Shamaine Buencamino in 'Mother Courage'

Shamaine Buencamino in 'Mother Courage'
By Walter Ang
September 21, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Audiences may be familiar with Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino as the ubiquitous "mother" in TV shows like "Precious Hearts," and "SRO features Iza Calzado," or in films such as "One Last Chance" with Bea Alonzo, "Ang Lihim ni Antonio," and "Agaton and Mindy."

Theater audiences will now get a chance to see her as one of the most iconic mothers on stage as she plays Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage in Tanghalang Pilipino's Filipino translation/adaptation "Madonna Brava ng Mindanao" at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute, CCP.

A graduate of the Philippine High School of the Arts and a theater arts major from the University of the Philippines, Shamaine had been absent from the theater scene until recently. Ironically, many non-theater audiences are familiar with her because of a commercial she acted in years ago for a multivitamin with real-life husband Nonie Buencamino (and a more recent commercial for an electricity distributor). In fact, she's actually been working in the advertising industry behind-the-scenes as an assistant director for commercials.

"Years ago, Nonie and I decided that he would pursue his acting career while I did advertising. I felt that I couldn't juggle both production and acting work," she says. A request from Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Nanding Josef in 2004 to act in "Hudhud" reactivated her theater career. "I realized that it was possible to do both after all."

She did a string of plays for Tanghalang Pilipino such as "Troyanas" (Trojan Women) and "Orfeo sa Impyerno" (Orpheus Descending). Last year, she made waves in a major way via the titular roles in Dulaang UP's "Atang" and the Virgin Labfest's "Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna." "Reyna" cinched for her the Aliw Award and Philstage Gawad Buhay Award for Best Actress.

This year, she continues to ride her wave of success with leading roles in TP's "Madonna Brava" and immediately after its run, in DUP's "Mary Stuart/Maria Stuarda." She reprised her role in "Atang" in a restaging a few months ago and will be reprising her role in "Reyna" for "Tanyag," a trilogy of award-winning plays that is set to tour the country.

Though based on Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children," Shamaine notes that "Madonna" is actually a reworking of the play. "Major characters have been cut out and new scenes have been written in so we can better tell the story and share the views of the Moros," she says.

"Our intent is to explain to audiences what happened in Mindanao from the late 60s to the 80s. While it's impossible to understand or explain everything in just one play, it's important that we create awareness about and for what is happening to our countrymen in Mindanao," she says.

Together with members of the TP Actors Company and actors of the Mindulani Group from Mindanao, Shamaine went to Mindanao for an immersion trip. "We all hear such terrible things, but when we went there, we really enjoyed our stay. People there are so frustrated at how the news is always sensationalized. They just want business and life to go on," she says.

Her character is described as a woman who "needs to survive with her family in a milieu of uncertainty, terror and death" as she "takes her tri-ethnic brood?a Moro, a Christian and Lumad (each from a different father)?to long distances and unseemly spaces of war-torn Mindanao." Instead of a cart, she has a multicab, "a veritable mobile mini-bazaar loaded with an assortment of wares that cater to soldiers."

Shamaine says, "My character is actually Visayan who is based in Mindanao. There was actually a wave of migration of Visayans to Mindanao in the 60s and 70s. We are using real-life political background facts to stage this play." To this end, she has been working closely with her co-actors to work on their accents. "We keep laughing during rehearsals because all of our accents sound different and funny! But our co-actors from the south are helping us out."

"The situation in Mindanao is a really complex issue. It's important is that we actually care that there is a war there, that we do whatever we can in our capacities to do something about it. In my case, I am doing theater work to create awareness," she says.

"Madonna" is written by Don Pagusara and directed by Nestor Horfilla, founding artistic director of Kaliwat Theater Collective of Davao. The production also features music composed and arranged by Davao City-based, all-female music group Mebuyan. Mebuyan's members recently won at the Tunog Mindanao Annual World Music Competition held in Davao City.

"Madonna Brava ng Mindanao" is the second offering of Tanghalang Pilipino for its 23rd season, which has the theme "Women of Substance." The show runs until Oct. 11. Call CCP Box Office (832-3704) or Ticketworld (891-9999).

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