maybe "rants" isn't the right word. these are simple thoughts about my life. some may be more colorful than others. some language may be offensive, but it depends on your definition of offensive. consider this your warning ;)

30 December 2015

One artist's opinion on The Old Navy Artist Shirt

Let me start with this, I don't have a problem with Old Navy's shirt that has "artist" crossed out in the phrase "young aspiring artist". I don't. At all.

Full disclosure, I used to work for Old Navy for a couple years in recent past. Used to. Past tense. And I left on great terms. And no one at GAP Inc. asked me to write this or has offered to compensate me. I'm writing this because I see so many tweets and posts from proponents of the performing arts (including great arts organizations) bashing the "derogatory"...wait for it...ARTWORK on this individual piece of clothing.

That being said...why do I even have an opinion on this?

I've been a supporter of the arts for much longer than Old Navy has even been around. I've often had to defend the importance of the arts, in general, and in my life, personal and professional. I grew up playing the violin, singing in choir, acting in plays, and generally being a mascot in my everyday life, not just in high school. I love the performing arts, and I always will.

And this is what I thought when I saw the image...

"Oh, 'artist' is highlighted with paint (an artistic medium) and the young artist has chosen their vocation."

Ok, maybe I don't sound that eloquent in my head, but that's the general attitude of it. I did not see it as a bashing of the arts because I see art in every profession. Writing, teaching, building...Presidenting...

There is art in every single one of us. Yes, if we pigeonhole the term "art" in regards to visual and performing arts, then yes, through that lens I can totally understand where you can take this graphic designer's work of ART and INTERPRET it offensively.

For example...a carpenter. Master Builder (#LegoMovie), wood burner, whittler, whatever. These are artists. They have a craft in their skill set. They have a canvas: the wood. They have tools: chisels, saws, hammers. They have an audience: the consumer.

A teacher. They have their stories to tell: lessons. They have their audience: students. They have their stage: the classroom

An author or playwright. This one is more straightforward. They have a story to tell: the essay, book, or script. They have the tools: their minds, keyboards, typewriters, notepads, napkins, whatever. And they have their audience: you.

A president. The story: leading. The tools: their education and background, their eyes and ears, their staff. The audience: the citizens.

A chef. The story: presenting a course, or a meal through several courses. The tools: utensils, cookware, stove, oven. The audience: you, your mouth, your tastebuds.

You want a "less creative" profession? Well maybe that's the real aren't seeing the creativity in the profession. 

Let's take a position that is considered an administrative/management position (if the example of President didn't do it for you).

Human Resources Manager.

The story: leading a company through regulations and generally making sure the company doesn't get in trouble. Hiring and disciplining employees. Sharing information about benefits, the company, and the team.

The tools: hiring practices, training material, company history.

The audience: current and new employees.

How about another one?


The story: organizing, preparing, and presenting the state of the organization for better or for worse.

The tools: numbers, reports, profit & loss statements, computers, adding machines, printers.

The audience: auditors, board members, the IRS.

Or even going back to one of the professions listed on the shirt itself...


The story: gathering data about a world where very few actually know about.

The tools: this list is just as expansive as the space they travel in. Oxygen tanks, computers, rockets, space suits, helmets...

The audience: The World. Literally. The home space station.

So yeah, you want to say there's no art in those professions?

Why should a graphic designer be stoned for putting forth something they felt proud of? Why should a company who generally presents positive messages on their clothing all of a sudden change their attitude?

Why can't you explain to your children, coworkers, and team members that there is art in everything and that WE are all artists. Similar to when parents write letters to celebrities and companies about their "insensitive" material...why can't we have the discussions in our own homes and why are trying to make for-profit businesses change what they're doing to make money when we can educate each other.

The issue is not the opinion of art in this one, singular piece of clothing. It's the attitude towards art and artists that has been hammered into our collective consciousness.

We are all artists. We are all musicians. We are all painters, storytellers, writers, and actors. 

Have you ever worked in retail? Food service? Customer service? You have acting experience.

Have you ever cut the grass, trimmed a hedge, or done someone's make up? You're an artist.

Do you ever communicate through spoken, written, or sign language? You're a storyteller.

I know that I may receive some backlash from my fine/performing arts colleagues, but that's ok. I'm telling my story now, as it came up, in the way that I know best...writing.

I am an artist. Not because I've lived in and around the performing arts. Not because I have a degree in Theatre. Not because I work at a theatre company. But because I choose to appreciate art in as much as I can, and THAT is why I don't have a problem with "the shirt."

p.s. What if the screenprint was messed up and the artist's intention was for "aspiring" to be crossed out so that it read "Young Artist"?

Art in Life, Life in Art

In the Fall of 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to act in a show entitled Take Me Out, by Richard Greenberg. The director had expressed his interest in working with me, but as the roles in the show would have it, his hands were tied (thanks to the playwright and artistic integrity) and I was cast as Takeshi Kawabata, the Japanese character in the play.
The story follows a fictional baseball team called The Empires, and their star player, Darren Lemming, has just made an announcement (via press conference) that he is gay. There are plenty of racial and homophobic controversies that ensue, all on the canvas of America's past time, baseball, and my role spoke to me so much, not just during the rehearsal process, but throughout the performance run.

Kawabata is one of the closers on the Empires roster. He is from Japan and speaks no English. He was signed by the Empires after dominating at home, and needed no translator, only a coach to put him in as needed and take him out when his time was done. He was disowned by his family for following a hobby as a career path, but came to America to play. And play, he did. Shoving off the circus that happened around him, he focused on the one thing that granted him purpose and peace: baseball. And he doesn't succeed at that, he takes it personally. And when he does, it's about the team. 

I had no idea that being Filipino and moving to the Midwest (intentionally) would be such a springboard for my growth in theatre as well as teach me so much about who I am as a man.

I am the middle child of two Filipino immigrants. Yes, I proudly claim my middle-child complex, and my status as a first-generation American. I more often identify myself as American than Filipino, and to be quite honest, I'm still struggling (spoken: growing) with that too.

Some Asian (and Filipino) stereotypes have been fulfilled. I was raised on a lot of meals that included rice. I love basketball. I was great at math through grade school, I learned to play the violin at a fairly young age. I enlisted in the Navy.

But this isn't about being Asian or Filipino. This is about me bringing Kawabata to life.

My desire to go into the arts was often frowned upon at home. It was beat into me that I should choose a career in math or science if I want to succeed. Or something "noble" like being a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. Nothing against those professions, they just weren't what I was interested in.

And so I went into the arts, but not without sailing away and coming home. Literally and figuratively. Because of my home life through high school (#LongStoryShort), I enlisted in the US Navy, and since I scored high enough on the ASVAB (95, baby!) I qualified to take the Nuke test. This test would determine if I could enter the Nuclear Training Program, and out of 80, I scored a 62, which was higher than my classmates who took the Nuke test earned  (and they earned 99's on the ASVAB). And I took it with pieces of scratch paper and no calculator. But it's not about that.

So I go into the Navy and train to be an Electrician's Mate. Put department on a submarine. As far away from the arts I could imagine, and right in line with what I "should be doing" as a my elders decreed. But I separated for a service-connected disability, and was honorably discharged.

And so, in my early twenties, with a much better work ethic than I had gone into the Navy with, I was faced with a huge question: What now?

So I resumed the path I wanted before I graduated high school - I went into the arts. I moved back to California and started at a community college in Northern California, DVC. And I couldn't be happier to be back in the theatre. Acting was great, learning to direct was even better. I directed my first full-length show, Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, and it put DVC on the map, and gave those of us involved a huge gold star in our lives.

I finished up my undergraduate education at Long Beach State (#GoBeach) and earned myself a Bachelor's of Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in Directing. As love and life would have it, I got married and moved out to the Midwest (away from all those I had networked and worked with in California) to start a new chapter in my life. Eventually I had returned to the theatre (spoken: after my divorce) and now enter, Take Me Out auditions.

So here I was, in a state I've never lived in, isolated by my own doing (my ex had moved back to California) and I was here to do what I've loved all along: contribute my art in a theatre. Through Take Me Out, I found more of myself in Kawabata than I had initially realized. Not because I am Filipino, but because of my life's path. I chose to focus on theatre, much to the dismay of many around me. I left an area that I did not feel was supportive of me in the ways that I needed and went to a place that felt welcoming. There I begin to thrive. There I find solace in many things I could not find else. 

Here in Indiana, I've signed with the Empires.

And now, in almost exactly a year's time from performing in Take Me Out, I'm getting ready to open a show that I've been given the opportunity to direct Water by the Spoonful (by Quiara Alegria Hudes) at the theatre company that I was blessed with a full-time job at as well. In the world of Take Me Out, Kawabata misses the mark and (#SPOILERALERT) the fastball doesn't end up in the catcher's mitt.

But that's a play, a scripted play, and I'm not Kawabata. I'm Deleon. And this isn't scripted. So I take the mound every game I'm called up for, and I throw the best game that I can.

For information on Water by the Spoonful, click HERE for the Facebook event or visit the South Bend Civic Theatre site HERE

19 December 2015

10 Lessons from a Navy Seal

This came up in my Facebook feed today, and I watched it twice. I've seen it before, but like many things, words, songs, movies, advice...everything can sound different at different points in your life.

Aside from the last three words in this video, I could watch this ad nauseam. It truly is worth watching in its entirety. At least to me, but then again, I clicked on the link because an admiral was pictured, not because it said UT Austin.

Here is a Table of Contents, if you will, of the lessons the admiral shares. Please note that the titles listed below are of my own creation/annotation (and are for my own future reference):
  • 1:24 Make decisions, or The Butterfly Effect
  • 4:40 Make your bed, or Tasks and Goals
  • 6:14 The boat crews, or Find Your Teammates
  • 7:20 It's about heart, or Size Doesn't Matter
  • 8:38 Uniform Inspections, or The Struggle of Perfectionists
  • 10:06 Learn from everything, or Own the Circus
  • 11:30 Dive head first, or Fly Outside the Box
  • 12:50 Don't back down, or Shark Punching
  • 14:00 Keep your cool, or Calmness in Calamity
  • 15:38 Don't lose hope, or Singing while Sinking
  • 17:50 Don't quit, or You Can't Un-Ring a Bell