Los Angeles-based actor-playwright, Boni B. Alvarez, was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in East Palo Alto. When he was in the seventh grade he saw an audition notice for the Palo Alto Children’s Theater for the play, Rumpelstiltskin, auditioned, and was cast as Hilard, Master of the Household. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, Boni said, “I just copied the other kids, said my lines clearly and loudly.” He continued performing saying that when he performed in Fiddler on the Roof, “It was entering a world that I knew nothing about. It was educational and enlightening and created a bridge between me and a group of characters and people I seemingly would never identify with.”
Alvarez continued his love of theater as an undergraduate student at Sarah Lawrence College. It was there he wrote his first play, a story about a young Filipino-American man and his partner adopting a niece from the Philippines. Alvarez noted, “Angels in America’ was playing on Broadway at the time and of course it rocked my world. I was trying to emulate Tony Kushner.”
“Writing allows me the time and space to explore the questions I have about the world we live in through a dramatic lens. I get to create worlds in which characters wrestle with such questions, so, in some senses, I get to experience answers through different people and their unique vantage points.” - Boni B. Alvarez
After working as an actor in New York, Boni went to the American Repertory Theatre Institute at Harvard University for an MFA in Acting. After grad school, he returned to New York, noting “my hustle fizzled out. I had an agent, I was part of Actors Equity, but I wasn’t getting very many auditions.” As a result, he moved back in with his parents, took a few more playwriting classes, and later went to the University of Southern California for an MFA in Dramatic Writing.
The son of Filipino immigrants, you’ll find his heritage featured prominently in many of his plays. His first name is in recognition of the fact that he was born on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day, a Philippine national holiday honoring Andrés Bonifacio, the leader of an anti-colonial organization that triggered the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Alvarez commented that “I feel a responsibility to write more, especially for Filipino artists and audiences. Inclusion and representation are so important.”
Writing is a solitary pursuit, and Alvarez works every day. “It can be as much as writing thirty pages. Sometimes it’s revision or research. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as brainstorming character names or thinking about a play’s title.” And he not afraid to take his time, “Before I actually begin writing any pages, I’ve usually let an idea steep for a while, sometimes for more than a year.” He noted that he doesn’t tend to offer solutions in the way his plays wrap up. “I know this can frustrate some audiences, but it’s my intention to present characters dealing with issues and situations from different vantage points and lenses. I want the audience to think about the way people have to negotiate their specific set of given circumstances. It’s great if audiences can relate to them, empathize, or at the very least, find a way to understand.”
"Apartment Living" opens March 12; tickets go on sale to the public February 7.
International Examiner 2019