National Artist for Theater Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal dies Oct. 26, 2011 at 66

‘Bravo, Badong!’ Philippine theater pays tribute to National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal, 66
By Walter Ang
Oct. 31, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Theater artists and peers paid tribute to National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal who died Oct. 26 at age 66.

The Philippine Theater Actors Guild said it was paying a “final standing ovation… to the master.”

“Philippine theater is now one major pillar less with the demise of Salvador Bernal,” the group said.
“In his art, Bernal brought the Filipino spirit to the stage with his design,” said TAG. “He will always be remembered for his massive scenic pieces, in which the challenge to the actor was always to equal the grandness of the space he created. No acting space was small for Bernal, because for him, that is how theater should be—grand and majestic.

“He was not only a designer; he also played the part of mentor to his juniors. He wanted to leave a legacy, but more than that, he wanted to kindle their passion. Because passion is what he had for the theater. It was always like a marriage, a fusion of the old and the new. He worked with tested materials, employed new design aesthetics, and thus was able to transcend time and differences in culture.

“Bravo Badong!”

Dramatist Tony Perez also gave his fond remembrance of the National Artist:
“In the 1990s, when the Cultural Center of the Philippines finally built a design center to service its three theaters, Badong told reporters, ‘We have finally entered the 20th century.’

“He was one of our greatest fashion designers but refused to be known as one. I have the honor of owning a ¾-balloon, witch’s cape—the last piece of clothing that he ever executed for anyone.

“He was also one of our greatest stage directors, computer-graphic artists, and film collectors—he refused to be labelled as any of those, too.

“Whenever he put his best foot forward, it was always as production designer.  Again, I have the honor of having him as production designer for most of my plays, especially my recently completed trilogy ‘Indakan ng mga Puso’ (‘Oktubre…’;  ‘Nobyembre…’; and ‘Disyembre…’)

“He was an obsessive-compulsive, but so are the most disciplined artists all over the world. Stupidity and mediocrity constantly annoyed him. Ironically, the students he frequently scolded should have felt the most flattered: He scolded them only because he felt that they were promising. Always enigmatic, he was selective with friends, but, once he had selected them, he chose only to give to them rather than receive from them.”

Theater director Ricky Abad wrote:
“Badong was more than just a designer.  He was an ethical designer. He respected the integrity of stage design:  design was for one play and not for any other. And that design cannot be sloppy or mediocre; it has to pass by high artistic standards; it has to be true to the play’s concept and to the character being played; it has to be nailed, sawn or sewn properly. Otherwise he fumes, in part because of the person’s incapacity to do things well, but more because an improperly done set or costume is a violation of the order demanded by the artistic universe—an aesthetic blasphemy, a creative sacrilege.”

“Badong is a very dear friend, a long-time collaborator and my most trusted critic,” said Denisa Reyes, former artistic director of Ballet Philippines. “He was forthright and brutally honest, an incorrigible romantic, but was most generous with his art and criticisms, sometimes to a fault. He had no tolerance for mediocrity, despised the ‘bahala na/pwede na’ attitude in the arts because he had such impeccable taste and was a perfectionist. May his legacy live on.”

Bernal was named National Artist in 2003.  The award citation notes that “sensitive to the budget limitations of local productions, he harnessed the design potential of inexpensive local materials, pioneering or maximizing the use of bamboo, raw abaca and abaca fiber, hemp twine, rattan chain links and gauze cacha. In doing this, he exemplified the versatility of Filipino materials for design and proved that the poverty of a production need not imply a poverty of the imagination.”

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Dulaang UP's "Noli" opera opens on Nov. 16, 2011

Dulaang UP's "Noli" opera opens on Nov. 16, 2011
By Walter Ang
Oct. 25, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Myramae Meneses as Maria Clara
Dulaang UP will stage "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" composed by Nat'l Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon with libretto by Nat'l Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino.

Directed by DUP Artistic Director Alexander Cortez, the production was originally envisioned to be a grand spectacle.  However, upon review, Cortez realized that the material is "a very intimate type of romantic opera."

"Tolentino provides a very romantic approach to the story based on the novel of Jose Rizal.  Highly political innuendos [in the novel] that are glossed over or not even discussed," says Cortez.

He has decided to use three pianos as accompaniment instead of a full orchestra.  Accompanists are Greg Zuniega, Noel de la Rosa and Jourdan Petalver.  Sound designer is Jethro Joaquin

"Save for three or four big scenes, the scenes are small, very much focused on the characters.  This kind of scaled-down production will show audiences that it's possible to stage opera in a simple manner. What's important is the music, not the grandness of a production."

"When people ask me, 'Why opera?' I always say, 'Why not?'" says Cortez, who's directed Ryan Cayabyab and Fides Cuyuguan Asensio's "Spoliarium" and Lucien Letaba and Bienvenido Lumbera's "Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Lactao," among other musicals. "I always advocate original Filipino operas and musicals."

"With this musical, DUP is able to commemorate Rizal's birth sesquicentennial and commemorate in advance de Leon's birth centennial, which will be next year," he says.

Soaring arias
"It's always really about the music," he says.  "Padilla's music is wonderful! It really soars. I believe the best arias are found in this opera. It has iconic kundimans and haunting arias."

Cortez collaborates with Camille Lopez Molina, who handles music supervision and vocal coaching for the cast composed of music veterans and up-and-coming singers.

Elainne Vibal and NAMCYA winner Myramae Meneses alternate as Maria Clara.  Antonio Ferrer and Madrid-based Kuya Manzano (nephew of Repertory Philippines' artistic director Baby Barredo) alternate as Crisostomo Ibarra. Frederick Hipol is Elias.

Cynthia Guico plays Tia Isabel.  Jonathan Velasco, conductor of Ateneo Chamber Singers, played Padre Damaso in the 1987 staging of this opera at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and reprises the same role.  Actors from Dulaang UP complete the cast.

Frederick Hipol as Elias
Set and costume designer Gino Gonzales will be using indigenous materials for the set and inabel cloth from Ilocos for the costumes.

"The inabel cloth was donated by Irene Marcos-Araneta," Cortez says.  "We want to showcase these beautiful fabrics that are handwoven on looms.  It's a crime that machine-produced cheesecloth (katsa) is more expensive than inabel! We must put more value on these fabrics."

Other collaborators include lighting designer Jon Jon Villareal, choreographer Dexter Santos, video designer Winter David and props designer John Gaerlan.

"Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" runs Nov 16-Dec 4, 2011 (Wednesday to Friday, 7pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am and 3pm) at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, 2/F Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. Contact 0917-750-0107, 981-8500 local 2449, 926-1349 or 433-7840.

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Audie Gemora releases CD of theater songs

Audie Gemora releases CD of theater songs
By Walter Ang
Oct. 25, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Theater actor and director Audie Gemora has released "Playlist," a music CD where he performs his favorite Broadway tunes.

Busy with running Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theatre Society (Trumpets) and its sister company Stages Productions Specialists (currently co-staging "Peter Pan" with Repertory Philippines), Gemora is also seen on TV as one of the resident judges of TV5's "Talentadong Pinoy."

He won the 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical for his portrayal of the titular role of Repertory Philippines' staging of "Sweeney Todd." He's currently playing Captain Von Trapp in Resorts World Manila's staging of "The Sound of Music."

He won the 2010 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Best Direction for Repertory Philippines' "Equus," and is slated to direct Rep's 2012 production of "Next Fall," a play about a gay couple where one is devoutly religious while the other is an avowed atheist.

Gemora released a self-titled pop album in the 90s. Earlier this year, Trumpets board member Stella Sison felt that because Gemora's known for his work as an actor in musical theater, he should come out with an album of theater-related songs.

She spearheaded a focus-group discussion on what particular theater songs people might want to hear Gemora sing to come up with a playlist.

"From out of that list I picked the ones I liked. Rony Fortich, who did a fabulous job as musical director, also threw in songs he thought would be good for the compilation," he says.

Jeff Arcilla coached Gemora throughout the recording sessions that lasted several months.

The idea was that the album would contain music similar to "the kind you hear in coffee shops, easy listening, non-intrusive."  He says, "It was tough trying to hold back my full vocal power and take care not to over dramatize the interpretation of the songs. We wanted it very laid back and not taxing to listen to."

Playlist contains 14 tracks of show tunes from Broadway, the West End, and original Filipino musicals such as "Shall We Dance" (The King and I), "If Ever I Would Leave You" (Camelot), "This Is The Moment" (Jekyll and Hyde), "Awit Ni Isagani" (El Filibusterismo), among others.

Vocal group The CompanY joins Gemora in "Luck Be A Lady" (Guys and Dolls) while Repertory Philippines associate artistic director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo sings the duet "For Good" with Gemora (Wicked).

Playlist is exclusively available in Fully Booked outlets nationwide. Contact, 818-1111 loc. 225 or 209.

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Naty Crame Rogers' Philippine Drama Company Sala Theater stages "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino" dinner theater on Oct 22 and 28

Naty Crame Rogers stages "Portrait" dinner theater on Oct 22 and 28
By Walter Ang
Oct. 17, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(From left) Lala Castillo as Paula,
Naty Crame-Rogers as Candida,
and Lamberto "Bats" Avellana
(son of Lamberto and Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana)
as Tony Javier, during rehearsals.
Natividad "Naty" Crame-Rogers' Philippine Drama Company Sala Theater will perform Nat'l Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin's "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino."

Rogers directs and plays the role of Candida.  Lala Castillo plays Paula.  The play shows how the Marasigan spinster sisters who live inside Intramuros deal with the changes happening in Old Manila prior to the start of World War II, "stubbornly clinging to the genteel though impractical world of Hispanized culture."

The play will be presented as dinner-theater in Ilustrado restaurant in Intramuros.  Audiences can watch the performance while dining on the restaurant's Spanish-Filipino themed-menu: Paella Ilustrado accompanied by Callos Madrilena, Roasted Chicken ala Naranja, and Bonoan Bangus Relleno, among others.

Ilustrado, celebrating its 22nd anniversary, has served as the venue for several of PDCST's productions, recently hosting the group's performance of "Leonor: The love of Jose Rizal," an adaptation of Severino Montano's "The Love of Leonor Rivera," in commemoration of Rizal's birth sesquicentennial this year.

Theater for all
Now 88 years old, Rogers has been creating and teaching theater since training as a college student under theater artist Wilfrido Guerrero.  Her PDCST celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.  It tours productions and also holds performances in Amingtahanan Sala Theater, Roger's own residence in Pasig City, where the living room is transformed into a performance space.

In line with Rogers' thrust on getting as many people interested in theater as possible, and partly to celebrate the La Naval de Manila (held every second Sunday of October), the production's technical dress rehearsal in Ilustrado restaurant on Oct. 21 will be open to audiences.  Audiences can order food while watching the rehearsals.

La Naval lecture
The rehearsal will include a short lecture on the Virgin of La Naval at 3pm.  An event witnessed by characters in the play, the La Naval de Manila procession honors the Virgin of La Naval of Sto. Domingo Church--which used to be located inside Intramuros.

The procession was portrayed in National Artist for Theater and Film Lamberto Avellana's screen adaptation of "Portrait," where Rogers played Paula opposite National Artist for Theater Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana's Candida. Both also essayed the same roles in the stage version that premiered prior to the film, also directed by Lamberto with a script adapted by Daisy for the Avellana couple's Barangay Theater Guild.  This production will use the same script adapted by Daisy Avellana.

"Portrait of an Artist as Filipino" runs Oct. 22 (Sat) and 28 (Fri), 2011. Ticket includes cocktails at 6:00 pm, show at 7:00 pm, dinner at 9:00 pm. Ilustrado Restaurant is at 744 General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila. Contact 527-3674, 527-2345, 0922-823-4981, 0922-823-4983 or Visit

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Resorts World Manila's "Sound of Music" Oct 15-Dec 30, 2011

"Sound of Music" at Resorts World Manila starts Oct 15
By Walter Ang
Oct. 15, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Theater leading ladies Cris Villonco and Joanna Ampil will alternate as Maria Rainer in Resorts World Manila's staging of the musical "Sound of Music."

Both will bring to life the role of the earnest and determined postulant nun assigned as a governess to the untamed seven children of stern Navy Captain and widower Georg von Trapp.  Laughter and love blossoms when Maria wins the children (and their father) over with music.

Both have played other "Marias" prior to this production.

Villonco has played lead roles for Repertory Philippines, Dulaang UP and, recently, for Tanghalang Pilipino's "Noli Me Tangere" as Maria Clara.

Ampil has performed internationally, starting her career as Kim in the West End staging of "Miss Saigon" and recently as Maria in Stages Production Specialists' "West Side Story."

Leading men
Audie Gemora, Ed Feist and Jon Joven alternate as the Captain.

Gemora was last seen onstage playing the titular role in Repertory Philippines' "Sweeny Todd."

A former VJ for music channel Myx and theater actor (Bankard's "Diary of Anne Frank" and Actors' Actors' "Mother Tongue"), Feist returns to Manila after having been based in Australia the past few years as lead vocal for Soul Motel band.

Joven has played Thuy in the German staging of Miss Saigon and has credits on Broadway and off-Broadway.  Locally, he's played lead roles for TP such as Orly in "Himala the musical," and Crisostomo Ibarra in "Noli Me Tangere."

Memoir to musical
With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, audiences may be more familiar with the 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews ("Princess Diaries") and Christopher Plummer (Pixar's "Up," "Inglourious Basterds"), though the musical premiered on Broadway six years prior.  The musical is based on Maria Augusta von Trapp's memoir "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers."

Since the film's release, songs that were added for the movie, such as "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good," are usually included in revivals.  Previous Manila stagings have been done by Company of Players (1997) and Repertory Philippines (2006).

Big theater
This production will be staged at RWM's 1,500-seater Newport Performing Arts Theater.

Set design is by Mio Infante with video design by television commercial director Paul Soriano.  Video backdrops will be shown via the theater's 30meter by 8meter LED (light emitting diode) screen, touted as the largest in Southeast Asia.  10feet x 14feet LED walls will also be placed at each end of the stage. The screens allows for showing of 3D sceneries.

Cast and collaborators
Theater veteran Pinky Amador and jazz singer Lynn Sherman alternate as the captain's fiancĂ©e Baroness Elsa Schraeder.  Miguel Faustman and Robbie Guevara alternate as von Trapp family friend Max Detweiler.

Pinky Marquez and Sheila Francisco alternate as Mother Abbess. TV and film comedienne Debraliz Valasote plays the von Trapp's housekeeper Frau Schmidt.

Liesl, the eldest of the von Trapp siblings is played by Tanya Manalang and Rachel Coates.  Rolf, Liesl's love interest, is played by former TV child star and current ABS-CBN talent Bryan Homecillo and 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! awardee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical ("Sweeny Todd") Marvin Ong.

The production is directed by dinner theater and concert director Roxanne Lapus. Lyn Fabella is vocal director.  Rodel Colmenar conducts the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra.  Choreographer is Terri Aldeguer of the dance duo Aldeguer Sisters.  Lighting design is by John Batalla. Costume design is by fashion designer Francis Libiran.

Since the theater's inauguration last year, it has hosted concerts of local and foreign artists (Lani Misalucha, Lea Salonga and David Pomeranz, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Basil Valdez, to name a few), beauty pageants, corporate events, and a Vegas-type musical spectacle show "Kaos."  Concerts will still be staged at the theater on days when "Sound of Music" is not running.

Newport Performing Arts Theater is located in Resorts World Manila, which combines hotels, restaurants, gaming facilities, entertainment spots and a luxury mall in one destination across Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, beside Villamor Golf Course.

RWM members using their Visa Platinum and Gold credit cards to purchase tickets can avail of up to 25% discount, applied to a maximum of four tickets per card per show, when transacted at RWM Box Office and Ticketworld outlets. RWM members can also use points earned in their membership cards towards purchase of tickets. Membership to RWM is free.

"The Sound of Music" runs Oct 15 to Dec 11, 2011. 8:00PM Wed to Sat with 3:00PM shows on Sat and Sun at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City. Contact Resorts World Manila Box Office (836-6333) or Ticketworld (891-9999). 

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