Most people have seen a beauty pageant or two on TV or in person and have wondered how the judges make their decisions. Now, the audience can participate: At ACT Theatre, A Sensible Theatre Company is presenting Pageant, which places male drag centerstage in the Miss Glamouresse Beauty Pageant.
One Glamouresse contestant is Miss Industrial Northeast, played by Christian Jay Quinto. “Miss Industrial Northeast has immigrant parents and she’s not ashamed of her culture and the community that she grew up in,” Quinto said. “She taught me to embrace and celebrate all of the things that make me unique, especially being a person of color in a white-dominated industry.”
Quinto was excited to audition for Pageant because of A Sensible Theatre Company’s mission. “I strongly believe in their mission of producing shows that focuses ‘exclusively on furthering the LGBTQIA+ conversation of inclusivity and equality,’” he said. “Also, any excuse to be able to wear heels on stage, count me in!”
Singing and performing has been a part of Quinto’s life since his childhood in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. “The thing that I looked forward to every year was the ‘Zarzuela,’ which is a form of a play where the lines are sung,” Quinto said. “It’s usually in Ilokano, Tagalog or Spanish. I remember being in awe with the magic happening on stage, the lights, the sets and the talented actors.”
At first, Quinto’s training was informal. “I have been singing my whole life,” he said. “At a very young age, my mother taught me how to sing using our karaoke machine at home.”
Then in high school, things changed for Quinto. “Mr. Lawrence Wayman, my acting teacher at Farrington High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, encouraged me to audition for the spring musical at Kaimuki High School,” he said. “To my surprise, I was cast as an ensemble member. I caught the theatre bug after that and performed in community theatres and theatre summer camps.”
So Quinto decided to pursue more dedicated training. “I’ve made multiple self-discoveries during my training at Cornish College of the Arts,” he said, “but the most valuable discovery was my mission statement as an artist: I aim to diversify stories portrayed on stage and screen, especially Filipino-American representation and visibility.”
Pursuing this goal is not always easy. “The biggest challenge that I’m facing right now is managing my time between rehearsals, shows, muggle job and self-care,” Quinto said. “I found that having a consistent sleeping schedule and waking up early has helped a lot.”
Quinto also finds balance between discipline and relaxation. “I have my journal with me at all times to write down important stuff and check off my to-do list,” he said. “When I’m feeling down, I order in chicken cutlet with Japanese curry, which is my comfort food. It just warms my soul.”
When Quinto needs fortification, he also turns to his primary role model. “I worship Lea Salonga,” he said. “She’s my number one idol!”
He seeks out her work. “I always watch her Miss Saigon audition video on Youtube when I need to be inspired,” he said. “Her talent, humility and selflessness are admirable. Also her vocal quality is impeccable! Her voice hasn’t changed a bit from singing “A Whole New World” in Aladdin to ‘The Human Heart’ in Once On This Island! Vocal health goals, indeed!”
But Quinto also finds that sharing the art of musical theatre makes his challenges worthwhile. “I just finished a four-month tour with The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theatre,” he said. “We toured around the Pacific Northwest schools and performed an hour-long musical written by a local playwright and composer. I was very lucky and humbled to have performed for and inspired countless Asian kids all throughout Washington and Oregon.”
Once Pageant closes, Quinto expects to continue his focus on performing for youth. “On July 9th, I will be flying back home to Hawaii to start rehearsals for the world premiere of an original musical, Filipino Folktales and Fables, with Honolulu Theatre for Youth.”
But he won’t be away for long. “I’ll stay in Seattle and keep building my resume here,” he said. “I admire Seattle’s API theatre community because it’s so tight-knit. There’s a large Filipino community here in Washington, but there’s not a lot of Filipino actors. I want to stay here and represent my fellow Filipinos whether it be on stage or screen.”
Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Competition runs from June 15 to July 8 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, Seattle.