By Walter Ang
May 18, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer
|Back: Valdes, Wilson.|
Front: Abuel, Williams.
Eve Ensler's seminal "The Vagina Monologues," a collection of monologues read by a varying number of women, has been a staple in the company's repertoire for several years now, having been shown in both English and Filipino as well as toured in different Asian countries.
In 2003, Ensler decided to include men in her annual "V-Day" benefit shows (a global movement to end violence against women and girls) by raising the question of addressing the problem of violence against women by involving men in the understanding and solution process.
"In Manila, NVC conducted a series of workshops and interviews with different men that resulted in a short but highly acclaimed segment of the "VDay" show at the AFP Theater that year," said associate artistic director Rito Asilo.
Asilo and actor Jamie Wilson have gone on to expand the material and have created "The Male Voice," a collection of monologues and vignettes that deal with men's experiences with violence.
Actors Tommy Abuel, Michael Williams, Joel Trinidad and Joaqui Valdes are the intergenerational cast for "The Male Voice." Williams said, "We've been tasked to convey and portray the different kinds of violence committed by and on men. The play sheds light on many things about `being a man' that we take for granted. It tackles how men, not just women and children, can be victims of violence, too."
Abuel noted that the play doesn't only explore physical violence, but also emotional violence and the idea that men can be victims of society's notions of how men should behave. "Society imposes an image and it can be difficult to sustain that image if a man experiences pain. There are expectations to be macho and how men aren't supposed to cry. The play deals with these issues and the shame and secrecy that sometimes accompany these situations."
Despite the cast's initial descriptions of the production's central theme, they are quick to point out that it won't be all doom and gloom. "There is drama, yes. But the stories that audiences will see are also poignant and sometimes hilarious," said Asilo.
All of the monologues are true-to-life and based on interviews with actual people: artists, students, men who are HIV positive, priests, gay and straight men, illegal Filipino workers abroad, macho dancers, businessmen, male prostitutes, military men, abused children, doctors, fathers and brothers. "The play is an honest, provoking and moving introspection of the rarely spoken issues of men," said Asilo. "It provides audiences with a unique and revealing perspective."
To keep the production "relevant to the Pinoy situation," Asilo has opted to use English and Filipino since "that's the way we really talk anyway." Valdes admitted that even though he's not used to speaking in Tagalog, he's up for the challenge.
He said, "Not only do I have to speak Tagalog, but the context is provincial. I'm more used to being cast in English-language musicals, but as an actor and artist, these are the opportunities that I want and need to grow."
Valdes, the youngest in the cast, revels in the fact that he has been cast together with seasoned and accomplished actors and that he's been able to pick up acting techniques from them. Williams said, "We don't necessarily coach each other since we have our director for that, but we sit down and talk about each other's monologues to get insights. We all want to be able to deliver the truth behind the lines."
Produced by NVC Executive Director Rossana Abueva and NVC Artistic Director Monique Wilson, "The Male Voice" runs on May 22, 23 and 31 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Call 896-5497 or email email@example.com.
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