Twenty-six-year-old Kaigan Garcia is cast as the teenage intern at a busy helpline in the dramedy You Stupid Darkness! being staged this September under Daniel Strain-Webber’s direction.
“I am playing Joey who is just seventeen, and at his first work experience: shy, awkward and uncomfortable with his new tasks. But because it isn’t confirmed that I convincingly suit that age, the director might upgrade my character to his early twenties, without stripping his essential qualities,” Kaigan says.
“Joey entertains an iffy relationship with his estranged father, who happens to live just downstairs from Joey and his mum, and they often hear him play the piano.” Kaigan can partly relate to this, since he had a ‘somewhat turbulent’ relationship with his father when he was younger.
“I would have relished the challenge of playing him.”
Furthermore, Joey develops a complex relationship with his new male colleague, thirty-two-year old Jon: “I would have relished the challenge of playing him instead, measuring up with a mature character. Joey and Jon have different journeys, and Joey latches on to him, as if seeking a father figure or a male role model. But there also is a tinge of romance, and Joey seems still unclear about his sexuality.”
His character has layers and sides Kaigan can empathise with, so he can feel comfortable in his shoes: “For example, Joey shuns the telephone calls, being a young man used to texting and typing, and I am wary of two-way live telephone conversations too. Joey is overwhelmed, ends up mishandling a call, being rude to a caller, and reprimanded by the manager.” Surely, more than one telephone operator in the readership can indeed relate to this occupational hazard!
Kaigan remarks that actors must be proficient at empathy, if they want to credibly get into their characters’ skin, therefore they would make worthy counselors as a side dish to their theatre career! “Drama school teaches you a good deal of transferrable skills, most obviously public speaking, but also makes you understand people, since you spend most of your time playing someone else, feeling their emotions and be driven by their motivations.”
You Stupid Darkness! script is written in ‘landscape’, featuring three columns of text, so actors will have to synchronise their interaction virtually to the millisecond, as the conversations are meant to be going on concurrently and separately in reality, but on stage they must be kept free from excess overlapping, or the audience will be unable to follow them all at once and grasp the plot.
“Small part, big experience.”
Because this is an open-air production with a cheeky street theatre flavour, to respect occupancy and social distancing guidelines the cast will have to factor in external noise, like cars or ambulance sirens whizzing by, as a reflection of the real life going on outside the windows of the fictional call centre. They are already rehearsing outdoors to practise speaking at louder volume than in theatre, and optimise voice carrying strategies, without make it look unnatural or aggressive.
“I’ve analysed the script following these three bullet points: what I say about others, what others say about me, and what I say about myself,” Kaigan says. “I read through the script three times, sifting it for these clues to help me build my interpretation of Joey. Actors always make a connection with the characters they are portraying, and always add and reveal something about themselves in the process.”
Kaigan returned to Gibraltar after seven and a half years in London where he graduated in drama and attained an MA, one year during which he learnt more than in the three previous years of university packed together. He was a professional actor for a short spell in London, and one of his highlights is a part in a production of Evita: “Small part, big experience,” he says. “I worked with established professionals and learnt their tricks of the trade.”
Back on the Rock last March, Kaigan saw lockdown as an opportunity to reconnect with his parents, whom he feels he is getting to know again after so many years, during which he has grown as a person: “I am independent, but I enjoy living with my parents. Being ‘stuck’ with them during lockdown afforded me a crash-course in reconnecting with them! I was raised as an only child, although I have half siblings, so I enjoy the family atmosphere and the pampering.” He jokes: “There are just two things we clash about: my diet, and my desire to have a cat! I am a pescatarian, trying to upgrade to vegan, so I shop for and cook my own food. The pet project is on hold for the moment, but I guess that one day, when I move out, I will seriously consider sharing my flat with a cat.”
As much as lockdown allowed, he got involved with local theatre again, because he reckons that, unlike other performing arts, local drama is not afforded enough exposure overseas, both in terms of performing abroad, and attending a varied selection of live shows. So, he rejoined the White Light company, spearheaded by Jackie Villa, the teacher who first introduced him to drama in middle school. With her and her students, he is working on a production of monologues they hope to stage at the end of summer. “I think it is important we pass the baton to the younger generation and we raise them in the love for theatre, as performers or spectators, and we nurture talent.”
During lockdown, most theatres streamed past shows to entertain their audiences the best they could under the unusual circumstances – and not to let the art fade – but Kaigan is adamant that watching a live show seated in a theatre remains the best way to preserve its magic, so he hopes to see the West End fully functional again as soon as safely possible.
After having been introduced to drama by Jackie Villa, Kaigan continued acting with Julian Felice and Christian Santos. Naturally, he is looking forward a career in acting, but he expects to enjoy his summer as if he was a student, and setting up productions with these groups. He feels that local theatre companies are sometimes compartmentalised, and he would like them to work together at joint ventures.
His last local feat before jetting off to uni was Too Much Make-up, an original play by Julian Felice entered in the newly resurrected Drama Festival. And his last UK performance before homecoming was another Julian Felice’s play, Ten Minutes, staged last winter in London, in aid of the Moira Fund, a family-run charity that supports murder victims’ relatives. “This was the perfect way to come full circle, and close that chapter of my life. Now I am ready for new challenges, artistically and professionally.”
The first one – beside veganism and the cat! – is rehearsing a play set in a ‘chaotic post-apocalyptic world where everyone wears masks’ (how darkly prophetic!), with a new director and three fellow actors he is getting to know alongside their characters.
The second is dabbling in playwriting, hopefully writing and acting a monologue for a dinner-theatre evening packed with commedia dell’arte and stage adaptations of The Canterbury Tales, with a sprinkle of original pieces. And perhaps a guest appearance in the musical Aladdin…? Watch this space.