Kevin Martin Vitug or more known as Kev, is one of the skilled actors in the theatre industry. One of the remarkable roles he did recently is Lando Ocampo in the Antipara Collective X Theater House of Black’s, “Si Edgar, si Allan at si Art”. No surprise that they applauded his character on the said performance.
In this Psst.Ph Part of the Story Series, Kevin Martin Vitug talks to us about his career in the theater world and his experience in the industry.
Full Name and Alias: Kevin Martin De Castro Vitug | Kev Vitug
Location: Quezon City, Philippines
* Marymount Child Development Center
* L’Altra Montessori School
* Colegio De San Lorenzo
* De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde
Tell me something about yourself that people don’t know:
I am very shy but people don’t seem to think I am. I am an introvert and people see my being outgoing as the opposite of an introvert. I do not like large groups of people unless I probably know them all. I keep to myself, most times.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
I feel like I have so much to do and answering an interview can possibly settle my mind a bit from the chaos in my head.
When did you first know you wanted to become a stage actor?
I have wanted to act since I was little. First time I ever stepped on stage to perform was when I was a freshman in high school. In Elementary, we did not have any drama clubs so I was just always the President in, ironically, a Math and Science Club or a Scout Leader in the school’s Boy Scouts. I don’t know how those happened but it did. During family reunions or events, I remember reciting poems and performing dances. I guess that was partially the start of it all. In High School, we had a Performing Arts Club and that’s when I finally experienced performing in a sea of people. The first stage play I have seen was probably Cinderella On Stage in Greenbelt and I love how everything took place. I enjoyed the costume changes, the lights, the sounds and the effects. Took several years before I saw another play and it was Miss Saigon. I barely remembered anything but I knew I just wanted to see Lea Salonga then. It ended up that we were seeing her alternate that night. What I remember most that I liked and stuck to me till now was Repertory Philippines’ Little Mermaid with Carol Banawa and KC Concepcion. I had the soundtrack of the play with the souvenir program and I know most of the songs up to now but have misplaced the materials along the way.
What was the first show you ever did? And how’s the experience?
In High School, we did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat and we were just lip-syncing to the musical which was alright because the production was good in terms of how it was performed. I was given a minimal role but I was still so into it because it was a first. We were given a script and there was a huge chunk of lines about the colors in Joseph’s coat and I memorized it all. I still know them even now. None of the other actors memorized it, they were just mouthing randoms since it was a musical and even if they made a mistake, it would not really be noticed. I, however, memorized all the colors so that I could mouth them perfectly and I did. At one point, I saw an audience member panning their camera on me because I was the only one who was making sense and I loved that feeling. That’s when I knew theater is something I should pursue, one way or another.
What has been your favorite role so far?
Sebastian Kiriyama of “Battalia Royale”. Sipat Lawin along with four other Australian playwrights did a loose adaptation of Koushun Takami’s, “Battle Royale”. It was another first for me because we would eventually perform in front of 300, 600 to 1000+ people per night and I loved that the audience had to move with the actors to get to where the scene will be played. We did it at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Promenade, an abandoned school in Cubao and at the Museo Pambata. It was such a thrill because you could feel the craziness of it all because of how intimate it was and it somehow helped the characters move forward in the scene with how rowdy everyone got.
Have you ever played someone of the opposite gender? (If not do you want to try it?) What was that like?
For a recital at ABS-CBN’s Star Magic, I was given a scene from Vice Ganda’s movie, “Sisterakas” and had to play Vice, himself. That was as close to opposite as it could get. I was wearing a gown that I borrowed from a friend which she used during her debut. I put on a wig because I was bald then. I was so nervous and it was challenging like all the other roles in the past but it was also exciting and fun to do. I have always wanted to do gender bender roles like a character that was supposed to be made for a girl and I have to translate it into a guy’s perspective. I have always been curious and eager as to how those things come out but whatever role it is, I am always itching to learn and discover what they have to offer.
What show/shows are you currently working on?
Currently, I am starting to rehearse for an adaption of Sarah Kane’s, “Cleansed” which will be performed somewhere at the University of the Philippines. We are still in the process of learning who the characters are so it is still very early but the show will be on April 29 and 30 and we will have four performances then.
Have you ever forgotten your lines, or a prop, or choreography during a performance? What happened?
Yes, this happens all the time. In “Battalia Royale”, during the last scene of the first show, I had to mention why I deserved to live and I just started to curse because I forgot my lines. It was still something the character would do but my scene partner had to reply to it and her cue was my line (which I had already forgotten) and it did not make sense. I remembered the other lines that took place after but we were taught to always save the scene and just keep moving forward because we are the only ones who would be aware if we made a mistake since the audiences do not know the script anyway. Other times, I give myself a moment to think of what makes sense and just show, through facial expressions, that I am just reacting to what was given to me albeit taking a while to process. For props, for most of the shows I have done, we would always use fake blood and it is always so difficult to plot them and you try your best to not pop such before you actually have the need to use them. Sometimes, I run out of blood because they have already popped and it just looks sad when I have to use it in a scene and nothing happens.
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor?
I probably would want my old self to stop being afraid to dive into so many things because I lacked confidence and therefore missing many opportunities along the way but I wish I could tell myself then that I am not the only one making mistakes or not doing a good job at an audition or looking messed up at a VTR. There are so many people who have had doors closed on their faces but at least they tried. Also just as the saying goes, “WHEN A DOOR CLOSES, A WINDOW OPENS”. You gotta remain positive despite the rejection you will receive in every trial.
Besides acting, what other training have you had (voice, dance, stage combat, etc.)?
For most of the workshops I have attended, they provide minimal dance, movement and voice training then it would all just be about acting. I have attended dance workshops but I have two left feet so I never really put my heart into it but I did win first prize from doing a ballroom dancing stint when I was in the fifth grade beating many contenders, young and old, along the way. This had practice and steps so it was at least somehow easier when you have something to follow. For “Battalia Royale”, we worked with Garry Lee Cua who would do stunts for most of the action-packed scenes you see in movies and television. We had wushu training before we had to do the stunts for the harder scenes in the play. It was difficult but necessary. It was all worth it in the end.
How do you memorize a lot of your lines?
I get afraid when I am given a script. Especially when I know that I will need to eventually memorize them. I feel that sometimes, I won’t be able to but once you put your heart into it, understand what they mean, read it word per word and say it over and over again, it will get stuck in your head and you will memorize it somehow. Actors have different ways of memorizing; I usually just need to be in a quiet space with no one bothering me because I need a day of just me concentrating so that I can get into it. Luckily, most directors do not mind it when you rephrase a word that you are not comfortable in especially when you stumble upon a word or a dialogue you are not familiar with, they give you the freedom to work around it or say it the way you would actually say it. It helps with the memorization process because it flows well with your tongue like syrup.
If you could choose, which three actors would you really want to work with?
For the stage, Lea Salonga, hands down. I don’t know how that will come about because she is into doing musicals and I am all about doing straight plays but if it happens then hooray. I would ask her so many questions, she’d get tired from talking to me. For film, John Lloyd Cruz, as corny as it can get, it would be exciting to be doing scenes with a well-loved leading man whom everyone loves because of his hardcore dramathons and moments in Philippine cinema. I would also want to work with Iza Calzado because she always does horror in movies and I was born to do disturbing things in my life. What a thrill it would be to be in the same project with her since she has already experienced a taste of Hollywood when she did “The Echo”. I also enjoy how clear she enunciates words and I am a fan of petty things such as proper ways of speaking. I wouldn’t know how to handle it when and if any of this happens because they are these people who have been in the business for a while and know how to go about it on a regular basis but am sure it would be such a delight to do, either way.
Why do you think theater is important?
Theater is important because it immerses the audience in a story so literally close to them in intimate set ups or it can be so magical even if it is on a far away stage with bright lights and a colorful environment and you see it transform as it happens. I love how theatre can tell powerful stories in a live performance and sometimes, you feel it more and understand things better that way as opposed to just watching things unfold in a TV screen or a movie theatre.
Why do you think so many aspiring actors end up giving up on their dream?
I feel that people give up on their dream to become actors because it does not pay well as it should unless you are a big star who has a vast acting experience. It’s a reality that in theater, you could be doing 20 shows for a production and it can still not provide for what you would need in a month. We should learn to appreciate the arts because it should be alive in every culture and hopefully, that gets more people enthusiastic and have actors get paid more for performances that people worked hard on. Extras have it the worst for TV or film because they have to wait long hours, sometimes with barely any food or a place to rest. I have experienced this, as well. It is not the best because in the end, you only get paid very minimally. And you would feel then that it is just not worth it.
What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage?
Well, recently, I was told that my butt crack was showing for one of the shows for “Si Edgar, si Allan at si Art” during a scene when we had to pull up a pretend metal door. I forgot my belt that day and I was just told after the show about the back situation. I could get away with it by saying it was an acting choice because my character was a drunkard anyway and he did not care about these shallow happenings. It is also embarrassing for myself when I forget lines because you feel the audience looking at you even if they are not aware that you forgot something, it is embarrassing for me because your co-actors know about this mistake and you get shy because you know they are trying to keep a straight face and you’re ruining the flow of the story for them because you are missing a beat or a part of your line that sometimes cues them to say or do something next. So many unexpected things happen on stage like when people do adlibs on the spot and you don’t know how to react but have to think quickly. These are sometimes the best or worst part of the show because you don’t know if it is going to work or not.
What are some of the greatest fears you think actors/actresses face?
I think you would sometimes feel that you are not doing a good job with how you act or perform. You ask yourself if you’re giving justice to the character and you have to humanize them so that they do not become flat, monotone or boring. So even after a show, when people tell me I did a great job, I don’t always fully accept it, because I’m shy too, but it gives my heart so much joy when they see that the characters I played are believable or that it worked for them. An actor always wants to tell a story and wish that it would be told clearly so that the audience would understand so that when they leave the theater, they have something to ponder on that makes them question what is going on in their lives. If they leave and they did not feel anything at all, it would be such a waste of time for both ends.
What do you need in order to become a successful actor?
Many people define success in this field differently. If people start knowing who you are, that can already be a form of success. If people start constantly getting you for their production, that can be another form of success. Success is subjective. People have to go through so much and have to do different things to attain it and sometimes, only the actor themselves can tell if they have already reached a peak of success. I feel successful everytime a show ends when I start seeing the audience with smiles on their faces because then I would know that I did my job well. Hence, at the same time, I am thankful. To become an effective actor, you have to want to learn all the time by attending workshops or listening to your co-actors because we all have gone through different ways of learning and through something as constant as studying, we can explore levels and depths of our being even more.
What makes a good stage actor in your opinion?
As what I’ve said, learning is key. You have to be confident as a human being because if you’re not happy in the skin you’re in, it would show in the work that you do. Understanding where your co-actors are coming from, listening to them, taking notes and accepting mistakes when you are told that something does not work, being open-minded in terms of criticisms and of course, enjoying what you do so that you get to perform them with enthusiasm is what makes an actor whole and the process will only work if everyone has the same mindset when you are all working together.
What is the most rewarding part of stage actor?
The laughs, the applause, the reaction, the immediate feedback you get from people that get to see you. It can really be good for your ego as long as you never let it get to your head. I surely enjoy compliments just as much as the next person but I do love it when people are honest when something does not seem clear to them and they ask questions and we get to answer them sometimes after the show. The thrill when people ask for your photograph because they specifically enjoyed who you portrayed or how you portrayed them, the silly autographs that people make you sign and write in because they wanted a souvenir from the show. I have been on both ends, I love it either way because it is exciting and it is rewarding because you know that you were so effective that people liked you enough to request something from you whether it be a selfie or a souvenir hug, kiss or whatnot. One just cannot get enough.
What are the pros and cons of being a actor? Please be specific.
As an actor, you have to be able to face criticisms bravely because you will be getting them a lot. People will tell you straight to your face or behind your back if you did good or not. You need to have a strong backbone because directors, actors or people who sometimes know better than you will give out words of wisdom that are sometimes unsolicited but they are good for you every now and then because you know where you will need to improve. I guess that can be a pro and a con in itself because it is the manner in which you take these things is what is important and you eventually learn so many things along the way.
What goals are you working towards within your career and when will you know that you have reached it?
Right now, I just got back to acting after several years, I still don’t know how it will last because I have a business to manage, as well, and have many other dreams that I want to attain, too. At the same time, I want to continue immersing myself in various performances that will fill the void that I have been missing for a while. Most people do not get to pursue their dreams and like me, they can only experience it every now and then, depending on the availability. It really is a matter of luck, timing, knowing the right people and doing productions that are worth your time. As long as you enjoy what you do and are continuously happy with the progress you make, you can plot them as little mini goals so you’d have a smashing acting résumé you’d be proud of.
What organizations do you belong to?
I am not in any specific theater organization at the moment.
If you weren’t a stage actor or an artist, what would you want to be? Why?
I have always wanted to work as an immigration officer or a flight attendant. Right now, I am studying for the Civil Service Exam so that if anything fails, I can still look forward to do other kinds of work.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
If you are passionate about something, no matter what it is. You shouldn’t be afraid to pursue it and you should find ways to achieve it no matter how small or big those steps are. In the beginning, I just wanted to act but never realized that I would be experiencing the stage professionally or doing commercials or filming a movie. Those things all started because they were dreams that I wanted to fulfill even if some of those projects didn’t turn out so great. I still experienced it and at least I would know what the difference of what a good and bad production really is like. If you want it so bad, you have to work hard for it then ask for God’s blessing and hope it all turns out for the best.
How do you see yourself 20 or 30 yrs from now?
I live in the now so I enjoy the spontaneous life happenings that go about in the daily. I wish though that by then, I am completely settled, at peace with myself and very fulfilled in terms of accomplishments no matter where life eventually leads me.
What legacy will you leave?
I wish to leave a legacy of great productions that people will surely want to enjoy again in the future whether on stage or in films. We will eventually be forgotten in this life but we continue to hope that the things we do to entertain people will leave a mark and live on in the hearts and minds of people forever.
Any final message? It’s time to shine!
Learn to support your family and friends in everything that they do, whether it be a business venture or a show that they will need to perform in for school or for the big stage because it is when we support each other continuously do we build each other up. Therefore, these things will thrive and flourish as we tend to push ourselves even more to do our jobs even better when we feel the support of the people around us.
Photo credit to Teatro Pinas and Kevin Vitug facebook