We had the good fortune of connecting with Alex Manalo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alex, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I pursued an artistic/creative career because I couldn’t picture myself doing anything. I was painfully shy as a kid and my mom had taken me to see a show at the Benedum Theater. The show was Annie and I had the realization that the kid actors on stage were the same age as myself. I was immediately enrolled in a theater summer camp doing the same show and I fell in love with performing. I had trained at the Pittsburgh CLO Academy throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years and when it came to college I just continued my training at Point Park University. They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I don’t ever feel like I am “working” because I am pursuing gigs that all relate to the theater or acting/performing in some way. I love that I don’t have a monotonous lifestyle and that keeps my life interesting!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Halfway through my college career, I needed not one, but two vocal surgeries and that flipped my whole world upside down. I thought I would never perform again. I didn’t let that stop me from finishing my schooling and getting my degree. Postgrad, I was working at several restaurants in Pittsburgh and nannying, when one day I just put out into the universe that I want to do what I went to school for. Teaching artist positions and shows started falling in my lap and gave me the courage that I could be a freelance performer and choreographer. I quit the restaurants and left nannying to pursue my creative career. I was so thankful to have teaching to get me through the pandemic and now that things are opening up, I am looking forward to getting myself on the stage again and producing new works as well. I think the lesson here is that no matter what life throws at you, you have to pivot and be adaptable to continue to move forward.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ah, what a great question! I love Pittsburgh, so I would definitely start with what my friend was interested in doing because there are over 90 neighborhoods and so much to do/see. If they left it up to me, I would suggest things like going to see the Carnegie National Museum of History, the Pittsburgh Zoo, the breathtaking sights of the city on Mount Washington, and trying some delicious food at the restaurants that have started to overtake the city. I would also suggest seeing a show or two, if time allows because the theater in Pittsburgh is fabulous. Whether it is community theater or a touring show, there’s always something to see and enjoy for everyone.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to give a shout-out to all of my mentors who have helped to shape me to be the person I am today. My mom is my role model, first and foremost, because she came to America from the Philippines by herself when she was just 15. Then, Daina Griffith, because she was my acting coach all throughout high school. Rob James and Monteze Freeland are two directors/actors that I adore working with who have had nothing but faith in my work from the beginning of my choreographer career. Kristen Link, because she gave me my teaching artist start and ensure me that “I know more than I think I do.” Lastly, Don Mike Mendoza, because he has shown me what it takes to produce my own work and that there is Filipinx work all around us if we look in the right places. All of these people are wonderful and I’m sure I will only continue to add to this list as I grow older.

Instagram: @alexmanalo_

Facebook: facebook.com/amanalo

Image Credits
Danny Ahmed, Julie Kahlbaugh, and Alex Grubbs

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