Hitchcock's '39 Steps' reaches stage

Hitchcock's '39 Steps' reaches stage
By Walter Ang
February 7, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Marking her return to the Philippine theatre scene after living in London for the past 10 years is Liza Infante-Robinson.

She will play three different characters in Repertory Philippines' "The 39 Steps." "It's challenging but really a lot of fun! I get to do three different accents and change my look and character. Creating characters was one of the things I loved most in the theater and here I get to do it three times over!" she says.

A comedy written by Patrick Barlow adapted from the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock, the production calls for a total of four actors to play over 140 characters in 100 minutes with fast quick changes and occasionally playing multiple characters all at once.

"The 39 Steps" follows the adventures of Richard Hannay as he becomes embroiled in "dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and devastatingly beautiful women."

"You don't even have to be familiar with Alfred Hitchcock's classic film to enjoy it. `The 39 Steps' will keep you guessing and laughing," she says.

Joining Rep
Robinson joined Rep in the early 90s when she turned twenty. "The day after my birthday, I auditioned for "Sleeping Beauty," the first Childrens Theater production of Rep. I was supposed to be in the chorus but ended up doing Pheobe the Fairy since some of the actors backed out of the production."

She went on to perform in many Rep productions. "Playing Guenevere in `Camelot' is something I will never forget because it was my first big lead role and I got to alternate with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Rep's current associate artistic director) who was so supportive and inspiring," she says.

"Playing Nellie Forbush in `South Pacific' was also very fun for me. One of my favorite numbers was `Honey Bun' with Rem Zamora. And I remember all the Shakespeare that I got to perform with Ana Abad Santos and Michael Williams, two people I learned so much from."

This production is a reunion of sorts for Robinson since Ana Abad Santos is directing, Michael Williams is playing Richard Hannay while Rem Zamora and Juliene Mendoza will be handling the other hundred-plus characters.

Robinson left in 2000 to take up her masters in business administration at the London Business School. "I wanted to go back into the corporate world and felt I needed an MBA to get my foot back into the door," she says. "I did not do any theater at all. The closest I did to theater was singing for the LBS Band in my second and final year at the school.

Robinson went on to work for a global investment bank for six years. "During that period, I also got married and had two kids. My girls are now five and three," she says. She and her family have returned to Manila because her husband got posted here for work. "Lucky for me!" she says with a laugh.

Robinson has actually been in Manila for two years now. She has been teaching Basic Finance at Enderun Colleges and she also owns and manages a children's furniture and accessories business called Two Tots.

One of the reasons she has not been performing regularly is because she'd been diagnosed with "a herniated disc in my lower lumbar area. Some people call it a `slipped disc.' So my back is always a bit fragile."

"I am really lucky to have a great scene partner in Michael who is very conscious about my limitations and he `supports my back' in all the different stunts we do," she says. "We leave nothing to chance so every move is very clearly mapped out with the help of our choreographer Dexter Santos to avoid injury."

"Since I've been back, I have been very impressed with the way theater has developed. I can see how [Rep founders] Tita Bibot [Amador] and Tita Baby [Barredo]'s vision of an industry that gives actors jobs has been fulfilled," she says.

"There are a lot of good theater companies out there. Actors are now mixing with each other. Before, you only stuck to your own company but now the theater companies are collaborating and it's wonderful!"

"What I miss though are the straight plays. There are less straight plays being staged now compared to before. We really need to bring back more of the Rep season-type plays. That's why I am so thrilled to be in 'The 39 Steps.'"

"I am a bit nervous because it's a come-back and I don't want to disappoint. But it is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be working with Ana, Michael and Rem again and also meeting and working with Juliene. You don't see them on stage but the crew is also really amazing and supportive so it's a nice feeling," Robinson says. "Kind of like being back home again."

John Batalla is lighting designer, Denis Lagdameo is set designer, Jethro Joaquin is sound designer), Raven Ong is costume designer and Denis Lagdameo and Gianina Ocampo provide puppet animation.

"The 39 Steps" runs at Onstage Theater, 2nd floor, Greenbelt 1, Makati City from March 4 to 20. For tickets and inquiries, 571-6926 and 571-4941 or email info@repertory.ph. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph. Visit www.repertory.ph, subscribe to youtube.com/repertoryphils, and add "Rep Phils" in Facebook.

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