One-woman show explores Fil-Am identity crises
BALTIMORE, Maryland — Actress Cori Dioquino probes the complexities of living as a Filipino American in the United States in her one-person show “Crisis Mode.”
Helmed by Filipino American director Tara Cariaso, the show “weaves Dioquino’s personal history with that of her motherland, the Philippines, and its complicated relationship to the United States through dance, movement, music and art.”
Based in New York City and Baltimore, Dioquino has worked on stage and in film and television, most notably appearing on screen as Nurse Eddie on NBC’s “New Amsterdam” and in Marvel/Netflix’s hit series “Daredevil” as Sophia Carter.
In 2018, she co-founded Asian Pasifika Arts Collective, an organization which aims to “use art to advocate representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Indigenous Americans in everyday life while building cross-community relationships.”
The show tracks Dioquino’s “three major identity crises” as she shares her experiences growing up as an immigrant in the “Land of the Free,” coping with hidden mental health issues, and her gradual transition from “Proud Pinoy” to “Generic Asian.”
Online to onstage
Two years ago, Dioquino was asked by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Social Concern to deliver a webinar that addressed the anti-Asian violence taking place all over the country.
“At the time, there weren’t a lot of public discussions regarding the rise of violence towards Asians throughout the pandemic. After the shootings in Atlanta, that all changed,” she said, referring to the mass shooting in 2021 where a man killed eight people, six of whom were Asian.
(In 2020, she helped launch the national campaign Unapologetically Asian to respond to discrimination towards Asians and Asian Americans during the pandemic.)
“Once everyone started hyper-focusing on the anti-Asian violence, it all of a sudden felt too heavy a topic for me to continue speaking on. So I pivoted and decided to use the opportunity to tell my story as a Filipino immigrant instead.”
“The structure for this show, using my three identity crises to address history, comes directly from the webinar I gave. People who watched kept telling me afterward that the webinar felt more like a one-person show. And now here we are.”
Dioquino says, “I did not grow up in a huge Filipino community that had Filipino dance troupes or festivals. We had house parties with lots of Filipino food, but that’s not the same. Filipinos were barely mentioned in American history books.”
She provides this background to explain how, “I didn’t have a huge connection to my heritage growing up Filipino in Maryland.”
By sharing her own story, the goal is “to reach Filipinos who are like I was as a child or a teen. I just want them to feel seen and I want other immigrants to hear my story and know that they’re not alone in their trauma.”
“There’s so much that we don’t talk about, that we silence within ourselves. I hope this show empowers others to unsilence those parts of their lives.”
She is quick to say that the show is not just for Filipino Americans. “It’s very much for Filipinos, immigrants and Asian Americans. For anyone who doesn’t identify as any one of those identities, I just want them to listen. You learn a lot more if you just listen.
“I hope this show challenges their perceptions and misconceptions of Asians, Filipinos, immigrants and even Asian and immigrant women.
“And I hope that everyone starts to consider the experiences of the 1.5 generation, the generation of children who immigrated at a young age, but grew up in the States or another country. We’re often overlooked and forgotten about in the larger conversation regarding immigration. I want them to be seen and valued and considered.”
“Crisis Mode: Living Pilipino in America” runs March 17-April 2 at Strand Theater Co., 5426 Harford Rd., Maryland. Visit strand-theater.org.