When Paul Araujo’s character in Tatiana Suarez Pico’s LESSON 443, Manny, threatens to set everyone at his daughter’s school straight, she tells him it doesn’t matter. She sticks out like a sore thumb. The offending “thumb” is her accent. She’s ashamed of what makes her different. Manny doesn’t argue, not at first, he knows what sore means. He’s got his own pain and secrets. The deeply troubled and loving character of Manny has won over audiences and critics and that has a lot to do with Paul Araujo’s nuanced approach to the part in MOXIE Theatre’s production of LESSON 443. He shared his process and a lot about himself.
What attracted you to LESSON 443?
A great script with lots of depth and universal themes that can influence and be of impact to a wide variety of people. Also a script, a story and character that I knew would be a great challenge and would benefit me as an actor and person. Finally, working with an award winning Theatre company and a vibrant and talented cast and director!
What has been your greatest challenge in playing Manny?
Coming across as stern and strict while being a loving and caring father and being very specific with everything I say and do. I’m not a father, but Dani made it easy by always being present and staying in the moment. Also, revisiting old wounds and being reminded of my own past mistakes and guilt. Lastly, by making sacrifices in my own life to be able to participate in this production and being in a mind frame that I can do whatever I set myself to do.
Manny is a father who cares deeply for his daughter. Are there relationships in your life that helped you prepare for your on stage relationship with Cari played by Daniela Millan?
I relied on the script by writing down everything others in the play, the playwright and my own character say about myself — lots of character analysis and questioning. Thinking about my character constantly has also been helpful for my preparation. Lastly, I thought of my own father (even feeling like I sounded like him at times) and my brother, who is a father of 2 girls and 2 boys.
Whether people reading this have seen LESSON 443 or are about to see it before it closes Sunday, it will come as a surprise for them to learn that you’re an amputee. You’re also an advocate for people working with disabilities. Would you share with our readers how, if at all, your disability has been a challenge in your career? What would you say to other actors with a disability who are considering embarking on a professional career?
My disability has definitely been a challenge as an actor and person. As actors, our bodies are our instrument, which can affect the acting if there is pain or self-consciousness. I have learned to refocus my energy by thinking of the good things about myself and by embracing my disability and not letting it stop me from doing what I love to do. Theatre has been very therapeutic! And to other people with disabilities: embrace and celebrate your differences — we are all unique and that’s what makes the world an beautiful and interesting place!
Paul is also a musician, a member of the Amigos Del Rep and an advocate for people working with disabilities at Goodwill Industries. Catch Paul in LESSON 443 before it closes Sunday May 24th at MOXIE. Tickets available at http://www.moxietheatre.com/lessson443 or call 858-598-7620