Playwright’s note: Reanne Acasio plays Lark, the protagonist of “The Fire in Me”. The character is based on interviews with young women who are domestic violence survivors in our community. When Reanne portrays the character, I hear their words and experiences. It is affecting to have their pain personified. Reanne brings vulnerability and strength to the role, and I thank her for sharing their truth.
Reanne is an avid theatre artist with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California San Diego. She is the Arts Engagement Operations Coordinator of The Old Globe and a Co-founder of MaArte Theatre Collective. As a local actor and artist having worked with San Diego Repertory Theatre, New Village Arts, and La Jolla Playhouse, her most recent credits include Jo March in Little Women with The Barn Stage Company and Alissa Miller in The Old Globe’s World Premiere of Looking for Christmas. She is passionate about diverse representation, mental health exploration and destigmatization, and social justice in theatre.
Tell us about yourself.
Oh man, this question always stresses me out. It’s why I haven’t yet mastered the social media super short “bio”. Let’s see. I was born in Guam to an Air Force family, moved around the world a bunch, ended up going to college in San Diego for Psychology, and took a sharp turn and got hired at The Old Globe. It technically wasn’t so sharp a turn to me, as I’ve been involved in the performing arts for as long as I can remember. But it was sharp for my parents. They’re, thankfully, starting to jump on board. It probably helps that I’m keeping afloat as a professional in my field. I was recently in the world premiere of Looking for Christmas at The Old Globe, which was an amazing experience. But I think what really sold them was the fact that I can work in the arts AND get great health insurance and a 401k. Anyway, I love theatre, I love psychology, I love the interplay between the two, and I am a huge proponent of diverse representation in the arts.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I started acting when I was four. I was known as the family drama queen, and apparently all my family members knew I was going to be an actor before I did. I was, as the youngsters say nowadays, very “extra”. I mean, being raised in a Filipino household with karaoke, dancing, telenovelas on TFC, and the most loud, “extra” parties you could ever imagine? The performing arts weren’t too far of a stretch. I started with children’s theatre. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity for training, starting from a young age. Piano, violin, dance, and voice lessons. Theatre camp. My older sister also did theatre, and you know how impressionable kids are.
I don’t think I ever had that moment of “Wow. I want to be an actor”, that a lot of people have. It really came down to this: In a military lifestyle that was so nomadic, temporary, and unstable, theatre was always there. It was always familiar. It always felt like home. Also. I’m a Cancer. Go figure. So I’ve got a TON of feelings, am super sensitive, and am fortunately/unfortunately very empathetic. I eventually made the miraculous discovery that this isn’t a total burden and that acting is one of the best, most cathartic ways to use these traits to my advantage and channel all these emotions. Being a vessel for someone’s story is an honor, and it brings me closer to humanity. Closer to God. Theatre is just magical like that. You go in, the lights go down, the actors act, the lights come up, and you walk away, hopefully having learned just a little bit more about what it is to be human.
What have been some of your successes as an actor? What have been some of your challenges?
I want to start with the challenges because it makes the successes that much more meaningful. Being an actor of color is hard. Opportunities are not equal to our white peers. This was a tough pill to swallow. In fact, it kept me from wanting to be an actor for many years. I hated being the “token”. I hated that it was considered a “risk” to cast me in a traditionally white role. I hated being the only person of color in the waiting room at auditions asking myself, “Why the hell am I here? I don’t belong here. They’d never cast me.” I hated walking into the audition and being reaffirmed that, yes, I was still the only person of color in the vicinity. Growing up, no one I looked up to in the field looked like me. But I didn’t let any of that stop me. I kept auditioning, kept doing shows, and kept hustling, hoping that one day, a youngster would see and believe that it is possible. To take up space, to make your voice heard, to belong.
And that happened when I got cast in my first professional production. I was, again, the only person who looked like me in the room. But after rounds and rounds of callbacks, I got cast as Jo March in Little Women. My heart, my work ethic, my hard-earned skills were finally validated at the forefront, and I wasn’t just a “risk” to the director. And guess what? The audience didn’t care that none of my family looked like me. We live in a time when families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. If the audience can suspend their disbelief enough to believe we’ve hopped back to the 1800s, then they can believe that Filipino Jo is a March woman, through and through. I received a message from a woman who came to the show with her daughter. “Thank you for inspiring my daughter to follow her dreams, even if she feels like the black sheep.” And that was it. I was all in.
How do you relate to your character, Lark, in “The Fire in Me”?
Lark’s a fighter. She’s stubborn. She throws her entire heart into things, sometimes leaving her vulnerable. But at the end of the day, one trait sticks out to me. Her resilience. Yes, she is sensitive, but you will never keep her down. That is pure strength. Lark’s character is almost scarily relatable. I’d say there are far fewer differences between us than similarities. Though it definitely helps that we’re so similar, it also means I have to practice extra care in stepping out of the character.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Wow, that was a lot of talking about myself! Yikes. So, if you come to the show and say hi afterward, I’d love to talk about you and your story. Let’s snack and chat.