditions – the very hallmark of the school. Denise is a recipient of the Kuo Pao Kun Foundation-ITI Scholarship.


Q: What was it like to leave your country to come to ITI?

It was a struggle as it was the first time I had to leave my country and my daughter for so long… but I wanted to achieve my dreams and learn theatre in ITI because it is not only for me but also for her, my family and fellow artists in my country. It wasn’t just a mental and emotional struggle; it was a physical one too. I had insecurities because after childbirth I lost confidence in my body, and at ITI, a lot of physical training was required…. However, I eventually managed to let [those insecurities] go. I knew I had to focus on the present and step forward in order to achieve my dreams. I had to deconstruct to be reconstructed.

Q: What was your most rewarding experience so far?

I gained my self-confidence back and more… I learned how it is to be connected with my body, mind, voice, breath, energy & soul. I had a lot of discoveries in acting and in myself. ITI helped me to not only to be a good actor, but also to be a better person, especially with what I have learned from the different cultures and different people. I see the world now as bigger, fuller, and more beautiful. Every time I walked out the studio, I observe myself –  I’m a better person. Enriched with everything I just learned. It is a wonderful experience, not only as an artist but also as a whole being.

Q: What do you look forward to most about graduation?

I don’t know, I don’t want this to end! I swear, I don’t want this to end… This is such a wonderful experience…

But thinking about it again, this is just a step, and in order for me to move forward I need to step forward as well. So, I’ve already planned, (even before ITI) to have my own studio so I can continue my training, sharing my craft with others…

And in the middle of summer of next year, I’d like to visit the Manobo tribe which I’m not too familiar with. I want to get immersed with the language, the culture… I feel that I have the responsibility to go back to my roots, learn, and also share what I have learned with them. So it becomes a part of me, it makes me more grounded and helps me be a better person and actor.

Q: Do you have any advice for other actors?

To the younger generation interested in theatre, based on the difference that I see within myself right now compared to what and who I was three years ago, I can tell that ITI is the best place to be moulded as a good actor and also to become a better person. Like what Sasi always says, ‘If you want to do good art, you have to be a good person.’ I also think that young artists should first find the fire within, the passion. And when the impulse arises, come to ITI, take the risk to become better.

Q: Let’s talk about Pericles, how is it so far? Exciting? I know you are involved in a lot of roles, how does that feel?

Denise: Yes, yes, it is a fun and new experience. The characters are all very different from one another. I only have one serious role, Lord Cerimon. The rest of the roles are more inclined to comedy. Most of the characters I play are men. I only have one female role…

Aarne said that we should start looking into the physicality, finding it, and of course the voice for that character. I have 10 roles in total… It is challenging, as this will be my first time taking on so many. Furthermore, I have to incorporate Beijing Opera elements. But, as Aarne said, ‘the more you practise, the more it will be in your body and in your voice’ and I am really excited about this new perspective of Shakespeare.

Q: Do you think that Pericles is very different from all the other Shakespearean plays?

Yes, because aside from it being the first of the romantic plays that Shakespeare wrote, I think it is the most melodramatic play amongst his works. Plus this is the only play that Shakespeare wrote with a narrator as a real character and not the usual chorus narrating.  And I heard that this is probably the first time Pericles will be staged in Singapore. Wow. PERICLES… and ITI … Yeah, it’s really something!

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Hmm… To aspiring actors: Just come and visit ITI and see how you can be transformed!