What helps Carla Guevara-Laforteza ease into sleep after a show

Jan. 14, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Carla Guevara-Laforteza
Ephesus Teatron is staging a one-weekend run of the Broadway musical comedy "Once Upon a Mattress," an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea."

Carla Guevara-Laforteza plays lead character Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, a role played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Broadway revival in the '90s.

The musical, which originally starred Carol Burnett, has music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Barer, Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller.

A 2005 TV adaptation starred "New Girl's" Zooey Deschanel and "Glee's" Matthew Morrison in featured roles.

While Guevara-Laforteza plays a character whose sensitivity is tested using a pea placed under many mattresses, her own sleeping kryptonite is music.

"It's either the TV is on or there should be silence, but no music because I tend to hum or sing along," she says.

Calming down
Yanah Laurel and Hans Eckstein
Most of her theater engagements end around 11 p.m., and the earliest she arrives home is half-past midnight, sometimes later.

"A large amount of energy is required when I do shows, so it takes a really long while before I can calm down and relax. Sleeping is usually out of the question until around 4 or 5 a.m."

Recently, Guevara-Laforteza has been been in Repertory Philippines' "Hansel and Gretel," Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Rak of Aegis" and "3 Stars and A Sun," and Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's "The Bridges of Madison County."

During the schoolyear, this mother of three has to wake up at (or stay awake until) 5 a.m. to prepare her children for school.

"I go to bed (or back to bed) as soon as they're out the door at 6:30 a.m. Only then can I enjoy my bed until around 11 a.m. Unless I have a 10:30 a.m. show, which means my call time is at 8 a.m.!" she says, laughing.

Skin cleansing
From left: Carla Guevara-Laforteza,
Niño Alejandro (Prince Dauntless the Drab),
Emeline Guinid (Queen Aggravain) and
Raymund Concepcion (King Sextimus the Silent).
Makeup removal after a show is always done at the venue. "I use Shiseido's Senka Perfect Liquid. It's a super deep, nondrying cleanser that removes every trace of makeup on my face. It's only available in Malaysia, Singapore or Japan so I hoard them.

"For stubborn eyeliner and mascara, I use good old baby oil or Pond's Cold Cream on a  cotton bud. At home, after showering, I use Nora Dela Rosa liquid cleanser, toner and a couple of medicated creams and moisturizers to keep acne and other blemishes at bay."

When she performs in countries where the climate is dry, she uses Creme de la Mer to lock moisture in.

Her rituals before bed include saying nightly prayers with her youngest child, setting the alarm on her iPhone, then having a Facetime session with her husband, Godfrey Laforteza (who's based in Cebu as executive chef of Crimson Resort in Mactan).

For the occasional midnight snack, she indulges in toasted bread smeared with Marby peanut butter. "It's the best! It tastes like Chocnut! Downed with a glass of iced fresh milk."

Cast also includes Niño Alejandro as Prince Dauntless the Drab, Yanah Laurel and Jill Ita-as as Lady Larken, Hans Eckstein and Chino Veguillas as Sir Harry. Cara Barredo alternates as Princess Winnifred.

Directed by Steven Conde with musical direction by Teatron's founding artistic director Sweet Samaniego-Buchanan. Choreography by Stephen Viñas, set and costume design by Kayla Teodoro, lighting design by Joseph Matheu.

"Once Upon a Mattress" Jan. 20-22, Tanghalang Yaman Lahi, 7th floor, Emilio Aguinaldo College Sports and Cultural Center, Gen. Luna St., Paco, Manila. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/EphesusTeatron.

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Who is the goody-two-shoes, tattletale and troublemaker among Cherie Gil, Roselyn Perez, Michael Williams?

They play squabbling siblings in Rep's 80th season opener, 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'
Jan. 7, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(Published under title: What childhood was like for Cherie Gil, Roselyn Perez, Michael Williams)

Note: The print version of this story mentions that this production is Rep's 50th-season opener. It's the 50th year of Rep, and its 80th season. The online version reflects this correction.

Top, from left: Cherie Gil, Michael Williams, Roselyn Perez.
Below: Joaquin Valdes
Repertory Philippines' first production for its 80th season is the comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," about three siblings who deal with the possibility of their house being sold off.

Written by Christopher Durang, it won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

It will be directed by Bart Guingona, whose recent credits include "Almost, Maine" and "The Normal Heart," for which he won the 2015 Philstage Gawad Buhay for Outstanding Direction.

Playing the siblings are Cherie Gil (Masha, the dramatic sibling), Roselyn Perez (Sonia, the resentful sister) and Michael Williams (Vanya, the peacekeeper brother).

Joaquin Valdes, Naths Everett and Mica Pineda round out the cast.

Set design is by Miguel Faustman, lighting design by John Batalia, costume design by Zenaida Celdran-Dalao, and sound design by Carlos Pacheco.

Gil, who returns to the Rep stage after playing the Baroness in "The Sound of Music" in 2006, is the youngest of three siblings.

"If we include the rest of halfs and steps, we are six all in all, which makes me fall right in the middle somewhat," she says.

Asked if they were the sibling who got into trouble, the one who would lead the others into trouble or the goody two shoes while growing up, here are their responses:

Gil, whose recent credits include "Full Gallop," and "Arbol de Fuego," says, "All of the above? (Laughs.) I could also be the tattletale sometimes."

Perez: "I am in the middle of two brothers. I don't remember getting my siblings into trouble but I'd get myself into trouble!"

Williams: "I am the youngest of seven kids, five boys and two sisters. I got into my fair share of trouble although I believe that I was the good one!" (Laughs.)

Young and free
Gil's fond memories of her siblings include visiting their mother's ancestral home in Pampanga during Holy Week.

"We were adventurers, running in the sugar fields, riding carabaos and horses, swimming in the river, climbing trees, watching the penitensya procession, running to other people's homes to play pool.

"We would sit on the old tall window ledge of our house and sing songs to the Aetas and children-holding a mini-concert just for them.

"I always tagged along with my brothers. Being the youngest, I was called saling pusa. Those were the days when we were young and free with no qualms and worries in the world. Best days of my life!" she says.

Huge playground
Perez, who was recently in "33 Variations" and "The Normal Heart," spent summers with her siblings exploring Baguio.

"My grandfather was a Supreme Court justice and my mother worked for him. We all loved the Supreme Court compound, it was like a huge playground for us. We were always climbing or running, we loved to slide down the hill on discarded plywood.

"There's no place in Baguio we didn't conquer because my father's hobby was photography and he took us everywhere to get his fabulous photos."

Williams, whose recent credits include "Bituing Walang Ningning" and "Dirty Old Musical," recalls, "My brother and I would replace the telephone handset with that of the toy phone. Then we'd hide from our minder. She'd panic if she couldn't find us and would call the police. But she ended up using the toy phone.

"We would be dying of laughter. Of course, we got punished for it. And it wasn't my idea! (Laughs.)"

All three in trouble
Which one is most likely to get all three into trouble if you were siblings in real life?

Perez: "I would have to say Michael. His troubles would become mine."

Williams: "Clearly, it would be Cherie."

Gil: "This is hard to admit, but yeah, I guess I'd have to agree with Michael. (Laughs.)" -

"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" runs Jan. 20-Feb. 12, Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/RepertoryPhilippines.

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The Menchu Quick Change Chronicles

The Menchu Quick Change Chronicles
Dec. 13, 2016

The cast of Resorts World Manila's Full House Theater staging of "Annie" created a series of backstage videos featuring Menchu Yulo-Lauchengco's stage exit for her quick change called "The Menchu Quick Change Chronicles."

Here is a compilation of all the videos from Caisa Borromeo's Facebook account. Enjoy!

Episode 1: The Virus

Episode 2: The Finish Line

Episode 3: The Walking Dead

Episode 4: What is everyone running away from?

Episode 5: The Matador

Episode 6: This is SPARTAAAA

Episode 7: At the stroke of midnight

Episode 8: The Hostage

Special episode: The Annie-quin Challenge

Episode 10 (Mid-Season Finale): The Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo Winter Collection

Mid-Season Break

Episode 12: Ang ProbinsyAnnie

Episode 13: Menchu's Revenge

Finale: HanniGans and Ships

"Annie" runs until Dec. 25 at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Paranaque City. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: RWManila.com.

How TJ Ramos crafted the soundscape for 'Mabining Mandirigma'

How TJ Ramos crafted the soundscape for 'Mabining Mandirigma'
and won a Philstage Gawad Buhay for it
Dec. 10, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

TJ Ramos
Tanghalang Pilipino's "Mabining Mandirigma," a musical about Apolinario Mabini, a leader during the Philippine revolution against Spain, is currently on its third rerun.

First staged last year, the production won 12 awards from Philstage Gawad Buhay, including Outstanding Musical (directed by Cris Millado), Script (Nicanor Tiongson), Musical Direction (Joed Balsamo) and Choreography (Denisa Reyes).

Mabini is played by Liesl Batucan (the role was originated by Delphine Buencamino). TP's Actors Company, its resident pool of actors, fills out the rest of the cast (Outstanding Ensemble).

Its set (Toym Imao) and costume design (James Reyes), using steampunk as the visual reference, also won top honors. Steampunk blends 1800s aesthetics (e.g. British Victorian era or American Wild West era) and steam-powered machinery with futuristic touches.

Another winner was the sound design by TJ Ramos.

"The steampunk sound references industrial elements that work using steam-metals clanging, gears ticking, etc. Majority of the sound design and even the music arrangement [for 'Mabining Mandirigma'] was based on that idea," says Ramos.

He crafted the musical's sound "personality" by watching and listening to movies like "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Back to the Future 3."

Aural elements
Scene from Mabining Mandirigma.
Photo by Kurt Copon
What exactly is sound design? "It's the overall aural elements of a production," he says. And a sound designer? "Think of it as being the director for the 'sounds.'"

"Whether for a musical, dance or play, aside from creating music and sound effects for the scenes, you also consider the space. Where is the sound coming from? Offstage? Behind a set piece? The audience area? It adds another dimension to the sound narrative of the production."

Ramos says this is why sound designers also work on the sound equipment's setup such as microphones' and speakers' positions on stage and around the theater.

"Sound designers manipulate all these elements to create a holistic aural experience based on what's needed by the script and the staging."

Designing sounds
Ramos begins work on a show by listing down the sound effects as he reads the script. He then makes studies or samples.

"Then it's constant correspondence with the director, the actors, the stage manager," he says. "Theater is a collaborative process. Aside from my own ideas, I absorb suggestions from everyone involved."

In addition to his library of sound effects, he says, "I sometimes get royalty-free sound effects from the internet. For specific sound effects, I create and record them."

He fine-tunes the sound units as he attends rehearsals: "Once we enter the theater for technical week, that's when I execute the sound system set-up."

Baptism of fire 
Ramos didn't even know what sound designing was when he was studying music production at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

In his senior year, he got composer Joed Balsamo as his on-the-job-training adviser. Ramos recalls: "He asked me to do the music and sound cues of the Virgin Labfest. Little did I know that I was supposed to create music and sound effect cues for all 15 plays all at the same time!"

After his baptism of fire, Ramos credits sound designer Jethro Joaquin for mentoring him further: "He'd let me design some of his cues. Eventually, he gave me my own productions to design."

Ramos has gone on to win Outstanding Sound Design nods from Philstage Gawad Buhay for other shows such as "Encantada," "Stageshow" and "Der Kaufmann."

"Mabining Mandirigma" runs until Dec. 18 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/TanghalangPilipino.

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Ela Lisondra: Swinging from London's 'Miss Saigon' to Manila's 'Christmas Carol'

In BGC, an open-air 'A Christmas Carol' starting tonight
Ela Lisondra: Swinging from London's 'Miss Saigon' to Manila's 'Christmas Carol'
Dec. 3, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Ela Lisondra.
Photo by Hugh Maynard
9 Works Theatrical's "A Christmas Carol"--the classic story of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge and how he changes for the better after being visited by three Christmas ghosts--opens tonight and runs until Dec. 25 at Globe Iconic Store, Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater, Bonifacio Global PCity (BGC), Taguig.

That's the same open-air space where 9 Works presented the punk-rock musical "American Idiot" as a live concert experience several months ago, in collaboration with Globe.

This version of "A Christmas Carol" features the music of Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Pocahontas," "Hercules," "Tangled") and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens ("Once on This Island," "Anastasia").

Playing the Ghost of Christmas Future is Ela Lisondra, who is marking her first Christmas back in the Philippines after eight years of performing in various productions around the world, most recently in "Miss Saigon" in London.

What is she most looking forward to this holiday season? "The hamonado," she says. "Kidding aside, it's being with my family."

"I missed the feeling of a strong family bond. Pinoys are very family-oriented. In other countries, Christmas is more of a celebration, a reason to get fat and to buy and give presents. For us, being in a big Catholic country, we don't forget the real reason behind the season."

Female swing
Miguel Fastuman as Scrooge
Lisondra was also part of "American Idiot." Before that, she spent the past two years playing Miss Everyone Else in "Miss Saigon"--that is, she was one of the production's two female swings, someone who takes the place of absentees.

She had to learn 10 female roles, Gigi's (the role originated by Isay Alvarez) ensemble bits, and even a few male roles. She had to be ready to do any one of them (or several) on any given show.

"Nobody understands how terrifying it is to get a few hours' notice that you'll be on for another role. You think to yourself, 'Shoot! What does she do again?'" she says.

"I had to remember that role's lines, harmony, costumes, props, hairstyle, entrances and exits, the quick [costume] changes and who the dresser was. Backstage, where do I sit? Onstage, who is my GI and where is my spotlight? What's my back story for this particular role?"

Boot camp
Note from Jon Jon Briones, who played The Engineer.
"It was really difficult in the beginning and the pressure was high." Once she'd gotten used to it, Lisondra made it fun for herself by ensuring she had different artistic choices and background stories for each of the roles. "That's what kept it challenging and exciting." 

With actors taking vacation leaves and getting injured or sick, swings are always on. She once covered five people in one show.

Prior to "Miss Saigon," she honed her chops as a performer in Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland in shows like "Mulan," "The Lion King" and "High School Musical: Live!" Lisondra says these experiences, plus the "Miss Saigon" boot camp of sorts, has only made her hungry for more.

"Being a late bloomer, I still need to learn and experience more theater. Being home in the Philippines gives me that opportunity. Performing in my home country feels good."

In "A Christmas Carol," she will be working with Miguel Faustmann as Scrooge, Raul Montesa as Bob Cratchit, Norby David as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Franz Imperial as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Rocco Buser and Dewayde Dizon as Tiny Tim.

Robbie Guevara directs, with Daniel Bartolome as musical director. Onyl Torres is assistant director, Daniel Bartolome is musical director. PJ Rebullida and Yek Barlongay, choreographers; Mio Infante, set designer; Martin Esteva, lighting designer; Ian Cartalaba, costume supervisor; Myrene Santos, hair and makeup designer; Jaime Godinez and Rards Corpus, sound designers; Chuck Ledesma, sound effects designer; GA Fallarme, video designer. 

Now that she's back, "I'm happy to break the chain of working on Christmas day," says Lisondra. "Wait, no, I'm working pala on Christmas this year!"

Tickets: 0917-554-5560, Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/9WorksTheatrical.

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