Tanya Manalang is one of the versatile actresses of this generation. Aside from this, she is also one of the highly-admired new actresses because of her talent in acting that is visible in the productions that she joined within and outside the country. Some of these productions include Miss Saigon, where she played the role of Kim. Thus, it is not surprising that upon her return to the country, she joined successful productions which included the latest, Tick.Tick.Boom of 9Works Theatrical.
In this PsstPh Part of the Story Series, Tanya Manalang talks to us about her theater career and her experience in the industry.
Full Name and Alias: Nathania Joy Manalang, aka. Tanya Manalang
Location: from Manila to London to back in Manila! YEAH! ❤
Education: Makati Hope Christian School, Assumption College, Arts Educational Schools London
Tell me something about yourself that people don’t know:
If I’m not performing, I’m on my craft desk, on my Midori Travelers Notebook, doodling and water-coloring the last thing I ate or writing about where I ran off to again the other day.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
I was doing some “online window shopping” on Etsy for craft supplies. It’s ridiculous how quickly I filled my cart like that, happily clicking on one item after another–most of which are things I probably don’t really need. I was one trackpad’s swipe away from clicking “buy now” when I heard a “ding!” from another tab and saw a Facebook private message pop-up. It was Jon Jon Martin, our PR Manager at 9Works Theatrical, kindly asking me to do this interview with PSST.ph. So thanks, you guys. And thanks, Jon Jon. You all saved me about a hundred dollars.
When did you first know you wanted to become a stage actor?
When I did my first professional musical. I was eight, what did I know, right? Probably only that – that I wanted to belong on the stage.
What was the first show you ever did? And hows the experience?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Trumpets. I had a lot of fun. On the flip side, it was also the very first time in my life where I felt I simply wasn’t good enough. At eight, I knew I was constantly being compared to my alternate, who, admittedly, was much better and more experienced than I was. I didn’t let that stop me, though. During the idle time I had between that and my next play (which was coincidentally a rerun of LWW), I strive to be better. I made a vow to improve significantly. I did all I could at home – I sang in the shower, got my dad to buy me all the Broadway and pop girl-group CDs from Tower Records and sang along to those. Day AND night. Before AND after homework. I taught myself how to sound like a Disney princess, how to riff like Christina, how to rock like Gwen. I did all that until I could sing no more (because I had school the following day).
What has been your favorite role so far?
Kim. No doubt about it. Aileen (from Rak of Aegis) is a close second.
Have you ever played someone of the opposite gender? (If not do you want to try it?)
For the 2002 re-run of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, apart from playing Susan, I understudied the role of Edmund. I had a bunch of rehearsals for it, but never got to do it in an actual performance.
What was that like?
Exciting! I was willing to chop my long hair off, band-wrap my teenage chest. I was even willing to drop my role as Susan entirely to be able to play Edmund full-time.
What show/shows are you currently working on?
I’m currently playing Susan (same name, different character as above) and a flock of other roles in Jonathan Larson’s 3-man show Tick, Tick… Boom! with 9Works Theatrical.
Have you ever forgotten your lines, or a prop, or choreography during a performance?
Absolutely, several times.
Let’s see… I forgot a line during “Sun and Moon (Reprise)” in Miss Saigon. Messed up a few bits during “Delubyo” in Rak of Aegis (I ended up singing something in gibberish because I totally blacked out). I forgot to bring my cellphone prop at the final Ellen De Generes scene at Rak. It was too late when I realized I’d forgotten it so I just turned my back from the audience and pretended I was holding a phone. I came in late for the beginning of the second act in The Sound of Music because I got too preoccupied backstage playing with the ensemble boys’ guns (literally prop guns, not their biceps).
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor?
Stop trying to sound like the artist you look up to. Or anyone else, for that matter. Just be you. If I beat myself up trying to sound like, say, the original actress who played a certain role I’m doing, then the audience might as well just buy the darn soundtrack. That should save them over a thousand pesos. This was something that took some time for me to digest.
Besides acting, what other training have you had (voice, dance, stage combat, etc.)?
Some dancing, some voice. When Cameron Mackintosh graciously granted me a scholarship at ArtsEd London pre-Saigon, I had a hodgepodge of classes from acting to dancing to voice to accents everyday for three months.
How do you memorize a lot of lines?
Most of my memorization comes from doing daily rehearsals and running the scenes over and over again. Sometimes, my boyfriend Timmy helps me out. Other times, I practice calligraphy by writing my lines. That helps.
If you could choose, which three actors would you really want to work with?
Coco Martin – I once mentioned this in a past interview. He not only looks good, he is also a great actor — that’s quite rare these days.
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo – This one really needs no further explanation. There’s a reason why she’s called “the first lady of Philippine musical theatre”. I’ve worked with her in the past, I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I don’t doubt that I’ll have the pleasure of working with her again in the future.
Eddie Redmayne – the closest I’ve gotten to Eddie Redmayne was shaking his hand and having a photo taken with him when he happened to be at the studio where we were holding our sitzprobe for Miss Saigon. I have nothing but praise and respect for this actor. He just gets better and better.
The three names I mentioned have one thing in common: they are all great storytellers. That to me, is more important than anything.
Why do you think theater is important?
Same reason why I think film, music, and visual arts are important.
Why do you think so many aspiring actors end up giving up on their dream?
Sadly, in this country, you cannot live off on being a stage actor alone. Especially when you’re supporting other people. That’s just how the current situation is with Philippine theater. Some people give it up entirely and choose to spend their time on more income-generating professions. Some continue to pursue it, out of passion. Oftentimes, alongside a day job. It all boils down to priorities, I guess. Add time, patience, financial reasons to the mix – anything can be a factor for quitting or pursuing. As with any other vocation.
What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage?
Nothing embarrassing, so far! Thank God! Unexpected? Probably that time I did King and I and I had to sing a whole aria-like song with no mic. For some reason, my lapel wire got disconnected from its battery pack. It was too late to fix it because I was already on stage. Fortunately, our MD knew immediately what to do and I managed to fill Newport Performing Arts Theater in its entirety with my voice sans mic. It was the loudest applause I ever had for that scene.
What are some of the greatest fears you think actors/actress face?
I don’t know… That dreaded moment when an actor realizes he’s reached his peak and there’s really nowhere to go from there? Haha. I don’t know. Oh yeah, getting sick. That’s the worst.
What do you need in order to become a successful actor?
A damn good agent. Kidding aside, the constant willingness to learn is important. Research. Dive into the material and dissect the text. Listen to your director. Discuss. Explore. You don’t always need to agree but you must always be willing to listen and learn.
What makes a good stage actor in your opinion?
To be a good stage actor, you need to be a good storyteller first. And always tell the truth. By “telling the truth” I mean be truthful. If the character needs to be scared, don’t show the audience you’re scared. You don’t need to contort your face in multiple different ways in order to prove to whoever is watching that you’re afraid. Be it, and they’ll see it.
What is the most rewarding part of being a stage actor?
Hearing audiences say the material got through to them. Like I said, that’s the point of being on stage anyway. You’re primarily there to tell a story.
What are the pros and cons of being an actor? Please be specific.
Pros – making people laugh, cry, feel. The fulfillment I get from being able to stir up something within a person through my craft is simply inexplicable.
Cons – my weekends are as good as non-existent.
What goal are you working towards within your career and when will you know you have reached it?
All I know now is that I don’t want to stop learning. And learning is a life-long process. I give myself a good little pat on the back for every tiny achievement unlocked and move on to the next challenge or on to another “goal”. Perhaps when it comes to performing, I’ll only say “yes, you’ve done it. You’re good.” to myself if and when the time comes my life’s priorities need to be changed.
What organizations do you belong to?
You mean related to the performing arts? None. I only belong to one “organization” and it’s my ball jointed doll community – ManikaManila. Yes, I collect toys and I still play with dolls. I’m not ashamed to let the whole world know!
If you weren’t a stage actor or an artist, what would you want to be? Why?
I’d be running my own arts, crafts and lifestyle business. I’d open a store. I really love retail. In the two years I lived in England, I saw so many interesting lifestyle stores – Japanese, Swedish, novelty, antique, vintage, you name it, they have it. It’s a dream to be able to run a shop like that.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
Do it. Sometimes we just need to take the plunge. Fear is your number one enemy. Fear was my enemy before I left for Miss Saigon. I didn’t want to leave home and leave behind everything I deemed familiar. Now I’m glad that I went ahead and did it anyway. I have absolutely no regrets. Moreover, we also need to take risks and do things out of our comfort zone to know what we really want in life. Looking back, it was a great experience. But that also left me knowing where I truly want to be.
How do you see yourself 20 or 30 yrs from now?
Somewhere on a beautiful beach with Timmy and our two kids. Haha! On a more serious note, I see myself happy. Like how I am right now! Perhaps even happier.
What legacy will you leave on?
I’ve been asked this before and I didn’t exactly know how to answer it. Out of sheer awkwardness (due to the fact that I feel too young and inexperienced to be asked this question), I’m just going to say I want to be an inspiration to people to pursue their passion. No matter what it is they are passionate about.
Any final message?
Thank you for this! I actually enjoyed it immensely. Oh, and please do catch Tick, Tick… Boom! this October 1-23 at the RCBC. It’s a fantastic show and I’m so proud of my two co-actors Jef Flores and Ariel Reonal. It’s directed by Robbie Guevara and produced by 9Works Theatrical.