A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


The art of acting

Riese Ili learns to embody a different life through his craft
Anthony Solorzano
Illustration by Anthony Solorzano

An actor’s job is to embody someone else with words on a script to inspire their choices. Acting is about creating a character based on assumptions that a performer makes, inspired by the characteristics that are revealed through dialogue and action.

When political science and film major sophomore Riese Ili, 19, had to become a cynical killer in a stage adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” he made sure not to cross any boundaries while making these assumptions. “I’m lucky that I watch a lot of ‘Criminal Minds,’” Ili said. “So I [get to] see how psychotic people are.”

In Mt. SAC’s theater department production of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Ili played a man who is haunted by the ghosts of the family members he murdered. In his research, Ili tapped into a side of his morality compass that allowed him to become a deranged maniac.

Performing has been a part of Ili’s life since he was a kid. His initial plan was to become a lawyer and perform in front of a jury. Growing up in a Filipino household, Ili said he was forced to perform at a very young age, “It’s karaoke night every day.”

During Ili’s process, the development of a character started from the moment the script was in hand and continued until the end of the show. “The first thing I usually do when I get a script, especially one as bizarre as that one,” Ili said. “I like to write down all of the ideas I have and then throw them out because those are usually what everyone else is thinking. Those are probably the most basic choices.”

On each evening of a theatrical production, performances may vary due to the diverse elements at play. The nuance and subtleties of a character can be shaped by the actor’s personal emotions, the audience and the remaining cast. In one of his performances, Ili capped the murder of his uncle by telling the dead body, “Goodnight,” a line that was not in the script.

The addition of a single word added a new sensation to his diabolical act of murder. Ad-libbing a single line gave a new breath of life into the character and broke the repetitiveness. The character’s madness is instantly magnified by the delivery of a single word that adds cynicism to the performance.

“It just felt right in the moment,” Ili said.

Becoming the character took time for Ili. Before going on stage, he took a moment to convince himself he was going through a psychotic breakdown that led to the murder of his uncle. Ili closed his eyes, used his research to talk himself into madness and thus his character was born out of darkness.

Summoning a psychotic breakdown during every performance can be exhausting and can cause an actor to unravel their inner demons by embodying someone else. Thankfully for Ili, the friendship he developed with the cast helped him ground himself in reality after every performance. “After screaming my heart out, and then you get to see (the cast) after, they’re friends first,” Ili said.

His presence on stage is magnetic. Ili captivates the attention of the audience through subtle choices that make you wonder if it is Ili on stage acting or is it Ili being himself.

Ili has been acting on stage for nearly a year but his aura and stage presence when performing displays the hard work that he puts into his craft. When he is on the stage, the year of experience feels like a moot point and only highlights his spectacular performances.

Ili recently signed with an agency and is motivated to make acting a priority. He’s even dropping the political science part of his major. “I’ve known [acting] for years,” Ili said. “I’ve been doing it for years, I might as well commit to it.”

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