By Cynthia Tong
As we countdown to opening night in March, we are continuing to introduce our PlayCo audience to the actors who will be gracing the stage for our upcoming production, Recent Alien Abductions.
Rafael Sardina is a New York City-based actor who is making his PlayCo debut. You may have seen him on stage in: Sea of Tranquility (Atlantic Theater Company); Of Mice and Men (Westport Country Playhouse); and Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas’ Sleepwalkers (Alliance Theatre Company).
In Recent Alien Abductions, by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, he is playing Álvaro.
You’ve been in a previous production by Jorge Cortiñas called Sleepwalkers (Alliance Theater Company). Tell us about what it’s like working with the same writer/director in another production.
Jorge’s writing is beautiful, the stories he tells are truthful, elegant, visceral, economical, layered. Getting to work with him once was a gift, to do it again, in New York, at this particular time in my life, is awesome. When Jorge and I did SLEEPWALKERS together, I was young, fresh out of school, new to the city and very green. All the years in between, everything I’ve learned about life, about myself, about my craft; to get to re-visit that important early artistic experience is a thrill, in many ways. For example, this is the first play I have done since becoming a father. That it happens to be Jorge’s play feels special to me, charged somehow.
Tell us more about your connection to Puerto Rico, the setting of our upcoming production.
I grew up in Puerto Rico, lived there until I was eighteen and left for college. It’s funny, because at this point I’ve lived more of my life away from Puerto Rico than there. But the island looms large over every part of who I am. My sense of romance, my sense of adventure, my conception of beauty, have all been informed by my childhood in Puerto Rico. The island itself is so physically beautiful, and its people so culturally and spiritually beautiful, that it fills me with pride to carry so much of it within me. Indeed, I see Puerto Rico in my daughter. It was my nest as a child. That means everything.
Do you think there is a significance to this play being presented in New York City rather than its setting, Puerto Rico, and if so, why?
Well, I don’t know if there’s a significance to its actual production being here as opposed to there. Jorge lives here, PlayCo lives here. I think that’s just business. But the play deals with what it means to stay and what it means to go. In New York City, there are so many people that are from the island, and that sense of – “If you have the chance to go back, how often, do you still have family there?” – is part of all Puerto Ricans’ lives here. And the themes of home and the past, the distance that time and miles create and the bridges we try to build to cross that distance, I think those themes are universal.
You went to school for theater, earning an MFA at University of Missouri-Kansas City. When did you make the decision to pursue acting and what drove your decision to do so?
I’ve been in love with stories since I was little. I loved those old read-along record books. I saw E.T. in a theater when I was six and was accordingly blown apart and put back together by Steven Spielberg. I believed that the world of stories coexisted with the actual world, both to me were as natural as the other. I started doing theater in school. At high school, college, beyond, I always sought and found teachers who pointed me in the right direction and saw in my interest, willingness, and passion and were happy to send me forward with a little more knowledge.
Regarding alien abductions, do you believe in aliens or life beyond this earth?
I do believe in aliens and in life beyond this earth. We are definitely not alone.