Meet the cast: Kiara Feliciano plays Liz Morden in “Our Country’s Good”
Ambition, courage and toughness are traits that acting professor Kiara Feliciano has had to learn in her life, and Liz Morden, the character whom Feliciano plays on stage this spring in UH’s production of “Our Country’s Good,” has those exact traits and more. Feliciano sees a lot of herself when she plays Morden.
“Our Country’s Good” opens at 8 p.m. Friday at the Jose Quintero Theatre, and although Morden’s character isn’t in the original play, Feliciano is glad the character was added. She described Morden as a character who has been abused all her life and as someone who has been around all the wrong people. But because Morden is tough and ambitious, she is also able to handle herself well.
“She is the toughest female convict on the whole ship. Nobody likes to mess with her or talk with her. She is a really frightening person, and she’s a product of her past,” Feliciano said. “She’s a rough character, and the play is about transformations. Her transformation is really pivotal to the play.”
Through acting, Feliciano has gone through her own transformation.
“I’ve been acting since eighth grade. Since then, I’ve come up across different characters, people who don’t see the world in the way that I do,” Feliciano said. “Then playing them and getting to know them — characters like Liz Morden. I’m growing because I’m seeing the world in different aspects.”
Feliciano is in the Master of Fine Arts theater program at UH. The program consists of four semesters spread out into two years. But it’s not like a regular academic semester, during which there are long winter and summer breaks. Instead, MFA students are either rehearsing with their ensembles or acting with a professional theatre company. There is little to no down time.
“I’m here from 8:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. the next day. It’s rigorous. At the beginning, I hated it because it was so hard. Now I know what I can handle. It’s part of my stamina now,” Feliciano said. “I’m a bigger person now. I’m so grateful for what I have learned. It’s been a tremendous adventure. I’m excited to see what is out there for me now. It’s terrifying but exciting.”
Feliciano is in her final semester in the MFA program at the UH. This spring she will graduate, and after that she’s headed to Los Angeles where she hopes to start her career. But she admits that like Morden, she is scared.
“Liz Morden is someone that’s terrified, but she’s intelligent. She doesn’t speak as if she were, but she is the smartest person on that ship. Because she’s terrified, she’s violent,” Feliciano said. “Where I most connect with her is that she’s terrified.”
Early in her career, Feliciano met resistance when she tried to accomplish her dreams. Like Morden, Feliciano dealt with abuse from people she loved and trusted. She describes those memories as terrifying and similar to those of Morden’s.
“There are certain people in my life who have tried to completely crush me, even take a certain ownership of me and take advantage of whatever kindness I had,” Feliciano said. “And if I wanted to speak against it, it was almost like being a dog. I’d be punished for it in a away.”
Feliciano attributes all the good things in her life to her parents. After the abuse she went through, her parents pushed her to get back into what she wanted to do in her life. But there were always people trying to slow her down. In fact, there were people who told her to settle down and become a high school teacher.
“I knew that there was something even more that I had to offer. Something that couldn’t stay in just high schools. I had to go above and beyond that. That’s something Liz Morden will later find out in the play,” Feliciano said. “She’s going realize that there is so much more, and it really has to with the people that you surround yourself with. The ones who can see more from you.”
Teaching is part of the graduate program, and she admitted that teaching isn’t where she wants to end up. Feliciano said that in five years she’ll be winning an Oscar.
“More importantly, I just want to be really influential to people. I know that I am now being a teacher. I have colleagues, and we are constantly influencing people,” Feliciano said. “But I want to do it in a really good and powerful way, so I am hoping to be big in LA.”
Feliciano knows that with the right people, she can get anywhere she wants and has to tough it out.
“I’m an ambitious woman. I know what I want, and I got for it. It doesn’t mean that I am relentless, because I think that implies something else,” Feliciano said. “I have my morals and my boundaries in getting there. And I have the support of people around me to get there.”