Saturday, 1 August 2020

Life in a pandemic isn't easy, but performer Jordan Sangalang has a few tricks

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Performer Jordan Sangalang saw his Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival plans put on hold this summer. As the pandemic affects his life, he’s still convinced laughter is the best medicine. Like everyone else, Jordan Sangalang, 34, had plans disrupted by COVID-19 this spring. Sangalang, a deaf performer last seen on the Winnipeg stage in the 2017 production Tribes at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, is also a member of the deaf physical comedy troupe 100 Decibels. When the lockdown hit, he and his fellow players were preparing a "comeback" at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. The pandemic threw those plans in a blender. "There were too many uncertainties and it left us at a standstill," Sangalang says in an email interview. "Our rehearsals and performances require space for us to meet and it’s typically in a studio. With the lockdown that occurred, we were not able to find a space to do rehearsals." When the festival was cancelled altogether, Sangalang at least had the consolation of participating in the free online fringe show two weeks ago, co-hosting one evening of performances with Ray Strachan. The experience connected him to the thrill of performing. "I enjoyed co-hosting with him and going on live," Sangalang says. "Live performances are something I have genuinely missed." These days, it helps that Sangalang is now a father to a toddler with his partner Kristina, an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter. "It is a gift," he says of fatherhood. "It does makes staying at home easy." That is an element of the five things Sangalang says he needs to survive the pandemic. 1. Video calls "Since physical and social distancing took place, especially when we weren’t able to get together with family and friends, it took a toll on me for a bit," Sangalang says. "As an introvert myself, I admit I enjoyed it in the beginning," he says. "But as weeks went by, I started to feel that I was missing something." It turned out the missing thing was communication. It dawned on Sangalang when he participated with an impromptu video call with a friend. "(We) just chatted away about life, laughter, and the like," he says. "That was the moment I realized: I miss hanging out with people. "I sure am grateful we were able to chat through video," he says. "I communicate using sign language. So, video calls are a necessity for us to be able to communicate." 2. Family Sangalang’s extended family — his parents and siblings — no longer live in Winnipeg. His parents moved to Florida along with one of his siblings. Another sibling is in Ontario. His wife’s family lives in British Columbia. "I do have a number of cousins here in Manitoba as well. Still, during the lockdown, we weren’t able to visit each other. "So I am thankful for my little family," he says. "My spouse makes sure there are bags of Old Dutch ketchup chips and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups around for me to snack on for breakfast... I mean morning, and late-night snacks," he says. "My baby keeps me busy by making sure diapers are clean and just keeps me entertained," he says. "We, as family, share a lot of laughs. They say laughter is the best medicine. We might as well laugh till vaccination for the coronavirus is available!" JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS “By having sign language interpreters, it creates bridges to collaborate with other artists and performers,” Sangalang says. 3. Reading "I have a ton of books," Sangalang says. "It is difficult to commit to finishing as many books as I want to before I became a parent. So, I just resort to stuff I read in social media. "I (still) read some books I have around the house whenever I walk by," he says. "I go to the basement, I have books there. I go to the washroom, I read a couple of business-related books while doing my business. "But more often than I’d like to admit, I scroll through tweets and such," he says. "I suppose they help keep me in the loop with what is going on. Since radio is not accessible to me, news through social media is what keeps me connected." 4. Mirror "I have a mirror in my living room. When it is just me and my baby at home, we do little performances in front of the mirror," Sangalang explains. "Since we communicate using ASL, this makes things more fun for us. "My baby’s little facial expressions and little signing hands are just adorable," he says. "Makes me laugh too and vice-versa. "Anyway, (the) mirror is something I use to keep my creative juices flowing whether it’s physical sketch or visual vernacular," he says, explaining that visual vernacular "is a mix of mime and sign language — think of it in storytelling in sign language in a cinematic view. "Interesting things from this mind I have come out of these hands I have." 5. Sign language interpreters "By having sign language interpreters, it creates bridges to collaborate with other artists and performers," Sangalang says. "By being able to do so, we had the opportunity to share our creativity and perspectives with each other. "It is a necessity for us as performers to collaborate. This has been especially beneficial when having group meetings through video conference meetings. Professionally trained interpreters ensure quality of communication and collaborative work on a high standard." randall.king@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @FreepKing