Filipino-American actress Regina Aquino started and ended her acceptance speech with these Filipino words of endearment and appreciation: “Mahal kita… Salamat! (I love you… Thank you)” as she won the plum Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play in ceremonies held at The Anthem D.C. on May 13.
Aquino was recognized for her performance on “The Events” as Claire, the lone survivor in a mass shooting who has to deal with the trauma.
Good News Pilipinas interviewed the Best Actress awardee known for playing strong and powerful women on stage including the musical play, Vietgone, with fellow Fil-Am Mark dela Cruz.
In the interview, Regina Aquino talked about winning the Helen Hayes, Asian representation in theatre, and being Filipino.
Good News Pilipinas: What do you think your winning means to the movement for cultural representation in American theatre?
Regina Aquino: I think it’s clear that there is a societal shift in the demand for accurate representation. Audiences respond very well and will only diversify and grow in size when the stories and bodies they see on stage are a reflection of themselves and the world in which we live.
I think my win, for a role that was written to be a woman of unspecified ethnicity, is indicative of the industry’s progress. I am an American and a Filipino. The play was enriched by my race, not defined by it. That is true inclusion. I was allowed to be entirely myself on stage.
GNP: You were the only Filipino who won the Helen Hayes.
RA: It’s an honor that I am incredibly proud of and humbled by. I never saw anyone like myself winning anything growing up. This year, 4 Asian Americans went home with 5 HH awards. It’s incredible and I hope it continues.
GNP: You started and ended your award acceptance speech saying Filipino terms of endearment. Who were you talking to in the audience?
RA: I said I love you to my mother, my daughter Riana and my son Malcolm.
My mother and daughter were both in the audience. In fact, my stepdad, tita, cousins, and niece were there, too. I came with so many family members, Filipino talaga.
My tita and cousin dressed me. They own Rosalin’s Bridal Shop and this is one of their gowns. It was truly a family effort.
My mom has always been my biggest supporter and advocate. I wasn’t planning on beginning my speech in Tagalog but I think I really wanted to speak just to her and my family in that moment.
To speak in Tagalog and use my time to speak in a language other than English, to bring our culture fully to the stage. And to thank her in her mother tongue.
I’m so proud of who we are and all that she did for me by moving here. It was spontaneous and yet so meaningful.
GNP: We caught the video of your speech about your call to action. “I hope this play is a call to action as it was for me, for all who witnessed it. We must end gun violence. We must combat toxic masculinity with love, and we must dismantle white supremacy. It begins here, in the theatre, and we can all do it.”
RA: I hope that more Filipino Americans pursue a career in theatre. Whether as an actor, playwright, director, designer, stage manager. Our culture is so rich, so talented in storytelling, so vibrant and passionate. We fit right into the arts.
And there’s a place for us. We just need to show up and do the work. Artists are needed, Filipino American artists are needed. Especially playwrights – our stories deserve to be told.
Hopefully someone out there reading this decides they have one to share with the world and writes it! Stories save the world, after all.
WATCH the powerfully stirring speech of Regina Aquino at the Helen Hayes Awards and tell us in the comments section below what you think of her challenge for Filipino-Americans to write their stories for the stage!
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