This interview was originally published in TheFilAm.
I first met performance artist and activist Kilusan Bautista backstage at the Bowery Poetry Club several years ago. That night, he rapped and recited poetry about his family’s immigrant experience wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with sun-rays from the Philippine flag. The vibe was positive, educational, and the audience bobbed their heads in recognition. A performance like this is part of Bautista’s personal brand of hip hop theater, combining poetry, storytelling and martial arts to describe the history and identity politics of the Filipino community in America. His latest work is Universal Filipino, a solo theatrical piece which debuts in New York this weekend at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Although onstage, he radiates with bold lyrical energy, in person, Bautista is soft-spoken and reflective. I sat down with him to find out more about his background and artistic career.
JG: How would you describe Universal Filipino to someone who is coming to your work for the first time?
KB: Universal Filipino is a hip hop theater production which explores second-generation Filipino Americans growing up in the hip hop generation of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It explores a number of identity issues.
JG: Were the stories collected from your own or others’ experiences?
KB: It’s a combination of personal narratives of my life growing up, of specific influences, but there’s also a very imaginative part of it, which helps me with the storytelling, and the weaving of how it all connects together.