May Student Spotlight: Guillermo Ornelas

GuillermoGuillermo Ornelas is a second-year transfer student double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and Sociology. He is passionate about researching and sharing the experiences of people from marginalized identities. For his senior thesis, Guillermo is researching performances of masculinity in theater.

Guillermo Ornelas always wanted to attend UC Berkeley, primarily because of the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies’ offerings in both practice and performance studies. “My interest is in human behavior and studying the social aspect of theater so it is a perfect fit,” he says.  Now a transfer student in his second year on campus, Guillermo is double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and Sociology. “One of the most important things I’ve learned here at Berkeley is new ways of thinking about how we divide up our resources, and how some people end up being marginalized as a result,” he shares. “Because of my background and growing up as a child of undocumented parents, I already knew this in practice. But coming here to Berkeley gave me the vocabulary to start talking about my experiences as a person who has been marginalized—and that was very empowering for me.”

Earlier this semester, Guillermo had the opportunity to put words to his life story as part of Open Lab: Identity and Belonging. The original production, a senior project by TDPS student Juan Manuel Mendoza, drew upon students’ personal experiences to address such topics as mental health, sexual assault, immigration and LGBTQ issues. Listening to other students bare their souls during the developmental process, Guillermo worried that he did not have a valuable story to contribute. However, his worry soon vanished as Juan cultivated a community that validated everyone’s story. Guillermo reflects, “I was able to say ‘my story has importance.’ Maybe it didn’t have importance to anyone else, but to be able to say that to myself was very powerful.”

With new-found confidence in himself and the power of his own story, Guillermo hopes to research and write about the experiences of people from marginalized identities. He is especially interested in “interviewing trans folk, specifically people who want to be perceived as male,” he says. Influenced by Kristen Schilt’s research about how female to male trans* individuals are perceived in the workplace when they are seen as masculine, he’s curious about the performative element of presenting yourself as masculine. What is it that defines masculinity for each person?

For his senior thesis, Guillermo will research performances of masculinity in theater. “I think theater is a great place to begin looking at masculinity because everything is purposeful and, supposedly, has a clear objective. I think there is very conscious effort on the part of male performers to perform a masculine part in a masculine way,” he explains. Guillermo hopes to inform his research by observing rehearsal spaces and casting processes, as well as interviewing and observing actors and directors. Guillermo’s research will be guided by his chosen thesis advisors, TDPS faculty members Joe Goode and Angela Marino. Guillermo approached them for this role because “Joe Goode works in movement and one of his areas of interest is gender performance, so to have him help me and guide me next semester is going to be such a big asset. And Professor Marino does work in ethnography and uses it to support her theater research, and that is what I am attempting to do myself. So I feel like, having these 2 advisors, I’m using part of their strongest suits and I’m hoping it benefits me and my research.”

Guillermo’s research will also benefit from his participation this summer in The Center for Ethnography Research Summer Workshop, where he will work with graduate student researchers to learn how to do in-depth research, gather qualitative data, refine interview skills, and gather analytical data through observation.“I see my research as a form of activism in a way,” Guillermo says. “In the future I want to research the experiences of people from marginalized identities. I want to embrace things that aren’t known and share stories that aren’t heard.”


May 2015