Filipino Americans reap 2018 Theatre Bay Area Awards

Nov. 23, 2018
USA and Canada Section

SAN FRANCISCO  Filipino American winners at the 2018 Theatre Bay Area (TBA) Awards include Jomar Tagatac and Joel de la Fuente in acting categories and Christian Mejia for lighting design.

TBA Awards winner Omar Tagatac (center) played five roles
in California Shakespeare Theater's "The War of the Roses."

The TBA Awards honor excellence in professionally oriented theater productions through a Bay Area-wide, peer-adjudicated process.

Christian Mejia won Outstanding Lighting Design for his work on the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" for Ray of Light Theatre.

East Coast-based actor Joel de la Fuente (Inspector Kido on streaming series "The Man in the High Castle") won Outstanding Performer in a Principal Role in a Play for his work in the one-person play "Hold These Truths" for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

Filipino American theater makers who were nominated this year include Robert Brill for Outstanding Scenic Design for "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations" for Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Alex Rodriguez for Outstanding Choreography for "Ragtime" for Berkeley Playhouse and for "Jesus Christ Superstar" for Ray of Light Theatre.

In acting categories, nominees included Rinabeth Apostol for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role in a Play for her work in "Two Mile Hollow" for Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company and Krystle Piamonte for Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role in a Play for her work in "Inside Out and Back Again" for Bay Area Children's Theatre.

Five characters

Jomar Tagatac won Outstanding Performer in a Featured Role in a Play for his work in "The War of the Roses" at California Shakespeare Theater.

In the four-hour adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry VI" trilogy and "Richard II," Tagatac portrayed five characters: Richard Plantagenet (who later is crowned Duke of York), King Louis XI, a young son of a soldier, Stanley, and Richmond.

"But Duke of York was my main assignment.  I also loved playing Richmond because of his speech at the end and he gets to fight Richard III."

Born in the Philippines, Tagatac and his family moved to California when he was four years old. "We moved to one of the Air Force Bases here in Northern California," he says.

Tagatac took up theater at San Diego University and has a master's degree in acting from American Conservatory Theater (ACT).

He has acted for Bay Area companies such as Magic Theater, Unbuntu Theater Project, The New Conservatory Theatre Center, among others.

Finding out

Tagatac was unable to attend the awarding ceremony due to scheduling conflicts and found out he'd won through a text message from a friend. "I was making dinner at home. I laughed when she first told me. I asked her if she was serious or if she was messing with me.

"There were so many great finalists in the category that I was sure one of them was going to win. But when she assured me that I won, I smiled and felt really grateful that TBA would honor me with this award."

Asked where he would eventually place the award, he says, "It's a really beautiful award so I'm thinking I'll place it on the mantle above the fireplace."

He adds with a laugh, "Don't worry, the fireplace is out of commission so the award won't be harmed."


Tagatac says he found working on the production "meaningful, challenging, and especially fun. CalShakes is such a unique place to work. It's an outdoor theater so you're at the mercy of the elements which is its own challenge.

"It was challenging both mentally, with Shakespeare's text, as well as physically, with the sword fights and the hand-to-hand combat.

"CalShakes artistic director Eric Ting, who also directed the production, has such big ideas, and this play was no exception. We all knew that it was an ambitious project. We came together to make sure we could put on the best possible production. I loved it. I will always remember this experience."

Tagatac's upcoming productions include playing Bob Cratchit in ACT's staging of "A Christmas Carol" in December. Next year, he will be part of the cast of "King of the Yees" at San Francisco Playhouse.

Musical on social media trolls, martial law gets Chicago staging

Nov. 22, 2018
USA and Canada Section

CHICAGO  "Game of Trolls: Revisited" is a musical about Hector, whose lack of attachment to any beliefs makes him the perfect candidate to work as a social media troll.

James Macapagal (front row) plays Hector, a professional internet troll,
in CIRCA-Pintig's staging of "Game of Trolls: Revisited."
Photo by Logan Ramos

He spends his workdays posting misleading information to distort people's perceptions of history.  As the specters of the past come to haunt him, he begins to reconnect with his mother-an activist during martial law in the Philippines, who had to flee to the U.S. to escape danger.

It will be staged by Filipino American theater group CIRCA-Pintig. The material is based on a musical written by Liza Magtoto and originally staged in Manila by the theater company Philippine Educational Theater Association.

This English translation by Magtoto herself will be directed by Louie Pascasio with music by Demetrio Maguigad. Lani Montreal has written additional scenes and provided adaptation work on some scenes.


Twentysomething Filipino American James Macapagal has been cast to play Hector. "I'm a Chicago boy, born and bred!" he says.

This improv and sketch comedy actor's recent theater credits include "Scenes for a Green World" for The Greenhouse Theater and "Murder Mystery Company" for American Immersion Theater.

Macapagal may not have experienced martial law firsthand, but he has a connection to it. It's the reason his family is in the U.S.

"Martial Law is the catalyst for me being in America. I know about martial law through stories told by my parents. My parents ultimately decided to immigrate to America, like many other Filipinos, because of how bad things became toward the end of martial law in the late '70s and '80s."

Macapagal's father immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 (three years before Ferdinand Marcos was deposed as a result of the People Power Revolution). His mother and older sister followed a year later.

Learning more

Nevertheless, the play's script has exposed him to a broader tapestry of personalities who were involved.

James Macapagal (left) and Jennifer Ligaya play estranged son and mother.
Photo by Logan Ramos

"I have learned so much about the specific heroes who fought, suffered, and died fighting the Marcos regime and martial law.

"Many of them are characters in 'Game of Trolls: Revisited,'" he explains. "Learning about them made me want to research more about their stories. People like Sister Mariani, Dr. Bobby de la Paz, Eman Lacaba, Lorena Barros, Macli-ing Dulag and many others made incredible sacrifices for the Philippines."


In addition to learning more about recent Philippine history, Macapagal says he also relishes the opportunity to work alongside other Filipino American theater makers.

"I am very inspired that there is such a uniquely Filipino story being told by a Filipino American theater company. We have such a talented cast and crew.

"Our director, Louie Pascasio, has been amazing and so willing to both direct and teach us about the background of the show.

"Every time I walk into rehearsal, I have to pinch myself because I'm in a room full of fellow Filipino and Asian artists. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often, so I'm very thankful to be a part of it!"


He feels that the musical is "important, especially in our times now, both in the Philippines and America, politically."

He adds, "It's a story that I don't think many second or third generation Fil-Ams my age may know. Martial law was such a brutal, traumatic time. It's hard to understand how much our families'lives were affected by it and how it still affects us."

Macapagal hopes that the musical will motivate theatergoers to "dive in deep to their own histories and experiences with Martial Law. It's a difficult subject, but it's important to remember the sacrifices made. To research more about martial law and Philippine history and ask important questions."

The production is supported by Presence St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, Asian Giving Circle, The Chicago Community Foundation, Resist and The Hana Center.

"Game of Trolls: Revisited" runs Nov 30-Dec 9, Klausner Auditorium, 1129 N. Oakley, Chicago. Visit

Paulina Yeung leads Filipino Americans in 'The King and I' nat’l tour

Nov. 16, 2018
USA and Canada Section

NEW YORK  Paulina Yeung and several other Filipino American performers have been cast in the North America touring production of "The King and I."

Paulina Yeung plays Tuptim in the national tour of "The King and I."

Based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens, the musical is set in the late 1860s and is story of the King of Siam (now Thailand) hiring an English governess to tutor his children.

Yeung plays Tuptim, a Burmese woman given to the king to become one of his wives. While the character has a romantic story arc, she also serves as the musical's symbolic figurehead for themes related to servitude/freedom and corporal punishment, among others.

Fil-Am talents

Other Filipino Americans in the cast include Timothy Matthew Flores as Prince Chulalongkorn and Bern Tan as King of Siam understudy and Kralahome. In the ensemble are Catrina Teruel Clark, Raymond Dimaano, Trevor Roderick, Richel Ruiz and Dax Valdes. Actors playing Royal Children include CJ Fernando, Linder Sutton and Kayla Teruel.

Jose Llana and Joan Almedilla recently concluded their runs as King of Siam and Lady Thiang, respectively, with the tour.

With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein, this production is based on the Broadway revival (Lincoln Center Theater production) directed by Bartlett Sher that featured Llana as one of the actors who played King of Siam, Jon Viktor Corpuz as Prince Chulalongkorn and Conrad Ricamora as Lun Tha (Tuptim's romantic partner).

Dream role

A native of Manila, Yeung moved to New York to study vocal performance at Manhattan School of Music.

Yeung (right) with Dongwoo Kang, who plays Lun Tha.

Her recent theater credits include "Discover: New Musicals" for National Asian Artists Project, "Road to Heaven" for China Broadway Entertainment, "Lost in Shanghai" for Pan Asian Repertory Theatre.

Opera credits include "The Magic Flute" for Opera Hong Kong (as First Lady) and for New York Lyric Opera Theatre (as Pamina).

She attended an open call for "The King and I" earlier this year and was called back four times to sing for the production's creative team. "In the final round, Bartlett Sher, the original director of the Lincoln Center production, was one of the people in the room," says Yeung.

When she found out that she landed the role, "I was over the moon. Tuptim is on my list of dream roles. My family was super happy to hear the news."

Bridging differences

Yeung points out that her character Tuptim is "thrown into this kingdom that's completely foreign to her."

"I love how Tuptim is so strong as a character. It's admirable how she really tries to find her own voice amidst everything. One of my favorite moments in the show is the ballet because that's where Tuptim really unleashes her true strength and stands up for what she believes in, regardless of the consequences."

She praises the tour director Shelley Butler for helping the cast "dig deep into the story." Yeung adds, "She's wonderful, she's been working with us on getting specific on each moment in the show, which I love because it really helps bring all the characters to life."

Yeung appreciates the opportunity to do the show for audiences across the US. "'The King and I' is one of my dream shows, so to be able to do this while traveling throughout the US and Canada is truly a dream come true. I'm so excited to go on tour."

She explains the musical's appeal. "The music is so beautiful and the story is really meaningful and timely. What I love about this production is that it . tackles a lot of themes that are relevant to our society today, like modernization versus tradition, feminism and bridging cultural differences."

For "The King and I" 2018-19 touring schedule, visit


Jon Viktor Corpuz dazzles as Chulalongkorn in 'The King and I' Broadway revival

Jose Llana takes over from Ken Watanabe in 'The King and I' on Broadway

New gallery in California celebrates Filipino art

Nov. 14, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

ST. HELENA, California  Poet, writer, editor and publisher Eileen Tabios is attaching an additional feather to her hat: curator and art gallery steward.

North Fork Arts Projects art gallery curator Eileen Tabios
holding artwork by Maria Fatima Urbi.
Artwork on wall by Treva Tabios.
Sculpture on floor by
Philippine National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

Not just any ordinary gallery, mind you. This one is a brick-and-mortar gallery in Napa Valley that accepts viewings by appointment while letting the public see its exhibitions through its website.

North Fork Arts Projects (NFAP) gallery in Saint Helena, California is devoted to Filipino and Filipino American artists, according to Tabios.

"While NFAP revolves around Filipino artists, it comes from my having followed contemporary art-not just by Filipinos-for over three decades. Initially as a New York City resident before moving to the Bay Area," she says.


Born in Ilocos Sur, Tabios immigrated to the U.S. when she was 10 years old.

Pieces from Matt Manalo's "Formation" series
from his "Pocket Paintings" exhibition.

In addition to being an art connoisseur, Tabios has also written about art in various forms (criticism, poetry, and fiction) that have appeared in art journals such as Review NY and Review West. She was also a contributing editor to Our Own Voice literary ezine.

The gallery, in both its physical and online iterations, allows her to combine her passions.

"NFAP is both a collection as well as a gallery." And since the collection and exhibitions are for private viewing only, the public component (the website) "has to present something unique" in order for this "structure to be effective and of concern to the public."

From the North Fork Arts Projects collection (clockwise from top left),
works by Marissa Sean Cruz, Isabel Cuenca, Leo Bersamina and Rea Lynn de Guzman.

Reflections on the art by way of words is Tabios' proposal. "That unique element is the discourse presented as a result of the exhibit or because a work is or works are part of the permanent collection.

"The write-ups [on the website] about the artworks can exist in the internet long beyond each exhibition's time frame.

"The discourse can revolve around various works, mostly authored to-date by me and-over time-to be opened to other writers."

Close to 50 artists are included in the collection with names ranging from Napoleon Abueva to Jenifer Wofford. (The full roster can be found on the NFAP website.)


Chosen for the inaugural exhibition is mixed-media artist Matt Manalo, a Manila native who moved to Texas as a teenager and took up painting at University of Houston.

Matt Manalo is a mixed-media artist based in Houston.
Photo by Michael Starghill

With this exhibition, titled "Pocket Paintings," he delves into another aspect of his exploration with the forms, shapes, materials and other components that comprise what a "painting" is.

"Matt's exhibition is of extremely tiny paintings, which are the smallest he's ever done. Each painting fits on the palm of one's hand)," says Tabios.

"For his exhibition, its discourse [on the website] will be an interview presenting Matt's views on scale."


The next exhibition lined up for NFAP is Melinda Luisa de Jesus' mirror-based sculptures. "That exhibit's discourse will comprise of at least three essays and two poems," Tabios says.

Visitors at North Fork Arts Projects art gallery.

Manalo, on the other hand, will be part of a group show "Look and Listen," a concert series presented by social justice organization Grit Collaborative and music group Oh My Ears, in Arizona this November 16 and 17.

He will then be part of a group show"Lumikha': We Are Here"organized by advocacy group Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) in January 2019 at Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston in Houston, Texas.

"Pocket Paintings" runs until Nov. 30 at North Fork Arts Projects, Saint Helena, California. Viewings by appointment. Visit

Pan Asian Rep honors Filipino American actor-director-playwright Ernest Abuba

Nov. 9, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

NEW YORK  Filipino American actor, playwright and director Ernest Abuba was named as an Art and Action Honoree by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre at its 2018 Gala.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl presents award to Ernest Abuba (left).
Photo by Corky Lee

Tisa Chang, founding artistic director, said in a statement, "Our Art and Action Annual Gala salutes and recognizes artists and community leaders of distinction who have made a difference with their philanthropic and artistic endeavors."

In his acceptance speech, Abuba thanked his many teachers and colleagues in the industry.

He also said, "And to Tisa Chang and Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. 42 years ago, as a founding Board Member, myself with Hsueh-Tung Chen, Lu Yu, and Ellen Stewart of La MaMa Experimental Theater Company, with Tisa as artistic director, we five founded the first non-profit professional theater for Asian Americans in New York."

He also mentioned his past tenures as co-director of the Asian American Theatre Collective Unit of arts organization Basement Workshop with Fay Chiang and Mary Lum and of his work with social service group Henry Street Settlement.


Abuba, whose father is Filipino, was born in Honolulu. He studied at Actor's Stage Studio in Washington, DC before relocating to New York to further his career.

Abuba as The Singer in a 1977 staging of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle"
at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl presented Abuba with his award. Abuba's most recent Broadway acting credit was playing the title character in Ruhl's "The Oldest Boy" at the Lincoln Center.

Other notable Broadway credits include being cast in the world premiere of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" in 1976.

He has an Obie Award for his work as Captain Kenji Kadota in PAR's staging of Rick Shiomi's comedy mystery "Yellow Fever" in 1983.

He's played a wide range of male lead or feature roles from Shakespeare (King Lear, Macbeth, Oberon, Lysander) to other European and Russian characters such as King Arthur, Chebutykin ("Three Sisters") and James Tyrone (from "Long Day's Journey Into Night").

He has also worked in television ("Kung Fu: The Legend Continues," "Counterstrike") and film ("Twelve Monkeys," "King of New York").

Playwright and teacher

Abuba has also written plays that have been staged by PAR: "The Dowager, Empress of China," "Kwatz! The Tibetan Project," "Eat a Bowl of Tea," and "Dojoji: the Man Inside the Bell."

(From left) Ernest Abuba with Pan Asian Repertory Theatre (PAR) founder Tisa Chang
and playwright Sarah Ruhl at the 2018 PAR Art and Action Gala.
Photo by Corky Lee

One of his plays, "An American Story," is about a Filipino immigrant who confronts disillusionment in a bar in San Diego's Manilatown-partly inspired by the milieu of his own childhood in San Diego.

He is a Senior Theatre faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College.

This year's gala benefited PAR's 42nd season (2018-19), which includes "The Emperor's Nightingale" by Damon Chua (an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Nightingale") in November and "The Brothers Paranormal" by Prince Gomolvilas (where two Thai American brother ghost-hunters take on the home of African American clients) in April of 2019.


Filipino American lighting designer Cha See illuminates play on race, violence

Nov. 7, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

NEW YORK  Filipino American lighting designer Cha See is working on an upcoming play tackles "the deaths of black people as a result of racialized violence."

Lighting designer Cha See is working on
"What to Send Up When It Goes Down."

Produced by The Movement Theatre Company, "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" is comprised of vignettes where "performance and reality collide, highlighting the absurdity of anti-blackness in our society."

Playwright Aleshea Harris says, "The play creates a space that honors the inherent value of black people and centers our unfiltered feelings about anti-blackness. You could call it a celebratory clapback; we have fun but don't play."

Shareable tools

The play is structured as a "community ritual" where "lines between characters and actors, observers and observed blur."

Actors rehearse a scene from "What to Send Up When It Goes Down."
a play that tackles racialized violence against black people.

Audience members will be invited to interact and participate with the performers, dedicating each performance to a black person who has been killed by racialized violence.

The performers and audience will then collectively "reflect on personal experiences with race" as the performers "embody various characters . that empower and celebrate black folks."

The program concludes with audience members being provided with "shareable tools to cope with anti-black violence."


A native of Manila, See moved to New York to complete a master's in lighting design for stage and film at New York University.

Recent credits include "They Told Us Not to Pray" (Playwright's Downtown), "Nora" (The Juilliard School), "Macbeth in Stride" (Joe's Pub), "The Cherry Orchard" (Lake Lucille), "The Opera is Always on the Table" (The New Ohio Theatre).

Her lighting design for "Cute Activist" (Bushwick Starr) has been selected for exhibition in the Emerging Artist Exhibit at the upcoming 2019 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (an exhibition of performance design disciplines such as costume, stage, lighting and sound design held every four years since 1967).

See's interest in lighting design for the stage grew from her love for painting and photography. "I love doing both so much but I found myself doing it alone," she says. "I wanted to be part of something, I wanted to be a key player who is part of a team that has shared values and end goals. Theater is a community and it's collaborative."

She also enjoys the ephemeral aspect of the endeavor. "The lighting design of performances is alive and breathing. It's a synchronization with actors and the people who run the show, unlike in other media like film, you can't edit it.

"Lighting is not something you can touch nor bend. It's not like sets or costumes that you can feel the material or what it's made out of. The idea of painting the stage and the world that we're trying to create through lighting is something that really excites me."


After See first read the script for "What To Send Up When It Goes Down" she did not speak for three hours.

See's lighting design for "Cute Activist" will be exhibited at
2019 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.

"I was just really thinking about the story," she says. "I was thinking things like 'How? Why? Now! This one! Yes! No! But why? Oh really?' I went a little crazy.

"And then I did my laundry and cleaned my entire room. I am still going crazy thinking about it."

After she saw the first rehearsal, she was unable to speak again for some time as she processed the material.

"Aleshea and her work, especially with this one, has the power to linger in your being for as long as you allow it to. I have done a lot of shows that are relatable to my experiences in life, but this one, it moved the entire physical, emotional and spiritual side of me."

See hopes that, from her standpoint as a woman and a person of color working on a show about racialized violence, audiences will ideally become more "aware of everyone's realities."

"Everyone's reality is different," she says. "That killing and racism are still happening. I want them to honor the people that have been killed. That silence is not helpful anymore. Our skins may have different colors, but we are still human beings. My hope that this story inspires them moving forward with their lives."

Cast includes Alana Raquel Bowers, Rachel Christopher, Ugo Chukwu, Kambi Gathesha, Naomi Lorrain, Denise Manning, Javon Minter and Beau Thom. Directed by Whitney White, costume design by Andy Jean, set design by Yu-Hsuan Chen, sound design by Sinan Refik Zafar.

"What To Send Up When It Goes Down" runs Nov. 11-Dec. 8, Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre, A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd St., New York. Visit

READ about the Filipino American designers exhibited at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial here.

Filipino American actor-director Sara Porkalob sweeps 2018 Gregory Awards

Oct. 31, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

SEATTLE  Filipino American actress, director and playwright Sara Porkalob has won three 2018 Gregory Awards for her musical "Dragon Lady."

Sara Porkalob wrote and acted in "Dragon Lady."
Photo by Tim Aguero

She won Outstanding Actress in a Musical for the production which she wrote and acted in. The show, which has music composed by Pete Irving, also won Outstanding Musical Production.

Winning Outstanding Sound/Music Design for the musical were Irving, Erin Bednarz and Matt Starritt.

Named after Gregory Falls, founding artistic director of A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) and a former chair of University of Washington's School of Drama, the awards are administered and produced by Theatre Puget Sound (TPS).

In a Facebook post, Porkalob wrote, "I'm thankful for TPS and for all of the individuals in our community who pull off with aplomb this humongous event that many of our community look forward to every year."

Gangster lola

"Dragon Lady" is about the story of Porkalob's Filipino gangster grandmother. She wrote the play to "honor and celebrate where we came from and who we are."

Porkalob (seated) with Seattle-based Filipino American theater makers
(from left) Jojo Abaoag, Eloisa Cardona, Linda Cardona-Rigor,
Justin Huertas, Annelih Hamilton, Don Darryl Rivera,
Christi Cruz and Mikko Juan.
Photo by John Cornicello

The musical was staged in 2017 for Intiman Theatre and was directed by Andrew Russell, the company's artistic director. That same year, Porkalob was co-curator for the company.

A native of Bremerton, Washington, Porkalob moved to Seattle to take up theatre at Cornish College of the Arts. It was during her senior year when "Dragon Lady" began to germinate, incarnating initially as a seven-minute piece.

Through the years, the piece had gone through different titles and formats such as a cabaret and a dinner-theater piece before emerging as a musical.

Porkalob's recent credits for acting include "String" (Village Threatre) and "Howl's Moving Castle" (Book-it Repertory Theatre); directing credits include "Inside Out and Back Again" (Book-it Repertory Theatre) and "Persimmon Nights" (Café Nordo).


Excerpts from her acceptance speech include, "Thank you to every single person in this city who has supported my original work and to the matriarch of my family, Maria Elena Porkalob Sr.

Sara Porkalob won three Gregory Awards
for her musical "Dragon Lady,"
including Outstanding Musical Production.

"We have an administration that is weighing a move to define gender as strictly biological, denying the very basis of transgender identity. Families are still being torn apart at the border. Survivors speak their truth and their abusers walk free into influential positions of power. Innocent black people die every day at the hands of police brutality.

"Our regional theaters wonder how to make 'equity and justice' more than a chapter title in their HR [human resources] manual, and still consider 'diverse' audiences 'outreach' rather than just their audience. Regional theaters wonder how to make their donor base more diverse and yet they're not willing to lose some, if not all, of their white donors in order to do so.

"I say this because all art is political-and you can fight me on that. For it to be anything else is a privilege. We must support and share queer, trans, POC [people of color], disabled, bilingual, indigenous, intergenerational, immigrant, black stories because our city and our nation is wealthy with them. They've existed for hundreds of years. And they're the future."


Filipino American actor Ray Tagavilla was nominated this year for Best Supporting Actor for his work in "King of the Yees" for ACT.

Hosting the awards ceremony at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall was Fil-Am actor Don Darryl Rivera-he originated and has been playing Iago in Disney's "Aladdin" on Broadway since the show opened in 2014.

Rivera won Best Supporting Actor last year for playing Sancho Panza in 5th Avenue Theatre's "Man of La Mancha." (Porkalob hosted last year with Fil-Am composer and actor Justin Huertas).

In 2019, American Repertory Theater in Boston will produce "Dragon Lady" and "Dragon Mama," Porkalob's play about her mother and the second in her planned trilogy about her "mixed, Filipino, immigrant, poor, black, queer family."

READ about Sara Porkalob and her gangster Filipino grandmother here.

READ about Ray Tagavilla in "Persimmon Nights" here.

READ about Justin Huertas composing the music for 'Howl's Moving Castle' here.

READ about Don Darryl Rivera, the Filipino American winner at last year's Gregory Awards, here.

SF's Bindlestiff stages play on undocumented Filipina workers

Oct. 23, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

SAN FRANCISCO  Bindlestiff Studio is staging "Chasing Papeles," a play that tackles the tribulations of three Filipino women in the US who have undocumented immigrant status.

Bindlestiff Studio is staging "Chasing Papeles."

"Papeles" is a Filipino colloquial term for "documents." Written and directed by Andrea Almario, the play is about Leah, who arrives in America with hopes of supporting her family in the Philippines. She works at a senior care home with Nora and Flor, two other undocumented women workers.

In a statement, Bindlestiff Studio describes the play as a "humanizing and revealing look into the hopes, dreams and disillusions of chasing the American Dream."

With this production, Bindlestiff Studio also wants to bring awareness to recent cases of human trafficking, exploitation and sexual assault of undocumented workers in the Bay Area.


"As both writer and director, I created a patchwork of familiar struggles from my family's journey," said Almario. The play is based on her own family's experience with undocumented immigrant status.

"The undocumented immigrant narrative is still very much unknown. Recent changes in immigration policies have resulted in an unprecedented number of detention and deportation in U.S. history."

In the statement, Almario noted, "'Chasing Papeles' aims to stand in solidarity with the immigration rights movement to include the marginalized narratives of Filipinos often left out of the media. The stigma attached to being undocumented and the risk of telling this story cultivate an environment of silence and repression. My goal is to break that silence and to shed light on the shadowed experiences of Filipina migrant workers in the US."


Almario first developed the play as her thesis two years ago when she was taking up theater and performance studies at University of California-Berkeley.

This staging is a homecoming for her in many different ways as she and her sister, Aureen, both attended various workshops for writing, acting, stand-up comedy and directing at Bindlestiff in their youth.

"Chasing Papeles" is a play about three Filipino women
in the US with undocumented immigrant status.

The siblings have both performed for multiple productions for Bindlestiff. Aureen is currently artistic director for the group and is co-directing the play.

The production not only reunites Andrea with her sister, but also with her mother, Rose (who is playing Flor), both of whom were in the cast of the campus production two years ago.


Playing Leah is real-life nurse and community organizer Akiko Aspillaga, who also has personal experience with undocumented immigrant status.

Also in the cast are Lynie Abadilla, Giancarlo Cariola, Amianan Daus-Magbual, Lauren Garcia, Edu Ibazeta, Felicia Jacobe, Johnny Nguyen, Sunshine Roque, Patrick Silvestre.

Music direction by James Dumlao, costume design by Joyce Juan-Manalo, lighting design by Dave Ragaza, set design by Joel Cammarata.

It is sponsored in part by the San Francisco Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts, Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, the Fleishhacker Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

October is Filipino American History Month, as advocated by the Filipino American National Historical Society since the 1980s. The history of Bindlestiff Studio's transformation into an "epicenter for Filipino American performing arts" is included in the book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at

"Chasing Papeles" runs Nov. 2-17 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St., San Francisco. Visit


Play inspired by labor leader Larry Itliong to premiere in San Francisco by Bindlestiff Studio

Bindlestiff's new artistic director known for 'heart and talent'

Broadway Barkada soars with 'Lumipad' dance showcase

Oct. 20, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

NEW YORK  Filipino American performing arts group Broadway Barkada is producing an evening of dance pieces titled "Lumipad: A Pinoy Night of Dance."

Rommel O'Choa is in the cast of "My Fair Lady" at the Lincoln Center.

The program consists of modern, lyrical, jazz, cultural and many other styles.

"This is our sixth production of our Take Flight Initiative," says Liz Casasola, one of the group's three cofounders.

"The initiative is about 'spreading your wings' as an artist and sharing one's own vision. Broadway Barkada aims to give these artists a platform to do just that.

"In believing in your unique story to tell, the first step-taking that risk-can be the hardest. Broadway Barkada creates that safe space for the artist to share their works-in-progress.

"With 'Lumipad,' Broadway Barkada is excited to bring together the New York Filipino dance community."


Choreographers include Billy Bustamante, LaMae Caparas, Cynthia Casasola, Karla Garcia, Lydia Gaston, Albert Guerzon, Arianne Meneses, Marc Andrew Nuñez, Rommel Pierre O'Choa, Syville Padayao, Bennyroyce Royon.

Karla Garcia is a swing in the Broadway musical "Hamilton."

These dance and movement makers are all members of Broadway Barkada. Bustamante is one of the cofounders (the third cofounder is Brian Jose).

Also participating is Sining Kapuluan, a Fil-Am educational, cultural and arts group based in Brooklyn.

On Broadway, Rommel Pierre O'Choa is currently in the cast of "My Fair Lady" at the Lincoln Center while Karla Garcia is a swing at "Hamilton." A swing is an actor who learns all the different parts that are played by several actors and takes their place whenever any of them are absent (whether planned or sudden).

LaMae Caparas just concluded a national tour of "The King and I" that starred Jose Llana as the King of Siam and Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang.

Plays and dance

In New York, Bustamante and Casasola recently completed a staged reading of Fil-Am playwright Linda Faigao-Hall's play "Dance Me!" in September with Out of the Box Theatrics in New York.

Bennyroyce Royon choreographs for dance company Ballet Hispanico.

With Casasola in the cast, Bustamante directed the play about a family of Fil-Am ballroom dancers and dance studio owners in Queens, New York.

Also in New York, Lydia Gaston will be in the cast of Urban Stages' "A Deal" this November with fellow Fil-Am actor Alan Ariano. The play is a dark comedy about a family who buys a home in New York.

Bennyroyce Royon recently choreographed a piece for dance company Ballet Hispanico titled "Homebound/Alaala" where he explored "bayanihan (the spirit of communal unity), the resilience of women in our society, overcoming hardship, and the feeling of being home."

Casasola adds, "'Lumipad' will be an evening of getting to know the choreographers and their process. 'Lumipad' is about building community and sharing."

Arianne Meneses is part of Broadway Barkada's 2018 dance showcase "Lumipad."

After "Lumipad," the group is planning a December installment of its "Balikbayan" concert series in Washington, DC (it staged an installment in Los Angeles earlier this year).

October is Filipino American History Month, as advocated by the Filipino American National Historical Society since the 1980s. Broadway Barkada's founding history is included in the book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History, available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at

"Lumipad" is on Oct. 21 at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Studio 5D, 5th Floor, Joan Weill Center for Dance, 405 W. 55th St., New York. Visit

READ about Broadway Barkada's concert in Los Angeles earlier this year here.

READ about Linda Faigao Hall's play "Dance Me!" here.

Fil-Am playwright-actor tackles fatherhood, politics—in a bathroom

Oct. 12, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

NEW YORK  Filipino American actor Orlando Pabotoy will tackle politics, father-and-son relationships, language appreciation and Shakespeare in his play "Sesar."

Orlando Pabotoy wrote and acts in the play "Sesar."

He takes on acting duties in addition to writing the play in this staging by Ma-Yi Theater Company. Ma-Yi won the Ross Wetzsteon Award from the 63rd annual Obie Awards earlier this year (READ about it here.)

The work depicts the story of a teenaged Filipino boy who locks himself in the bathroom after having seen an excerpt of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" on a television show.

The boy's father, an ex-politician, joins him. The father then uses his own experiences to explain the life of the Roman general-turned-emperor and instructs his son about power, ambition and life.


Pabotoy first collaborated with Ma-Yi when he played the lead in their staging of "peregriNasyon" (a play about the Filipinos who immigrated to the US and worked as farm laborers in the 1920s and 1930s) in the late 1990s.

Scale model of the set of "Sesar" designed by Junghyun Lee.

His other acting credits for the group include "Middle Finger," "Savage Acts," "Watcher," and the title role in the original staging of "The Romance of Magno Rubio" (a play based on a short story by Carlos Bulosan) for which he received a Special Citation (along with the entire cast) from the Obie Awards.

Pabotoy also directs, is cofounder of The Clown School in Los Angeles, is founding artistic director of Artigiani Troupe in New York, and teaches acting at The Juilliard School (his alma mater). He's worked at theaters across the country such as The Public, Yale Rep, the Guthrie and Kirk Douglas.

Home and family

"Sesar" began when Pabotoy was awarded a Fox Fellowship residency at Ma-Yi several years ago where he began developing what was then a loose construction of scenes around the idea of "home."

The fellowship grant had allowed him to return to his home province in the Philippines for research. Born in Bohol to a Filipino father and American mother, Pabotoy and his family moved to the U.S. when he was in his teens.

Some of the play's plot points draw parallels to Pabotoy's own life: His father was the town mayor. When Pabotoy was in his early teens, he saw Christopher Plummer on The Cosby Showreciting lines from "Julius Caesar" (Cassius' "The fault is not in our stars" speech). He was so taken that he also went to their bathroom to mull over and recite the same speech.

Nevertheless, Pabotoy says, "This play is not necessarily autobiographical."

What he intends it to be, instead, is to "truly honor a child's discovery of the beauty of poetry and language, specifically during chaotic times.

"That discovery is sparked by Shakespeare's `Julius Caesar' that then leads him-by the guidance of the father-to find the same appreciation in the Visayan language and the language of nature."

Pabotoy says he can't wait for his own family to see the play.

Safety and storms

"The bathroom is representative of the idea of 'home,'" he explains. "It offers privacy, safety in vulnerability, space to be one with your own thoughts, or to let the thoughts wander while you cleanse."

Pabotoy has collaborated with Ma-Yi Theater several times before.

"The trip to Bohol and Manila informed the sensorial development of 'Sesar' the most. It was two or three months after Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake," he says.

The typhoon was known as Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. The earthquake was recorded at 7.2-magnitude.

"The thematic presence of storms in this play was influenced by that visit."

Listening and resonating

"Sesar" also touches on other themes that are currently in the headlines.

"It's not a show that aims to preach," he says. "Though that can't be helped when there are issues that are in the forefront of our consciousness," he says.

"I hope, above all, that the audience will enjoy the show and see a different take and light in `Julius Caesar' seen from the eyes of a 14-year old boy and his father.

"It's a very unique story of discovering true listening and the resonance of poetry when it is connected."

Current and historical

Other Filipino Americans involved in the production include sound designer Fabian Obispo. Directed by Richard Feldman, set and costume design by Junghyun Georgia Lee, lighting design by Oliver Wason and projection design by Dan Scully.

Ma-Yi's artistic director is Fil-Am Ralph Peña, who is directing "The Chinese Lady," which runs Nov. 7-18. The play is about Afong Moy, the "Chinese Lady" brought to the US in 1834 and put on display to the public for 45 years.

October is Filipino American History Month, as advocated by the Filipino American National Historical Society since the 1980s. Ma-Yi Theater Company's history is included in the book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History, available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at

"Sesar" runs Oct 20-Nov 1 at The Beckett Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd St., New York. Visit

Filipino American theater director Jennifer Chang helms 'Vietgone' for East West Players

Oct. 11, 2018
USA and Canada Section, director-helms-vietgone-east-west- players

LOS ANGELES  Filipino American theater director Jennifer Chang has returned to collaborate with East West Players, helming its upcoming production of "Vietgone."

Fil-Am Jennifer Chang directs "Vietgone" for East West Players.

Written by Qui Nguyen, the play spins a modern twist on the classic boy-meets-girl story: Quang and Tong are refugees fleeing the Vietnam War who meet and fall in love at a relocation camp in Arkansas.

"We are thrilled to present the Los Angeles premiere of 'Vietgone,' a play that delves into the heart of the Vietnamese refugee experience," says EWP artistic director Snehal Desai.

"Qui is an incredible storyteller with a unique, fresh voice. Inspired by how his parents met and fell in love, the play weaves personal history and a powerful narrative about immigration, war and forced relocation.

"We're so excited to open our new 2018-19 season-`Culture Shock'-with such a bold, daring play that is both funny and moving."

Cast includes Sylvia Kwan, Jane Lui, Scott Ly, Albert Park and Paul Yen.

Giving back

Chang recently concluded assistant directing duties in New York for the Broadway world premiere of "Bernhardt/Hamlet" for the Roundabout Theatre Company.

Sylvia Kwan rehearsing for a scene in "Vietgone."

"EWP has been my artistic home since I graduated from grad school," says Chang. She had studied for a master's in acting at University of California-San Diego (where she is currently head of its undergraduate acting department). Prior to that, Chang took up a double major in drama and psychology at New York University.

In 2008, Chang cofounded Chalk Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles and served as its artistic director until 2016.

"I've been so lucky to have been able to act, direct, and teach at EWP over the years. I feel seen as an artist and human being, and I also feel a great responsibility to give back to this incredible community."

American story

Chang was born in San Francisco into a Tagalog-speaking household that consisted of her Filipino parents "and my mother's siblings and parents," she says.

"My uncle was in the US Navy and petitioned my grandparents. They brought their other children over. My mother had already been able to come on a work visa; she's a nurse. We are a chain- migration story."

"'Vietgone' resonates with me so much and on so many levels," says Chang.

"The cast and I talk about how there is almost no acting required because we know so many aspects of its story.

"The names might be culturally specific, but the details parallel so many of our families' stories. And while the story is not literally us, it requires everything contained in us, standing on stage with our biological and artistic ancestors and descendants.

"One of the things that is so wonderful about this play is how much it claims a sense of belonging, that this is an American story: a story of immigrants, of musical theater via hip-hop, of refugees, of assimilation, of war heroes, a buddy flick and bromance, a 'rom-com,' and a celebration of the Asian man."


In addition to Chang, other Fil-Ams in the production include stage manager Jade Cagalawan and assistant stage manager Edward Khris Fernandez.

East West Players' cast of "Vietgone" rehearse fight choreography.

Costume design by Stephanie Nguyen, lighting design by Tom Ontiveros, set and projection design by Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason Thompson, composition by Arash Haile, sound design by John Zalewski, fight choreography by Thomas Isao Morinaka and Aaron Aoki.

"Rehearsals have been fantastic. For such an epic show with fight choreography, music rehearsals, and scene work . my cast, stage management team, and design team are incredible in every sense of the word. Everyone is working so hard and diligently on every aspect of the show," says Chang.

After "Vietgone," Chang will direct Eric Reyes Loo's "Death & Cockroaches" for Atwater Village Theatre in Los Angeles.

She will then return to New York to direct a one- act play by Mara Nelson-Greenberg as part of DirectorFest. "It will be part of my New York directing showcase to finish off my Drama League directing fellowship." (Chang had been chosen as one of 11 recipients for the league's 2018 fellowship.)

"Vietgone" runs Oct. 18-Nov. 11 at David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center of the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. Visit

'Padayon' to pay tribute to Parangal’s decade in native dance

Oct. 5, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

SAN FRANCISCO  When Eric Solano moved to Daly City, California from the Philippines with his family at 11 years old, he knew nothing of Philippine folk dances.

Parangal Dance Company celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018.

"I learned it here [in the US] with Barangay Dance Company (founded by Bonifacio Valera, Jr.). It helped me connect with my roots and be proud of being Filipino," he says.

Solano, who was born in Manila and grew up in Aklan province, went on to receive further training with Manila-based dance groupsBayanihan Dance Company and Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group.

The love for dance and pride in being Filipino swelled to a point where, ten years ago, he and 11 other dancers cofounded Parangal Dance Company and he became its founding artistic director.

"We wanted to continue our passion for Philippine dances," he says. "'Parangal' is Tagalog for 'tribute,' and the group pays tribute to Filipino dance heritage by helping to preserve and promote it.

Celebration and culmination

"The turning point for the group was becoming aware about the indigenous peoples in Philippines," he says.

Eric Solano (right) is founding artistic director of Parangal Dance Company.

Parangal then focused its ethos to seeking out dances (and music and attire) straight from the source-or more to the point: sources. It has since visited communities and artists in the Philippines to learn directly from experts and "culture bearers" for research and inspiration.

For the group's tenth anniversary, it will stage "Padayon," a showcase of seasoned and new works.

"Padayon," explains Solano, is a word common among different languages in the Visayas region of the Philippines such as Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray and more. It means "move forward," "continue" or "persist."

"The show 'Padayon' is a celebration of a decade of Parangal's efforts to inspire through presenting the rich culture and traditions of Philippine indigenous peoples via stories, attire, music, and dance."

"The work we will present in 'Padayon' is a culmination of research and cultural immersion with indigenous peoples across the Philippines.

"We want to create awareness about them so we can connect and know more about our roots, to let the world know that the they are still there, and present Philippine dance and music with more integrity."

Timing and ties

Solano honors the different influences that continue to inform Parangal's work in this upcoming production, giving nods not just to Philippine heritage, but also to Filipino American history.

"We scheduled our show for October because it is Indigenous People's Month in the Philippines and Filipino American History Month in the United States," Solano explains.

The program includes pieces learned and inspired from the dances of indigenous peoples such as Ata Manobo, Bagobo-Tagabawa, Bakwit, Kalinga, and Panay Bukidnon.

One of the new works to be premiered during the show is "Kissa sin Kasi Lasa" ("Song of Love"), a Tausug (also spelled Ta'u Sug) courtship dance.

"There will be several pieces from Meranao and Maguindanao as well." Solano handled the choreography for the majority of the production's pieces.


Solano says it is important for Parangal to create awareness of the Philippine indigenous peoples' ongoing plights as well.

"In Mindanao, there have been displacement and evacuation of indigenous peoples due to environmental plunder, harassment, ancestral domain claims, and attacks and killings," he says.

The group will present "Bakwit," a piece featuring the choreography of Kim Requesto. "Bakwit" is a vernacular term that means "evacuations."


Guest artists include House of Gongs, Kulintang Academy of Little Manila Dance Collective, Faisal Monal from Maguindanao and Filipino American dancer Jenny Bawer Young, an expert on Kalinga culture.

Parangal Dance Company will stage "Padayon" in October
to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

"We hope to bring-through 'Padayon' and our work in general-Philippine culture and traditions to the hearts of the community in the San Francisco Bay Area and to the world!" announces Solano.

While "Padayon" will be the Parangal's biggest production for the year, it will padayon with more community engagement when it joins the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in November. (The festival was founded by Filipino American Emilya Cachapero in the 1970s.)

"Padayon" is funded in part by California Arts Council and Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

"Padayon" has two shows on Oct. 6 at Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 2850 19th Ave., San Francisco. Visit

Hardworking Filipino American Rodney To plays multiple roles in dramedy on workers’ woes

Oct. 3, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

LOS ANGELES  Filipino American Rodney To portrays several charactersincluding a food itemin the dramedy "American Hero," in the Los Angeles premiere of Bess Wohl's play at Pasadena Playhouse.

Rodney To (right) plays multiple roles in "American Hero."
Photo by Dean Cechvala

In the play, being staged by Iama Theatre Company until Oct. 21, a franchised sandwich shop is used as a microcosm of recession-era America-serving as commentary on the struggles and perseverance of the working class.

An overwhelmed immigrant franchisee and three disparate and desperate "sandwich artists" attempt to keep the store, and themselves, afloat.

Service industry

No spoilers on what food item To portrays in the show. However, it's not a spoiler to reveal that working in the food-service industry is not alien to To.

Rodney To has worked with theater groups across the country.

"My very first 'official' job ever was back in Chicago working at McDonald's. I was 14 and had to get a special permit to work. My mom didn't want me to, but I was insistent on making my own money."

After overcoming hurdles at home, he then had to face challenges in the workplace.

"I was such a little guy that I couldn't fit into the size 28-inch pants, so on my first day I panicked because smallest size pants they had were still too big on me."

But he did not let costume, er, uniform issues stop him. "I took the shoelaces off my shoes, tied them together, and used that as a belt."

Baptism of fire

The determination to get and to stay at the job came with a literal baptism of fire.

"When you worked at McDonald's back then, you started at the grill making the larger burgers, like Quarter Pounders. I remember I was too short to reach far back on the grill to flip burgers and I burned my arm several times. I was the worst burger-maker ever."

It is perhaps to the benefit of fast-food chain patrons, theatergoers and To himself that To shifted to acting and directing.

Now based in Los Angeles, To's recent theater credits include "One of the Nice Ones" for Echo Theater Company and "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" (written by Fil-Am playwright A. Rey Pamatmat) for theater group Artists at Play.

Last year, he directed Fil-Am playwright Boni Alvarez's play "Fixed" for Echo Theater Company.

To has worked across the country, collaborating with groups such as Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, La Jolla Playhouse, Northlight, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Rep, Hartford Stage, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, East West Players, Playwrights' Arena, and Ma-Yi.

His television and film credits include "Rosewood," "Parks and Recreation," "Modern Family," and "New Girl," among others.

Hard work and kindness

Directed by James Eckhouse, this production includes Anna LaMadrid, Laura Mann and Graham Outerbridge in the cast. Costume design by Melissa Trn, set design by Justin Huen, lighting design by Josh Epstein, music composition and sound design by Peter Bayne,

Rodney To (right) with
(from left) Anna LaMadrid, Laura Mann and Graham Outerbridge.
Photo by Dean Cechvala

"This gem of a play-a dark, slightly absurdist tale about the plight of the American worker-has become even more powerfully relevant today than when it was written in 2014," says Eckhouse.

"It's not only wickedly funny, but deeply moving as well. We witness these three sandwich 'artists' fighting for their well-being, their dignity, their souls in the face of a soul-less corporate bureaucracy. The cast is amazing, I'm thrilled to be the director of this production."

To adds, "I hope the audience walks away having a deeper appreciation for the opportunities we have here in America. Let's face it, we are in such precarious times right now that it's hard to remember how wonderful our country is and always was.

"It has never, never lost its luster with me, so this whole notion of needing to make it better `again' is just asinine. We have always had tremendous opportunity in this country. I hope people walk away remembering that.

"We are very, very lucky to be citizens of a country where opportunity is yours for the taking-with dreams, dedication, hard work and kindness."

To conclude this interview, To is challenged to craft a sandwich with Filipino ingredients and condiments. His response is, "I would make a sandwich out of some flavored meat, like adobo, and wrap it in some sort of doughy bread. Basically, I'm not that original, I would just make siopao."

"American Hero" runs until Oct. 21 at Carrie Hamilton Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena California. Visit

READ about Rodney To directing Boni Alvarez's play "Fixed" here.

Filipino American Jesca Prudencio helms San Diego Rep’s sexual assault drama

Sept. 27, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

SAN DIEGO  Filipino American Jesca Prudencio directs San Diego Repertory Theatre's production of "Actually," a drama that tackles race and sexual assault in a college campus and the "three sides to every story."

Jesca Prudencio directs San Diego Repertory Theatre's "Actually."
Photo by Supreya Sansupa

At a wild party during their first year in college, Amber and Tom connect in ways that seem innocent enough at first. But as the night heats up, they find themselves in murky territory with ramifications that could affect the rest of their lives.

What actually happened between them that night is tackled in this play that explores the highly charged topic of sexual consent on college campuses today.

The play asks: When it comes to sex, what is consent and when can it be given? If you don't remember giving it, does sex become assault?

Anna Ziegler's play is described as "deeply-felt, funny and extraordinarily provocative" and "an intricate and psychologically complex jigsaw puzzle."

Drama and documentaries

New Jersey-native Jesca Prudencio took up drama at New York University and has worked as a director and choreographer across the US. She is also an associate artist and lead trainer for dance group Ping Chong + Company.

DeLeon Dallas (left) plays Tom and Emily Shain
plays Amber and in San Diego Repertory Theatre's "Actually."

Prudencio is founding artistic director of People Of Interest, a theater group that has performed in Bangkok, San Francisco and New York.

People Of Interest's most recent production "A&Q: a documentary theater piece on the big issue," focused on people affected by the "war on drugs" campaign in the Philippines.

Last year, Prudencio completed her international travel research work in Asia under the first batch of Julie Taymor World Theater Fellowship grantees. Part of her research included a trip to Manila to work with students at the University of the Philippines.

Honesty and humanity

When she first read "Actually," Prudencio was "moved by the play's honesty and humanity. I couldn't put it down, my eyes were glued to the page.

"Anna Ziegler has created two characters that you both admire and question evenly throughout."

Prudencio says she has been a fan of San Diego Rep ever since she lived in San Diego while she studied for her master's in directing at University of California.

Earlier this year, she directed their production of "Vietgone" by Qui Nguyen. "The production became the highest grossing show of the season, bringing in diverse audiences from all over San Diego. Needless to say, it was a positive experience!"

"I had a fantastic time working at this theater, so when they asked me to return to direct `Actually,' I immediately jumped at the opportunity."

Sex and safety

"Although very different from the play 'Vietgone,' the play `Actually' sits closer to my work in documentary theater since the characters speak so openly and honestly directly to the audience.

"I am also really drawn to work that addresses current issues facing our culture-head on. This play addresses the questions around `consent' and how complicated it can be."

Transparency is essential, according to Prudencio, in establishing a work environment that is secure for her actors.

"A safe space is essential in any creative process, but this process needs it because the play addresses consent, rape, race politics, and more. We spent a lot of time at the table working through the script carefully, addressing any questions and issues that arise.

From left: Bunny Cadag, Bong Cabrera and Delphine Buencamino
in a scene from "A&Q: a documentary theater piece on the big issue"
directed by Jesca Prudencio.

"The characters Amber and Tom are first year students in college, so it has been interesting and challenging going back to that place for all of us. They both share information that is honest and uncomfortable, so I make sure we talk about these things as a team."

It helps that she is familiar with her colleagues: Emily Shain plays Amber and DeLeon Dallas plays Tom. "I love watching these actors work together. It is effortless. We have all known each other for several years now, since we all went to the same graduate school, so there is a lot of trust in the room."

The playwright has also been in communication with the team. "Anna has been so generous with her time answering questions along the way."

Prudencio expects the material to generate discussion among theatergoers. "Past productions have sparked some great dialogue in the audience and we are excited to start this conversation here in San Diego," she says.


In November, Prudencio directs and choreographs "Nohing," a documentary dance theater work as part of her artist-in- residence program at University Settlement in New York.

The work will use noh dance to explore the experiences of women's sexual harassment in public spaces and was developed through a series workshops and interviews.

Next year in February, she will direct Anna Moench's "Man of God" for East West Players in Los Angeles. The comedy thriller is about a discovery in a hotel bathroom that will change the lives of four Korean American girls while they are on a Christian mission trip in Thailand.

"Actually" runs Oct. 11-Nov. 4 at Lyceum Space, 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego. Visit