Arts & Life, Features

CSULB student Eileen Hope Tran immerses herself in theater and embraces life amid challenging year

A few to-do lists hang loosely on the bulletin board in front of Eileen Hope Tran’s desk, all densely packed with reminders for upcoming assignments or moments to reflect on.

Between seven classes a week, serving as the marketing director for both Feminist Theatre Makers and the Student Association for Theatre Arts, holding a full-time job as a Residence Assistant and maintaining a 4.0 GPA for five semesters straight, Tran’s many reminders and to-dos make sense.

But amid a busy schedule and the coronavirus pandemic-altered way of life, Tran, a fourth-year theater arts major at Long Beach State, is staying motivated and positive.

Eileen Tran, a fourth-year theater arts major, maintains a busy schedule balancing positions to student organizations including Feminist Theatre Makers, Theater Threshold and
Eileen Hope Tran, a fourth-year theater arts major, maintains a busy schedule balancing positions to student organizations including Feminist Theatre Makers, Theater Threshold and Student Association for Theatre Arts. Photo courtesy of Eileen Hope Tran.

Her motto to “live everyday like it is your last” has pushed her to get out there and taught her how to deal with being alone in the past year.

“I can’t just be waiting for this whole thing to end because who knows when it is going to end,” Tran said. “I need to live and be happy now. So, I write down what I need to do every day and keep doing what I do.”

Acting is one of those things for Tran.

Her recent role for an advanced acting class as Sooze from “SubUrbia,” a 1996 film about teenagers coming of age, challenged Tran in unprecedented ways.

“It was very hard for me to get into the scene without developing the character’s physicality, such as how she holds herself or how she moves, in an online acting environment,” Tran said.

But exploring this character enabled Tran to “let go some fears and walls” that she had up and explore different parts of herself in acting. Even when Tran can only perform in front of a screen, the virtual format shielding her from other actors, she is still growing with the characters she takes on.

While she has always been drawn to acting, Tran was an athletic child, playing volleyball, track, cross country and basketball all the time. Now, acting is the “happiest thing in her life.”

Growing up in the Bay Area to a Vietnamese father and a Chinese mother, Tran grew up barely seeing any Asian actresses on screen. If she did, they would be a stereotype, but Tran wants to change this. She said she has moments where she thinks she is not going to make it because she doesn’t see people that look like her on the screen. Yet, Tran said the thought that ‘I have to’ has pushed her to keep going.

As the managing director at Theatre Threshold, Tran devotes a lot of time creating opportunities for students to create art and feel welcomed to be themselves in an inclusive environment. She often shares tips that help students seek acting resources and hosts Zoom sessions for students get to know each another. Tran creates opportunities, pre-recorded or live, through dancing or working on monologues for students to express themselves.

But during this time, Tran also had to cope with a break-up on her own. Yet Tran said it taught her to focus on what makes her happy and to spend more time with herself and her thoughts.

“As an extrovert, I wanted look for fulfillment or happiness in relationships with other people, but I realized it is more important to learn to build a relationship with oneself,” Tran said. “Covid had killed my relationship with another person but it has strengthened the relationship with myself.”

Her best friend, Grace Patterson, a fourth-year art and technology and communications major at Mills College, noticed that Tran is a healthier and happier person now after implementing many self-care routines.

“Eileen has been trying to spend less time on her phone and more time in the moment [and will] only commit to responsibilities that are fulfilling and rewarding for her,” Patterson said.

Tran’s emotional journey also led her to explore her love for theater fully, something she knew that was always there.

In the past year, Tran said that brainstorming with her theater team has deepened her connections with them and she feels a sense of being at home with them.

“It is easy for everything to fall apart because we are not used to virtual theater,” Tran said. “It is also really hard to maintain the drive for acting and losing the passion for it, but as a team, we motivate and listen to each other.”

Tran often checks in with everyone about how they feel individually, and she sends out meeting notes with supportive phrases, including “don’t be afraid to reach out.”

In the fall term, Tran and the Theatre Threshold team made podcasts as people were nervous about trying to make online content for the semester when classes were all remote for the first time.

“Despite us going through unforeseen times, Eileen’s work in theater is always full of passion and she motivates us all to still create art and pioneer the way for online theatre,” Marlene Guerrero, a fourth-year theater major who works with Tran in Theatre Threshold, said.

SATA Vice President Mattie Limas, a third-year theater performance major, also praised Tran.

“Even when she and I are up late finishing a project, her energy manages to make working on it feel fun and helps me forget it’s 12 a.m. and [we’re] running on four hours of sleep,” Limas said.

Longterm, Tran said she hopes to audition for more TV and films roles in Los Angeles.

But first, she’ll continue to embrace life.

“You only have one guaranteed life,” Tran said, encouraging everyone to live life without regret. “Just make the most of it.”

There was a correction made on March 12 at 7:25 a.m. to include the subject’s middle name in the headline as requested. There was an additional correction made at 3:37 p.m. to remove the name of the city the subject was born in for privacy concerns. 

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