Broadway Barkada to hold concert in Los Angeles, May 28

By WALTER ANG
May 19, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/12344/broadway-barkada-hold-concert-los-angeles-may-28

LOS ANGELES  Performance and artist-support group Broadway Barkada will stage "Balikbayan: An LA Homecoming Concert" on May 28 at Rockwell Table and Stage.

From left: Liz Casasola, Broadway Barkada (BB) cofounder and the concert's director;
Billy Busamante, BB cofounder and cast member of "Soft Power;"
Jaygee Macapugay, BB member and cast member of "Soft Power."

The show will feature Filipino American cast members of the musical "Soft Power" as well as other Broadway Barkada (BB) members who have performed on Broadway and Off-Broadway.

"The show will feature a mix of musical theater, pop, R&B, soul, jazz and boogie-woogie," says director Liz Casasola. Musical direction and arrangements will be by Mark Abulencia.

Part of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project.

Line up

BB members in the cast of "Soft Power" (starring Conrad Ricamora and currently playing at Ahmanson Theater) confirmed to join the concert include Billy Bustamante, Jaygee Macapugay, Maria Christina Oliveras and Geena Quintos.

According to Casasola, also performing in the concert are BB members who are based in Los Angeles, such as Melody Butiu, Chris Chatman, Debralee Daco, Deedee Magno Hall, Anthea Neri, Isabelle Van Vleet and Allen Lucky Weaver.

"Many of these artists who worked in New York have moved to Los Angeles for various reasons, such as pursuing television, film or music work or to raise families," she says.

These artists' geographic trajectories are part of reason why the concert is titled "Balikbayan"-to celebrate a homecoming and reunion of these colleagues and barkada-mates.

Other performers joining the concert include Emily Borromeo, Bryan Geli, Joanne Javien, Glen Llanes, Anthea Neri, Jennifer Paz, and Nicole Santiago.

Community

For Casasola, there's a personal connection to the concert title. "Los Angeles is my hometown! It's also my homecoming," she says.

BB cofounder Billy Bustamante (left) moderating post-show talkback session
with Lea Salonga during Pinoy Night at "Once on This Island."

Aside from working as an actor in New York (including Jessica Hagedorn's "Dogeaters" at The Public Theater), she has also coproduced concerts that topbilled the likes of Lea Salonga.

She cofounded Broadway Barkada with actors Billy Bustamante and Brian Jose in 2009.

All three were in the cast of Pan Asian Repertory Theater's staging of "Imelda: A New Musical." Two typhoons adversely affected several areas in the Philippines that year and the trio gathered the show's all-Filipino American cast to perform in a benefit concert to raise funds to send back to the survivors.

The group has since continued to grow and has become a collective of professional artists whose mission is "to provide a community for the Filipino artist, that cultivates our talents, educates our audiences, and elevates our global impact."

Filipino Veterans and Education Project aims to obtain national recognition and raise awareness of Filipino and Filipino-American World War II soldiers through academic research and public information.

Other events

In February, Broadway Barkada hosted a "Pinoy Night" at one of the performances of the Broadway musical "Once on This Island," which includes Lea Salonga in the cast. The group facilitated a post-show talkback session with Salonga moderated by Bustamante.

From left: BB members JP Moraga, Allen Lucky Weaver and Jon Viktor Corpuz
were part of the cast of the staged reading of Boni Alvarez's play "Fixed."

Last month, BB members JP Moraga, Allen Lucky Weaver and Jon Viktor Corpuz were part of the cast of a staged reading of Fil-Am playwright Boni Alvarez's "Fixed" at New Dramatists, a developmental laboratory for professional playwrights, in New York.

Alvarez was named as one of New Dramatists' eight new resident playwrights last year. He was chosen out of 415 applicants by a seven-person committee (composed of New Dramatists residents, alumni, and outside theater professionals) in a nine-month evaluation process.

The reading of Alvarez's play kicked off his residency, which will last until 2024. His play "Fixed" was most recently staged by Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles last year, directed by Rodney To.

An adaptation of Spanish writer Pedro Calderon's "The Physician of His Own Honor," the play is about the love between Miracles MalacaƱang, a Filipino ladyboy masseuse, and Mariano Fernandez.

Upcoming

Back in New York, Broadway Barkada will perform at "Time Is Now," a networking and mentoring event featuring Filipino industry leaders, at the Harvard Club of New York in June.

The group will also hold its annual "Lumipad Dance Concert" at Alvin Ailey Theater later in the year.

"Balikbayan: An LA Homecoming Concert" is on May 28 at Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets at BarkadaLA.eventbrite.com.

READ about the Filipino American cast of "Soft Power" here.

READ about the 2017 Los Angeles staging of Boni Alvarez's "Fixed" here.


Filipino American Tasi Alabastro named 'Emerging Artist Laureate' in Silicon Valley

By WALTER ANG
May 17, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/12301/fil-named-emerging-artist-laureate-silicon-valley

SAN FRANCISCO — Filipino American theater artist Tasi Alabastro has been named Silicon Valley Creates' Emerging Artist Laureate for 2018.

Tasi Alabastro has been named Silicon Valley Creates'
2018 Emerging Artist Laureate

Silicon Valley Creates (SVCreates), an arts-support organization, will hold an award ceremony for Alabastro and its other laureates on June 21 at Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, California.

SVCreates' SVArts Awards, which has been given out since 1991, recognizes "exceptional achievement in the arts and contributions to the cultural life of Silicon Valley." Recipients receive cash awards to celebrate and encourage their artistic work.

The program will be emceed by Filipino American Michael Isip, executive vice president and chief operating officer of news and media organization KQED.

In its Facebook account, SVCreates posted, "Congratulations, Tasi Alabastro! [He] will be honored . for his work and his commitment to enriching our community through the arts. Tasi is an actor, online content creator and photographer whose work focuses on reflecting his community and culture."

Previous Fil-Am SVCreates Emerging Artist Laureates include Jeffrey Lo for theater in 2012 and Robertino Ragazza for photography in 2013.

Relief and elation

Alabastro was in the middle of doing a livestream video broadcast when he received the phone call to inform him of his award.

Since he was unable to answer his phone, he glanced at the email alert instead. "My heart flew! It was a mixture of relief, elation, and welling pride," he says.

Relief because he almost did not apply for consideration.

On the last day of the application period, he had been through an exhausting week and had limited internet access. "All of [those memories] came rushing back to me and I thought, 'Thank goodness I finished my application!'"

Milestone

"One of the rad aspects of what SVCreates has developed through this laureate is the sense that you've got a milestone to clock," he says.

He contrasts the career of an artist to that of, say, an office-based professional. "Oftentimes, as an artist, you aren't moved through your career the way it would be in many positions in a company, i.e. promotion to manager, CEO, etc."

"One of the things I share with artists who are just starting out is to learn to identify what you think your milestones are. If you can't look back and see how much you've been growing, you'll have a challenging time navigating what's ahead."

Heartbreak

It was heartbreak that brought Alabastro into theater work.

Born and raised in American Samoa ("I'm quite fond of where I grew up!"), he moved to San Francisco after from graduating high school to pursue a degree in microbiology.

A failed relationship prompted a respite in Hawaii. "It was there that I decided to take an acting class and the rest, as they say, is history."

Alabastro (left) and Katie O'Bryon Champlin
are in the cast of "Three Days of Rain."
Photo by James Kasyan

It's fortunate for SF Bay Area theatergoers that Alabastro returned and has since established a profession on the stage and in film.

He's worked with theater groups such as Bindlestiff Studio, 06 Ensemble, Santa Clara Players, and City Lights Theatre Company, among others.

He also works with inmates in state prisons as part of Arts-in-Corrections, a program that re-engage participants with their creativity and imagination.

Upcoming

Alabastro is currently rehearsing for Dragon Theatre's staging of Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain."

He will play a prodigal son who returns home to join his sibling to discuss their late father's will. Both soon discover a series of family secrets.

"I remember the day I finished reading the script. I thought, 'Damn, that's one hell of a story.' It took me another read-through to finally digest some of the more complex ideas and themes. The writing is so rich and there's so much for an actor to wrangle and play with."

"Dragon Theatre is a place I've worked in several times in as an actor and a few other times as a graphic designer."

He previously played lead character Orestes in the group's production of a modernized take of the Greek tragedy "The Libation Bearers" and was part of the cast of mystery thriller "The Woman in Black."

"I'm excited to help bring this story to life with director Meredith Hagedorn and this team. This play is Meredith's swan song. It's her last play before she retires as the artistic director."

"Rehearsals have been an immensely engaging experience. Some of my initial reactions have persisted through rehearsal, the sense of wonderment at the script and how much there is to comb through, the elation that I'm being challenged as an actor, and the determination to make sure I help tell the story to its fullest potential."

"Three Days of Rain" runs May 25-June 17 at Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway, Redwood City. Visit Dragonproductions.net.


Alan Asuncion celebrates 10th year of stomping around

By WALTER ANG
May 11, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/12169/alan-asuncion-celebrates-10th-year-stomping-around

NEW YORK  It's a profession that requires banging around with broomsticks, hub caps, trash cans, lighters, and other objects that may occasionally be considered trash. There's also a lot of heavy stomping in boots.

Alan Asuncion has been with "STOMP" for more than 10 years.

But you can't just do it however you like, you have to be in sync with a group of other people. And you have to produce rhythm and music. And you do it in front of hundreds of theatergoers.

Seen another way, you're part of an orchestra that plays unconventional musical instruments, but you also have to dance and act (and be funny).

Alan Asuncion has been in a job like this for more than a decade now, creating performances that are an amalgamation of music, dance, and theater.

He's in the cast of "STOMP" in New York."Celebrating 10 years in any job is a great milestone and achievement!" he says of his 10th anniversary with the show last year.

Still learning

"Getting along with all the people you work with makes the time really fly by," he adds.  "This has always been a dream gig for me," he says of the show created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.

Asuncion also plays piano and drums.

The performers "make a rhythm out of anything we can get our hands on that makes a sound," explains Cresswell. "STOMP" also has ongoing North American and European tours and will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

Asuncion says it feels "surreal" that he's considered a veteran of the show even though he is "still learning and evolving."

Dream

Asuncion was born in Far Rockaway, Queens-the youngest of five kids. "My mother is from Cadiz and my father is from Hinigaran, Negros Occidental."

He began his music career playing the piano and drums and eventually began teaching lessons on how to play these two instruments.

At 14 years old, he started playing in various bands in the wedding circuit, which allowed him to perform with many Broadway and notable jazz artists. Prior to joining "STOMP," he had been in the cast of the aerial show "De La Guarda."

Learning

"Most of the rhythms and music of the show were fairly easy for me to learn, coming from a music and drumming background."

One of the characters Alan Asuncion plays in "STOMP" is "Mozzie."
Photo by Steve McNicholas

Though photographs of Asuncion in performance may not seem like it (usually with him flying in the air), what proved a little more difficult for him in the beginning was the physical demands of the show.

"Getting used to the movement and physicality of the prop, or making it look easy, was always the most awkward for me. Plus, I'm not a dancer, so my movement skills were lame."

"The most challenging prop to learn for me were the poles. It wasn't necessarily because of the physicality of the prop, but because the music and choreography for the poles are probably the most dynamically and rhythmically complex pieces in the show."

It would seem Asuncion has learned a thing or two. After all, one of the characters he's been assigned to play is Mozzie, who is described as "acrobatic.

Routine

Ten years in, he has developed a pre-show routine.

"About an hour and a half before the show, we have a rehearsal and a 20-minute body warm-up."  Afterwards, there is a block of time allotted for the cast to mentally prepare for the show.

Asuncion in a scene from "STOMP," a show that produces
"rhythm out of anything . that makes a sound."

"That's when I usually go out to get an espresso. I go when I don't even need it. Just to go out and be outside for a little bit.That, and I play `Words with Friends.'"

Since Asuncion makes music daily for theatergoers, what kinds of music does he himself listen to? "I haven't really purchased any music recently, but while driving or cooking, I have a few Pandora rock and jazz stations that I have my phases with.

He listens to artists or groups such as John Mayer, The Police, Snarky Puppy, Robert Glasper, Haitus Kayote, Esperanza Spalding, Knower, Mister Barrington, Edit Bunker. "Too many!" he says.

"I've also been listening to drumming and comedian podcasts. I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy. Guys like Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Modern Drummer, Drummer's Resource, etc."

"STOMP" plays Tuesdays to Sundays at Orpheum Theatre, 126 2nd Ave., New York. Visit Stomponline.com.


Filipino Americans win at 42nd SF Bay Area Critics Circle Awards

By WALTER ANG
May 8, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/12109/fil-ams-in-sf-bay-area-critics-circle-awards

SAN FRANCISCO  Rinabeth Apostol and Tiffany Villarin both won Best Actress in a Playfor playing twinsat the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle's 42nd Annual Excellence in Theatre Awards.

Villarin (left) and Apostol (far right) played twins in "peerless."
Photo by Kevin Berne

Robert Brill won Best Set Design for his work on Berkeley Repertory Theatre's production of the musical "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations."

The awards-for productions staged in 2017-were announced and presented to the recipients at the Victoria Theatre.

Brill won for his work in the Best Set Design-in a House with more than 300 Seats category. Written by Dominique Morisseau, "Ain't Too Proud" was staged August to November last year, directed by Des McAnuff.

Twins

Apostol and Villarin were nomiated as a duo and won for their roles as twins L and M, respectively, in Marin Theatre Company's staging of "peerless," in the Best Actress in a Play-in a House with 100 to 300 Seats category.

Staged in March of 2017, Jiehae Park's dark comedy was directed by Margot Bordelon.


WATCH: Trailer of Marin Theatre Company's "peerless"

Loosely based on Shakespeare's "Macbeth," the sisters delve into diabolical means when one of them loses a slot to a prestigious university.

Recent credits

Apostol's credits include Jessica Hagedorn's "Dogeaters" staged by Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 2016 as well as stints with San Jose Repertory and East West Players, among others.

From left: Tiffany Villarin, Rinabeth Apostol and Robert Brill.

Villarin's credits include Goodman Theatre and Silk Road Rising in Chicago and Ensemble Studio Theatre and Diverse City Theater in New York, among others.

Both actors recently concluded acting stints at Actors Theatre of Louisville's 42nd Humana Festival of New American Plays in Kentucky.

Villarin (left) and Apostol in "peerless."

Apostol was part of the cast of Susan Soon He Stanton's "we, the invisibles" and Villarin was part of the cast of Mara Nelson-Greenberg's "Do You Feel Anger?"

Villarin will be in Ma-yi Theater's production of "Teenage Dick" in New York from June to July. (She was previously in Ma-yi's "House Rules," a comedy about Filipino American familes.)

"Teenage Dick" is Mike Lew's reimagining of Shakespeare's "Richard III" set in a high school. It will be staged at Public Theater. Sound design will be by Fil-Am Fabian Obispo.

Upcoming

Brill has also designed the sets for "Frozen: Live at the Hyperion" at Disney California Adventure Park (where costumes were designed by Tony Award winner Fil-Am Clint Ramos) and the Broadway production "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical."

Robert Brill designed the sets (shown in this screenshot from the trailer)
for Berkeley Repertory Theatre's "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations."

A recipient of the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration, Brill is a founding member of Sledgehammer Theatre and a professor of scenic design at University of California-San Diego.

"Ain't Too Proud" will be staged in Washington, DC at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from June to July and in Los Angeles at Ahmanson Theater from August to September.

READ about Rinabeth Apostol preparing for her role in Jessica Hagedorn's "Dogeaters" here.

READ about Ma-yi Theater's staging of "House Rules" here.

Play takes a 'StanD' for mental health awareness

By WALTER ANG
May 4, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/12010/play-takes-stand-mental-health-awareness

LOS ANGELES  If Christopher Aguilar can help it, no person with bipolar disorder or any other kind of mental health condition should ever have to be hospitalized due to the severity of their illness.

Scene from a previous performance of "StanD," a play that promotes
awareness of mental health illnesses in the Filipino American community.

One way they are (Aguilar identifies with the they-them-their pronouns) addressing the problem is to raise awarenessof what possible signs and symptoms are, of what life is like for a person with a mental health condition, and of the fact that asking for help should be and is perfectly fine.

Their play, "StanD," and will be staged in May-Mental Health Awareness Month-at two Filipino American organization venues: Filipino American Service Group Inc. Bayanihan Center (May 12) and Pilipino Workers Center (May 19).

The shows are free admission to the public and a post-show discussion about mental illness will follow each performance.

Premise

To be performed by a Filipino American cast, the play is about a Filipino American man living with bipolar disorder.

"This play explores the consequences of adolescent acting-out behaviors, parents' stance on psychiatric medications, the responsibility of taking medications and the repercussions of stopping medications all at once," says Aguilar.

"The plays asks 'What happens when a man has to reconfigure his life after a hospitalization and how does the family learn to adapt to manic-depressive behaviors and recovery?'"

"In the end, we see the possibility of a bipolar lifestyle, the true identity of this man and the effects of what it takes to be completely human."

Breaking stigmas

Born in Newport Beach, California, Aguilar took up a master's in music theater at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Actor, dancer, playwright and mental health advocate Christopher Aguilar.

Recent choreography credits include San Diego Repertory's "Old Boy" and East West Players' "La Cage Aux Folles."

"I wrote 'StanD' to help break the stigma of mental illness," they say.

Aguilar's advocacy is borne out of his personal experiences, having been hospitalized at 16 years old and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"As I grew up, I began to believe that sharing my own experiences living with bipolar disorder can help break the stigma, especially within the Filipino American community."

Aguilar was hospitalized again later on as an adult after an extreme manic episode

"It was then that I wanted to find a way to help others from being hospitalized themselves. That's when I started writing the play."

Positive feedback

Aguilar developed their play at East West Players' David Henry Hwang Writer's Institute.

Developmental versions and excerpts of the play have been staged at high schools and wellness conferences and have received positive feedback.

"There was a Filipino American girl that was warned that she may encounter a few triggers from watching the play and that she was allowed to leave if necessary.

"I am glad she stayed, because she talked during the post-show discussion about how she was hospitalized herself and how this play really helps her feel that she's not alone."

At another previous staging, one audience member started crying during the post-show discussion.

"She didn't realize people like Stan's character existed and that Stan's character [reminded her of someone she knew]. The fact that she was crying, the play seemed to be effective.

"Toward the end of our discussion, a woman pointed out how there is hope revolving around mental health simply because there is a group of Filipinos who has the time and effort to put on a play, simply to help people. That made us feel good."

Seeking advice

Signs and symptoms for mental illnesses vary from individual to individual and from condition to condition.

Aside from approaching medical or health professionals for advice, Aguilar recommends researching information from the websites of National Alliance on Mental Illness (Nami.org/Learn-More/Know-the-Warning-Signs) and Each Mind Matters (Eachmindmatters.org).

Aguilar is certified as a Peer Health Educator from APAIT Special Service Group.  "I have some training on how to conduct discussions revolving around health of any kind, but especially prevention from diseases. I believe my training translates into the mental health sector and I am so honored and glad to be given the opportunity to conduct the 'StanD' discussions."

Aguilar is eager to spread more awareness about mental health through theater and welcomes inquiries from organizations, schools and groups interested in having the play performed at their locations.

"StanD," free admission, runs in Los Angeles on May 12 at Filipino American Service Group Inc. Bayanihan Center, 135 N. Park View St., and on May 19 at Pilipino Workers Center, 153 Glendale Blvd. Contact chrisbelen.aguilar@gmail.com.

MaArte is San Diego’s new Fil-Am theater group

By WALTER ANG
May 3, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11978/maarte-san-diegos-new-fil-theater-group

SAN DIEGO  Works by Filipino American playwrights will be featured in MaArte Theatre Collective's "On the Flip Side: A Night of FOB-ulous Theatre" this May.

Founding members of MaArte Theatre Collective.
Top row (from left): Claudette Santiago, Reanne Acasio,
Patrick Mayuyu, and Ciarlene Coleman.
Bottom row (from left):
Shaun Tuazon Martin and Christine Nathanson.

Seven short plays will be directed by young San Diego-based theater makers at the one-night-only showcase.

San Diego natives Thelma De Castro and Carol Cabrera are among the featured playwrights, the other five are from across the US.

"For the most part, the plays center around the children of immigrants," says Christine Nathanson, co-artistic director of the group, referring to the "FOB" in the title, slang for "fresh off the boat"-a pejorative for new immigrants.

"Although none of the plays give specific commentary on the transition from the characters' country of origin to the US, their experiences, relationships and personal demons reflect a deep sense of heritage.

"They wrestle with longing, expectations, body image, tradition and what it means to forge a new identity in a place that doesn't always accept you."

What's in a name

MaArte Theatre Collective was established only a few months ago.

"We're a group of Filipino American theater artists in San Diego who got tired of waiting for other companies to produce work featuring Asian stories, so we decided to do it ourselves."

As evidenced by their upcoming production's title, part of the group's ethos is turning pejoratives and stereotypes on their heads and challenging old or long-held definitions, concepts and ideas.

It was co-artistic director Ciarlene Coleman's suggestion that won the votes for the group's name.

The group took off from the multiple meanings of "maarte," which include "creative and artistic" and the less flattering, colloquial "picky, high-maintenance young woman" or "diva."

"As an organization, we have chosen to reclaim and redefine this word. We, as young, opinionated, and present theater artists, have chosen to embrace all that `maarte' entails," says Nathanson.

"To us, it means bold. It means audacious. It means filled with the power of creativity. We are selective and we know exactly what we want-the fair and honest representation of the fullness of the Filipino-American experience-and we're out to get it."

Hyphenated

The other four founding members are Reanne Acasio, Shaun Tuazon-Martin, Patrick Mayuyu and Claudette Santiago.

Except for Acasio, who was born in Guam, and Tuazon-Martin, who was born in Oakland, California, the collective's members are all native-born San Diegans.

The group's inaugural production was an intimate cabaret titled "Debut" last February at Snoice, a dessert shop that specializes in halo-halo, shaved ice and boba tea concoctions.

"`Debut' was an announcement of our arrival, both as a collective and as Filipino American artists whose talents deserve to be recognized," Nathanson says.

WATCH: Highlights from Maarte Theatre Collective's "Debut"

"We're united in our Filipino identities, but that experience is incredibly diverse, complicated and, most importantly, hyphenated. We're border-straddling, stereotype-defying Filipino Americans."

"In order to survive as a freelance artist in San Diego, it is necessary to operate across multiple disciplines and do lots of things. We all consider ourselves multidisciplinary artists."

The members' combined inventory of experiences range from onstage talents such as acting, singing and dancing to backstage disciplines like directing, sound design, music composition, and choreography, among others.

There's a list of off-stage skills and passions, too: graphic design, writing, arts administration, activism and "artivism" (i.e. activism through and using art). There is also at least one self-confessed donut enthusiast in the group.

The plays

The seven plays to be featured in "On the Flip Side" have varying durations.

Marc Abrigo's "Distinguished Competition" is a five-minute piece about a casting-call for a new Asian comic book superhero while Carol Cabrera's "Colored" is about Luke, who "has been gone a long time and has missed too many funerals" but is now back "but are his friends ready to forgive him and, more importantly, can he forgive himself?"

Other plays include "Accents" by Ciarlene Coleman, "High Stakes" by Ruth Pe Palileo, "That is Not Yours" by Molly Olis Krost, "Inay's Wedding Dress" by Conrad Panganiban, and an excerpt from "Bachelor Moon" by Thelma De Castro.

Upcoming

After "On the Flip Side," Maarte Theatre Collective plans to produce another cabaret performance-in what will hopefully "become a regularly scheduled event every few months."

Another one-evening-only presentation of short plays is planned for the fall and a full-length new play is on the drawing board for next year.

"We're accepting submissions for consideration at MaarteTheatreCollective@gmail.com," Nathanson announces.

"On the Flip Side: A Night of FOB-ulous Theatre" runs May 7 at Ocean Beach Playhouse, 4944 Newport Ave. D, San Diego, California. Visit MaarteTheatreCollective.weebly.com.


Conrad Ricamora stars in David Henry Hwang’s 'Soft Power'

By WALTER ANG
April 28, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11881/conrad-ricamora-stars-david-henry-hwangs-soft-power

LOS ANGELES  Conrad Ricamora and other Filipino American actors are part of the cast of Center Theatre Group's world premiere of "Soft Power."

Conrad Ricamora

Ricamora plays a Chinese executive who visits the US and falls in love with an American leader as the power balance between the two countries shifts after the 2016 US election.

This "play with a musical" is written by David Henry Hwang with music composed by Jeanine Tesori and directed by Leigh Silverman.

Tesori composed the music for the musicals "Shrek the Musical" and "Fun Home." (Lea Salonga performed in the 2016 Manila production of "Fun Home.")

Hwang is most known for his play "M. Butterfly." (Alec Mapa took over the lead role of Song Liling from BD Wong in the original Broadway run and went on to play the role in the play's national tour.)

Hwang has also written a revised version of the musical "Flower Drum Song" that starred Salonga and Jose Llana on Broadway.

The other Fil-Am actors in the cast of "Soft Power" include Billy Bustamante (whose Broadway credits include "Miss Saigon"), Jaygee Macapugay ("School of Rock"), Maria-Christina Oliveras ("Amelie"), and Geena Quintos ("Miss Saigon").

WATCH: Conrad Ricamora invites theatergoers to watch "Soft Power."

The term "soft power" is used to describe a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of cultural influence.

The play is described as "rewinding recent political history and plays it back, a century later, through a Chinese East-meets-West musical."

Brilliant

Ricamora is known for his portrayal of Oliver Hampton on the television series "How to Get Away with Murder."

His theater credits include playing Lun Tha in the Broadway production of "The King and I" opposite Jose Llana, who was one of the actors who played the King of Siam during the show's run (and is currently playing the role in the production's national tour).

Ricamora also played Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., in the musical "Here Lies Love"-a musical about the life of Imelda Marcos-in New York and in Seattle.

"It's been incredibly moving and challenging, because they are so brilliant and work so fast," says Ricamora of collaborating with Hwang and Tesori.

"They can write brilliant new dialogue and music on the spot so it can be hard to keep up with that level of genius.

"Luckily, they are also very kind and generous collaborators so they are patient when I need extra time to implement new script or score changes."

From scratch

Unlike Ricamora's previous theater assignments, the role he is stepping into this time has to be crafted from the ground up.

Filipino American actors in the cast of "Soft Power"
include (clockwise)
Billy Bustamante, Jaygee Macapugay,
Geena Quintos and Maria-Christina Oliveras.

"It's challenging, because there is no template to work from," he says. "When I did `King and I' three years ago, it was a show and character that had been done for decades. There were multiple recordings and movies to reference."

Since "Soft Power" is a new play, actors have the opportunity to have a hand in building their characters. "Sometimes doubt can creep in when you feel like you are trying to do something the 'right' way.

"But then you remember that there is no 'right' way and that becomes very freeing. That's also what is so fun. It's never been done before, so you don't have to compare yourself to anyone else."

Current and catharsis

Meanwhile, he is enjoying working with colleagues from previous productions of "Here Lies Love," namely Bustamante, Macapugay and Quintos.

"They are family at this point. Plain and simple," he says.

"There is an instant level of comfort and a deep bond there. We have all been through so much with each other over the years that it's nice to have that feeling of safety in the room."

Ricamora believes that "Soft Power" exposes "so many current political and racial themes that are very pressing in our world right now."

He hopes that theatergoers will "experience some relief in that they can laugh at some of those things in our show. But also some kind of catharsis in that they can let go and experience some of the deep emotional things that we are feeling as a nation and a world right now. And maybe carry a different awareness of those themes afterwards."

Honoring

"Soft Power" is produced by Center Theatre Group in association with East West Players (EWP).

On April 30, EWP will hold its 52nd anniversary Visionary Awards dinner and silent auction to recognize "the achievements of individuals who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American community through their craft."

Jon Jon Briones will be an East West Players Visionary Award honoree.

Filipino American actor Jon Jon Briones is included in this year's group of Visionary Award honorees.

Briones joined the original London cast of "Miss Saigon" in 1989 and went on to play the role of the Engineer in several countries, including the recent 2014 London revival and 2017-18 Broadway revival.

Credits with EWP include "La Cage Aux Folles" and "A Little Night Music." Recent television credits include playing Modesto Cunanan, the father of Andrew Cunanan, the murderer of fashion designer Gianni Versace in "American Crime Story: Assassination of Gianni Versace."

Previous Filipino American recipients of EWP's Visionary Award include Tia Carrere, Reggie Lee, Alec Mapa and Lea Salonga.

Other Filipino American performers joining the evening include EWP board member Reggie Lee and actors Deedee Magno Hall and Cliffton Hall.

East West Players' Visionary Awards dinner and silent auction is on April 30 at Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Dr., Universal City, CA. For tickets and table sponsorships, contact +1-213-625-7000 or galaguests@eastwestplayers.org.

"Soft Power" runs May 3-June 10 at Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles and June 20-July 8 at Curran Theater, San Francisco. Visit CenterTheatreGroup.org.

Fil-Am theater group Circa Pintig heals, resists, trolls, cries

By WALTER ANG
April 26, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11851/fil-theater-group-circa-pintig-heals-resists-trolls-cries

CHICAGO  Filipino American theater organization Circa Pintig will hold a fundraising show and dinner on April 29 for its 2018-19 season.

From left: playwright Conrad Panganiban,
Circa Pintig program director Ginger Leopoldo and
Circa Pintig artistic director Louie Pascasio.

Titled "Healing and Justice" the fundraiser will be held at Drury Lane Theatre (where a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "South Pacific," directed by Filipino American Victor Maog, is running until June 7).

"Now on its 27th year, Circa Pintig renews its vows to cultural work," says executive director Angela Mascarenas.

"We believe in the critical role of community arts in promoting social justice. Through theater performances and workshops, we tell stories and create dialogue from our own interpretation of history and culture.

"Circa Pintig could not have endured the many challenges that came its way without the support of its volunteers, audiences, donors, funding agencies and community partners.

""Join us for an evening of cultural celebration and volunteer appreciation, of sharing stories, reconnecting, reaching out and enjoying food mixed with music, dancing and fun!"

Support

One of the fundraiser's goals is to raise seed money for the group's summer workshops that will be open to the community from June to August.

"These workshops are critical and central to our work and will include community dialogues, research and data gathering for script-development as well as educational-dramatic activities around this year's theme. All these activities will culminate in our major production in the fall."

During the dinner, excerpts of the plays "Alamat (Legends)," by Filipino playwright Rodolfo "Rody" Vera and "The Perfect American," by Conrad Panganiban, will be performed.

Perfect

The group will then stage a work-in-progress production of "The Perfect American" in the first week of May, to be helmed by the group's current artistic director, Louie Pascasio.

The comedy is about Beverly, a strong-willed Filipino entrepreneur whose mission in life is to teach new immigrants how to become the "perfect" American.

She pushes this dream further by landing an audition with a cable TV executive but must contend with a meddling grocery store clerk from Kyrgyzstan and a mysterious person from her past.

The play asks, "How much is a person willing to give up to reach the American Dream?"

"The Perfect American" serves as Circa Pintig's entry to Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre (MMPACT)'s "100 Acts of Resistance!"-a series of shows that "taps the talents of Chicagoland's diverse artist community . to leave the echo chamber of our own personal politics . to listen and connect to our communities, our struggles, and our strategies to transcend the divisiveness that dominates the national conversation."

Collaborators

"We are very excited to have a chance to share this play," says Ginger Leopoldo, who plays Beverly.

"We are a big supporter and fan of Conrad's work and are honored to work on staging it. We are doing all we can to give voice to his piece."

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Kim Fortner, Brian Kung and Ryan Viloria.

Born in Quezon City, Leopoldo moved to Chicago when she was five years old. She received her undergraduate and master's degrees in theater from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

An educator, actor, director, and community organizer, Leopoldo is a founding member of the group and is currently its program director.

"I work on artistic and educational programming and community outreach and collaborations," she explains.

In addition to acting for Circa Pintig, her acting credits include other groups in the Chicago area such as Old World Theatre, COR Theatre, Prologue Theatre and A-Squared Theatre.

Panganiban's recent credits include "Welga," a play about Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong, which was staged by Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco last year.

Upcoming

Circa Pintig's upcoming productions for its 2018-19 season includes "A Game of Trolls: Reimagined," an adaptation Filipino playwright Liza Magtoto's play, scheduled for September to October.

"This reimagined version looks into the internal mindset of the millennial generation and how social media conversations in the age of trolling obscure critical dialogue on politics and history," says Mascarenas.

From February to March 2019, the group is planning to stage Giovanni Ortega's "Criers for Hire," a comedy about Filipino American women who are hired to cry at funerals. Problems arise when their newest member has the opposite effect on people, making them laugh instead.

"Criers for Hire" was premiered by East West Players in Los Angeles in 2016. Circa Pintig's planned production in 2019 will be in partnership with Halcyon Theater.

READ about the 2017 staging of Conrad Panganiban's "Welga" here.

READ about the 2016 staging of Giovanni Ortega's "Criers for Hire" here.

READ about CIRCA-Pintig's silver anniversary here.

Circa Pintig fundraiser show and dinner is on April 29 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, Chicago. To donate, visit CircaPintig.com/donate or contact +1-773-480-4824.

"The Perfect American" runs May 4 and 6 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Visit Fb.com/CircaPintig.

Fil-Am director has stamina for Boston Theater Marathon 2018

By WALTER ANG
April 25, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11786/fil-director-stamina-boston-theater-marathon

BOSTON  "Let me be clear, the Boston Theater Marathon is not the Boston Marathon," says director Michelle Aguillon.

Theater director Michelle Aguillon

Nevertheless, participants may need some endurance to watch 50 ten-minute plays, by 50 New England (i.e. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) playwrights, produced by 50 New England theater groups.

The single-day event will be held on May 6 at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts.

Other Filipino Americans involved this year include playwright Hortense Gerardo. Her "Virtuous Reality" is about two individuals who became acquainted in a chatroom and have decided to meet in the real world.

Gerardo's "Anne Get Your Firearm," a comedy where Anne Hearne learns that she's required to train in the use of a firearm to get a teaching job at a New England college, will be staged at Boston Playwrights' Theatre from May 31 to June 2.

In case the idea of watching so many theater pieces is not enticing enough, there will also be a party at the conclusion of the ten-hour event-which begins at noon and is scheduled to end at 10 p.m.

However, full-on commitment is not a requirement, as theatergoers who avail of the all-day pass can come and go throughout the event as they please.

Loyal participant

"I have participated in the Boston Theater Marathon almost every year since its inception 20 years ago," says Aguillon.

"I have acted in it but mostly I have directed and produced on behalf of [theater group] Hovey Players," of which she became a member in the mid-`90s.

This year, she is involved in BTM three times over, not just producing, but also directing Hovey Players' entry "The Will of Men" and producing Umbrella Community Arts Center's (UCAC) entry "Not A Playground."

"I'm happy to be part of the BTM up to now. The Boston theater community is all there and I love seeing everyone."

Her own marathon

Aguillon has been running her own marathon of sorts, not only as a perennial participant of the BTM, but also particularly in her directing work.

Playwright Hortense Gerardo

She has been working on productions (either full stagings or staged readings) back-to-back, in succession, and three at a time at one point, since March of last year.

She's directed "Pillowman" and "Marjorie Prime" and produced "Circle Mirror Transformation" for Hovey Players.

She's directed "Disgraced" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and produced "Looking for Normal" for UCAC.

She's also directed "Proof" for Nora Theatre Company and is currently directing "Communicating Doors" for Vokes Theater (which will run May 3 to 19).

Life is short

Where does she find the stamina to go from one production to the next?

"I just love it so much," she says. "Life is so short, and the opportunities have presented themselves and I cannot not go for it or say no."

Born north of the San Francisco Bay Area, Aguillon remembers portraying an elf during a Christmas play in the sixth grade.

"I had one line, which produced a laugh, and I was hooked."

She went on to study acting at San Francisco State University, and further theater-related studies in California State University-Long Beach and Royal National Theater in London.

In the Boston area, she has directed productions for Metro Stage Company and Turtle Lane Playhouse, among others. She's also currently a board member of the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters.

To ensure that her directorial duties for each production stay in tip-top shape, her regimen includes "walking my dogs a lot and staying in touch with close friends, so that each of my rehearsal periods with each of my shows are productive, happy, creative, comfortable, and meaningful for everyone."

After the BTM, she will be directing "Terra Nova" for Quannapowitt Players and "The Joy Luck Club" for UACC.

"That's my list...so far," she says. "Then I hope to sleep!"

READ about last year's staging of Hortense Gerardo's "Virtuous Reality" here.

"Boston Theater Marathon 2018" runs May 6 at Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Visit Bu.edu/bpt.

Fil-Am Isa Briones is youngest actor in 'Hamilton' nat’l tour

By WALTER ANG
April 20, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11701/fil-isa-briones-youngest-actor-hamilton-natl-tour

ST.  LOUIS, Missouri — Isa Briones has joined the cast of one of the two national touring productions of the hit musical "Hamilton."

Isa Briones plays Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in "Hamilton."

She plays the roles of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the Angelica cast; the other touring production is known as the Philip cast.

At 19 years old, Briones is the youngest lead to join the show. She is also the understudy for the Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton role.

Briones debuted during the Angelica cast's performance in Denver, Colorado. The Angelica cast is currently performing in The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri until April 22.

WATCH: Isa Briones singing with Arthur Joseph "AJ" Rafael

Its next stop is Houston, Texas at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts with performances beginning April 24. Atlanta, Georgia follows in May, and Washington, DC in June, with other cities afterward.

Other Filipino Americans and Filipinos

Created by Lin Manuel Miranda (who also co-wrote songs for the Disney animated film "Moana" and is acting in the upcoming 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 US, as well as the founder of the nation's financial system.

In the Broadway production, Filipino American Karla Garcia has been a female swing—an actor who knows several different roles in order to take the place of absent cast members—since 2016.

WATCH: Lin Manuel Miranda singing with Karla Garcia

In the London production, which opened last year, the cast includes Filipino actors Rachelle Ann Go as Eliza and Christine Allado as Peggy/Maria.

Game-changer

"Fun fact: for my history project in the eighth grade, I made an Instagram account of Thomas Jefferson," says Briones.

Isa Briones (far right) with fellow actors backstage.

"Being in this show has definitely taught me a lot more about American history than I ever knew.

"It's so cool to think about kids now that are going to grow up knowing and loving this history because of this show.

"Not only that, but they will be able to visualize the founders of this country as people who are diverse, coming from all different backgrounds and representing America as it is today.

"This show is really changing the game in so many ways."

Award-winner

Briones landed the role after going through a seven-month audition process.

Briones went through a seven-month audition process before landing the role.
Photo by Jenny Anderson

"I had always heard from people that the Hamilton audition process was a long one, and mine was no exception," she says.

"'Hamilton' was my first audition when I moved to New York," says the actress who was formerly based in Los Angeles.

When she did so, Briones had just completed the run of Los Angeles-based theater company East West Players' staging of the musical "Next to Normal."

She played Natalie, a daughter who grapples with her mother's mental health condition. The role earned her the 2018 Ovation Award for Featured Actress in a Musical earlier this year.

She actually competed against herself at the Ovation Awards as she was nominated three times (for different shows) in the same category.

Surreal

"I went in to the auditions sporadically for about 6 months and then the last month went very quickly. It's funny how it feels like a slow process but once you get to the end of it, it's, like, `bam! now you're in the show!'"

Briones (left) and a fellow actor backstage.

She had to learn the show in New York for several weeks, rehearsing during the day. Then it was off to Denver, watching the show in the evenings for about two weeks before being treading the boards.

"It felt so surreal to debut. It didn't feel quite real and it still shakes me a bit when I stop and realize what an amazing job this is."

Her family, all actors, traveled in to Denver from Los Angeles to watch her debut and to dispense some words of wisdom for the new job that will take her across the US.

Family

"Of course, being my parents, their number one pieces of advice were to save money and stay healthy. They definitely know what they're talking about," she says.

From left: her father Jon Jon, brother Teo, Isa, and mother, Megan.

Her parents, Megan and Jon Jon, are no strangers to long-running touring productions. They met when they were both actors in a touring production of "Miss Saigon" in Germany.

If her father's name sounds familiar, it's because he recently concluded his Broadway debut as the Engineer in the 2017-18 revival of "Miss Saigon."

"It was wonderful to have people around me that could prepare me for what was ahead. They're always there to call when I need advice."

For details on the "Hamilton" US Tour, visit HamiltonMusical.com.

READ about Isa Briones winning the 2018 Ovation Award here.

READ about Jon Jon Briones being cast as the Engineer in the 2017-18 Broadway revival of "Miss Saigon" here.

Confusion, curiosity in Marlina Gonzalez’s 'Isla Tuliro'

By WALTER ANG
March 18, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11624/confusion-curiosity-marlina-gonzalezs-isla-tuliro

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota  Theatergoers will get a multilingual history lesson in how the Philippines was colonized by Spain in Marlina Gonzalez's play "Isla Tuliro."

From left: Lyra Hernandez, Lita Malicsi and Mar Alojado in "Isla Tuliro."
Photo by Bruce Silcox

That's Tagalog for "Island of Confusion." And though English supertitles will be projected to guide the audience along the play's deliberate switching around of Tagalog, English, and Spanish, one of Gonzalez's goals is to confuse the audience-at least in some parts of the story.

The aim of the confusion, in this case, is to amplify the audience's curiosity and to serve as a prompt for them to ask questions, even after the show is done.

"I'd like for audiences to ask questions about the commonalities between the Philippines and Latin American countries. About the relationships between the Philippines and the US, between the US and Europe, etc.," Gonzalez explains.

"Though most Filipinos and Filipino Americans know that Latin American countries were colonized by Spain, hardly anyone from those communities know about our history with Spain."

Collaborators

In the play, the idyllic life of the Kayumanggis, brown-skinned islanders who live by Dagat Payapa (Ocean of Peace) is disrupted by the sudden arrival of creatures from the ocean and sky. The creatures speak strange languages and claim the islands as their own, making up rules on how the islanders should live.

Marlina Gonzalez is the playwright of "Isla Tuliro."

The cast is mostly Filipino American. Other Filipino Americans involved include choreographer Mar Alojado, movement coach Sandy Agustin, and martial arts coach Allen Malicsi.

Sponsoring community producers include Cultural Society of Filipino Americans and Fil-Minnesotan Association.

Co-presented by Pangea World Theater and Teatro del Pueblo, the play is co-directed by Gonzalez and Pangea's artistic director Meena Natarajan.

Gonzalez had worked with both groups before and had broached her ideas on how to help bring together the Asian American and Latin American communities in their area.

A few years ago, both theater groups received a grant from the Joyce Foundation that enabled Gonzalez and two other writers to develop works for the stage.

That's when she began committing "Isla Tuliro" to the page.

Social justice

Gonzalez is known in Minneapolis as a producer of international film festivals, multidisciplinary art exhibits and performances for Walker Art Center.

She was previously based in New York and had been a festival director of the Asian American International Film Festival there.

"Isla Tuliro" is a result of all the different influences and theater ideologies she has learned.

Before she moved to the US in 1980, Gonzalez had been involved with theater company Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) as well as student theater groups at University of the Philippines during the martial law years in the '70s.

"I was involved in improvisational theater, street theater and agitprop theater. We used theater to address social justice issues," she says.

"That was when I learned that you could use theater and adapt stories to represent sociopolitical viewpoints. During those times, there was a lot of censorship. Artists got away with strong messages by camouflaging stories as mythology and fantasy."

Questioning history

In "Isla Tuliro," she uses mythology to address history-or the lack of awareness of it.

Cast of "Isla Tuliro." Photo by Bruce Silcox

"A play like this is almost like an editorial cartoon, where it pokes holes in facts and figures so that people start to think about what the realities are," she says.

"Our stories are not always represented in history books, especially those published by western authors.

"I hope that after audiences watch the show, they will think about how history, as we know it or as it was taught to us in school, is not always the complete history."

She hopes the play will inspire theatergoers to go out and do their own research of "the different cultures and peoples here in the US."

Remembering roots

The production itself has proven enlightening to its cast.

Sixteen-year-old Atquetzali Quiroz is of indigenous Mexica Nahua and Filipino heritage. "I grew up learning the ancestral teachings of the Mexica people but never knew too much of my Filipino heritage," she says.

The little exposure she had to Filipino culture was through hearing Tagalog being spoken by her mother, aunt and grandmother. "My mom would sing 'Bahay Kubo' to me all the time before bed."

"Being in 'Isla Tuliro' reminded me of those moments, and I feel more in touch with my Filipino side after hearing the language and the songs from the Philippines.

"Being in 'Isla Tuliro' made me feel like I was home and whole."

Stage siblings

Meanwhile, over in New York, Gonzalez' brother Jojo is in the cast of The Public Theater's world premiere production of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage's "Mlima's Tale."

Jojo Gonzalez (left) is in the cast of
The Public Theater's staging of "Mlima's Tale."
Photo by Joan Marcus

Jojo plays five different characters in this play about Mlima, an elephant trapped in the international ivory market. His recent acting credits include "Small Mouth Sounds" for Ars Nova and "House Rules" for Ma-Yi Theater.

READ about Ma-Yi Theater's 2016 staging of "House Rules" here.

"Mlima's Tale" currently in previews, runs April 15-May 20 at Martinson Hall, The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., New York, New York. Visit Publictheater.org.

"Isla Tuliro" runs until April 22 at The Southern Theater, 1420 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota. Visit PangeaWorldTheater.org.

"Isla Tuliro" is available for touring or for restaging.


Nicholas Pilapil's play: Love among dumb high school kids

By WALTER ANG
April 11, 2018
USA and Canada Section, Inquirer.net
http://usa.inquirer.net/11488/nicholas-pilapils-play-love-among-dumb-high-school-kids

LOS ANGELES  Nicholas Pilapil will take theatergoers into the world of three unloved youths in his new play "Young Dumb Broke High School Kids."

Nicholas Pilapil

The play will have a staged reading at "Spring Readings: Two Plays, One Day," produced by theater company Artists at Play (AAP) as part of its annual spring staged reading series.

In the play, the pregnant Bliss, the loveless Olivia, and orphan Miles "try to sort out their lives in the most dangerous ways."

Other Filipino Americans involved in the play are Christopher Aguilar, who is part of the cast, and playwright and screenwriter Michael Golamco, who is the dramaturg. Marie-Reine Velez is one of AAP's founding artistic leaders.

The show's other play will be "Three Women of Swatow" by Chloe Hung, a comedy where three generations of women try to prevent the resurrection of a headless chicken.

Each staged reading will be followed by a talkback session.

Showcasing new works

Part of AAP's objectives is to present stories of underrepresented communities and to develop and showcase new works to the Los Angeles community "in the midst of a national discussion on the lack of diversity and representation."

Other Filipino American playwrights' works that have been featured in AAP's staged reading series include "Marabella" by Boni Alvarez in 2014 and "tot: The Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (a filipino) Hulk Hogan" by Victor Maog last year, which went on to be staged by Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The group has also featured "As We Babble On" by Nathan Ramos in 2016, which will be staged by East West Players later this year.

Empowering

While Pilapil has to read plays as part of his work as a producing member of Artists at Play, he mostly does so "for my pure enjoyment," he says.

Christopher Aguilar (left) is in the cast and
Michael Golamco is the dramaturg.

Born and raised in Cerritos, California, Pilapil took up theatre arts at California State University-Long Beach.

"I read a lot of plays. I'm a huge new play lover, I'm always trying to read something new and find my next favorite writer."

It was after going through many plays that had nothing new to tell that sparked his own foray into playwriting.

"Initially, I thought `I can do way better than that!' What I had been reading was just a lot of the same thing, like white people in a living room just talking about their problems that aren't really problems.

"I realized that I have a unique point of view and experiences that are different from the white narrative. I wanted to try to contribute that to the theater. I wanted to write more roles for Asian American actors."

He took a workshop under playwright Madhuri Shekar and began to craft his own works. "Oddly, playwriting felt like a form of activism. To be able to tell a story and share my point of view felt kind of empowering for me."

But what really hooked him was experiencing an audience react to his first play. His musical comedy "Before and After" received a staged reading at East West Players in 2015.

"Once that audience laughed, I was, like, 'I'm changing careers!'"

Talking fetus

He describes his new play as a love story.

"I wanted to write a love story. At the beginning of this play's life, it was a boy-meets-girl kind of story where they just fall in love. It was an epic love story that traveled through time and had a talking fetus," he says. "It was so stupid."

Though he hated the first iteration of this play, "I loved its characters, specifically the characters when they were 16 years old in 1997."

"I trashed the play but kept those characters. It became less of the typical boy-meets-girl love story and more of a story about learning to love yourself and the life you live."

Developing

"Young Dumb" has already gone through a previous staged reading and a workshop by The Vagrancy theater company last year.

From left: dramaturg Michael Golamco, actors Eddie Liu and Christopher Aguilar,
playwright Nicholas Pilapil, actor Jenapher Zheng, and director Jer Adrianne Lelliott.
Photo by Stefanie Lau

For this staged reading, Pilapil is working with playwright Michael Golamco, who is serving as the dramaturg.

"It's exciting to work with Michael. He's definitely someone to look up to. He's doing so many amazing things with film and TV," Pilapil says.

One of Golamco's most popular plays is "Cowboy Versus Samurai," where an Asian American man falls in love with an Asian American woman who only dates white men. He is also a writer/producer for television, with credits such as Syfy/Netflix's "Nightflyers" and NBC's "Grimm."

"As another Filipino American, it's so cool to see one of our people really succeed. As a fan of his plays, I think he's a fantastic writer, so I really trust his opinion and point of view. He's so smart."

Upcoming

Aside from playwriting, Pilapil is also a songwriter and a screenwriter. He is cofounder of Becky and Baldwin, a production company, and has written short films "I Don't Love You" and "Zoe."

There are no plans yet for full stagings of Pilapil's plays. "A production would be a dream!"

In the meantime, he has another play, "Celebrity Trash," that will have a staged reading on May 19 at the Lyric Hyperion Theatre by The Vagrancy.

"'Celebrity Trash' is an adaptation of August Strindberg's 'Miss Julie,' which is about class and sex. My adaptation adds explorations of race, white male privilege and celebrity culture. It's set in 2007, before the social media age, when tabloids were super popular and Britney Spears had just shaved her head."

READ about Artists at Play's staged reading of "tot: The Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (a filipino) Hulk Hogan" last year here.

READ about Boni Alvarez's "Fixed" here and "Bloodletting" here.

"Spring Readings: Two Plays, One Day" runs April 28 at Company of Angels, Hazard Recreation Center, 1350 San Pablo St, Los Angeles, CA. Visit ArtistsAtPlayLA.blogspot.com.