If there is a single jewel of wisdom imparted to every student of acting, it may be this: commit. No matter what ridiculous bind your improv partner gets you into, or what violent emotional tempest the script demands, commit. Go hard. You can always reel it in if it turns out to be a bit much; the audience can always tell if you’re holding back.
Alex Aguilar commits, not only in his role as the larger-than-life, fantastical Merperson in David Valdes Greenwood’s “The Mermaid Hour,” but in all his endeavors. The Florida native graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with degrees in both dance and biology and has immersed himself in the community, taking part in everything from choreography to contact sports. A passionate believer in the power of imagination, Aguilar speaks to qnotes about kindness, corny jokes…and the true story of his shadowy alter ego.
Your character in “The Mermaid Hour” is a performance artist whose work inspires a young girl to take action that will profoundly alter not only her life, but that of her family as well. How do you hope to inspire your own audience?
Theater is what saved me from myself and helped me grow into the person I am today. I hope that with my performances, I can inspire audiences to not only to dream but more importantly to take action.
David Valdes Greenwood recently spoke to The Charlotte Observer about his belief in “the universal specific, the idea that the truth of the story helps people find themselves in it.” What universal truths do you think “The Mermaid Hour” reflects?
I feel there are many truths that are reflected in this play and it can relate to many audience members, not just those in the LGBTQ community. This play is about family, love, hardship and acceptance; and I do not know one person who does not experience any of these things.
Valdes Greenwood also remarked that he altered the ending of the piece ahead of its premiere in 2016, after workshopping at nuVoices brought him to the realization that it is in fact the story of a family, not of a single person. Do you agree with that assessment?
I wholly agree. By altering the ending of the play, he was able to reach a wider audience with the “universal specific.”
If your own seventh-grade child told you that they wanted to begin transitioning, how do you think you would respond?
“Cool! So what pronoun do you want me to start using?” If and when I have children, they will have my full support in whoever they want to be or whatever they want to do.
Was “The Mermaid Hour” your first foray into what could be considered LGBTQ-themed work?
No, my first LGBTQ-themed work was also with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. In 2004, I was visiting Charlotte and was cast in the play “Take Me Out” by Richard Greenberg. It’s an all-male cast show about a baseball team’s popular and successful player coming out of the closet and how it affects his teammates and the season.
Have you been part of any other LGBTQ-related community endeavors or causes, either in the Charlotte area or elsewhere?
For several years I played on the Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Club and also play various sports with Stonewall Sports. I also try to volunteer, attend events, or support causes within the community as well.
You’ve recently taken a position as a teaching artist at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte summer camps. What will that entail?
I am choreographing and teaching dance to youths attending the camps each week. Their enthusiasm is infectious!
Are you involved in any other artistic pursuits?
Yes! After I finish teaching this summer, I will begin rehearsals with Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s Resident Touring Company (RTC). We will be touring the plays “Spelling 2-5-5” by Jennifer Overton and “Rapunzel” by Mike Kenny. I am also working on a few dance and photography projects on my own.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making art?
I try to make it to the gym, but in all reality, my free time is spent gaming or binge watching horrible television series.
Are there any words you live by, or advice that you’ve particularly taken to heart?
Be kind to yourself. I feel like the world can use more kindness, but we also need to be a lot more kind to ourselves.
What was your first role?
My first role was Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in high school back in Florida, but my first professional role was Rodriguez in “Take Me Out” here in Charlotte.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Currently, I would have to say earning my Bachelor of Arts degrees in both dance and biology this past December are my proudest accomplishment. There were so many struggles emotionally, physically and financially to get to that finish line, and I am happy that I continued fighting to the end.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
At graduation, I told myself that I need to tour a show for a year and then return to school for physical therapy. Now that I’m in the RTC, I suppose in five years I will hopefully be a practicing PT.
You starred alongside a young person in “The Mermaid Hour,” you’ve appeared in a production of the musical “Annie” and you’ll be spending the next several months with Children’s Theatre. How does working with kids compare to working with adults?
Whether working with youths or adults, on the stage we are all children playing with our imaginations to bring ideas to life. I always tell people that I am a big kid, and I feel as a performer you have to be in touch with your inner child to do well in this business. Working with youths helps remind us to keep that magic alive in our imaginations and in our lives.
What kind of role would you love to take on in the future?
In my last semester at UNC Charlotte, I took a liking to site-specific dance and the many things one can do with that. I would love to create a work in the near future along those studies and practice.
You’re an actor, a dancer, a choreographer and a teacher. What talents don’t we know about?
I was an indecisive kid growing up, so I always tried learning new things the best I could, which kept me entertained. I started my artistic endeavors playing the piano and singing, and from there spawned off my studying other forms of expression. I used to say that “boredom is for the boring.” There’s always something new to learn, and we won’t discover our talents until we try them! Photography has been one of my more recent discoveries.
Your Facebook page proudly displays the nickname “Pnut.” What’s the story there?
Ha! I’ve had several friends call me that throughout the years, some of whom don’t even know each other, so it stuck. I remember one friend saying it was because I was “cute as a peanut.”
And finally, no pressure, but what’s the absolute funniest joke you know?
Oh gosh! I am horrible at jokes. I’m more situationally funny because funny things tend to happen to me, but I tend to lean more on the dad jokes. “What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta!”