Interview: Rodney To Easily Juggling THE BOTTOMING PROCESS With His Other Theatrical Commitments

IAMA Theatre Company & the Los Angeles LGBT Center present the world premiere of Nicholas Pilapil’s The Bottoming Process opening May 18th at the Renberg

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 Season

IAMA Theatre Company and the Los Angeles LGBT Center present the world premiere of Nicholas Pilapil's The Bottoming Process opening May 18, 2023 (with previews already started) at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Renberg Theatre. Rodney To directs the cast of George Salazar, Rick Cosnett, Anisha Adusumilli, Julia Cho and Ty Molbak. Rodney managed to find some time between his final rehearsals to answer a few of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Rodney!

As IAMA Theatre Company's associate artistic director - ensemble development, did you get first dibs on directing The Bottoming Process?

With IAMA, our directors and design team are chosen by our Artistic Director, Stefanie Black and admin. We select who we feel will best serve the piece. In this case, sure I was able to throw my hat into the ring, but regardless, I still had to be vetted. I was fortunate to be chosen. We have a large ensemble and pool of extremely talented directors which is why I'm particularly grateful to be working on this show.

What aspects of The Bottoming Process made you want to direct it yourself?

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 SeasonFrom the moment I read the first few pages of The Bottoming Process, I knew we had a special play on our hands. The main character is a gay, Filipino American artist navigating a relationship and a budding career. Through it all, he's faced with how identity, gender and sexuality can't help but factor into all areas of his life regardless of how pure-hearted and well-intentioned one believes they are. I told Nicholas that when I read it, I felt like I was reading a biography of some sort, which is why I felt ready to help tell this story.

What do you look for in a script to be considered for an IAMA production?

IAMA focuses on creating and producing work that 'pushes boundaries and takes risks.' I am aware that a lot of theatres have similar mission statements, but I think what separates IAMA from the pack is that we strive to re-imagine traditional theatre values and incorporate them into this new culture of theatre-making. We look to innovate and are very dedicated to giving our audiences authentic, dynamic experiences. The plays we produce are very current, relevant, and evocative all while maintaining the integrity of Theatre. If the play gives us goosebumps, then we know we chose the right one.

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 SeasonDo you look at IAMA ensemble members first in casting? Or did you cast the leads George Salazar and Rick Cosnett first and then the ensemble as supporting afterwards?

IAMA is very proud of the extreme range of talent that our ensemble is known for. We have some of the best of the best. We always strive to prioritize casting from our pool whenever appropriate. That said, we attached George and Rick because not only are they insanely talented, but I can't imagine any two actors so perfect to portray our two leads. Nicholas wrote two very specific, nuanced people who also have wide appeal in very different ways. It takes two actors who are inherently that - and we found the perfect two.

When did you start rehearsal for your opening May 18th?

Rehearsals started early April. We workshopped it two years ago, but it's evolved considerably since then.

Have you mastered balancing your various roles of IAMA's associate artistic director, teaching at USC's School of Dramatic Arts and acting?

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 SeasonDepends on how I'm feeling on the day you ask me. Ha! Ha! It's a lot, but I have been extremely lucky to have all three opportunities. It's not lost on me how hard the past several years have been on all artists and educators. So I'll always be indebted to the jobs and institutions that have made it possible for me to continuously create art.

Was acting what you wanted to be growing up?

Not at all. I never even considered it. It wasn't until I was in high school when I first attended a professional production of Fuente Ovejuna at the Court Theatre in Chicago that I saw a professional Asian American theatre actor, Jacqueline Kim. I remember being blown away by her performance, but I didn't even think I might be following her footsteps one day.

What were your parents' reactions to your career decision?

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 SeasonHa! Ha! Same as they are now. If you ask my mom she knows I'm a professional artist, but with the mercurial nature of what I do, I don't think she can really explain what being a professional artist means. Not so sure I do either. Kidding.

What motivated you to start wearing a director's hat?

Back when I was doing theatre in New York City, I co-created a (sleeper hit) show with my closest friends called Sides: the Fear is Real. It was a sketch show that chronicled our experiences as Asian American actors, and we had a blast. When we started workshopping the idea many years ago, we basically self-directed and I think that experience awakened the director in me.

What do you remember of being inducted into Chicago's Filipino-American Hall of Fame for your work and advocacy?

JELLY'S LAST JAM And More Annouced For Pasadena Playhouse 2023-24 SeasonTaking my mom to the ceremony. It was the first time I was able to celebrate something monumental in my artistic life with her and her alone. We had a great time. Also, presenting me with the award was a famous actor in the Philippines, Bernardo Bernardo. He was an artistic hero of mine and it would be one of the last times we saw each other. He passed away a few years after. So the induction meant even more to me.

What's on the slate of IAMA productions?

One thing you will never have to worry about with IAMA: we always have something on our docket! We have a new education program we are launching in June, a slew of great work in development, collaborations with other theatre companies and, of course, several exciting plays in our next season.

What's in the near future for Rodney To?

A vacation! I'm grateful for the past few years of keeping busy, but daddy needs a bit of a break. But also, look for me in the upcoming Netflix show The Brothers Sun starring Michelle Yeoh. It drops this fall.

Thank you again, Rodney! I look forward to seeing your Bottoming.

For tickets to the live performances of The Bottoming Process through June 12, 2023; click on the button below:


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