Alexis Arredondo has a lot on her mind: six classes, daily speech and debate practices, an upcoming One-Acts play, a string of competitions this semester, and lines on top of lines that she recites in her head when she wakes up, showers, puts on her makeup, and even when she’s on break. But unlike most energy drink-fueled college students, Arredondo looks as though she’s had a full eight hours of sleep.
If there’s one thing a performing arts academy has taught her in the past, it’s how to be disciplined. Yet speaking to Arredondo, she seems more laid back than stern.
“The sloth is my spirit animal,” Arredondo said. She paused and thought about it, then added, “Well, I’d want to be more like a sloth.”
Like the sloth, Arredondo described herself as “quiet and calm,” but she told her friends that this semester would be different.
“I’m going to be crazier, and louder,” Arredondo said. “And if [my friends] notice I’m a little angrier this semester, it’s because of all these classes.”
With six courses, perhaps her way of taming tension is through vocal outbursts. On a Thursday afternoon, however, Arredondo was calm and cheery, smiling from ear to ear, far removed from the angst-filled demeanor she thought she’d have by now.
She had a lot to smile about. Her birthday just recently passed and she had made memories all weekend with friends and family. But before that, the now 23-year-old took 1st place in Senior Dramatic Performance at the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association’s Fall Championships.
The competition took place on Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at Mt. San Antonio College, where PCC’s Forensic Team (which is the proper and fancy way of saying speech and debate) yielded high ranks against 43 other colleges, including powerhouse universities like UCLA and USC. Her journey continues this Valentines Day weekend with another local competition in Cerritos.
Her start on the PCC Forensic Team began after volunteering at a speech and debate event for extra credit. She impressed speech instructor Allan Axibal-Cordero, who she claims is the “best teacher ever.”
“I can see through some of the speeches she gave that she had an interesting personality that has credibility,” Axibal-Coredo said. “People will find her riveting and likable just as I did.”
Arredondo had been on the team for just over a year, but she’s won her share of awards, including several first place awards in poetry and first place awards in dramatic interpretation in local competitions. At the annual state competition, she took gold, and on a national level, she’s placed as high as third in poetry.
“Working with her is great,” Axibal-Cordero said. “She’s funny, even-tempered, talented, and creative. Working with her is like collaboration. She understands the bigger picture and gets the work done.”
“I remember being impressed with her natural skill and instincts after watching her perform the first time in practice,” said Joshua Fleming, one of the directors of forensics at PCC. “She’s easy to work with, a great teammate, and a pleasure to have on our squad.”
Arredondo has always loved acting and has been in plays since she was 6. She became a more serious and disciplined performer after enrolling in the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 2011.
“We had to take six acting classes at a time, it was very strict,” she said. “We’d have class from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then practice from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and then we had lines to memorize.”
Yet despite that workload, confidence still doesn’t come easy for Arredondo. The butterflies are alive and kicking. She admitted she’s had moments during competitions where she constantly questioned herself, “what did I just get myself into?” or “what am I even doing here?” It’s those same questions she keeps asking herself in landmark moments of her life. She recalled the time she went on a backpacking trip to Europe with complete strangers.
“My parents dropped me off at the airport and I was like, ‘why are you doing this? Why are you letting me?’” she said. “But I had the best experience ever.”
Her Europe trip proved to be inspirational. An art history major, Arredondo’s ultimate goal is to work as an art curator in London. Consequently, she’s still experiencing some wanderlust as she is now making plans for more South American destinations like Costa Rica, which is where the Sloth Sanctuary is home to.
In her latest victory, Arredondo took on a dramatic interpretation piece – interp, as it is most commonly known as in the speech and debate world – by imitating a TED Talk as Maysoon Zayid, a Muslim stand-up comedian whose birth incident caused her to have cerebral palsy.
In dramatic interp, students can perform using inspiration from movies, plays, stories, or any other medium of their choosing. Then, they can drop their character to prove their point. The team’s coaches research different pieces and then hold castings in which they recommend certain pieces for each member.
In Arredondo’s piece, she assumes the role of Zayid in order to comment on society. In this case, her topic was about representation of the disabled community.
“I watched a lot of Zayid’s interviews, and she was funny, and really charismatic,” she said. “I basically tried to take characteristics from her and make them my own without copying her too much.”
It’s one thing to memorize lines, but to embody the character, Arredondo had to take on the constant shaking brought on by Zayid’s cerebral palsy. The secret to getting it down was to stiffen her arm as so that it would shake by itself. She would then communicate with the audience by moving her face to the side.
“When you’re up there and you’re talking in front of people, and you have to shake the whole time and have half your face look like it’s paralyzed, well, my arm hurts when I’m doing it,” Arredondo said. “It’s just practice.”
The Forensics team has a line of competitions fast approaching. After the competition in Cerritos, they’ll be competing at Spring Championships in Moorpark. About 3 weeks later, they’ll be competing against all of California in a state competition, and will finally end up in Cleveland, Ohio for nationals.
Each squad member can face multiple rounds of performances if they’re in more than one event. This coming April for nationals, Arredondo said she’s in three events and faces up to 12 performances if she keeps passing rounds.
So how can someone who still gets stage fright be so successful in a competition that demands authentic feeling, outstanding delivery, and stage presence?
Perhaps the need to win flows in her blood. Her mother attended Pasadena City College and was a successful cross-country runner. Her father, who she cites as the most inspirational role model, is a lawyer who’s been in practice for 30 years.
“He grew up in not so good circumstances,” Arredondo said. “He worked hard, went to UCLA, passed the board when he was 23 or 24, and became a successful lawyer. Everything he does is flawless.”
When it’s show time, Arredondo has a sure fired way to get herself out of a mental rut. She takes a moment to meditate.
“In my head, I always do this thing where I’m like, Beyoncé,” she said.