Tasi Alabastro: An Actor Who Never Stops Creating
Chopsticks Alley Pinoy sat down with Tasi Alabastro to learn how he got into acting, about his passion for performing arts and what led him to bring his love for the arts to a platform like Twitch.
An impeccably positive energy radiates from Tasi Alabastro as he sits comfortably in his pink and green LED-lit room where he streams his gaming and interacts with his audience. Before we started the interview, we chatted briefly about Power Rangers after I complimented his shirt featuring the famous characters. As we dived into the interview, I got the chance to meet an actor who never stops creating art on stage.
Born and raised in American Samoa by Filipino parents, Alabastro’s journey to acting started later. Before he found acting, Alabastro dropped out of college and wondered what was important to “sustain his soul.” In 2003, Alabastro moved to Hawaii and took an acting class at a community college. “I just remember on day one that immediate sense of knowingness like ‘Oh! This is what I was supposed to be doing!’” He recalls his early days of acting by driving around town and reading monologues at a jazz club every Saturday night. “And ever since then, I’ve really tried to use everything I’ve learned to make some kind of social impact. Nothing too crazy or anything but just: how do I serve my community in a way that is meaningful?”
Over fifteen years later, Alabastro has moved to San Jose and hasn’t stopped impacting the community. He has appeared in many plays, including a starring role as Macbeth, and in films such as Yes, We’re Opened and Stuffed. In 2013, he also wrote, produced and directed the short film Just Like That, a story about two friends who answer the call on who will be there for each other.
Although he started acting in his mid-twenties, Alabastro isn’t stressed about coming into acting late. Asked if it ever did concern him, he said with a laugh, “Yeah, last week!” He explained, “I still think about it occasionally, but thinking ‘Did I come into this late?’ ‘Should I have started this late in life?’ was more prevalent with me [in my] early career. Now that I’ve gotten over a decade of experience, I can handle a lot more.”
He continued, “So while, yeah, it would’ve been kind of cool to experience this in my youth like younger days, teens or whatever, I realized that those years were also very informative in how, now, I approach roles or how I shade this character.”
His love for the stage has also led him to engage social issues. When I asked him how he blended acting with social justice, Alabastro didn’t hesitate.
Teaching led him to bring social justice into art. He first started working at a local theater company that no longer exists, San Jose Repertory Theater Company, and an outreach organization called Red Ladder Theater Company. At Red Ladder, they offered him a teaching position, which he was concerned about at first. “I think there was part of my brain that definitely was like, ‘You don’t have a degree. What gives you the right to teach?’”
But what motivated him was internal--a combination of “I have to prove to myself that this is exactly where I need to be” and “This is exactly the career that I want to be in.” Red Ladder aligned with his passion for creating impact in the community. This mission felt natural to adopt as he continued to learn more about himself as a person.
Eventually, Alabastro was able to use his skills in facilitating workshops with marginalized groups, including incarcerated men and women in state correctional facilities, children on the spectrum and homeless and runaway youth. He makes sure to carry his teaching experience and mentoring mindset into all his work, even if for a small impact.
When we started talking about role models, Alabastro admitted that he used to think role models had to be “someone who’s older than you and more established.” Now that he is older and more established, he realizes his role models “can come in different shapes and forms.” He chuckled and smiled shyly, “This sounds really weird, but I am my own role model.”
Although he sounded embarrassed, Alabastro was able to truly create a path for his dream by documenting his journey through vlogs on his YouTube channel. These records remind him of his own milestones, especially during times when he feels lost. “I can always look back at what I’ve noted for myself like ‘Oh, I achieved this’ or ‘I put myself on this track’ and that really helps me when I’m not able to find someone that I can bounce ideas with.”
Alabatro’s pride in his achievements is based on sticking to his core values. He tries not to compare himself to his peers because he believes that creating comparison is detrimental. He encourages creators to support one another instead of tearing each other down. “We’re on two different paths, hundred percent, but we got a similar goal. I would also say my contemporaries, folks my age, my skin tone, are doing it and paving this road. Us having this conversation even.”
When he is not acting or auditioning for roles, Alabastro hosts streaming events on Twitch under the name Kreenpananas, named after what sounds like “green bananas.” He plays games like Call Of Duty and Dungeons & Dragons as he build community with his audience. For him, being able to interact with his online audience is the satisfying part.
Thus, in the age of COVID, his livestreams have led him to produce various livestream events for art organizations including Chopsticks Alley, Hillsbarn Theatre and Bay Area Theatre Cypher. He has also collaborated with other streamers and co-founded a Twitch-based charity team called Playing With Fire, where they stream on the channel while raising money for non-profit organizations.
Alabatro has been recognized as a 2018 Silicon Valley Create’s Emerging Artist Laureate and received a Leigh Weimer’s Emerging Artist Award in 2019. When he received these awards, it was the perfect timing for a much-needed confidence boost, knowing that he deserves to be in the same space as many other artists. Alabatro doesn’t mind sharing that that year was his fifth time applying for the prestigious accolade, awarded only once a year. He remains grateful that he had the opportunity to engage with the process and stay true to himself, and can now advise others who are thinking about applying.
Some prefer to step away from the title “Emerging Artist,” but as he mentioned during his interview with Mercury News, Alabastro will always consider himself an emerging artist as he isn’t ready to rest when it comes to paving his own path as a creator.
Alabastro encourages everyone to try and “jump in” to the field of acting. However, if they are seriously considering becoming an actor, he advises, “Look into your local arts organizations first and see if they have any play readings. See if you can support them in that way. Because you’re also supporting new career writers with texts that haven't been worked on and need to be massaged. And you can be part of that.”
“Just do something in it,” He concluded. “Get in the pool. You’re gonna find like-minded people who are just as interested, as passionate, as curious as you’re going to be.”
So what’s next for Alabastro? “Vacation!” he said with a laugh. Although he never stops thinking about doing a new project, Alabastro cannot wait to “disconnect.” However, he is looking into taking voice acting classes to hone that side of his acting skill. "If anyone knows any voice acting work," he said as he suddenly deepened his voice like a movie narrator, "and you like these toss and turns, please! Hit me up!"
Whatever project Alabastro is creating, we cannot wait to see more from this incredible emerging artist.
Asela L. Kemper
Chopsticks Alley Pinoy Co-Editor
Asela holds a BFA in Creative Writing with a minor in Emerging Media & Digital Arts from Southern Oregon University. She holds many positions including poetry reader for Timberline Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Marías at Sampaguitas, Silk Club: QUIET!, Reclamation Mag and No Tender Fences. Asela uses her passion for creative writing to open conversations on diversity and identity in literature, engage and uplift underrepresented Asian American artists. She resides in Oregon, USA with her family.