Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Joaquin Pedro Valdes


These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we've faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we'll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times.


Let's stick together, share the love and get through this as a community!

Joaquin Pedro Valdes was most recently seen in the UK touring production of The King and I. His other credits include Ensemble and Cover Engineer and Thuy in Miss Saigon (UK and International Tour); Standby Charlie Price in Kinky Boots (Manila Premiere); Mr Wormwood in Matilda (Manila Premiere); Spike in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Manila Premiere); Ken in Red (Manila Premiere) and Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening (Manila Premiere). 

On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction? 

I remember the day quite vividly! We’ve been touring the show for almost a year at this point all around England, Switzerland, Japan and had a handful of UK venues left. We were in the middle of our first of two weeks at the gorgeous Liverpool Empire Theatre when the news of Corona landing on UK shores came out. Like everyone else, we were rather confused as to what was going on and the implications it might have on our show, but we ploughed through the first week just the same. 

10 Downing had NOT prohibited public gatherings yet at this point, even if Broadway had already gone dark. The news was creeping in and so was our collective anxiety and worry. So we braced ourselves, but like true showbiz troupers, we still did our thing. I remember on the last show of the first week, during the bows and seeing everyone standing on their feet, all really happy that they came to the show despite the looming threat of the pandemic, I got surprisingly emotional. I felt it was going to be one of our lasts bows together.

True enough, over the weekend, we got word that SOLT and UKT had officially announced the closure of theatres, and it meant that we had already bowed our last bow the Saturday prior to the announcement. It was surreal and really bittersweet. Despite the warnings to keep a distance, we felt compelled to give each other hugs when we could while clearing our dressing rooms. It was a special show, with a gorgeous company from all over the world. But the rush and panic to get home (wherever in the world that might be for our company), delayed us from really being able to let it all sink in and grieve.

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing?

To be completely honest, I was a slow crawler. When the lockdown/quarantine was announced for the first week my mind and body intuitively went into “Holiday” mode. Sleeping in, waking up late, mindless Social Media scrolling, Netflix, cook, bake eat, and repeat. Just didn’t find any motivation to do anything. I realized that I was going through some depression- a valid feeling after prematurely going out of work, and not knowing what the future holds. I kept asking all these questions that were so overwhelming- “When will this end?”, “What is my next job going to be?”, “Will I have to change careers?”, “What if I get the virus?”, “Will the West End ever open again?”. It’s easy to get into a rabbit hole of anxiety, fear and panic. But none of those were questions I could answer myself. 

So I stopped asking them and focused on everything I could control - I focused on my routine. I’ve been meditating a lot, just silencing the noise and the being more aware of my consciousness. It’s when I decided to stop worrying that these little opportunities started popping up - A load of self-tapes for auditions, online duets/singing, watching all these gorgeous live streams of the National Theatre, Chichester Festival, and Musicals and shows I otherwise would have missed. 

Surprisingly, a simple daily routine has built up in me a massive cistern of hope. I may not know when this lockdown is going to end, but I know I can look forward to the sun rising tomorrow, and I can go back to my constant routine. And it turns out, this routine is helping me progress on learning the ukulele, working on my handstand, get some reading in, learning a new songs for rep. I’m mainly using this time to get and stay inspired. It’s working so far. 

Whenever you log onto social media there is so much negativity circulating. How have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times? 

I’ve had to deactivate my Facebook for a while and go “Dark” (or Red) on Instagram. I found that Facebook sucks me into this cycle of idly scrolling feeds. I’m least productive there. As for my Instagram, my account still exists, but I’m trying not to post anything until this whole thing is over. I’ve posted a Red square and story for every single day we’re still on a lockdown. Like a prison-tally so to speak LOL. But I keep tabs on everything on Twitter. I’m not by any means saying that’s how everyone should do it, I just find that I need to monitor my own Social Media diet, as too much access to information makes me extremely idle and unproductive. It also contributes to so much mental and emotional noise making me ask questions I can’t answer for myself. Going off the grid albeit every so lightly and temporarily, gives me some sort of control and focus. It also has really helped me stay positive, productive and creative.

Ironically, my Social Media “Distancing” has led me to interact with the people who really matter the most. Less likes, less comments, less status updates and more face time, more DMs, more private messages and more personal calls. 

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

Definitely! If anything this shutdown has really exposed how important and relevant the Arts are to our daily lives. We’re reading books, watching shows, films, live streams of concerts and plays, painting, playing music, baking, cooking, singing, the list is endless! I’d go on a limb and say that apart from food, it’s the Arts that are helping us all survive. It’s connecting us, it’s comforting us, and it’s healing us. 

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers? 

Loads! We’re glued to our screens every Thursday for the National At-Home streaming- One Man Two Guvnors, and Jane Eyre are must-sees! My wife and I just watched the Chichester Festival stream of Flowers for Mrs Harris, it’s a gorgeous new musical based on a book and is performed so lovingly. I was bawling my eyes out in the end. Phoebe Waller Bridges’ Fleabag on the West End is also another favourite of ours. 

My wife and I are True-Crime Doc fanatics- so we’re completely obsessed with Netflix’ Tiger King, The Staircase, Making a Murderer, The Confession Tapes, and The Keepers. That will keep people up at night. 

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?! 

I haven’t been invited to an online quiz night just yet (hint hint). But we’ve been Zooming a lot with friends and family! Virtual hangouts and catch-ups with some of our friends here in the UK and overseas. What I have done a lot of recently are these singing videos with friends or with strangers. There’s something rather satisfying getting included in a grid of heads all singing a song. After I finish reading my novel and maybe learning more songs on the Ukelele, only then will I consider TikTok!

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over? 

Sitting less than 1 inch apart, next to a complete stranger, in a packed London Theatre and together getting blown away by an amazing show.

We'd like to thank Joaquin and all other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature.

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

Other useful links for anyone needing further help:

Acting For Others - Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need.
Help Musicians - An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need.
Industry Minds - Mental Health Support for the creative arts.
Theatre Helpline - a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.
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