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Chantal Encalada ’20: A Passion for Theatre and Social Justice

chantal encalada head shot
Chantal Encalada ’20. Courtesy photo

Emerson Today is profiling recent graduates to hear about their time at the College and their plans for the future.

Hometown: North Bergen, New Jersey

Q: Tell me about your time at Emerson: major, extracurriculars, leadership roles, on-campus or off-campus jobs, internships, etc.

Encalada: I started out as a Theatre and Performance major, and then switched to become a Theatre Education and Performance major after realizing a desire to use theatre and film for social justice and youth education.

I saw this wish in action when I interned for the Boston Public Schools last fall. I assisted with the production of a bilingual PSA video discussing sexual misconduct and bias based behavior for their annual 24/7 Respect Week. I rehearsed with students to not only understand the policies behind these matters, but also engage in the dialogue as naturally and empathetically as possible. I recently learned that the project earned a Communicator Distinction Award by the National Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts in the educational video category, which thrilled the students!

I have also written for Raiz Magazine, as well as assist[ant] directed and then directed a production under their Theatre Department. I was a Resident Assistant for two and a half years, where I co-founded the annual Latinx Heritage Month Celebration. Another passion of mine while being an RA was consistently advocating for students of low-economic statuses and students of color — in providing feedback to the institution, in creating programs and workshops for these communities, in inspiring other RA’s and student leaders to do the same.

Apart from being an RA, I always worked one or two jobs on the side to afford my education at Emerson. I graduated as part of the Honors Program, completing a thesis on Mexican immigration in the U.S. during the 1950s, as well as a thesis on the racial and economic injustices found in educational reforms for urban public schools. During my final semester at [Emerson Los Angeles], I interned at the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, a non-profit organization advocating for the creativity and success of Latinx artists in media. Finally, I channeled my love for film by joining Delta Kappa Alpha, the cinematic society on campus. 

Q: What was your favorite class and why?

Encalada: My favorite class was definitely my sophomore year honors seminar on Philosophy and Ethics. It challenged my empathy and open-mindedness, not only as a person, but as an academic. I was surprised to notice so many parallels between this class and my acting class – trying to identify and understand and respect the deepest thought of a character/theory. The biggest resemblance between my acting training and philosophy class was realizing how many different techniques and theories there are, as well as realizing we don’t have to constrain ourselves to only one. 

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

Encalada: This is so hard! So many beautiful memories. If I had to pick one that I think about most often, I would have to say the opening of my devised, multimedia production. I directed a small cast of wonderful Latinx artists and explored our Latinx identity through devised theater. We incorporated movement/dance, poetry, music, video and projections — it felt like multiple worlds were colliding.

I experienced such harsh culture shock when I got to Emerson, and it took me two years before I was comfortable enough to share the sweet and sour parts of my identity with the Emerson community, and I didn’t have to do it alone. Regardless of anyone’s opinions, Evvy noms or no Evvy noms, my team and I created something with our purest hearts and the process is something I am proud of not only as an actor, a theatre maker, a director, and artist but as a Latina. Emphasizing trust in your cast and crew is SO ESSENTIAL, it makes art making smooth!

Q: What song or movie best encapsulates or most reminds you of your college years?

Encalada: “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners. I sang it almost every weekend during my freshman year.

Q: What are you most proud of?

Encalada: My empathy. 

Q: What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

Encalada: One of the hardest things I uncovered in the past four years was a sense of self-hatred and feeling like I could never be good enough. I embarked on a journey of self-love about two years ago, and in order to relieve myself from that negativity, I started by convincing myself that I was “just enough” for me, for the world. I think I became comfortable with being enough [so] that I sometimes doubt the possibility of being extraordinary. I want to grow a deep belief that I can be and am extraordinary.

As far as more tangible goals, I hope to start producing my podcast with my friend from high school. Our podcast will explore our Ecuadorian-North American identity, life, media, and all that sweet stuff.

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