Get to know new cast member, jose e abad!
jose e abad is a queer social practice performance artist exploring queer futurity through an intersectional lens. Using dance, storytelling, and ritual, abad’s work unearths lost histories, memories, and wisdom that are held within the body that the mind has forgotten or dominant culture has erased.
Where were you born?
I was born in Olongapo City, Philippines but moved to The States at a very young age... My mother and I settled in LA when I was 5 years old and stayed until I was 18!
What is your favorite food?
Honestly, anything my mother makes is the best! Whether it's Filipino food or her filipino versions of "American Food" she's her kitchen magic is amazing!
Tell us about your character, Nilo Cruz Smits, and what you bring to your performance of Nilo.
My character is Nilo Cruz Smits who was born in Appleton, Minnesota. He was model child and an honor student. Both his parents are mixed-race Pilipino and African American mestizos from the Philippines, who met in college. His family moved to SF when Nilo was 15 years old and things were rough! Fitting in wasn't so easy and he had gotten jumped many times. A few days before turning 18, he was tired of being bullied and he armed himself with an illegal firearm he bought from some sketchy guy. A month later, while being harassed and chased by a gang of youth, he pulled the gun out. Before he knew it, the gun went off and shot one of the guys chasing him. The youth survived but became a quadriplegic, so Nilo was charged with attempted murder.
My own story of being a mixed Pinoy is a very different. I do understand what it's like to move into a new city and culture and not really to fit in. In my youth, like Nilo, I was somewhat of an outcast and was bullied when I went to high school in South Central Los Angeles. I also found refuge in books and excelled in my classes and was eventually able to transfer out. In someways I see Nilo as an alternative version of myself, had I not been able to get out and instead let desperation fully taken over. Knowing that this is a reality for many folks I'm hoping to embody this character as respectfully and honestly as I can.
Describe your most intense moment as a dancer.
It's really hard to pick a "most..." anything for me! There are so many incredible moments that happen when you decide to commit yourself to work that you love! Currently what's coming up for me is a project that I began developing last summer. I feel a strong connection to the author and activist James Baldwin, and had a dream where we were having tea and talking about life and the struggles of being a queer black person. When I woke up I had the idea of doing a bit of research on his life and found news that the home he spent the last 17 years of his life in Saint Paul-De-Vence, France was set to be demolished to make space for luxury condo units (does this sound familiar? *cough* San Francisco *cough*).
I was already set to do a residency in Germany so figured I could take some time to go to France and do a performance ritual on the site as an act of remembrance and resistance. It was amazing to be able to go to this village and walk around and imagine what life was like for James there - though it also made me really sad seeing the commodification of the whole place, it felt like it lacked substance and was basically tourist destination. There were museums and plaques honoring artists like Chagall and Matisse, but nothing for James. Obviously, erasure of queer black history is a global phenomenon that needs addressing!
The last day of my trip I snuck onto the property, built an altar and did a movement ritual around the space as the sun was setting and the full moon was rising. It was an incredibly surreal moment that I will remember forever! I also made a connection with an a local activist who is creating an artist residency space in the village, who I will be working with again this summer to continue to develop this project and help carry on the legacy of James Baldwin.