Student actor commands stage

Family baggage— Toni, played by Jasia Topete (left), complains to her son Rhys, played by Garrett Weitzl, about her personal problems in the play Appropriate. The play ran from Oct. 12-21. CN/ James Johnson

By Samantha Iniguez (J-101 Staff Writer)

Jasia Topete crowned herself the family clown, as a child mastering the craft of imitations by imitating her uncle and well-known comedians.

She was inspired to become a performer who brought happiness and laughter to a broader audiences.

Her love of entertainment paved her way to the theater.

Although she was sure about wanting to perform, she had little support and guidance. As a result, she found herself in college.

Like many first-generation college students, Topete found the college system to be confusing.

She failed some classes and roamed around aimlessly until oneday she found what she now considers her “home,” the theater.

After having experienced many departments within the theater program on campus, she found herself in front of Rodney Scott, a director at ELAC.

He would soon open many doors for her.

Topete performed a monologue which she said helped Scott recognize the potential in her and inspired him to cast her in her first lead role at ELAC, Maggie in “Den of Thieves” in the spring of 2016.

Topete considers this her best experience in theater because she learned a lot of new techniques.

Despite not having worked together before, she felt full support from Scott.

Topete said she is very grateful for him because he taught her “a whole other world inside of my world.”

She said Scott taught her to never settle and always strive to be the best.

Topete said, “He believes I can do anything. And to have someone who believes in you, sometimes even more than you believe in yourself, is nice.”

Topete was cast in another one of Scott’s plays last spring called “Chavez Ravine” in which she played 13 different characters.

She enjoyed the rush of sudden changes in costumes, character movement and accents.

The need to be a completely different person in a matter of seconds was a lot of fun for her as well as for the judges who came to watch the performance.

They loved it so much they nominated Topete, as well as the play for scholarships and awards.

In the case that it does make it to competition, ELAC students will get a second chance to watch it here on campus and see Topete in her element.

Topete’s recent role as Toni in Scott’s take of Appropriate by Branden Jacob Jenkins was one she considered to be her toughest role.

One of the reasons being that the role was of a more serious tone with a hint of dark comedy.

She said getting into character was difficult because of the lack of confidence in physicality, maturity and wittiness, all traits that make Toni the strong character that she is.

Jasia was drowning in insecurity. Until she found the lifesaving bully that helped her relate with her character, in the form of the relationship she has with her younger sisters. She helped raise her younger sisters since the age of 9, waking up earlier than the average 9-year-old in order to help get her younger sisters where they needed to be before she got herself to the bus stop. The same way her character Toni helped raiser her two younger brothers. During a scene in Appropriate in which Toni is talking to her younger brothers about helping raise them.

Jasia’s sisters felt that same connection she felt with the character she said, “My sisters came to see it preview night and they were bawling, they said, ‘Oh my god I felt like you were talking to me’ which made me feel warm.” Nathan Rocha another audience member who watched Appropriate said “I thought her performance was compelling. She played her role with a kind of confidence that made me familiar with the character.”

Jasia said part of her job is keeping in mind that she cannot judge the character in fact it is her job to understand the character even when others do not. In order to deliver her most authentic twist on that character and serve the character justice she takes time to understand them and to put herself in their shoes. At times even creating music playlist in order to get into character, each time composing a playlist she believes her current character would have put together themselves.

Jasia said she loves the drama of live theater and the endless possibilities that come with it. During one of the final showing of Appropriate in a fighting scene Jasia Sprained her ankle. On top of the fact that she was feeling ill that same day she didn’t let the obstacles slow her down. Instead having been in pain for the remainder of the play she was inspired to bring forth what she considers one of her “best performances”. After every show Jasia explains she is filled with excitement and a want for more.

Jasia dedicates weeks of studying into her current character and finding a pinpoint in her life as well as theirs to help her bring them to life. Jasia said she often loses faith in herself but with the support system she’s built through ELAC and her other theater mentors she’s gathered along her way she finds the strength she needs once again through the faith others have in her. She said although saying goodbye to her characters she puts so much time into she is always excited to play a new character. Jasia is also going to be saying goodbye to Elac soon, with the hopes of studying at UCLA where all her past mentors have studied, she ventures off hoping to study first-hand what her mentors have learned during their past time there.

Rodney describes Jasia as “one of the most talented actresses to grace our stages here at ELAC” and said upon graduation “I believe a great addition to any of our area university theater departments.” Jasia’s words of advice for students looking to join the field of acting are as follows “Know that this is what you actually want to do…’you have to love the art in yourself not yourself in the art.’” In other words she explains “You can’t be doing this for the attention or acceptance you have to do it because it’s what you love.”


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