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Home away from home

By: - Columnist
/ 12:30 AM March 08, 2018

Joaquin Valdes

NEW YORK—By now, perhaps you’ve heard the news that two more members of our local theater community will be packing their bags and heading to the United Kingdom to be part of the UK tour of the revival of “Miss Saigon.”

Joaquin Valdes (last seen as Mr. Harry Wormwood/The Escapologist in Atlantis’s production of “Matilda”) will be joining the ensemble, as well as covering the role of Thuy, and Aicelle Santos (now portraying the role of Elsa in the 9Works/Sandbox Collection remounting of “Himala,” which has been extended until March 10) will be taking over the role of Gigi.

Congratulations to both of you, and welcome to the ever-growing “Miss Saigon” family! Currently on this tour are Red Concepcion (The Engineer), Gerald Santos (Thuy) and Joreen Bautista (Kim alternate).

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An adventure like this is exciting, especially when the news is initially released to the public. Congratulatory messages are sent, despedidas are planned, and the actual sendoff is filled with much encouragement. However, there is the reality that many of us who have spent a significant amount of time away from home in order to work know only too well: the reality of homesickness, staying healthy and making sure the quality of your work is maintained at a high level.

Let me be honest, this isn’t easy.

Being away from home can be quite a daunting task. Sure, upon arrival, we hit the ground running and immerse ourselves fully in the work.

However, once that period is over and the show is a well-oiled machine, those thoughts and feelings we tend to push to the back burner head to the forefront, where we have to deal with them.

So, how do we take care of business and ourselves?

Aicelle Santos

Cook comfort foods

Learn to cook at least three comfort food dishes.

When I first started living alone in New York (I was around 28), I would give my mother a call every once in a while to ask for a recipe I could try. Over time, she would pass on a few easy things that I could cook: nilagang manok, afritada, adobo and chicken curry.

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Whenever I felt homesick, I’d whip out one of these recipes and stand over the stove, finding myself immediately transported to home and my mother’s kitchen with the smell of garlic and onions. I’d then call my friends to come over and try what I’ve cooked. To all these good folks, allow me to apologize for my less-than-stellar efforts.

The food is less for physical nourishment than it is for the heart and mind. To instantly feel like you’re in your comfy place creates a happy place, which makes doing the work for another day much easier and less lonely.

Create a family

Here’s the thing I love about doing musical theater: if you’re lucky, you create a family with the people you’ve been cast in this show with. No, we don’t get to choose who we get to work with, so when good fortune strikes, it’s a feeling like no other.

I’m incredibly spoiled by my “Once on This Island” family. Not only is this company insanely talented, but the people who comprise it are big-hearted and kind.

Working away from home can be a lonely experience, but it’s less so when you have others to share the life with.

Milk it for all it’s worth

And when I say milk it, I mean don’t just sit in your flat feeling sorry for yourself when melancholy strikes. Take in the city, even for a half hour for a stroll or a meal. When I was on tour with Il Divo a few years ago, I had my husband Rob with me for part of the European leg. Thank goodness he was.

During a stop in the city of Ljubljana, he woke me up saying, “If you don’t check this place out, you’re going to regret it.” He was absolutely right. Ljubljana was storybook-beautiful. We walked by the river and sat under an umbrella on a sunny day for lunch. To this day, I’m thankful he did that.

Have fun

Yes, the days will be filled with a lot of work, with long rehearsal days, vocally and physically demanding performances, and the routine of packing up and traveling to new cities, becoming accustomed to unknown hotels and theaters.

Hey, that’s part of the fun! Enjoy traveling in this part of the world still unexplored by you. Take plenty of pictures, and write in a diary. Make as many memories as you can. That is what you’ll take away beyond your responsibilities in the show you’re in. Do things you’ll be telling people about for years to come, things that will make you laugh so hard, your sides will hurt.

Break all the legs, you guys!

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