project meraki

Episode 2 - Mitchell Lagos in Understanding your own Creative Process

Show Notes: 

  1. What is Project Meraki?
  2. Introduction of Mitchell Lagos
  3. How did you get into acting? Did you ever think you’d be doing it as a career?
  4. Was there any pressure for you to choose something more ‘reliable’ from family or friends? How did you deal with this?
  5. Has there ever been a point where you felt like you might had to have given up acting? What got you through it? 
  6. Do you do anything else besides acting and have you ever had to? (Eg. Working a side job to get by)
  7. Theatrical acting has become less popular with time, why theatrical over film?
  8. Acting is an form of art where all eyes are on you, are you phased by this pressure or have you gotten used to it? Is there anything you do to help focus under this pressure?
  9. Do you have a hard time remembering lines? Any tricks or mental strategies you use?
  10. From first reading the script of a character to playing them, do you have a process to get into character?
  11. In terms of this project, ‘Meraki’ being the idea of someone putting a piece of themselves into their work, I can see that from watching you perform, but what does it feel like for you? Are you just rehearsing lines, or is it more than that?
  12. I mentioned you helping me write my film, have you pursued it since? Do you plan to?
  13. Do you have a daily or morning routine? If he brings up Morning Pages ask about them, this could lead to mention of Artist Way too.
  14. Is there any attitudes or beliefs that have helped you get to where you are today? In regards to work, study, acting, getting though tougher times?
  15. Do you plan on acting theatre for as long as possible? Do you have anything else you want to move on to or fall back to in the long run? Where next?
  16. Summary
  17. What's next? (Next Episode Mentor Reveal)

Meraki means; to do something creative with soul, or love. To put a piece of yourself in your work.
— Meraki




Saphira: This is Project Meraki.

Saphira: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening,  I’m Saphira, I’m your host and I’m from Electus Films. 

Saphira: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! My name is Saphira and this is Project Meraki. Meraki is the concept of people putting a little piece of themselves into their work, and this project is dedicated talking to friends and mentors that I believe do this in their lives. With me in my living room today is Mitchell Lagos, an international actor based in Singapore and in Sydney. He graduated LASELLE College of the arts under a scholarship with first class honours in BA musical theatre. He was also presented the Laselle award for Academic Excellence as the top student in the BA Performing Arts faculty.  

Since he's gone on to work in many theatre productions including (Just to name a few): Khairul Kamsani’s Human+ (Jovian); Tropicana The Musical (Patrick, Foufou, Frank Sinatra); Matthew Lee Robinson’s New Voices : Melbourne; Pangdemonium’s Rent (Benny); and SRT’s Romeo and Juliet. 


And has even worked in some short films including, my own, ‘The Inventor’, but I’ll talk about that a bit later. Mitch has just been in Singapore and I managed to catch him right before he heads home for good sometime in a couple of weeks yeah?

Mitch: Yeah!

Saphira: So Mitch! How are you doing right now? What’s going on in your life?

Mitch: Uhm, I’m great, I am really fantastic. This year has probably been the best year in my life. (2017) Creatively, personally, emotionally, whatever. Right now, I am in Singapore just wrapped up a show called Human+. Which was a little theatre show, that was really fun. And Im moving on to a few projects this month, (October 2017) and then I am leaving Singapore, possibly for good. To try start a new life in Australia.

Saphira: Oh wow, okay, so what exactly are you doing in Australia? I mean, do you have something else you need to do other than acting?

Mitch: Well I’m going back to- I’ve got an agent in Australia so I’m going back to try the theatre scene there and at the same time I want to start my own business and run a space that I will throw events.

Saphira: Nice, impressive huh! Tell us a bit more on how did you get into acting? Did you ever think you’ll be doing it as a career?

Mitch: Uhm, ah, I’ve been doing drama and acting since I was 12 years old, so I’m 26 now, so that’s 14 years. And I just started doing it for fun, and I remember the moment where I decided that I want to do it as a career, it was during the show, The Little Mermaid, I was playing the prince and I couldn’t get the role at all, I must’ve been 16, and then my director said everybody needs to beat an accent into Mitchell because the character needs an accent. So everybody stood in a circle and I stood in the middle and they kinda berated me until this accent, this British accent came out of me. I remember it being something like  “I can’t believe I sailed halfway around the world just to meet another boring princess.” That show was so much fun, I decided then and there that I wanted to be an actor for a career and I just kinda follow that ever since.

Saphira: Right, I see, was there any pressure for you to choose something more ‘reliable’ from family or friends? How did you deal with this? Oh like, “You know Mitch, acting is really not a good career for you”

Mitch: Never any direct pressure from family or friends uh, but on the journey of being an artist or my acting career, there is always people that tell you, that you can’t do this, or you’re not good enough at that, and might uses their words whether it be on purpose or they are taking out their insecurities on you, that you take on, and you have to deal with, in terms of your own self-judgement towards your work and that can really hold you back. I think for me that’s the major thing that holds me back. But lately, I’ve been excavating myself to remove phrases and ideas that I might have taken on from other people or experiences to a more pure creative flow, but never, like I said never like a any direct pressure from friends of family.

Saphira: So has there ever been a point where you felt like you might had to have given up acting? What got you through it? Like that thought process?

Mitch: Uhm, man, there’s been a few points where I have really considered it, I mean school was tough because uh, me and my classmates we didn’t always have the same opinions towards the work, which is natural when you’re in the same class with someone for 3 years straight, you can grind each others gears a bit. Even, like I did a show earlier this year, and I just I didn’t get along with the director and the character was hard, and I was just doubting myself a lot, and I was questioning ‘Is this really fun?’ , ‘Why am I doing this?’ The pay is not great, the work is not great, it’s difficult, it’s stressful. Where is the pay off in all of this? Maybe I should just do something that’s more, consistent, something more reliable. Easier to get by. I think all artists kinda go through this thought process. But for me, I think its the determination and the grit and the audacity to just try again and to just keep moving, and learning and staying optimistic about the creative journey that it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. It gets me through.

Saphira: It’s your passion, yeah. It’s really passion you have that drives you.

Mitch: My passion maybe isn’t specifically acting, but I like growing and better myself. I think my passion is more at study into humanity, people.

Saphira: Oh! So it’s really something else totally from what you’re pursuing right now.

Mitch: Yeah! With acting, I can study people. It’s kinda the study of people and then the reflection of that.

Saphira: Right, right. Did you had to do anything else besides acting. Like okay you mentioned just now, like sometimes maybe you need to do something more reliable. And picking any side jobs to get by?

Mitch: I get by, by working with kids. Luckily, in Singapore, I have not have to work a single job that isn’t somehow performance related. Whether it’s entertaining at kids parties or doing kids show in the malls. Or.. pff. What else have I done? Mostly stuff with the kids has good money. I mean corporate video as well. And that has gotten me through. I mean in Australia I had to work as a dish pig. Like washing dishes and cutting vegetables. And I did that for a couple of years. Which was, I ended up enjoy it. Which was strange.

Saphira: But it didn’t change who you are. You still wanna pursue acting.

Mitch: It all kinda works towards that. I mean fundings so I can do that. And paying rent and bills and other things. It got me through school. Doing the kids parties every weekend. I was doing 5 days a week 12 hours. And then on the weekend I was doing 3 to 4 kids parties.

Saphira: So okay, because you know you’re saying that you’re very much more leaning towards theatres and stuff like that and not with film. But you know that, theatrical acting has become less popular with time, why theatrical over film?

Mitch: They are totally different styles. Theatrical acting and film acting. I guess I’ve just done theatrical acting for such a long time. I feel a lot more comfortable doing it. I enjoy the process cause its familiar. Cause it’s so familiar I get to experiment within my process. And that character building, the beats, and having a live audience is quite something. It’s such an old art form, I think it’s probably one of the oldest. I mean film is only about a 100 years old or so. Whereas live performance is thousands and thousands of years old. Its so natural. I think maybe thats why I tend to gravitate towards it. But at the same time, I do, do a lot of film acting. Recently, Ive been doing a lot. Ive got a movie that I’m in, premiering tonight. Its called ‘Lizard on the wall.’

Saphira: Tell us a bit more of this film. Like whats your role in it.

Mitch: It’s about an Indian Sikh wedding and I am the stranger that comes in and my presence kinda make the wedding fall apart.

Saphira: Oh really!? That’s interesting. It’s going to be premiering anywhere else online where we can view it?

Mitch: I’m not sure actually. I think its just tonight. I’ll let you know if there’s more. I hope there’s more.

Saphira: Acting is an form of art where all eyes are on you, are you phased by this pressure or have you gotten used to it? Is there anything you do to help focus under this pressure?

Mitch: Ah huh. Yes. All eyes are on you when you’re in theatre. So you can’t really get away with a lot. I mean the good thing about theatre compared to film is that when you a mistake, it’s done. It only kinda live in people’s memory for a couple of seconds and you can recover yourself and keep going and general audience is pretty forgiving and they want you to do good. But the pressure can get to you, because you have to connect with them right then and there. You have to get all your beats right, you’ve got only one shot with each audience. It’s gotta be fresh. You can’t just go through the motions. I mean some performances can be really good whereas the next night it can be really bad. And there is just no telling. But then the audience just sees one performance, and they don’t see the whole process. To deal with all that pressure. I do really long warm ups.

Saphira: What sort of warm-up are you talking about over here? Is it vocally, or emotionally?

Mitch: For maybe about two hours, I’ll do a bunch of things. I experiment with my warm ups to see what works and what doesn’t. But I generally like to do, meditation, workout to get the body warm, yoga, and stretching. Then I’ll do de-structuring which gets your breath and your ribs open. So you don’t tighten up on stage. Then I do vocal exercisers, to warm-up vocally. Thats bout it. And then maybe some viewpoints to get my imagination going and I’ll do that for about two hours before each show.

Saphira: Wow, so that’s really long. So you really have to get the zone. Do you have a hard time remembering lines? Any tricks or mental strategies you use? To remember them?

Mitch: I’m pretty good at learning lines. Because I just had to do it. And Ive had to it for a very long time. What I like to do is, I will record myself saying the others persons lines, and leave a gap for my lines and then I essentially do a scene with myself.

Saphira: Oh okay, so you keep doing it until you remember the lines.

Mitch: You can read the lines but its different to saying it and putting it on the body. Also, I’ll go through the script and I’ll look at every thought and see how they all connect as well so its easier to see the pattern of the character.

Saphira: So you try get into different tone, like oh this is how the emotion is like, until you get it even though you’re recording as a different person?

Mitch: Yeah.

Saphira: From first reading the script of a character to playing them, do you have a process to get into character?

Mitch: From first reading of the script to getting into character… Loads of things. I mean, for theatre, you got a month, maybe less maybe more to build your character and then how that character journeys in that point in time, between the start of the show and the end of the show. I will do a lot of research. The first thing I do is I’ll make sure I know every single that the character is saying. Every single reference that is going on. So that I am not saying words particularly with Shakespeare, like saying words that I don’t know the meaning of. Cause if I don’t know what it is, then the audience don’t know what it is. I’ll have to go through and understand what my character wants. Like why is he doing what he is doing, what does he want from the other person. Cause acting is all about relationships. So if you can understand what your character is trying to get from the other person, then you can break that down to the tactics that the character is using to achieve the objective and then within those tactics you can break down further into the beats. Like what specific action or beat is this character using in this line or in this movement or in this idea. So its quite detail, and within that detail comes a character. And then theres also back story as well. Ive got a list of 100 questions that I will answer as the imaginary character. And then I will take all the lines, I will use the process, I think I mentioned earlier call de-structuring. And that is to put the words into the body through breath and emotional muscle release. I will also do clown work. That’s also something I like to do. I’ve done a workshop, a one-month long one before.  And its not actually what you think it is. Its not like “Hey kids, look, Im a clown!” Its actually the most difficult acting exercise is clown. Its mask work. The clown nose is the smallest mask and its all about being authentic and being in your body. We have a saying in clown, “Faster than worry, louder than the critic!” So you do all this back work, and then when you get on stage, you have to let it all go. And be faster than the worry in your head and louder than the critic in your head.

Saphira: You know in terms of this project, ‘Meraki’ being the idea of someone putting a piece of themselves into their work, I can see that from watching you perform, but what does it feel like for you? Are you just rehearsing lines, or is it more than that?

Mitch: Its definitely just more than just practising lines. Some shows it can be a little bit going through the motions. But that as an actor is the thing you wanna fight against to being authentic and fresh for every show. I guess when you say, Project Meraki, you do have to put yourself into every character. My kind of philosophy behind it is that, you can’t build a completely new person. But people are complex. We know that about ourselves. There are a lot of layers to a person, to understanding a person and you can’t just create a reflection of that and put it on stage. You have to take parts of yourself. If the person is a giant puzzle or whatever, you have to take parts of yourself and then parts of the character as well and then mix it altogether. And the imagination plus your own experience, the self. So when you’re putting yourself into the character, you have to understand what the self is. And I think for the actor, very specifically the body and the voice. Cause those are things that are tangibly real. But its also the body holds experience, an emotional experience. That emotional experience that you have you can put it into the character and explore and use to have a genuine expression on stage and not just go through the motions. And to achieve that state where you can just be authentic and expressing yourself, having a genuine emotional connection to what you’re saying and then empathy for the character that you’re performing. That’s why I do a lot of long term prep and then a lot of short term prep. I see it is like, a giant slingshot or a rocket or something. Like the one month of preparation is necessary to fill it up and then the two hour before is just like reloading all of that preparation.

Saphira: I mentioned you in the beginning you helping me write my film, you the Inventor, have you pursued it since? Do you plan to pursue it since? Like writing scripts or playwrights for theatre perhaps.

Mitch: Well, I like to write. I haven’t written any projects recently. Cause I have been focusing on other things. Uhm, I’m quite to keep myself busy and well rounded. Work on all my creative muscles. I work on a lot of different creative aspect of myself. Writing is just one side of it. I write everyday. Whether its towards a project or just for fun. I make sure I write everyday.

Saphira: So like write about what? Stories, or ideas?

Mitch: I do a thing call Morning pages.

Saphira: Is that like a daily or a morning routine that you do?

Mitch: Its a part of my morning routine. I can tell you about that if you want. 

Saphira: Okay of course, go ahead tell me more.

Mitch: Im very big on, each day is a new journey, a new life. When you wake up, its important that you set up your day in a right way. Like if you wake up, and the first thing you do is roll over and get on your phone, and read on Facebook for an hour. I mean thats going to be your reality for the day. Whereas if you can avoid that, and construct maybe your first hour in a particular way, then that becomes your reality. And then whatever you focus on I think for that first hour, I think you carry with you for the rest of the day. Yeah, so everyday, I will wake up in the morning, and I will start with a few breaths, I’ll make sure to sit up and I’ll say to myself this passage I got from the Dalai Lama.

“Today, I’m fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to use all my energies to develop myself. To extend my heart out to others. To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I’m going to have kind thoughts towards others. I’m not going to get angry or think badly about others. I’m going to benefit others as much as I can.”

So that’s the first thing I’ll do , to start my day. I think it’s nice just to have a mantra, to set up your idea for yourself. Then I will write for 15 minutes. I’ll just write stream of consciousness. 3-pages just to get it out. To get my creative flow going. To empty my head, to maybe ask myself questions like what I wanna do. Maybe I’ll just write. Maybe I won’t feel like doing it but just pushing myself to do it, is achieving myself for the day.

Saphira: Are there any days that you miss your morning pages?

Mitch: There are some days where I have to go to work really early. And I try to be aware, maybe, oh did it affect me at all today, like did not doing this routine, this habit, this lifestyle changed me? But I think, it’s been a long time, maybe like a couple of months since I missed it.

Saphira: Oh wow, so you really think its working for you yeah?

Mitch: Yeah, I kinda swear by it. I will also, after that, it continues! I’ll draw for 15 minutes, just whatever I feel like. Again, its just getting my creative flow going. And I think its quite strong to have an image to start your day with as well. Especially when you create, and you just like, wow, I just made that image. And that image reflects my day. And at the end of the day, go back to it and see how that image might have reflected my day, or influenced my day, and sometimes, its weirdly prophetic.

Saphira: But you know it has work for you, and everything and you swear by it. Is there any attitudes or beliefs that have helped you get to where you are today? In regards to work, study, acting, getting though tougher times?

Mitch: Any which, sorry?

Saphira: Like any attitudes or beliefs that have helped you.

Mitch: Yeah. Attitudes and beliefs. I guess, learning to not take things personally, is a big one. So when people say, like your work wasnt good or you’re not this, you’re not that, people trying to put shit on you. Or bring you down. Or just being mean to you. Or whatever. Learning to not take things personally is one of my biggest at the moment. Thats really getting me through. I also like the belief that creativity is very natural, and when we don’t create, or when we are not happy with work or whatever, thats actually self will opposing against something that is very natural process. Attitude of not giving is always a good one. Learning how to do that , I mean I do really hardcore Yoga classes to push myself to not give up. Like Hot 26 an hour and a half yoga class. They are damn hard! But you’re in there like holding your stretch like, “Ahhhh, I won’t give up… Ahhh!!!”

Saphira: Its sort of like a movement therapy. Brings your thought process, like I’ll do this movement and I’ll get through this obstacle.

Mitch: I really believe in doing things. I think in the doing of a thing, you get better at the thing, and you have to be willing to be bad at the thing, to get good at the thing.

Saphira: Have you ever received a critic that hits you at your core? You know that this is something that you’ve been wanting to do for quite sometime, and that at some point maybe someone else come along, and like, I don’t know maybe taking away isn’t not the right way of saying it, but like just have it way before you? Like how do you approach that kind of situation. “Ah I really wanted this and someone else takes it.” Do you think that is really your part, like your fault for not being able to reach out to it earlier or its more like maybe its not meant for me?

Mitch: I’m quite faithful. I guess my faith is creativity and creative projects. And if I don’t get something, I might be upset that I didn’t get a particular role. But in hindsight, cause that has happened so much to me. theres always been other ways and other things that were meant thing to happened. And I am more grateful with the fact that I didn’t get roles, I didn’t get opportunities. So when it doesn’t happened. I now say to myself like, oh, its not meant to happened. Thats okay, something else will happen. I’m very optimistic. I can use this time to grow myself in another way or do something else. Yeah and, I just say, I didn’t work hard enough to get that and theres probably a reason for that.

Saphira: Have you ever got to a point that you really got upset and you take while to get over it?

Mitch: Yeah, it happens. I can’t think of, I mean, maybe like a year or so ago, I developed a practise for when something really gets to me. I now know, the difference between someone saying something and me just being like “yeah whatever”, or someone saying something and I take those words on and make those words a part of myself. And that scares me because then I worry that it will get to my subconscious. And if someone says “Oh your art is shit or that sort of work is just for people that can’t make it or something stupid shit like that” And when I feel myself accept those words, I get kinda scared and I go through a process of removing that. That’s trying to understand why it affected me. I’ll write about it, I’ll draw it out, maybe I’ll write angry letters to people and not send them. Things like that.

Saphira: Do you burn them or just put it aside?

Mitch: I just put it aside.

Saphira: And then you try to forget about them.. Do you do the same to your thoughts as well. Ya know like your negative thoughts about yourself because I mean, you know sometimes you get affected by peoples words and you may not be aware of it and you try to write it down and then you realised that oh you actually have these thoughts about yourself. Like when you do that, do you actually write angry letters to yourself and then okay, this is not who I am. Put it away.. Does that work for you?

Mitch: If I have like negative thoughts about myself, I’ll write it out. And maybe try to think about, where that came from. Where that idea originated from? Was it my childhood. Why this word specifically, that this person said, has aggravated something in me. Like where does that come from. I’m very big on taking responsibility for your own actions, response ability sort of thing. I’ll write down the phrase. I’ll try to understand where that came from and I’ll re-write the phrase but in a positive way.

Saphira: Positive affirmations.

Mitch: Then I’ll take that, and do it again and again and again, and I’ll carry that with me until I believe that sentence more than the old one.

Saphira: Thats really good. I think it really helps. Do you plan on acting theatre for as long as possible? Do you have anything else you want to move on to or fall back to in the long run? Where next? I mean because you know you mentioned about the business. Is it a back up plan?

Mitch: Its not necessary a back up plan. Its something Ive discovered maybe like a year or so ago. I think theatre, in the same way that a person can be limited by other peoples beliefs and in positions, I think the idea of theatre is very limited in at the moment. I think for theatre you walk in, people sit down in comfy seats and watch you perform. I think for most people in the world, thats their idea of what theatre is. So where I want to take theatre and acting, I kind of want to go towards theatre making but I want to breakdown the structure of what theatre is. Because its not appealing to everybody and I think a lot of people don’t go to the theatre. And a lot of people do other things like got to a bar, clubs, parties or whatever. So what Im trying to work on at the moment, I want to have a space where I remove the idea of audience and actors so they are all kinda together. I throw a party, I call it Party Theatre.

Saphira: So thats where things happen! So everybody just get together.

Mitch: Another big part of it is, I want people to paint the space as well.

Saphira: I’ve seen you done it a couple of times at your own place where you let people paint it. Thats a good practice. You just get people together and gather.

Mitch: I want to create community. And I want to have a bigger creative hand in my work. As an actor often you have to adhere to what people tell you what to do. Which is kinda of an actors job. But I also want to just unleash myself a bit more. And Im trying to create my own platform to do that.

If you would like to connect with Mitch, you can find him on Facebook, thats Mitchell Lagos, or on Instagram at Mitchlagos. He has been uploading funny little skits that you’d enjoy! Up next with have, Ben Boeglin, the Director of Kali Majapahit, MOVE Academy and as well as R.E.D Asia. And will be covering topics on achieving your goals and focusing on what's important. Stay tuned.

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