SF State graduate Nicole Maxali leads acting workshop "SoulWork"

SoulWork

Nicole Maxali (left) and her students do various exercises working on the mind and body to help express themselves April 1, 2012. Photo by Juliana Severe.

Tucked away in the SoMa District lies a studio where you’re encouraged to speak in gibberish, perform wacky gestures and even project the alphabet with otherworldly intonations. In Nicole Maxali’s workshop at Bindlestiff Studio, this is only the warmup.

Soulwork is a workshop that culminates the SF State graduates’ experiences and personal stories over the past 17 years of performing, writing and acting. These classes consist of theater games, improvisation, scene work, acting and writing prompts that encourage self-exploration and discovering “what you want out of life.”

“For many years, Bindlestiff has been an epicenter for Filipino-American performing arts,” said Allan Manalo of Bindlestiff Studio. “It’s a small space, but we’re always doing some culturally and socially relevant work.”

Every Sunday until May 6, workshops will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Bindlestiff Studio, which is located off of Sixth and Howard streets.

“I want to get people who even don’t have experience performing or writing or acting, with people who are extremely experienced to come together and just create together,” said Maxali. “Bindlestiff is a really safe space and environment that can allow them to open up and play.”

Last Sunday, seven participants engaged in an introductory class to kick-start their six-week program. Participants joined in icebreakers and warmups that incorporated performing and acting techniques.

“What I think this class will do is give me a different perspective on doing theater acting. It’s good to learn a new skill and recognize the skills you already have, but I also want to help share the power of visualization,” said Luna Salaver, who is a professional dancer.

Others asserted that their interest in the class stemmed from an affinity for Maxali herself.

“I feel like I’m trying to find my inner self,” said Christian Bustos, a Soulwork participant. “Nicole’s such a deep person. I’ve seen most of her work online. I wanted to be next to greatness, I guess.”

Maxali, 32, who graduated from SF State with a degree in Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts, said that attempting to break into the acting industry was a difficult feat to overcome, particularly with the roles that were typecast to her. This led to her trying out standup comedy.

“We just have to keep telling our own stories, because Hollywood isn’t going to make those stories for us,” Maxali said. “Unfortunately, I figured this out by being an actress myself and being cast as, you know, the whore or the nurse.”

Maxali, who remembers taping her reenacted skits of SNL and The Weird Al Show with her uncle’s VHS camera as a kid, said that she explores themes dealing with family and coming of age in her writing. These themes were specific to her one-woman show, “Forgetting the Details,” which had sold-out shows during its two-week run in Bindlestiff Studio last November.

“With my later show, “Forgetting the Details,” it’s a lot about caregiving and what each of our family members had to do in taking care of my lola who now has Alzheimer’s,” said Maxali.

Maxali hopes that Soulwork won’t be her only opportunity to teach and share her personal experiences in the arts. This year, she plans to move to New York to tour her one-woman show at different colleges and universities, as well as getting the show into the New York Fringe Festival next year.

“Hopefully, I’ll be seen, get an agent and eventually be the first Fil-Am to win an Oscar, and not the last,” said Maxali. “I love connecting with people on stage and just knowing that my story isn’t just my story, but it’s universal.”

If you’d like to join the program, contact Nicole Maxali at maxalishines@gmail.com as soon as possible. Admission will end after this Sunday’s session. You can insert “springforward” for the discount code at Brown Paper Tickets for a $25 discount. Enrolling costs $99 without the code.

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