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Mapa, Alec (b. 1965)  
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Alec Mapa has enjoyed success as an actor and on the comedy circuit. He is also an activist for glbtq rights.

The son of immigrants from the Philippines, Mapa was born on July 10, 1965 and, as he told Chay Yew in a 2003 interview in The Advocate, "was originally named Alejandro after Alexander the Great, an ancient Macedonian homosexual with a penchant for world domination."

The conqueror's sexual orientation was clearly not uppermost in the minds of Mapa's parents, however; theirs was a conservative Catholic home in which Mapa learned at an early age that any behavior outside the was unacceptable.

At school he was taunted by other students but tried to win acceptance by playing the comedian. To cope with the pain of the situation, he began taking drugs.

Nevertheless, in high school Mapa found "a gay and lesbian support group" in the form of the drama club, which he "loved . . . because it was full of misfits."

Through his drama studies, he also met a teacher who recognized his ability and potential for success. The teacher issued Mapa an ultimatum that he stop "throwing it all away" through his drug use and poor academic performance.

"Her words yanked me off a ledge," wrote Mapa. He set his sights on college and, despite poor early grades in high school, managed to get accepted to New York University to prepare for a career in acting, a daunting challenge for any aspiring performer, but even more so for a member of an under-represented minority.

Mapa recalled that the only Asian-American actors that he had seen on television were Victor Sen Yung, portraying the ranch cook Hop Sing on the western series Bonanza, and George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on the cult hit Star Trek and who would, many years later, come out as a gay man and become an articulate spokesperson for glbtq rights.

Mapa's experience while in the university could have discouraged him. He had relatively few opportunities to appear in productions because of his ethnicity. Some people advised him that being open about his homosexuality could also hinder his career, but, as he recalled in a 2001 interview with Alonso Duralde of The Advocate, his response was "Why? I'm not going to get to read for all those really good roles they're writing for heterosexual Asian males under 5 foot 5?"

After his graduation from college, Mapa found work in stand-up comedy, opening for lesbian performer Lea DeLaria. "Gay comedy was in its infancy; there were so few gay comics," he told Loren King of the Provincetown Banner. "I was so freaked out, but Lea pushed me onstage and then she took me to P'town. It was like being thrown into the deep end of the pool. She was a great mentor to me."

Mapa continued to pursue acting opportunities and landed small parts in Alan Alda's A New Life and James Bridges' Bright Lights, Big City, both of which were released in 1988.

The same year Mapa made his Broadway début in David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly. His was a minor role, but he also understudied B. D. Wong, who starred as Song Liling, a male Chinese spy who poses as a woman and becomes the lover of a French diplomat.

Toward the end of the play's two-year run on Broadway, Mapa replaced Wong, and he continued in the role of Song Liling in a national tour of the play, earning excellent reviews for his performances. Patti Hartigan of the Boston Globe praised him for his understanding of the psyches of both Song Liling and his/her lover and for "displaying all the subtle nuances of the ideal female perceived by . . . [the lover] Gallimard."

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Alec Mapa in 2008. Photograph by Andrea James.
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