Artist of the Issue: Felix Bao ’21

Felix Bao ’21, a four-year Senior, is a member of the Hotchkiss Drama Association (HDA), Discipline Committee representative for the Class of 2021, proctor, and co-captain of the boys Varsity Cross Country team.

Did you have any experience with theatre before coming to this school?
I did not receive any formal training in the arts before coming to Hotchkiss. I signed up for Theatre because I thought I would prefer it over the other choices – I was painfully aware of my nonexistent drawing and singing abilities, and I would rather capture the world’s beauty with my eyes than with a camera.

What nurtured your interest in Theatre?
I still remember the first assignment of Prep Theatre: to dance to any song of our choice in front of the class. I chose “Can’t Stop This Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. The process was so embarrassing that I started doing the running drills that I learned just the same week. Throughout Prep Theatre, I constantly questioned my “talent” and future in the dramatic arts; yet, for some unknown reason, I endured.

Lower Mid Theatre was a drastic change. Replete with script analysis and scene work, the course provided a much more rigorous and systematic approach in both theory and practice. As an imperfect actor – let’s face it: I was pretty lousy – on the stage, however, I met my defining moment as an artist and a student. I was asked to perform a Chekhov soliloquy while the rest of the class practiced peer criticism and direction. Of course, the first and foremost note for an actor from foreign lands was articulation: the “th” sound. For all Mandarin speakers, this was the ultimate nightmare. Ashamed of my linguistic inability to produce such a sound and because of my physical deficiency of half a missing front tooth, I felt like crying. Nonetheless, I knew that I had to face the truth sooner or later, so I practiced. In the shower, during study hall, on my long runs, just muttering thousand, thousand, thousand. And I did it: not just the “th,” but my entire accent. Gone like that.

Walking back in the Black Box the next week was the proudest thing I have done. My classmates marveled at my metamorphosis, and my teacher, a miser of compliments as he was, gave me an approving “well done.” That was enough for me to sell my body and soul to the Theatre. The stage from then on became a token of achievement, confidence, and self-empowerment.

Share with us your favorite HDA production with which you’ve been involved.

There is no favorite, each production holds special importance to me as an artist. Hay Fever (2019) gave me the stage management experience to jumpstart my career as a director. Our Ten (2019), The Whole Shebang (2020), and Prometheus Doxed (2021) helped me visualize my strengths and weaknesses as a director. I became more aware of my actors’ energy, motivation and objectives as I learned to “read the room.” Of course, there is The Tempest (2020) which kindled my passion for Shakespeare and inspired my ongoing (and nearly completed) challenge to finish all of Shakespeare’s plays before graduation.

Do you prefer performing in Walker or the Black Box?

As long as it is good theatre, I don’t have a preference. I am a believer in strong acting choices and direction, so I try to cut down to the essentials and focus on getting the story straight. I feel more at ease in the Black Box because I can be closer to the audience, but the Walker stage gives me more possibilities with technology and design.

Are you planning to continue pursuing Theatre in college?

Yes, along with English and Psychology.

What advice would you give to younger students who are interested in Theatre?

Take pains; be perfect.
–– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I.ii.104