Theatre Corner

FULL EPISODE

Faith Nibbe & Viviana Peji

Meet up-and-coming gifted performer Faithe Nibbe and Director and Lyricist Viviana Peji. Nibbe discusses the focus and energy it takes to balance her interests and talents, and her recent achievement of signing with NBCUniversal at such an incredibly young age. Peji joins us from San Diego, where she shares some of her experiences as both a young actor, and now an instructor and educator.

AIRED: December 30, 2021 | 0:26:46
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Thank you.

Michael Taylor: Hi, welcome to "Theatre Corner."

I'm your host, Michael Taylor.

As a lifelong theater enthusiast and a board member for one of

the top theaters in the country, I've seen firsthand the positive

effects that diversity and inclusion can have on

the stage and the theater seats.

This interview series was created to share my passion

for theater and promote diverse voices throughout

the national theater scene.

We sit down with some of the top professionals in the

entertainment industry to discuss training,

careers, advice for young actors, and how to

make theater matter to more people.

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Michael: We all know what it's like having

a jam-packed schedule.

It can be extremely overwhelming, yet Faith Nibbe

is just 15 years old and probably has a schedule more

grueling than most adults you know.

She shares with us how she balances the business with

school and her favorite homework hack with her sisters.

So, silence your cell phones, folks.

You're entering "Theatre Corner."

Faith Nibbe: This is the story of the creepy cat.

Don't turn out the lights.

It all started one rainy night when Catherine heard a

scratching at her window.

She peeked out to see a coal-gray cat with yellow eyes

sitting on her second-story windowpane.

"How'd you get all the way up here," she thought, as she

opened the window and took the cat in her arms.

As she dried the cat, she noticed a collar

that said "Ashes."

"Ashes, where's your owner?" Catherine asked.

The cat just looks back at her, almost like he was smiling.

Michael: Faith Nibbe, welcome to Theatre Corner.

Michael: Hi, thank you for having me.

Michael: You're 15 years old.

Faith: Yes.

Michael: And so, the natural question would be, how old were

you when you started this track of performance?

Faith: Yeah, I started performing when I was

four years old, and I started doing dance recitals,

and school plays, like that.

Michael: Is there a certain incident, or a certain

performance, or something that just kind of hit you over the

head and said, "Hey, I want to do this"?

Faith: Yeah, so I was four years old, and I wanted to

go see "Peter Pan" at the Civic Theater, where Cathy Rigby

was playing Peter Pan, and at the end of the show,

Cathy Rigby flies out into the audience and says

"Hello" to the audience.

And she came over, and she was flying, and she

gave me a high five.

And from that moment, I said, "I really want to do that.

I don't know how, I don't know where, I don't when.

I want to do that."

Michael: Wow, that's amazing.

Faith: Yeah.

Michael: And so, I understand you had an encounter

with her after that, actually.

Faith: Yes, I was dong "Joseph and the Technicolor

Dream Coat," and it was, I believe, opening night.

And we were doing the meet and greet, and then from the corner

of my eyes, I saw Cathy Rigby.

And I said, "Oh, wait a minute. Is that Peter Pan?"

And my mom said, "Yes, that's Peter Pan."

So, I ran over to her and gave her a big hug,

and I told her this story.

Michael: Wow, that's just amazing.

And so, you also do voiceover.

Faith: Yes, yes, so, my very first voiceover

anything started in South Park.

I was singing with a choir, and we were singing the song,

"Put It Down," basically telling Donald Trump to put

down his phone from tweeting on Twitter.

And that actually got nominated for an Emmy about a year later.

Michael: Congratulations.

Faith: Thank you.

Michael: You performed with a choir on that episode.

What was it like being in that space?

Faith: Everybody was very professional, but

we all had a great time.

We were telling jokes and stuff like that, but we were all very

focused, and we learned the song pretty fast, and they were

actually animating while we were singing the song.

So, they animated based off of our facial features.

So, there's a character that actually looks like me

in the choir that you see.

Michael: You also performed with a regular choir group.

Tell me about this choir group.

Faith: Yes, so I sing with Voices of Hope Children's Choir,

which is based out of a church, and we made it to "America's Got

Talent," and we made it to the semifinals.

And the quarter finals and the semifinals were

done in the Dolby Theater.

Michael: That had to be a pretty amazing experience.

I mean, you squeezed quite a bit into a short 15 years.

Faith: Oh, yes.

Michael: Congratulations, you were signed by NBC's Universal.

Faith: Yes.

Michael: And so, you're the host of the "Spine Chilling Stories."

Faith: Yes, I am.

Michael: That's really quite an exciting show, I mean,

I've watched a few episodes, and I followed your advice.

I didn't turn off the lights.

So, but tell me how that came about and tell me

about the show in general.

Faith: Yeah, so I came in to audition for a game show, and I

thought just gonna audition for a game show.

If I don't get it, that's all right.

And then the same director from the game show emailed my

mom and said, "Hey, I actually have another show I'd

like your daughter to audition for.

It's about scary stories.

And scary stories are scary, and I was iffy on auditioning, but

my mom insisted that I audition, and I said, "All right."

So, I auditioned, and I eventually got it.

We did two seasons.

This is my second season doing "Spine Chilling Stories."

Michael: Wow.

Faith: Yeah, and I'm the narrator, so you'll see my face

from time to time, but it's mostly animated.

So, everything is original.

Everything is original animations, original stories,

and it's also very scary.

Michael: And so you're--again, to add to your

list of talents, so you're also a musician.

Faith: Yes.

Michael: Tell me about your musician career.

Faith: Yeah, so, I play the flute in the San Diego

Youth Symphony, and I am playing with a bunch of

other people who are my age.

This is my second year performing.

And because of the whole coronavirus pandemic--we were

actually going to put on a big end-of-the-year concert,

but then, that got canceled.

So, the concert is now, I believe, on the San Diego

Youth Symphony website or their YouTube channel, but

we did a really big performance.

And it was sad that we couldn't do it in person, but at least we

were still able to be together.

And I also realized that Zoom is not good

when it comes to playing instruments.

You can't hear anybody.

Michael: Wow, and so, how long have you been playing the flute?

Faith: I've been playing the flute since fifth grade.

So, that's five years.

Michael: You are sort of what some people would describe as an

old soul, and you're very comfortable, extremely

comfortable in front of the camera; I mean, some

of the most seasoned professionals get nervous.

How do you manage that, perhaps, you know, as you're getting

started and then, you know, before the nervousness goes

away, how do you approach that?

Faith: So, I do still get nervous when I'm in front of a

camera, but I know that I'm going to do the best I can.

I sometimes can't control what happens, so I just have to take

a deep breath and just move on, do the best that I can while I'm

there, and what happens, happens.

Michael: Very good.

You've also had an opportunity to meet countless actors,

celebrities; is there any particular encounter that

sort of sticks out in your mind more than any of the others?

Some that, you know, just kind of really captured you?

Faith: Yeah, I'm thinking of two right now.

Really, the work of Vanessa Williams and the work

of Debbie Allen is incredible.

I met Vanessa Williams at a concert.

And when we were talking, she told me one

thing that I'm going to keep forever.

And she said, "Life is not always going to go your way,

but that's all right.

You've just got to take a deep breath and do the best you can

while you are in your event, and then just move on.

What happens, happens.

Michael: Wow. And Debbie Allen?

Faith: Yeah, so her work is just incredible,

and she's such an icon.

She's really done it all. And she really likes excellence.

She really brings out the excellence in a person, and

that's what I felt when I was around her.

She loved excellence, and she could pull the excellence

from anybody she was around.

Michael: A lot of these opportunities that you have, as

a performer, are carried in Los Angeles and not San Diego.

How do you manage that, you know, going back and forth?

And, you know, also at school.

Faith: Mm-hm, so I am homeschooled.

I was taken out of public school to do "How the Grinch

Stole Christmas," actually, because I really wanted to focus

on the show; and doing school work and doing the show at the

same time, it's not--it's kind of hard.

So, I decided to move to homeschool, and I thought,

"Oh, you know what, this will just be a year thing.

I'll just go back to public school."

I loved it so much, I'm still in it right now.

So, I find it works a lot better in my lifestyle.

I have a much more flexible schedule.

I'm not confined to being in school for like

seven to nine hours.

So, I can do my school work basically whenever.

I can do it on the way to an audition in Los Angeles.

I could do it when I get home.

Sometimes I'm tired, but I can do it when I get home.

And on those car rides, my sisters, we all

like to do our homework.

Michael: How many auditions do you think you do every year?

Faith: Hm, over 100 a year.

Michael: Over 100?

Faith: Over 100 a year, I think.

Michael: Wow. Faith: Yeah.

Michael: That's quite a grueling schedule.

Faith: Yeah.

Michael: My goodness, my hat is off to you.

On behalf of the Old Globe, I want to thank you for performing

in "The Grinch Stole Christmas," our annual Christmas show,

been doing for over 20 years now.

Faith: Yeah.

Michael: And so, but you had a very special role.

Tell me about this.

Faith: Yes, so I played Cindy Lou Who's sister, Betty Lou Who,

and I was able to be with such an incredible cast.

I had such a great experience there, it's magical.

Everybody says, "Whoville is amazing."

And I think some people are thinking it's probably not all,

like, candy and rainbows, but it really is, it's amazing.

The professionalism is amazing, but we have a balance

between fun and professionalism.

And I find that it's amazing.

It's just, it's amazing, and I am so privileged that I was able

to be a part of such an amazing organization and cast.

Michael: Years from now, ten years from now, what do you

think would be like the ideal balance in terms of proportion

of perhaps doing--do you see yourself doing theater in

10, 20 years from now or mostly film?

Faith: Um, I think I'll probably be doing a little bit

more film when I'm older.

Of course, I would love to do some more theater, as well, and

I also see my--I'm interested in medicine, so I would also like

to become a doctor and maybe working with children,

so maybe going the pediatric route.

Michael: Not in a film. You're talking actual career.

Faith: Right, actual career.

Michael: What is it that's grabbing you

about the medical field?

Faith: I love that you're working with medicine and that

you're able to help kids or helping anybody.

And maybe while you're there, you could discover a new

cure to a disease or something.

So, that would be amazing--maybe even a cure to COVID-19,

if it's still around by then; I hope it isn't--but yeah.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, that's incredible.

What kind of advice would you give to--now that you have a

great deal of experience, what advice would you give to

a young actor that's just embarking on this same

journey that you've already started?

Faith: Yeah, I would tell them that they should embrace

their childhood, because it's really gonna go by like that.

It's gonna go by really fast. So, embrace being young.

Embrace not having to go through adult problems, like

paying bills and stuff like that.

Love that you're free to do whatever you want,

for the most part, and just love your childhood.

Michael: Right, and so, a child that may be, you know, on the

borderline, thinking, you know, "Should I pursue acting,

should I not," what would you say to that child?

Faith: I would say, if they really want to do it, and

they're ready to put the work in, and they're ready to

just be an actor, I'd say go ahead--of course,

if your parents are okay with it.

If they're not, then negotiate some things.

But I'd say if you're ready, and you feel like you're ready to

put in the work, you're ready to spend maybe a little bit of

extra money on some acting classes and stuff like that,

maybe getting some more advice from other professionals,

then go right ahead.

Michael: Can you imagine being only four years old

and knowing your passion?

Well, this is a story of Viviana Peji, a young actor

that has already made an impression in the theater

right here in San Diego.

She shares with us how she developed an early interest in

acting and dancing and how she dreams to be part of a huge

project within the next ten years.

So much to learn from a young and talented Viviana Peji.

Michael: Welcome to "Theatre Corner," so very

happy to have you here.

Viviana Peji: Thank you for having me.

This is truly a great space.

Michael: Fancy for the fancy. And so, you are a teenage actor.

Viviana: I am.

Michael: And when did you get bitten by the

bug of being an artist?

Viviana: Well, it started when I was really young at about

four years old, when my mom went to Zumba classes and she

would always take me with her.

And I guess that artistic spark kind of came up inside of me

when I started dancing, and then I started singing around in my

house, but I wasn't in my first real production until I was in

junior theater's "Mary Poppins" when I was about ten

years old, and then it kind of progressed, and

I started doing more theater.

But the turning point of my career was really The Old Globe

when I was in "The Grinch" for three years.

Michael: You are what we would call a triple threat.

Viviana: Thank you, I appreciate that.

Michael: You know, you're a talented actor, singer,

and dancer; where do you see yourself?

Kind of more in the theater space, kind of a Broadway

kind of career, or film?

Viviana: Well, I'm currently a high school student at

Coronado School of the Arts.

So, in the future, I definitely plan on going to college.

Ideally, I'd love to study in New York.

I recently traveled there in April, and there's just such an

electric feel to the city, and I really felt like I fit in there.

Ever since I was young, I really wanted to go on Broadway,

just like every other theater kid.

And that dream still lives inside of me, but now I've

really, really focused on, more on the backstage part of

theater, and I just got my first job as an

administrative assistant with Marai Performing Arts on this

site-specific tour that they're doing, and it feels really

nice to be sitting behind the table for once.

Michael: Right, right.

Viviana: And giving directions instead of taking them.

Yeah, I definitely feel like I fit in to both places.

So, the future definitely has a lot of

paths that I could go down.

Michael: What other special training have you had,

you know, during your career?

Viviana: Since I was super young, I've been taking voice

lessons and, of course, dancing lessons.

I've pretty much had a bunch of classes in all sort of genres of

dance like ballet, and hip hop, and jazz, and modern.

I've never had a specific acting coach.

It's always been my vocal coach kind of taking part of that side

and helping me with auditions, and that's part of the reason

why the La Jolla Playhouse Young Performers Conservatory was such

a life-changing experience for me, because I had never focused

so thoroughly on my acting before.

And now the methods that I'm using make me feel like, as

Jeffrey Ingman would like to put it, like I'm

telling the truth as an actor.

Michael: All right, it helps you become more of

a authentic character.

Viviana: Exactly.

Michael: You have your own approach to kind of reaching

that authenticity as a character, which involves

actually getting the actor out of the way.

The actor doesn't need to be in the room.

Do you have your own approach?

Viviana: I used to be very focused on myself when I

used--when I approached acting.

But now I feel like the most important thing, especially when

you're in a scene with someone else, is recognizing that the

actor that you're working with is infinitely fascinating and

more valuable than you are, and developing that trust, and

really experiencing them as a human being, and not just a

coworker, or another actor that you get to play with.

It's taking time and investing your own time into who they are.

Because even though I do try to separate myself from who I'm

playing, as a character, and who I am as an actor,

there always will be something in me that relates

to the character I'm playing.

So, trying to figure out what that is in your fellow actor

makes the scene and the project that much more interesting.

Michael: Who inspires you?

Viviana: Well, the--

Michael: As an artist, who inspires you?

Viviana: The list goes on, and on, and on, and on.

I have plenty of mentors and plenty of idols.

I would have to say Anne Hathaway is one of my biggest

idols, because she is a triple threat, as well, and she has not

only made it in the film industry, but in the theater

industry, as well, and I think that is so spectacular, because

they're both such--even though they both involve acting,

they're both such different industries.

And trying to merge your way between the two can be

confusing, especially for me when my--I'm kind of at the

point where I'm deciding, "Should I go into film, or

should I continue to pursue my journey in theater, and I think

it's people like that, that show me that you can do both, and the

possibilities of being an "artist" are limitless.

Michael: Right, right, right, when you performed at

The Old Globe, you had a special experience there.

Tell me about this experience.

Viviana: My special experience was the fact that I

got to be in three separate roles within three years, and

that within itself was, was just kind of--it gave me a different

sense of what I could do for the rest of the cast.

And when you're in a role, you're kind of stuck in it,

and you can't imagine yourself doing anything else because you

do your research, and you see the life of the

character that you're playing.

So, getting to play three different characters in one

musical was almost like I was staring at myself acting 'cause

I would be Betty Lou Who the first year, and then the next

year when I played Annie, I looked at the girl who

was playing Betty, and I almost, like,

saw myself in that costume.

Then when I got to Teen Who, it almost helped me connect

even more with the kids because I understand the

character in a lot of ways.

And so, it helped me just almost see myself in them even more so.

Michael: Was there someone famous that played

any of those characters?

Viviana: Yes, Vanessa Hudgens was the first Cindy Lou Who,

20-some years ago at The Old Globe when the Grinch had a

completely different costume, and the show had

a completely different director.

But yeah, it's a huge part of the heritage there, and

you see the history backstage every time you go.

You see the original drawings of the costumes and then, of

course, the iconic wall in the dressing room when you first get

fitted, and you see all of the names of every single

kid, who's played every single role, ever.

Michael: Oh, wow.

Viviana: And you see a little scribble below a line

that says Vanessa Hudgens.

Michael: Oh, and it's still there.

Viviana: Yeah, it's still there to this day, which is

amazing, and that's one of my favorite parts of The Old Globe.

It never loses its own identity, and it knows--

they know who they are.

Michael: Where do you see yourself as an

artist ten years from now?

Viviana: Oh, ten years is a long time.

I've barely worked ten years.

Michael: Certainly, but let's put it out in the universe.

After you've won an Oscar, ten years, where do

you see yourself as an artist?

Viviana: I see myself doing something on a major scale.

I see myself being the director of something, a producer of

something, but mainly I see myself striving to make a space

for other actors of color and helping other young actors who

may not have gotten opportunities with the world

that we currently live in, who will get opportunities in the

future to express themselves artistically because

of people like who I will hopefully grow up to be, who

makes space for them, and who makes sure that their voices are

seen and heard and experienced, just as much as any other

actor who is not of color.

Michael: You're actually Filipina, Mexican,

American actress.

How does that help you as an artist?

Does it inform your performance in any way, any particular way?

Viviana: Mm-hm, I definitely take a lot of

pride in my culture.

When you walk into those spaces, you see--a lot of the times you

don't see yourself represented.

Michael: There you go.

Viviana: So, bringing your own stories and experiences

helps representation for the people behind you and

diversifies the space, which is of the utmost

importance to me, personally.

And a lot of the times, I feel like I'm not Mexican enough, or

I'm not Filipino enough, especially when you grow up in

the U.S., but you are multi-ethnic, you have to be

more American than the Americans, you have to be more

Mexican than the Mexicans, and you have to be more Filipina

than the Filipinos, just to prove that you are who you are.

Michael: "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," a song by

the legendary Nina Simone.

She wrote that song for young folks like Faith and Viviana.

They are our future, and we have

an abundance of greatness to

look forward to.

I'm Michael Taylor, and thank you

for watching "Theater Corner."

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