Before he was cast as Frankie in the Los Angeles premiere of George Takei’s Allegiance with the East West Players, Eymard Cabling’s journey to it was one that was truly a product of fortuitous happenstance mixed with hard work and dedication. Cabling spoke about the concept of “gaman,” which is a Japanese saying for perseverance. As a shy high school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, he was not one to jump at the opportunity to join the drama club.
“My Latin teacher encouraged me to audition my sophomore year, but I was not chosen for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Cabling said.
Despite that setback, he continued to get involved and eventually attended a performing arts intensive summer camp at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) his junior year. This culminated in an audition for the undergraduate musical theatre program; one of the top programs in the country. Although his parents preferred him to become an engineer, he was accepted into CMU, chose the arts, and never looked back.
“The running joke in my family is that I became an engineer anyway,” Cabling said about playing the role of The Engineer in a 2016 regional production of Miss Saigon.
Cabling explained that he’s spent most of his career on tour, including the international Asian tour of The King and I, and that he’s only recently settled down on the west coast to act in one region.
“I’ve followed Allegiance for seven years, but I willed it out of my bucket list because I didn’t think it was a musical that I would be cast in,” Cabling said. “My career is still a constant struggle. I have very Filipino features and either I’m not Asian enough or not ethnic enough, which affected my self-esteem.”
It was a chance to play Mitch Mahoney, the comfort counselor who is traditionally cast as African American, in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in Utah that reassured him that his looks were not a hinderance in his career.
“Any role can transcend ethnicity as long as it’s accurate, truthful, and honest,” Cabling said. He also took that mindset with him when – to his surprise – was called in for, then cast as the supporting lead of Frankie in Allegiance.
“The story is so much bigger than the color of my skin, and I am blessed to play this role,” Cabling elaborated.
As for the experience of being in the show he thought he’d never join, he said that it’s been great, but intense with strict off-book deadlines and full-runs of acts within the first week of rehearsal. He enjoys working with his show partner Elena Wang, and is in awe of the process working alongside the legend George Takei.
“Watching him (Takei) act in rehearsal is a master class all on its own because he silences the room with his voice. Everyone calls him Grandpa because of the stories he tells about his experiences,” Cabling said. “I’m still geeking out!”
Cabling reiterated “gaman” and hopes that other Asian American actors, and actors who are people of color, to keep looking for opportunities to perform and not to give up because there is a light at the end of the tunnel to that next job.
Allegiance ran on Broadway in 2016, and tickets are available now for its Los Angeles Premiere, which Cabling is in, that runs March 1 to April 1 at the JACCC’s Aratani Theatre.