Writer, Solo Performance Artist
photo by Ivy Yung
photo by Ivy Yung
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art."
César Cadabes is a Queer Filipino-American writer and solo performance artist/activist who has presented his work for the Resilience Archives’ Performing Visible Resilience; Coming to America in May 2017 and Anal Sex in May 2018. He introduced his solo work-in-progress #Resist, directed by Kat Evasco, at Bindlestiff Studio’s 2018 production of Queer as Fuck. #Resist was selected to be performed at the 2018 APAture Performing Arts Showcase, an annual multidisciplinary arts festival celebrating emerging Asian and Pacific Islander artists in San Francisco. César was a recipient of an Individual Artist Commission grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2020 to expand #Resist into full-length solo performance.
The piece, now retitled Not My First Pandemic, was workshopped in June 2021 in San Francisco and in November 2021, Not My First Pandemic became an official selection at the United Solo Festival at Theater Row in New York City where it received the Best One-Man Show Award and the All About Solo Critics' Award. In September 2022, César presented Not My First Pandemic, his first full-length solo show, as part of the inaugural With You Festival at the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco.
César was a 2021 and 2022 artist-in-residence at the Queer Cultural Center. In addition to his solo performance work, Cesar is currently the Artistic Director of GAPA Theatre, mentoring an intergenerational collective of Queer Asian and Pacific Islander performers and storytellers. He has produced GAPA Theatre’s work at Bindlestiff Studio, Asian Art Museum and the Legion of Honor Museum. César also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District.
César received his second individual artist grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2022 for his newest project, tentatively titled, Decolonizing My(Self), to be presented in 2023.
“I came to the show fully prepared to experience the weight of the two pandemics stacked together, but instead, César took us on a deeply personal, intimate, and hilarious journey, after which part of that weight felt lifted. I appreciated how the layered storytelling led us to find joy and resilience in dark and unlikely places.”
-Yilong Liu, Playwright
“In Not My First Pandemic, César Cadabes generously shares his history as an Asian Pacific Islander HIV positive gay man, of coming out and coming of age at the height of the AIDS epidemic and continuing to live through it. It is a deeply touching, deeply political history of family, love, loss, fear and joy, that invites us to look honestly at the interconnections between police brutality and struggles for racial, gender, sexual and health justice.
-Karen Stenberg, Founder, The Possibility Practice
"Not my First Pandemic was a riveting and touching performance, regarding the ways in which our personal histories and our collective social movements become intertwined. I was inspired and moved to see the pictures and memories of our HIV activist colleagues showcased in Cesar's story. By comparing HIV to the current pandemic, Cesar shines a light on the similarities and differences of pandemics caused by an unknown, lethal and stigmatized virus. Cesar exemplifies the epitome of community-based, social justice activism by reminding us that the personal is always political."
~Sameena Azhar, Assistant Professor, Fordham University