Broadway’s George Salazar in stage romcom; gives dating advice
LOS ANGELES — Filipino American Broadway star George Salazar headlines the world premiere of dark romcom “The Bottoming Process.”
Salazar’s credits include “Be More Chill” on Broadway (Lucille Lortel Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical), “The Lighting Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” on Off-Broadway and “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Pasadena Playhouse.
The play is penned by Nicholas Pilapil and directed by Rodney To. Starring opposite Salazar is television mainstay Rick Cosnett (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Quantico” and “The Flash”).
The play is a co-production of the IAMA Theatre Company, of which To is associate artistic director, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
In the play, fledgling 20-something Fil-Am writer Milo (played by Salazar) and famous middle-aged novelist John mate, date and cohabitate. As Milo’s career skyrockets, his rising star soon rivals and outshines John’s. They grapple with race, sex, power and stereotypes, all to find out who’s really on top.
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Pilapil explains that the play’s title holds multiple meanings, one of which is the slang term for the receptive role in gay sexual dynamics. “But it also references the power struggle between John and Milo and the ways we all can be our own downfall [in relationships].”
Salazar appreciates the opportunity to perform in a play. “As someone who broke into the business doing musicals, it’s often difficult for me to be seen as someone who can ‘handle’ a play,” he says.
“It feels amazing to get to stretch my ‘play muscles.’ In some ways, I find musicals to be easier than plays because you have an orchestrated score to help tell your story, high notes for the climactic moments and songs to provide the emotional height. You don’t have all that to rely on in a play, so it feels more bare. I honestly love that vulnerability.”
Salazar feels a kinship with the character he is playing. “I’m telling a story that is so close to mine. I’m playing a Filipino, a well-written gay Filipino, for the first time in my career and it feels like an absolute blessing.
“The first time I read the script, I was a sobbing mess. This play made me feel seen in a way that I rarely get to experience as a person of color, as a Filipino. I felt the weight of what I was working on: someday, queer Filipinos and other Asians who share my experience, who share Milo’s experience, will sit in a dark theater and watch a new, original, daring play about them. I’m so looking forward to looking into the [audience] and seeing their faces.”
He also relishes the chance to develop a character from scratch. “I’ve spent the last ten plus years falling in love with developing new work. The process is scary at times as we’re creating something new, implementing rewrites daily, but it’s thrilling and so rewarding.”
Salazar praises his collaborators Pilapil and To. “They listen to actors and build a character around the person playing the part. The actor’s DNA [becomes] intertwined with the character’s. It’s very special. Our rehearsals have been an absolute blast, the room is full of love for each other and the play. The days we do our most emotionally challenging work still brim with joy.
As far as giving dating advice to young Filipino Americans, Salazar has this to share, “Know your worth and know your value. Your 20s are a confusing time of figuring yourself out, making mistakes and having your heart broken. All these things assemble who you are meant to be. Learn from those mistakes and the heartbreaks, put yourself back together and hold yourself to a higher standard.
“We are a resilient people and someday, someone wonderful will come into your life. I dated a bunch of duds and now I share my life with someone who makes me happy, who supports me, and who treats me as an equal. Never settle!”
“The Bottoming Process” runs May 18 to June 12. Visit iamatheatre.com.