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The skills and techniques actors use on stage and in film can also help non-actors become better lawyers and police officers, doctors and CEOs, athletes and parents.
That’s what Monika Mojica has discovered as an actor, director, and playwright, as a theatre teacher at New Mexico State University, as a trial consultant for Kastl Law P.C. Mojica is also the owner of Mo Bu Creative, a company that trains local first responders in crisis intervention and standardized patients who are part of the curriculum at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“My job is giving a voice to the voiceless,” said Mojica, who is also a wife and mother.
As a trial consultant, this means sitting down with victims of negligence and “unwrapping the narrative of their full trauma and suffering,” she said.
“They tell me their story,” Mojica said. “I ask what life was like before the traumatic event and what it’s been like after that. Although I have heard troubling challenges, I am humbled by their fortitude.”
Her training also helps attorneys with Krisi Kastl P.C., which has offices in Dallas and El Paso, to bring out the whole story in court in a way that helps their clients “recover their own resiliency,” she said.
Using a wide range of role-playing scenarios she has created in partnership with the Las Cruces Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. Mojica employs a group of actors – creating characters like “Headwound Harry” and “Man with Dementia” – to help train police cadets to successfully interact with individuals they deal with daily who may be struggling with mental or behavioral health issues, homelessness or domestic violence.
The skills she has honed as an actor and teacher are also valuable in all these roles “because acting is about being open,” Mojica said. “That lends itself to anything.”
For attorneys and police officers, who “are trained to be very factual,” she said, the more holistic theatre techniques that actors learn can help them to see “the whole being” of the person they are dealing with, to “open up to the experience and connect and more fully with the individual in crisis.
“You think differently,” she said, becoming more aware of assumptions, stereotypes and personal biases.”
“There’s something sacred when you’re privy to another human’s opening up,” Mojica said. “It’s an honor to hear that story. It’s a gift to be truly present with someone.”
For attorneys, first responders and for actors role playing with the police and with medical students, the training also focuses on ways to fully connect with the client, the person on the street, the student doctor while maintaining their emotional stability and “without letting their tragedy become ours,” Mojica said.
At the same type, actors must always be aware that their role playing “may save a life,” she said. “It’s beautifully fragile.”
“Monika puts her whole heart into everything she commits to,” said NMSU Theatre Arts Department Head Wil Kilroy. “Her ability to work with a variety of unique actors, giving each one full acceptance along with her personable insight is impressive.”
Mojica tells the students in her acting for non-theatre majors class at NMSU that it is “is one of the most important classes you can take.”
Even students and community members who never plan to set foot on a stage or film set will learn about communicating – not just looking, but really seeing; not just hearing, but listening and understanding, she said.
Early in the semester, Mojica’s students take a silent walk on the NMSU campus. They can’t talk to each other or use their cell phones because the experience is about “listening and observing,” she said.
“It’s really powerful,” she said. “It’s also fun.”
“I have had the joy of witnessing several of the performances that she has conducted with non-majors taking acting, and the way she involves everyone, playing to each individual's strength and personality, allows them to shine,” Kilroy said. “Even when teaching online, I have received rave reviews of how engaged Monika remains with all of her students, as she is consistently supportive and accessible.”
Mojica has found even more ways to open on her own journey by adding “trial consultant” to her resume and “is very grateful to Krisi Kastl and the team at Kastl Law for the opportunity to parlay theatrical skills in a new field,” she said.
“I am so delightfully surprised to be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s a profound honor.”