New Filipino American play puts spotlight on anchor babies, the American Dream

Feb. 13, 2019

LOS ANGELES — The premise for his new play "America Adjacent" came to Filipino-American playwright Boni Alvarez a few years ago when he read a news article about birthing houses being raided in the Los Angeles area.

Cast rehearsing a scene from "America Adjacent."

"I was fascinated by these women who traveled from abroad, spending thousands of dollars for the sole purpose of birthing babies who [would be] American citizens," he says.

"The article was about a Chinese-operated ring of birthing houses. For 'America Adjacent,' I decided to make them Filipina."

Presented by Skylight Theatre and directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, the play imagines what life is like for six women from the Philippines who have risked everything and paid large sums of money to give birth to American children.

In a statement, the play is described as "an examination of the American Dream, how it is manufactured and marketed abroad. As the women endure being sequestered and squeezed into a one-bedroom condo with only one bathroom in Hollywood, hiding illegally with expired tourist visas, will the risk pay proper dividends?"

Based on real events

Although the characters are fictional, Alvarez grounded his play in real-life parameters.

Actors (top row, from left) Evie Abat with playwright Boni Alvarez
and director Jon Lawrence Rivera, Toni Katano, Hazel Lozano.
Bottom row, from left: Actors Arianne Villareal, Angela Baesa,
Sandy Velasco, Samantha Valdellon.

"[Writing the play] did require research, specifically on logistics and timing. How early do these women arrive and depart, types of visas and how long they are valid, how long new passports take to get processed, the specific laws which make birthing houses illegal, etc."

With these details out of the way, Alvarez could work on larger issues in his play.

"I'm always interested in the American Dream, what it is and if it is achievable.

"With the shift in the political climate in America as of late, is the American Dream the same or has it shifted and in what ways? Are the hardships and sacrifices that people endure worth the pursuit of achieving such a dream?"

Filipino American cast

For this world premiere, the entire cast is comprised of Filipino-American actors.

Playing the House Administrator who keeps the women in check and the house under the radar is Hazel Lozano. Recent credits for Lozano include playing Iago in "Othello" (Griot Theatre), an Australian misfit in "Got You" (Exit Strategies/Raze the Space), and a wannabe mermaid in "Of Government" (Son of Semele).

Evie Abat plays Manila socialite Janelle May. Abat's recent credits include Emilia/Brabantio in "Othello" at The Actor's Center, Reggie Fluty in "The Laramie Project" at The Secret Rose and Leelee in "Bloodletting" at Atwater Village Theater.

Angela Baesa plays bossy university professor Roshelyn. Baesa's theater background was her springboard to film and television work. Recent credits include "8 Days Carlo," "My Haunted House," "Anito" and "Bicultural."

Loud and spoiled Paz is played by Toni Katano. This Southern California native studied at the Strasberg Theater Institute and has produced plays with Sixty-Six Theater. Upcoming projects include "The Florist" and "Nanay Ko."

Country lass Sampaguita is played by Samantha Valdellon. This New York native's recent credits include "Twelfth Night," "Failure: A Love Story," (Coeurage Theatre), "Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies" (The Infinite Monkey Project) and "The Brahmin and the Tiger" (here&now theatre company).

Sandy Velasco plays Aimee, a fan of Jesus Christ and sex. This stand-up comedian has also acted for theater companies such as Coeurage Theatre Company, Playwrights' Arena, East West Players and Company of Angels.

Arianne Villareal plays Divina-the nice one with a secret. Villareal's credits include "The 2th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee" for Actors Theatre Indiana and "The Pill," "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson" and "4000 Miles" for Phoenix Theatre.

Lighting design by Mathew Richter, costume design by Mylette Nora, set design by Christopher Scott Murillo, sound design by Austin Quan. Produced by Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco with associate producer Giselle Töngi.

"America Adjacent," previews start Feb. 9, runs Feb. 16 to March 31 at Skylight Theatre Company,1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Visit

'The Love Edition' goes onstage on Valentine’s Day in San Francisco

Feb. 8, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO  It's a Valentine's Day date with Filipino American theater group Bindlestiff Studio as it begins its 2019 installment of "The Love Edition."

Cast of "Boba Shop Solace."
Photo by Paciano Triunfo

The show features new short plays "about love, heartache, and the weirdness in-between."

This year's theme is "Falling Hard," with four of the six plays written by Filipino-American playwrights.


Lina gets bitter life and love lessons from boba in Marissa Martinez's "Boba Shop Solace,"directed by Aura San Miguel.

In Abigail Pañares' "All and Then Most, Some and Now None," the site is a funeral home. The people are Anna and Jake, who used to love each other. The time is two years after they stopped. Directed by Judith Ferrer.

Mary and Chris tell a love story that endures across space and time in Conrad Panganiban's "Devoted," directed by Lorenz Gonzales

Baseball pitcher Frankie tries to dig himself out of a slump on and off the field in Chris "Burd" Quines' "All Bets Off," directed by Joe Cascasan

The other two plays are Pacita Rudder's "Red Roses Floating" (directed by Lauren Garcia), where Azalea is deeply in love with Nana but finds that they might see the world differently; and George Smart's "You Don't?!" (directed by Ely Orquiza), where relationships are explored through the couple Rob and Dale one day after gay marriage is legalized in Vermont.


Conceptualized by Bindlestiff artists Chuck Lacson and Raf Lim in 2006, TLE serves as an opportunity for emerging talents to get their feet wet in the theater disciplines onstage and backstage.

Cast of "All and Then Most, Some and Now None."
Photo by Paciano Triunfo

For this installment, Bindlestiff hosted a writing workshop last year facilitated by Christina Ying before it opened a call for play submissions. Five of the selected plays this year are from participants in the workshop.

Abigail Pañares and Chris "Burd" Quines are first-time Fil-Am playwrights to be staged in "The Love Edition."

Pañares is the founder of Bad Rep Theatre, an Asian American performing arts group. Recent credits include "Don't Worry, She's Chill," which explores anger in Asian American women.

Quines is a filmmaker and has played music at Bindlestiff. He has been involved in sound design for Brown Out Collective's shadow play "Bad Trip."

30th anniversary

"The Love Edition" kicks off Bindlestiff Studio's line-up of productions for its 30th year.

The performance space was founded in 1989 by Canadian puppeteer and director Chrystene Ells. She used the venue for shows and to teach workshops for the neighborhood's youth.

In 1998, management was turned over to actor and stand-up comic Allan Manalo, whose sketch comedy group Tongue In a mood had taken up residency at the space the year prior. 

Fil-Am community theater group Teatro ng Tanan also took up residency (it was dissolved some time later) and Bindlestiff Studio reconfigured its programming to focus on Filipino-American performing artists.

A line-up of productions for the year has already been prepared and will be announced soon.

"The Love Edition: Falling Hard" runs Feb. 14-Mar. 2 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., San Francisco. Visit

Filipino American Daniella Wheelock directs '50 Shades of Shakespeare' in Chicago

Feb. 7, 2019

CHICAGO  Daniella Wheelock's first time was with a man named William. Her first time doing theater work, that is.

"50 Shades of Shakespeare" explores relationships, sexuality, gender, intimacy and kink.
Photo by Kelly Schmidt

"My first show that I ever worked on was a middle school production of 'Hamlet' that I assistant directed," she recalls.

One never forgets the first time. The show she's directing now-which also involves William Shakespeare-was also the very first show she assistant directed when she moved to Chicago last year.

In ReDiscover Theatre's "50 Shades of Shakespeare," four actors will play 23 roles while exploring relationships, sexuality, gender, intimacy and kink.

First time

Fil-Am actor Jay Españo shares the stage with Maggie Miller, Josh Pennington and Deanalis Resto in this work by Jess Shoemaker that compiles the Bard's sexiest scenes.

Filipino American theater director Daniella Wheelock
helms "50 Shades of Shakespeare."

Españo says the show is, "a superb starter sampler for virgins-meaning those who have never seen a Shakespeare play."

"The language become understandable contextually because you can relate to whatever issues back then are still happening now."

In addition to accessibility, he points out it's fun.

To wit, the production is held in a bar, heckling is encouraged, and there will be audience participation (where they get to help assign roles for the actors).

Music to theater

Wheelock's recent credits include "My Very Educated . (Ghost Stories)" for The Barrens Theatre Co., "Where We Go Together" for A Dead Whale Productions, "The Fault of Falling" for the San Diego Fringe Festival, and "Life" and "Goat" for Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

A San Diego native, Wheelock grew up listening to her mother, who is Filipino, playing the piano and singing.

"Music has always been a big part of my life. Music is what introduced me to theater," she says.

She also grew up with two "very talented older sisters who were also musicians. My ate was in the theater program at our school, and I would sit in on musical rehearsals that my mom played piano for."

She eventually took up directing at Webster University and had an Emerging Professional residency at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Revisiting the first

"ReDiscover Theatre has been doing a production of this show every year for the past six years," Wheelock explains.

Jay Españo is in the cast of "50 Shades of Shakespeare."
Photo by Kelly Schmidt

"When directing applications opened this year, I knew that I wanted the chance to work on it again."

"Rehearsals have been so much fun. The cast this year is incredible, and pretty much every rehearsal we've had a moment that's made me laugh so hard I've cried. Every new cast brings in so much energy and joy, and it has been really fun watching this year's show take shape."

For newbies  

Wheelock agrees that "50 Shades of Shakespeare" is definitely geared toward audiences who may not know anything about or are afraid of Shakespeare's works.

"This is definitely the show for you! One of my favorite things about this show is that it has some scenes that are very traditional Shakespeare, and some scenes that have been taken really far out of context of the original play.

"You don't need to know anything about what plays the scenes are from, and the actors do a great job of playing with the language."

"50 Shades of Shakespeare" runs Feb. 7-March 2 at Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro, 3905 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Visit

Filipino American actors star in hit play 'King of the Yees' in San Francisco

Feb. 1, 2019 am-actors-star-in-hit-play-king-of-the-yees- in-san-francisco

SAN FRANCISCO  Krystle Piamonte is the lead in Lauren Yee's semi-autobiographical play, "King of the Yees," which runs until March 2 at San Francisco Playhouse.

Piamonte (left) and Francis Jue play daughter and father.

Piamonte plays a dramatized version of the playwright. Included in the cast are Filipino American actors Jomar Tagatac and Rinabeth Apostol, each of whom will play a variety of roles.

Lauren loves her father, a Chinese immigrant, deeply. However, she's frustrated by his dedication to the patriarchal Yee Family Association, a male-only club-formed 150 years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad- dedicated to preserving the Yee line and cultural history.

Cynical about his stories of their ancient ancestor Yee Fung Toy, Lauren instead wants to celebrate modern-day Chinese culture in America, recognizing its evolution and the contemporary face of Chinatown.

When her father goes missing, Lauren's search for him takes her on a fantastical journey through modern-day Chinatown, and back into her historical ancestry.

This epic ride through space and time enables Lauren to finally understand and respect her father's dedication to the family history and cultural bonds with the past.

Hometown connection

Though the play is set in San Francisco and one of its plot points revolves around the city's Chinatown, the play has never been staged in the city until now.

"It's an honor to be part of this play's homecoming and hearing audiences react with joy and pride at all the San Francisco references," says Piamonte, who's a native of the city herself as well.

She finds Yee's script "hilarious and moving" and felt an instant connection to it. "It's a beautiful love letter to her family and San Francisco's Chinatown. I related a lot to the character of Lauren and her journey in the play."

Aside from the hometown connection, as with the playwright, Piamonte's parents are also immigrants. Her mother is Filipino and her father, as with Yee, is Chinese.


Piamonte's recent credits include "Inside Out and Back Again" for Bay Area Children's Theatre, "Two Mile Hollow" for Ferocious Lotus and "Welga" for Bindlestiff Studio.

Krystle Piamonte plays the lead, Lauren in "King of the Yees."
Photo by Ken Levin

She's worked with theater companies such as TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Theatre Rhinoceros, theTRIBE Productions, and TheatreFirst.

Piamonte trained in the Theatre and Dance program at Sacramento State University, but prior to all of that, she nurtured her passion and honed her skills with Sinag-tala Filipino Theater and Performing Arts Association, a community group in Sacramento founded by Alcide "Sonny" Alforque in 1990 that provides free theater workshops.

"Joining the group was recommended to me when I was a recipient of Philippine National Day Association's Outstanding Filipino Youth Awards. One of the board members recalled that I mentioned a love for singing on my application and suggested that I try out for Sinag-tala.

"I participated in their annual theatrical revue later that year and fell in love with theater."

Piamonte was involved with Sinag-tala for 12 seasons, from 2001 to 2012. "I started out as a principal soloist, but like most non-profits, I eventually took on more roles on the production side like Song Captain, Cultural Consultant, and Souvenir Program Editor and Designer," she says.

"By the time I ended my journey with the company, my biggest responsibilities were being the Assistant Director and one of the Resident Choreographers."


Piamonte shares that rehearsals for this production "have been some of the most fun I've had working on a script! Our amazing director Joshua Kahan Brody knows the play like the back of his hand and wonderfully navigated us whenever we were lost in the whirlwind."

She considers the lead role "a definite highlight in my career as an actor, but it's also a little bit intimidating since my character is based on a real person-the playwright herself."

"Getting to play Lauren has been an artistically fulfilling experience, yet challenging in all the best ways. In a story filled with hammy, outlandish, larger-than-life characters, Lauren has to be the grounded one because she is the glue that holds the story together.

"It's through Lauren's eyes that we see what this play is about and who it's for. We would lose the honesty and heart of the play if she was portrayed in a more performative way."

Piamonte is also thankful for her colleagues. "I'm also working with a dream team of Asian American actors that I've looked up to for years, so getting to watch them create their characters and build relationships with scene partners has been helpful to my own craft.

"On top of that, we all get along so well both on and off the stage, so there's nothing but love, respect, and trust between all of us."

"King of the Yees" runs until March 2 at San Francisco Playhouse, 2nd floor of Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Visit


READ about Jomar Tagatac's 2018 Theater Bay Area Award here.

READ about Rinabeth Apostol's 2018 Bay Area Critics Circle Award here.  

READ about the play "Welga," staged at Bindlestiff Studio, here.

Group art show in Seattle to explore Filipino American experience

Jan. 30, 2019 in-seattle-to-explore-fil-am- experience

SEATTLE  Five Filipino American artists will explore the spectrum of the Filipino American experience in a group show at the M. Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery in February.

"Laigo" by Jeanette Tiffany, acrylic.

Titled "Aming mga Pangitain (Our Visions)," the exhibit will feature at least 17 pieces across a range of styles and mediums by artists Beija Flor, Raphael Laigo, Sam Rodrick Rojas-Chua, Lisa Castillano Szilassy and Jeanette Tiffanny.

The opening reception will feature poetry readings by Rojas-Chua, who is also a poet, and Louie Vital.

There will also be kundiman (love songs) and harana (serenade) performances by Roger Rigor and the Barriotiques.

The artists

Lisa Castillano Szilassy is a fine art finger painter with oils. She is also the author of young adult science fiction novel Amplified, the first in her Balancing Light series.

"Mischief Yogin" by Raphael Laigo, acrylic.

Beija Flor is a sculptor and mixed-media artist from the Pacific Northwest. She received her BA in Physics and Studio Art at Lewis and Clark College in 2018.

Raphael Laigo's mystical mixed-media works, inspired by yogic philosophy and Southeast Asian and Filipino cultures, are surreal pieces of cosmic and natural esoterica incorporating images from photographs taken in the Philippines

Jeannette Tiffany is an artist and owner of Tiffany Graphic Design in Seattle.

Sam Roxas-Chua is a poet and multidisciplinary artist from Eugene, Oregon. His publications include Fawn Language (Tebot Bach), and Echolalia in Script: A Collection of Asemic Writing (Orison Books).


Louie Tan Vital is a poet and community organizer dedicated to fighting for racially- equitable public policy and harnessing performance arts as a means for political activism. Her words have appeared in The Smithsonian and other journals.

"Chinatown" by Liza Castillo Szilassy, fingerpainted oil

The Barriotiques-Abe Legaspi, Alex Urap and Roger Rigor-perform "music of the typical Filipino barrio, traditional and yet contemporary, reminiscent of a golden past."

Legaspi is the original Barriotique. His childhood home in Barrio Sapang Maragul was the inspiration of songs, popular in Tarlac, a Philippine province.

Urap is from the province of Pangasinan and also a homegrown musician.

Rigor started off strumming a guitar in Manila culminating with a disco band, the VST & Company, known for its OPM (Original Pilipino Music) disco tunes of the 1970s era.

The exhibition is co-presented by Filipino American National Historical Society and Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts.

"Aming mga Pangitain (Our Visions)" runs Feb. 4-28 at M. Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery, Seattle Central College, 1701 Broadway, Seattle. Visit

Marc delaCruz on his shot as first Filipino American 'Hamilton'

January 24, 2019

NEW YORK  "I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and relief," confides Marc delaCruz, on being asked to portray the lead role of Alexander Hamilton in the hit musical "Hamilton." He's the first Filipino American to play the role.

Marc delaCruz is the first Filipino American actor
to portray Alexander Hamilton in the musical "Hamilton."

"I finally knew what it was like to perform the role with a full audience. As our conductor said to me that night, I had successfully landed the plane."

In a Facebook post, he writes, "Thank you for all the messages of support and encouragement I've received over the last few days. I'm truly overwhelmed and humbled. Thank you to the Asian, [Asian Pacific Islander] and Filipino/Fil-Am communities for your words of support and cheer. It's an honor to represent my communities in any way big or small. Since joining Hamilton I've witnessed the power of this show to bring people together in a positive, uplifting way. I'm so happy to have any kind of part in that."

DelaCruz is an actor in the ensemble and the understudy for the title role. An understudy takes over the role in case the originally assigned actor is unable to perform.

DelaCruz joined the production last year and debuted as Alexander Hamilton this January.

Created by Lin Manuel Miranda (who also co-wrote songs for the Disney animated film "Moana" and is an actor in the Disney film "Mary Poppins Returns"), the multi-awarded musical is about the life of Alexander Hamilton, a statesman, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., as well as the founder of the nation's financial system.

Loving and generous

"My first performance as Hamilton was scheduled for January 20, but I ended up going on for the first time one day early. We were at the theater for a music brush up rehearsal that day and as soon as it was over, our stage manager called me and asked if I felt ready to go on that night," he said.

Filipino American Marc delaCruz was born in Hawaii and raised in Seattle.

"I said yes. I was ready and would be happy to do it. By that point, the anticipation of going on had been building up so I was eager to get the first performance under my belt.

"The rest of the night was incredible. The entire company lifted me up and gave me so much energy and confidence. Even before the show began, I knew I would be okay because I was surrounded by such loving, generous people."

Hawaii, Seattle, Broadway

DelaCruz made his Broadway debut in the musical "If/Then," which starred Idina Menzel ("Wicked," "Frozen").

DelaCruz backstage in his Alexander Hamilton costume.

Prior to that, he had cut his teeth with credits such as Thuy in "Miss Saigon" and Chip Tolentino in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." He's been in the national tour of "Disney's High School Musical" and in the world premiere cast of "Allegiance" at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre alongside Lea Salonga.

DelaCruz, whose father is Filipino, was born in Hawaii and raised in Seattle. He trained in dance while studying at the University of Washington.

While in college, he was cast in his first professional production, "The Fantasticks," with the Northwest Asian American Theater Company. He went on to act for theater groups in Seattle such as ReAct, Village Theatre and the 5th Avenue Theatre.


His journey to the role began with two songs at his first audition. Then came more and more songs at every callback audition and meeting more and more of the show's directing and music supervisors and other co-creators.

DelaCruz, in his James Reynolds costume, backstage with a fellow cast member.
Photo from Instagram

"Everyone in the room at all of my auditions was absolutely wonderful-warm, encouraging, gracious."

When delaCruz found out he'd been accepted into the show, he was in the middle of preparing for the Off-Broadway show "Ordinary Days" with Keen Company.

"I got to celebrate the news in one of the best ways I can imagine, going to perform in another incredible show in which I got to play a wonderful role."

"I was floored when I received the offer. Any offer for 'Hamilton' would have been amazing but finding out I'd be onstage every night in the ensemble and understudying Alexander Hamilton took a moment to process." 

Double duty

DelaCruz rehearsed for four and a half weeks before his first performance. "During three of those weeks, I was still in `Ordinary Days,' so I was doing double duty-rehearsing one show during the day while performing another on at night."

It's apparent that delaCruz is not only adept at multitasking, he's a versatile actor as well.

His main assignment in the show is to be in the ensemble and to perform three characters: Philip Schuyler, James Reynolds and the Doctor. Then comes the Alexander Hamilton understudy assignment.

But that's not all. He is also the understudy for three more characters: John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (two roles assigned to one actor) and King George.

"My first responsibility was to learn my ensemble track, Man 5. Once I began performances as Man 5, I started rehearsals for the role of Hamilton."

And there is no resting on laurels for the man.

"Now that I've performed Hamilton, I can begin learning my next cover, John Laurens/Philip Hamilton. I actually haven't learned the King George track yet. That will be my last cover to learn. I'm looking forward to it!"

Other Fil-Ams

"Hamilton" has productions in New York, Chicago, Puerto Rico, London, one slated to open in San Francisco in February and two touring productions in the U.S. 

On Broadway, delaCruz joins Filipino Americans Karla Garcia, the production's Co-Dance Captain, and Christina Glur, a swing-an actor who knows multiple roles and fills in for absent actors.

There are also Fil-Am actors in the two touring productions.

In the Angelica cast, Isa Briones plays Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds; and Jon Viktor Corpuz plays John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.

In the Philip cast, Aaron Albano is in the ensemble and plays Samuel Seabury.

Filipino recording artist Rachelle Ann Go is currently playing Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton in the London production.


READ about Isa Briones acting in the touring production of 'Hamilton' here.

READ about Jon Viktor Corpuz in his role as Chulalongkorn in the Broadway revival of 'The King and I' here.

READ about Fil-Am artists joining George Takei's 'Allegiance' in LA staging here.

Filipino American actors sound off on Broadway opportunities

January 23, 2019

NEW YORK  Fil-Am and other Asian American actors have gained mileage in the Broadway industry but are still facing much headwind, according to a panel at this year's BroadwayCon, which included Fil-Am actors Jaygee Macapugay and Orville Mendoza.

From left: Jaygee Macapugay, Orville Mendoza,
Manu Narayan, Erin Quill and Kelvin Moon Loh.
Photo from Instagram

The panel opened with some facts: out of the 30 shows currently in the 41 theaters on Broadway, only nine have Asian American actors in lead or feature roles.

The group also noted that so far on Broadway, there has only been one male Asian American playwright who has been produced (David Henry Hwang) and only one female (Young Jean Lee).

Held in Manhattan, Broadwaycon is a multiday exposition/conference that focuses on Broadway and other theater productions that includes performances, talks, workshops, photo and autograph sessions, etc.

Panelist Macapugay's Broadway credits include "School of Rock." Most recently on Off-Broadway, she was in "Wild Goose Dreams" (with set design by Filipino American Clint Ramos).

Broadway credits for Mendoza include "Pacific Overtures" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." Recently, he was in the national touring production of "Small Mouth Sounds."

Actress Erin Quill moderated the panel. Quill was part of the original Broadway cast of "Avenue Q," which has music co-composed and lyrics co-written by Fil-Am Robert Lopez ("The Book of Mormon" and "Disney's Frozen").

Ethnicity and casting

Quill began discussions with the topic of playing characters who "happen to just be Asian" compared to playing Asian characters.

Jaygee Macapugay was in "School of Rock."

Chicago-native Macapugay shared her experience when she was cast in "School of Rock."

"I loved it because it was truly based on who I am and what I brought to the table and that's a dream come true," she said. "Because when you hear about casting, like, 'who's the token person of color there?'it diminishes you as an actor.

"However, when it comes to casting, I do like the idea of revolving around ethnicity, because why not cast based on the world that is around you, that represents the world around you?

"From those two points of view, being cast on your talent, yes; but also ... for creatives to take an active role to want to cast people of color."

Increasing opportunities

Born in Manila, Mendoza moved to the US with his family when he was two years old. He expressed frustration over having to be relegated as the "token Asian" or the "ethnic alternative" actor in auditions and productions.

Orville Mendoza was in "Pacific Overtures" and "Peter and the Starcatcher."

"The painful [part is] ... it's part of the job. But you have to treat that audition like you're going to get it and you have to find it within yourself to give one hundred percent even though in the back of your head it's, like, 'I'm not going to get this,'" he said.

"It's wonderful when you don't have to think about it. When you're just playing a human being and you just happen to look like this," he said as he gestured to himself.

Macapugay praised the women she's been able to work with. "In the last couple years, working with female directors and female lesbian writers, I think [they] champion more, in my opinion, people of color and people who are different more than any other directors that I've worked with because women, in particular . they know what it's like to be `other,' so they champion 'others.'"

Financial success

Mendoza is hopeful that recent productions in theater and film with diverse casts that have succeeded financially will continue to encourage entities who create shows.

"When investors see that it's not a risk to put someone of color in a lead role, they are more apt to go 'okay.' This will not lose you money, hopefully producers see that. People really want to see this, this is not just a one-time fluke or gimmick thing, they actually are craving more diversity," he said.

The group went on to discuss different ways the industry could increase opportunities for Asian and Pacific Islander actors, including changing ingrained mindsets and current work practices-across audiences, actors, casting directors, directors, playwrights, producers, investors and even board members and donors.

Asian Americans on Broadway

Though not discussed during the panel, Fil-Am and visiting Filipino actors have continued to gain a presence in Broadway productions.

In 2018, Ali Ewoldt continued to play Christine Daae in "Phantom of the Opera."

Arielle Jacobs joined "Disney's Aladdin" as Jasmine where she joined Don Darryl Rivera (who has been playing Iago since the show opened) and several Fil-Am actors in the ensemble.

Catherine Ricafort joined "Spongebob Squarepants" for a few months before it closed in September. Lea Salonga was in "Once on This Island" (with costume design by Ramos), which closed earlier this year.

Clint Ramos handled costume design for "Torch Song" and Robert Brill handled set design for "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical."


Filipino-American Ali Ewoldt is first Asian to play Christine in 'Phantom of the Opera' on Broadway

Filipino Americans Arielle Jacobs and Lissa deGuzman play Jasmine on Broadway and nat'l tour of 'Disney's Aladdin'

Two Filipinos design for Broadway's 'Once on This Island'

Filipino Canadian’s play confronts pressures faced by youth

January 16, 2019

TORONTO  In Marie Barlizo's play "Lucky," a young Filipino student Nina (played by Katharine King) can't meet her parents' high expectations. An encounter with Sylvain (played by Christian Jadah), a former skinhead haunted by his violent past, sparks a thrilling plan that could change both their lives.

Katharine King (left) plays Filipino student Nina
and Christian Jadah plays the haunted Sylvain.
Photo by Tanja Tiziana

Directed by Sophie Gee, the play examines the model minority stereotype of Asians in Canada-of being submissive, intelligent, well behaved-and the consequences of such cultural preconceptions. It also explores how cultural expectations can affect happiness and self-esteem.

"Lucky" is running until January 20 at Factory Theatre Studio as part of the 2019 Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Born in the Philippines and raised in Montreal, Barlizo studied Theatre at Concordia University, took up a master's in Creative Writing at University of British Columbia and studied Playwriting at the National Theatre School (where she now teaches).

Her plays have been showcased at Playwrights Theatre Centre's New Play Festival in Vancouver; fu-Gen Asian-Canadian Theatre Company's Annual Potluck Festival and Factory Theatre's CrossCurrent Festival in Toronto; and Playwrights' Workshop Montreal and Teesri Duniya Theatre in Montreal.

Inspired by real events

First performed at the 2018 Montreal Fringe Festival, "Lucky" is inspired by the shocking tragedy of Vietnamese-Canadian Jennifer Pan.

Playwright Marie Barlizo wrote "Lucky" to open discussions about mental health.

Under tremendous pressure from her immigrant parents to succeed, Pan had lied to them about being accepted to college after she failed to graduate from high school. In 2010, she was convicted for hiring hitmen to murder her parents.

Barlizo felt an immediate personal connection to Pan's story. In a statement, she said, "I was my parents' 'golden child,' I understand only too well what it means to be trapped by high expectations."

Barlizo set the action of the play in Montreal's Filipino Canadian community. To research the character of Sylvain, she consulted Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi who now advocates for peace through his organization Life After Hate.

"I wrote 'Lucky' because I want to open up the discussion about the extreme pressures we, in the Asian community, put on our children and the effects on their mental health," she said.

The Next Stage Theatre Festival is produced every January by Toronto Fringe (which organizes the Toronto Fringe Festival every July).

"Lucky" runs until Jan. 20, Factory Theatre Studio, 125 Bathurst St., Toronto. Visit

This year’s buffet of Filipino America and Filipino Canadian cookbooks

Nov. 28, 2018
USA and Canada Section,

NEW YORK  This year offered a smorgasbord of cookbooks by Filipino American and Filipino Canadian authors. Here's a handy recap for those of you who are looking for gift ideas for the year-end holidays.

Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino's
"Instant Filipino Recipes:
My Mother's Philippine Food in a Multicooker Pot"
Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad's
"I Am Filipino: And This is How I Cook."

But before listing the new ones down, a cursory internet search for the lineage of Fil-Am cookbooks reveals that one of the earliest published ones that is still available seems to be Philippine Cooking in America by Marilyn Donato. It was first published in 1972, and according to its website, is now on its 8th edition.


This year, Filipino Canadian Liza Agbanlog, an educator and homemaker who also maintains the food blog Salu Salo Recipes, authored the cookbook Quintessential Filipino Cooking: 75 Authentic and Classic Recipes of the Philippines. Agbanlog provides personal takes on the recipes she has brought over from the Philippines to Canada.

Alex Paman's "Filipino Barbecue"
Marvin Gapultos'
"Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers and Street Eats"

Filipino Americans such as White House chef Cris Comerford, cable channel TLC's "Food Buddha" host Rodelio Aglibot and TV cooking competition shows "Top Chef" and "Chopped Grill Masters" former contestant Chrissy Camba, are just a few of the personalities featured in The New Filipino Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from around the Globe.

This book contains not only recipes but also essays and interviews with Filipino chefs, restaurateurs and other personalities around the world. It's edited by Jacqueline Chio-Lauri (based in the United Kingdom) with food photography by Rowena Dumlao-Giardina (based in Italy).

Other Filipino Americans featured in the book include Paolo Dungca (Restaurant Eve in Washington, DC); Cristina Quackenbush (Milkfish, formerly a restaurant but now only pop-up dining events, in New Orleans); Ray Espiritu (Isla Pilipina in Chicago); Robert Menor (Bonifacio in Columbus, Ohio); and Alexa Alfaro (Meat on the Street food truck in Milwaukee). Filipino Canadians include Allan Pineda (Manila Nights pop-up dining events in Winnipeg) and food writer Nastasha Alli.

Fil-Am writers and organizers featured in the book include Dalena Benavente (author, Asian Girl in a Southern World), Marilyn Donato (author, Philippine Cooking in America), and Joanne Boston-Kwanhull (co-director, Filipino Food Movement).

Barbecue and bar bites

Writer and graphic designer Alex Paman spent more than a decade to research for his book Filipino Barbecue, where he discusses marinades, rubs and grilling traditions from the Philippines and "scrumptious pork skewers" all the way to "centerpiece whole roasted pigs."

"Quintessential Filipino Cooking:
75 Authentic and Classic Recipes of the Philippines"
by Liza Agbanlog
"The New Filipino Kitchen:
Stories and Recipes from around the Globe"
edited by Jacqueline Chio-Lauri.

Self-taught home cook turned food-truck entrepreneur, Marvin Gapultos has written his second book, Pulutan! Filipino Bar Bites, Appetizers and Street Eats,this time focusing on bar snacks. Here he uses his Certified Cicerone level (Cicerone is a beer expertise certification program) to good use as he recommends beer pairings with his recipes.


Food journalist Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino (who maintains the food blog Asian in America) has added another title to her series of books, this time targeted at busy individuals who need to get their food cooked quickly.

Marilyn Donato's "Philippine Cooking in America."

Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother's Philippine Food in a Multicooker Pot shows how to use digitized pressure cookers (the popular brand these days is Instant Pot) to reduce the traditionally long-ish times for braising, boiling, simmering, and roasting that's required of typical Filipino recipes. In this case, her own mother's heirloom recipes.

Restaurateur Nicole Ponseca and her Dominican American partner, chef Miguel Trinidad, have authored I Am Filipino: And This is How I Cook. The couple owns restaurants Maharlika Filipino Moderno and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub, both of which are in New York. The book is part travelogue, chronicling the pair's research forays to the Philippines. The couple's recipes range from traditional to contemporary, spread across nine categories.

Happy cooking and eating!

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.