Student Spotlight: Brandon English '16

Brandon English '16A man of many talents, Brandon English ’16 is busy finishing up his senior year at Saint Mary’s. When he entered the school as a freshman, he started out as a music major. Then he switched to Communication. Not feeling fulfilled enough by this decision; he decided to pursue a split major in Theatre and Communication. The idea of a split major appealed to English as it allows students to combine two different majors to make a major that supplements his or her interests.

Besides studying Communication and Theatre, English is an active member of the Glee and Chamber Choirs aand is the Choir Section Leader for the tenors. With a background in Filipino folkdance, he branched out to try other styles and enrolled in dance courses at Saint Mary’s. Currently he is in rehearsals for an M.F.A. in Dance Thesis Concert to be performed in June. This past summer, English lived in Italy for a month and studied commedia dell'arte through an SMC student development grant.

Commedia dell'arte is an Italian theatrical form characterized by improvised dialogue and a cast of stock characters. It emerged in northern Italy in the 15th century and became popular across Europe. Each character has to portray a distinct set of attributes including characteristic speech, gestures, props, and costumes. The form is very physical and requires a lot of movement, which helped English further explore his talents as an actor, singer, and dancer.

Over the course of the last three years, English has studied not only his talents at Saint Mary’s but how his heritage as a Filipino American has shaped his experiences as a student, an actor, and performer. “An important part of assessing your art is finding your mirror and seeing yourself in it. It is something that was lacking here at Saint Mary’s. Most of the theatrical works we studied were not reflective of my own culture,” said English, who describes himself as Pilipino, which comes from the Tagalog word for Phillipines. “As a Pilipino-American actor, I often have to compromise my identity. I’ll get called in for Asian roles that aren’t necessarily Pilipino which means I’m giving a performance of an identity that isn’t necessarily accurate.” To address this, English is developing curriculum for a course specifically focused on Filipino-American theater for his senior project.

Titled Pilipino American Theatre in the Contemporary World, the class English is developing explores Filipino-American playwrights and theatermakers of the late 20th century and modern 21st century. He is creating the class as a seminar-style, semester-long course that will challenge students to analyze the contemporary written works of Filipino-Americans including their staging and performance. “One of my goals for the class is to have my students develop a greater understanding of the colonial past of the Philippines and how it affects the diasporic narrative in theater arts," English said. Through the curriculum he is developing, English wants to take a closer look at Filipino-American theatre by  discussing identities including gender, race, performance, sexuality, religion, and intersectionality.

Besides implementing his writing and presentational skills he has developed through studying communication by developing curriculum, English is also dabbling in playwriting. He is creating plays that touch upon many of the themes that he has incorporated into his senior project. English is also in the process of applying to graduate school and is looking into M.F.A. programs in performance and theater studies or possibly getting a master's in anthropology. “One of my biggest challenges as an artist is that my interests are all over the place.” Luckily for English, he has been able to explore many of his interests at Saint Mary’s and will continue to investigate and research the intersections of culture and performance after graduation.

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