Ely Sonny Orquiza (He/Him; We/Us) is a Queer Filipino multidisciplinary Actor, Director and Teaching Artist based in San Francisco, Bay Area. Through theater and performance art, Orquiza explores the role of the Asian American diaspora, ancestral ghosts, and the politics of Queer/ness for the American stage. He champions new works by Artists of Color, examines previously untold folklores, and advocates for undiscovered works highlighting multiethnic narratives.
He is a faculty member at the American Conservatory Theater’s Young Conservatory, a teaching artist for the two-time Obie Award Winning Magic Theater and StageBridge: A Senior Theatre Company, among others. Orquiza brings a combination of socially engaging arts education practices, commitment to diversity and representation, and limitless and bold imagination for the theatre on and off stage.
As a teaching artist he has facilitated the creation of new and developing works: Urban Elements: Stories from the Tenderloin, a collection of monologues written by formerly incarcerated people now living in SRO units in the Tenderloin and VYDC Family: Our Hopes, Our Dreams, Past and Future, a series of stories about home, displacement, identity and belonging devised by Vietnamese and Yemeni youth refugees; his recent work Faces of the Tenderloin is a community-based performance rooted in the heart of the Tenderloin neighborhood which premiered for Magic Theatre in partnership with TNDC.
In the summer of 2019, Orquiza will be in partnership with a Dutch theatre company Studio 52nd of Amsterdam, Netherlands devising theatre with local youth immigrant and refugee artists investigating institutional trauma, identity and belonging, and border politics in a production called ‘Otherwise’. At the same time — and in continuation of his residency with Magic Theater — he will be facilitating the development of new works with Vietnamese Youth Development Center shaping a response to tech dystopia and gentrification in the Tenderloin using the tools of theatre. Upcoming in late fall, he will be in collaboration with New Jersey based theatre company Breaking Walls as a guest artist to create sociopolitical theatre in Haiti.
While an undergraduate at the University of California Berkeley, Orquiza founded the Projector Room Ensemble (previously known as The Projector Room Play Readings Ensemble, hiatus). PRE is an experimental theatre initiative committed to the exposure of new and diverse voices onstage, all formative in his artistic and creative praxis. The company produced an in- house staged reading of Trade by Mark O’Halloran, which will have its U.S. American Premiere in the Spring of 2019 produced by the longest-running queer theatre in the world, Theatre Rhinoceros, to be directed by himself.
His directing credits include an upcoming world premier of Bummer and Lazarus: A Dog Musical by Rob Broadhurst at FOGG Playhouse, “Just As It Is Today” by Tom Bruett for Best of PlayGround 23, “Bound 4 Heaven” by Drew Stephens and Emmanuel Romero in the production of Queer As F*ck for the National Queer Arts Festival at Bindlestiff Studio, and a musical parody Predator Block Tango by Lauren MacKenzie and Stacie Sells (runner-up in ShortLived Finals 2018), among others. He uses a combination of sociopolitical twists tying in color conscious casting in his artistic visions, radical movement and choreography, and provocation. He believes in the power of theatre to start a revolution.
When away from all the theatrics of the stage, Ely can be found learning — and whining about —new boardgames at board game cafés, lounging at home or cooking up in the kitchen trying to recreate the authentic tropical taste of his homeland by memory. He spends a good chunk of his time visiting local museums and art galleries, traveling, developing himself and dreaming.
Orquiza has been in various work at the African-American Shakespeare Company, American Conservatory Theater, Bindlestiff Studio, Cal Performances, California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes), Campo Santo, Crowded Fire Theatre, Custom Made Theatre Co., Magic Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, PianoFight, PlayGround, Playwright’s Foundation, Playwright’s Center of San Francisco, San Francisco Opera and Theatre Rhinoceros.
He is an Affiliate Artist and an Immigrant Artist Mentor for the New York Foundations for the Arts.
He hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater and Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley