There’s a new play opening in the theater scene later this week! Brought to us by the theater group The Sandbox Collective, Dani Girl is a story about a nine-year-old with leukemia. While undergoing chemotherapy and spending days in the hospital with other patients, she goes on an imaginative journey with her friends to find her hair and to answer the question, “Why is cancer?”

With the premise already so emotionally laden, we wondered about how the actors dealt with the process of breaking down their stories for their performances. Here, we talk to them about the stories that inspired their own portrayals of the characters, as well as their own personal recommendations.

In this entry, we receive recommendations from the actresses who play Dani, and ask them about what stories helped them tell hers.

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Mitzie Lao, 21: I play the role of Danica Lyons, a nine year old girl who is battling with leukemia. She loses her hair because of chemo. Despite the fact that it went back after three years in remission, she does not let this get in her way. She is such a character! Dani will thrill you with her extreme imagination and she is very precocious. She would make you smile, laugh and cry. Most of all, Dani will make you wonder about the reality we call “life.”

What stories (movies, literature, books, quotes, photos, anything) helped you prepare for your role? What inspired you?
I watched a lot of movies that touches on cancer like A Walk To Remember and My Sister’s Keeper. I also had to watched Star Wars and Star Trek to keep up with Dani’s imagination. I personally read the book Dying To Be Me, foreword by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It is a book about Anita Moorjani’s real life experience with cancer.

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There are three quotes that helped me prepare for this role. One is from the book and it says… “I knew that was really the only purpose of life: to be our self, live our truth, and be the love that we are.” Second is from Sarah Dessen and it says “I just think that some things are meant to be broken. Imperfect. Chaotic. It’s the universe’s way of providing contrast, you know? There has to be a few holes in the road. It’s how life is.” And the last is from Dani Girl, “… but you’ll find hope lives anywhere, beneath the grief and despair.” Coming from a family who dealt with losing loved ones from cancer, I was inspired to play this role. Talking about the big C is a very sensitive issue and Dani Girl, I believe is a perfect avenue for awareness and enlightenment.

If Dani had a favorite book, what would it be? Why?
If my character had a favorite book I think it would be Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Conner. I think that Dani and Nancy’s personality are very much alike. They both are full of wit and exuberance.

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Name us one of your own favorite titles.
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins is a series of 16 novels which deals with Christian dispensationalism. It touches on the seven years of tribulation. It talks about how life is and would be after the second coming of Christ. I would recommend this to everyone! It speaks a lot to ones consciousness and real being. It touches on faith most importantly. I just believe that existing and living are two different things. Existing meaning just simply being on earth, breathing. Living on the other hand is breathing with a purpose. After reading this book, I came to question myself: Do I want to just exist in this world or live?

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Rebecca Coates, 16: Dani went through leukemia, went into remission, and now at 9, her leukemia has returned. So she decides to go on this imaginary adventure to get back her hair and answer the question: Why is cancer? Dani is full of imagination, and she’s strong. She’s such a fighter, and it’s so much fun to play a tough girl who’s also really caring on the inside. I think a lot of people are gonna be able to find themselves in Dani, like I have.

What stories helped you prepare for your role? What inspired you?
Our directer Toff encouraged all of us to get into literature, and so I’m getting through This Star Won’t Go Out, the story of Esther Earl, who inspired The Fault in Our Stars. Probably what’s inspired me most was our visit to Child Haus, which is a halfway home for children going through chemotherapy. We’ve also had some cancer survivors come to rehearsal and share their stories, and it’s the most amazing thing to witness their faith amidst trials, strength, and positivity firsthand. So I’d definitely say it’s the people I’m meeting who are inspiring me most.

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If your character had a favourite book, what would it be? Why?
I can imagine Dani reading all the Tracy Beaker books (I read them 3 times), because Tracy Beaker is so spunky and fun like her. I think she’d also like the Nancy Drew books since they’re exciting, and I’d imagine Dani is the type of kid who’d never sit still (talking from experience here). She’d probably have a lot of pop up books. I had this monster pop up book once that I never wanted to put down.

What was the book that changed your life?
The Bible. 🙂 Saving My First Kiss, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

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We say it all the time: stories inspire other stories. And this is true not only for books, but also for other mediums – books inspire movies, plays, characters, poetry and vice versa. We are excited to see Dani’s story unfold before us, and perhaps to be touched and shed a tear (or more?) in the process.

Dani Girl will run from July 11 to 27, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati City. There are scheduled matinees especially for students, and live art performances will also be held before the shows. For complete information and to find out how to get tickets, visit http://thesandboxcollective.com/shows/dani-girl/ or https://www.facebook.com/TheSandboxCollective.

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