Paloma Morales joined APTP when she was thirteen years old, four years and three plays ago. Audiences will remember her as the young Ahlam selling her treasured dolls to audience members in Home/Land, and as the young heroine who loses her childhood home in I Will Kiss These Walls. Paloma took a break from rehearsals to reflect on APTP’s new play, God’s Work, and her four years with the company.
APTP: Do you remember any first impressions of APTP from your earliest days?
PALOMA MORALES: I have been an APTP ensemble member for four years now, but I can still remember my first week at APTP perfectly. My first day I walked into APTP and was greeted by one of the directors, Rossana Rodríguez Sanchéz. She gave me a tour of APTP and introduced me to all the veteran company members that we ran into. I remember thinking, “Everyone is so happy and energetic.” Everyone’s hellos and smiles were so contagious, I couldn’t help but smile. I felt so welcomed.
APTP: This is a big commitment and a lot of work. What keeps you coming back? What makes it worth it?
PALOMA: I have grown such a deep passion and love for APTP that it would be impossible for me to leave. The fact that we do plays based on real-life stories is definitely one thing that keeps coming back. Each person that I have interviewed to collect stories for our plays has such a strong spirit and soul and a breathtaking story to tell. To be able to put their stories on stage is such an honor. The people in APTP also make it worth the work and effort. One thing that everyone can see in APTP is that we are all family. We grow such a strong bond and connection with one another that we can’t stay away from this one place we all feel like we belong.
APTP: Right now, you are rehearsing God’s Work. Why do you think this is an important story to tell?
PALOMA: God’s Work is different from the last couple of plays that I have done with APTP. God’s Work focuses on one person’s story instead of several story tellers. God’s Work also focuses on love and hatred all at the same time. In God’s Work we hear the story of a young girl living in a cold world of hatred, a world that somehow she was able to escape when she was very young. Although she can’t remember her escape, although it was only for a moment, and although her escape didn’t last that long, somehow she was able to preserve an amazing quality that she felt and experienced during her escape. This young girl, Rachel, was able to experience love. Even after she is forced back into the cold world, Rachel is able to be the light at the end of a dark tunnel because of the love she experienced when she was only a baby. God’s Work shows that love is one of the strongest things in the world and it can be felt in even the worst situations imaginable.
APTP: What role do you play, and what does your character mean to you?
PALOMA: I play Naomi in God’s Work. I am the third eldest out of 18 children. Naomi is very different from my past roles. In this role I am a protector. I help Rachel in any way that I can. I protect Rachel because I am able to see that Rachel is worth protecting. She has something inside her that should not be harmed, which is why the rest of us in the family consider her the lucky one. Naomi is special in my eyes because she acts out of love, even though she doesn’t know it. Naomi, just like the rest of the children in this world, is capable of loving even though she doesn’t really understand the emotion.
APTP: The story of God’s Work gets pretty brutal at times. What is it like rehearsing scenes of abuse and pain?
PALOMA: Rehearsing for God’s Work does get pretty hard at times. Trying to put real pain on stage requires a lot of work, and we want to make sure that the feelings on stage seem as genuine as possible, even though we didn’t experience them and we’re not actually going through them on stage. We feel safe doing a play like this at APTP because we are surrounded by so many loving people. Before rehearsals, after rehearsals, even during our breaks, everyone goes up to each other and we ask if we’re all feeling okay. We look out for one another, we play, we laugh, we have fun. We are sharing a story that deserves to be heard, which is another reason why I believe we don’t let the seriousness bring us down, because we know this story is going to affect people in the best way possible.
APTP: You performed at the Goodman last year in Home/Land. What’s it like performing on that stage?
PALOMA: I learned a lot about myself from performing at the Goodman in Home/Land. I was able to figure out what I can push myself to do. Performing on that stage gave me a lot of confidence and definitely a lot more nerve to push my limits and to set bigger goals for my self.
APTP: What are you looking forward to most about returning to the Goodman in April?
PALOMA: When we performed Home/Land at the Goodman we all became even closer as a family. After performing Home/Land we lost a lot of veterans who went off to college to continue their lives. This April, we are coming to the Goodman with a lot of new ensemble members. I can’t wait until we all become closer as a family. I also can’t wait to witness other ensemble members learn new things about themselves like I did, and I can’t wait for them to learn that they can definitely push themselves harder than they ever thought they could.
APTP: What else do you do with APTP besides rehearse and perform? What other activities do you participate in?
PALOMA: When APTP is not rehearsing or performing, we go on field trips to see theater and dance, or we have movie days at Maggie and David’s house (Maggie Popadiak and David Feiner, APTP’s associate director and producing director, have been married since 2012). We also go on breakfast, lunch, or dinner dates with them to catch up on personal issues, which is another reason why I believe we are all so close to one another. We also do activism around issues that matter to us, like immigration, education, and housing.
APTP: What are some of the ways being part of the APTP community has impacted your life?
PALOMA: APTP has shown me that everyone has a voice. They have shown me how much strength and courage one person can have. Ever since I joined APTP, not only have I been speaking up for myself, but I have been speaking up for those who might be afraid to speak for themselves. APTP has helped me find my voice, and I can proudly say that I will no longer stay quiet about situations that I know are inhumane or wrong.
APTP: You’re a junior, which means next year is your final year as an ensemble member. Any hopes or dreams for what you do with the company during your final year?
PALOMA: I remember when I was a freshman and Maggie kept saying about me, “Thank God we have three more years with her.” Time flew by so fast, and now I only have one year left. My hope is that I leave knowing everyone can take care of one another like a family. The main thing of APTP is that we are all family. I want to see a family continue to grow at APTP. And I want to leave APTP knowing that each and every single person in this theater company is confident in themselves just like I am right now. I want people to be able to recognize when their abilities are growing, I want them to feel confident when they stand and raise their voice. I want them to know APTP will always be their second home just like it always will be for me. I am truly grateful that I will forever be a part of APTP.