Lifelong Filipina Alaskan, Mercedes Arciniega, is like many talented performers who came out of the COVID-19 pandemic eager to return to their art. From the Vagina Monologues, to family cover bands, to couch karaoke with her wife, the Puget Sound graduate reflects on her musical journey and encourages the Anchorage art community to take chances with their craft.
How did the pandemic affect your creative pursuits? “Around 2016, I started performing less and removed it from my life to focus on different pursuits in my career. I was ready for my return from hiatus when I was cast in Anchorage Cabarets’ production of Magnificat, which would have premiered on a Saturday in March 2020, but by the previous Friday evening, Anchorage had shut down. The pandemic was isolating but social media reminded me artists everywhere were feeling the same. It reminded me of how powerful the stage really is. We definitely took that for granted before the pandemic.” How did it feel to finally return to the stage for Secondary Characters? “Magical. Artists crave connection, and it was so special to share the stage with such talented people all looking for the same. There’s nothing like perfecting a single piece for months on end to see it culminate in a 2-3-minute-long performance. That moment on stage feels so powerful, there’s nothing like the real thing̶couch karaoke can’t come close.”
What’s next for you? “I’m really excited to perform with my wife, Kendra, in June! We were both cast for a duet in Anchorage Cabaret’s One-Hit Wonders at Koots̶ it’ll be very fun. I’m also looking forward to auditioning for SoBroSol’s production of “In the Heights.” As a Filipina performer, I want to see those roles filled by Latinx people, especially knowing we have the community here to represent them. I’ll be happy to involve myself with a BIPOC project like this, regardless of the role I play.”
What advice do you have for young performers in Anchorage? “Audition as much as possible! It’s part of your artistic process, because even if you don’t get cast, it serves as valuable experience. If the final performance is the exam, your auditions are the quizzes. Also, get to know your cast members, the orchestra̶everyone. Pay compliments, ask questions. Those moments are vital in building your artistic community.”
What other creative platforms is Anchorage in need of? “It’s frustrating to see so many talented, bright minds starve for opportunities in Anchorage. We need to take certain chances, and fight complacency. I want to see more diversity of acts, of genres performed, and new venues to host them. We shouldn’t need to rely on outside acts at all. We need to provide opportunities for local performers to make a living off their craft if we want to see them stay in Alaska. It starts with paying them what they’re due, and pushing the boundary on what we think will be a successful show. It’s why I’m grateful for Lisa Willis, Warren Weinstein, and others at Anchorage Cabarets who work to create spaces for genres like jazz, choral, and musical theater to be enjoyed–all while showcasing Anchorage talent. They saw that these opportunities are scarce in the community, and they decided to make it happen themselves, making sacrifices with their time and energy along the way to provide the public with different kinds of shows.”
Find Anchorage Cabarets on Facebook for their show lineup and keep an eye out for Kendra and Mercedes Arciniega in One-Hit Wonders coming to Chilkoot Charlie’s June 2022.
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