Technical director Ohm David's horror collection

He has daughters named Anakin and Antigone, and a premium collection of horror toys
By Walter Ang
August 24, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Ohm David
Growing up in a family of scientists, Ohm David was nicknamed the measurement unit of electrical resistance. "I was already in kindergarten when I realized I had another name, a 'real' name," he says, laughing.

The nickname may have proven predictive for his profession as resident technical director of Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. As the job designation suggests, he handles the non-design components of the lighting, sound and set requirements for productions.

"For lights we encounter reading plans, wiring, focusing. For sets, we tackle drafting, reading and making plans, construction, painting."

Aside from hands-on skills, a technical director also needs organizational, administrative and planning skills, he says.

"Technical directors plan a production's technical schedule: when sets are constructed, lights are hung and focused, when sound equipment is tested. We work with directors, production managers and stage managers to determine the needs of a production. We help decide what materials to use, canvassing price of materials, etc."

"From rehearsals to actual shows, we have to ensure the safety of the stage, actors, the staff and the audience. The TD makes sure that everything will go as planned and the TD also troubleshoots problems."

David's work is slightly different from professional set-ups since he works for a school-based group. "Here at DUP, the technical director works with the theater majors to construct sets, from carpentry to painting, and make props, from sourcing to fabricating. For costumes, we learn how to take measurements, repair and launder."

As he is also a faculty member of the university's Speech Communication and Theater Arts department (the department handling DUP). He handles all theater practicum classes and teaches stagecraft.

When teaching, he always makes sure to stress "the theater history component that is connected to each technical topic." "It's important to do historical research on the background of the play, to know what the play is about, when it was written, why it was written, for whom it was written, etc."

Aside from his "scientific" environment growing up, David was also exposed to comic books. "I grew up reading comic books of my brother. I actually learned how to read because of comic books. Comics were my dictionaries when I was young."

He was drawn to series such as Marvel's "Strange Tales" and DC's "House of Mystery." "These were comic books comprised of tales and short stories reminiscent of the 'Twilight Zone' TV series."

"This was also the time I was so into horror movies, classic and cult fan favorite horror movies. I started reading Anne Rice novels and watching old horror movies like 'Nosferatu.'"

"I don't know why but I like scary stuff. I love to challenge my imagination and also see the reaction of other people to the things I do and like."

The strange, sci-fi, macabre milieu of these works inspired him to start collecting character figurines in high school, specifically those from the horror genre.

"I'm not choosy when it comes to materials or size. I don't buy just any toy I see, even if I like the character. What's important to me is craftsmanship. My collection is not that big pero piling pili. Sometimes it takes me years to save up and buy something, if I really like it."

His daughters Anakin and Antigone are unfazed by the collection and they play with the toys with David. "They're both named from tragic figures in literature and the movies," says David, smiling.

Actor to technical director
David had been acting since he was a child. "I usually got big roles onstage for school programs and productions. I joined speech contests and art competitions. In high school I acted in plays that I staged and designed." He'd once designed the lights for a friend's production using incandescent bulbs and flashlights.

His love for acting, reading, drawing, and imagining all fused together upon taking up Theater Arts at UP. He started out as an actor and eventually did props design, set design and lighting design, all of which molded him towards becoming a technical director.

"Having started out as an actor and a props head helps me in designing. It helps me figure out the geography of the set. I walk through it imagining myself as a character in the play."

David also has set design and lighting design credits. Recent set designs include Repertory Philippines' "The Joy Luck Club," Tanghalang Ateneo's "Fireflies," and DUP's "The Seagull/Ang Tagak" and "Collection." He's done the lighting design for productions in China, Pakistan, and England.

From the mid to late 2000s, David was the resident technical director, set, and lighting designer for Altera Pars Theater Company in Athens, Greece. There he designed numerous plays including Eve Ensler's "Necessary Targets" which ran for an entire year in Athens and toured Central Greece.

David is currently handling technical director duties for DUP's staging of John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi." DUP founding artistic director Tony Mabesa directs both the English version and the Filipino translation ("Ang Dukesa ng Malfi") by Allan Palileo.

Banaue Miclat, Liza Diño, and Adriana Agcaoili alternate as the titular duchess who marries below her status, inciting the anger of her brothers, which results in schemes and murder.

Richard Cunanan, Neil Ryan Sese, and George de Jesus alternate as villain Bosola.

New York-based Obie award winner Clint Ramos handles set design and Eric Pineda handles costume design. Lighting design is by Meliton Roxas and sound design is by Jethro Joaquin. Choreography is by Peter Alcedo, Jr.

David enjoys working with different theater professionals. "Working with them opens my heart to vast images and new worlds, probabilities and impossibilities."

"The Duchess of Malfi/Ang Dukesa ng Malfi" runs Sept. 11-29 at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. Contact 9261349, 9818500 loc. 2449 or 4337840.

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REVIEW: The mirror has two maids in Jean Genet's play

The mirror has two maids
By Walter Ang
August 17, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Topper Fabregas (in dress, left) and Anton Juan (right).
Photo by Frances Makil Ignacio
The title alone of French playwright Jean Genet's "The Maids" prompts a consideration of this particular staging's venue location: in a building that straddles, a sort of unofficial boundary, the red light district and a high-end private residential area.

Power, economics, status, sex and their boundaries, the audience soon finds out, are explored in this tale of two sisters who work in the titular occupation for the unnamed Madame.

Staged by Musicartes with support from Theater Actors Guild, this English production (translated by Bernard Frechtman) is directed by Anton Juan.

Male actors are cast as the sisters. Juan is Solange and Topper Fabregas is Claire. In a fun bit of stunt casting, different actors, both male and female, portray Madame in each show.

The male casting for the two leads is as what the playwright has always intended it to be. The most recent professional staging with an all-male cast was by Philippine Educational Theater Association in 2001 at resto-bar Republic of Malate, using Rody Vera's Tagalog translation with direction by Indian director Rustom Bharucha. In the cast were Phil Noble (Clara/Claire), Melvin Lee (Soledad/Solange) and Bart Guingona (Madame).

Juan had performed as Claire in the 60s in a staged reading in Café Los Indios Bravos (also in Malate) with Joey Gosiengfiao (Solange) and Behn Cervantes (Madame). He has directed the play in 1970 with Ernie Abella (Solange), Chiqui Xerex Burgos (Claire) and Noel Macrae (Madame).

This time around, Juan is a solid, steady, deliberate, dangerous Solange. Fabregas plays Claire with a desperate, crazed delivery that becomes sharply contrasted when she transforms into the stolid servant in front of Madame.

The boundaries of gender expression (body characteristics, behavior, clothing) are explored. Both actors wear men's clothing and women's garments designed by John Herrera and Mitoy Santa Ana, slipping in and out of "masculine" and "feminine" line deliveries.

Juan's soft, thick voice foils well with Fabregas' inspired, dexterous turn as a twitchy, screechy woman on the verge of a breakdown or breakthrough or both.

Jenny Jamora played Madame as a campy cartoon character caricature, blending well into the staging's sinister strangeness-an atmosphere complemented with Joseph Mathieu's lighting design and Juan's sound design.

Humor emerges throughout their maneuverings and all three actors' performances are fun to watch. Their performances graze the boundaries of camp, melodrama and ham but never stepping overboard-a tight and delicate calibration that creates a heady and exciting energy, driving the action headlong into its inexorable tragic conclusion.

As the play unfolds, the audience finds out that whenever Madame is away, the sisters imitate her and perform dramatized (or real?) versions of themselves, acting out variations of a scene where they attempt to kill their employer.

At this revelation, the deliberate slyness of the venue becomes apparent. Staged in-the-round at Musicartes' rehearsal studio, one wall's floor-to-ceiling mirror is left uncovered: a single pane separates illusion from delusion.

The mirror also doubles the space, an expansion of the siblings' imaginations/machinations; but it also frames the space, a mute wall constricting their existence. Precisely because it is only an illusion of expanded space, it is forever a reminder of how restricted their lives actually are.

Despite and because of their flights of fancy, they both are acutely aware of exactly where they are. "Limits, boundaries … frontiers are not convention but law," says Solange.

Repeating violence
But they oh so badly want to break out. Or do they? The mirror reminds audiences of the siblings' acts of repetitive copying. They rehearse the belabored murder attempt every chance they get, apparently. Always a simulation, never the actualization.

Meanwhile, they seem to be breaking each other: incestuous sadomasochism surfaces whenever they playact/interact (there is screaming, spitting, insulting, slapping, whipping). With a dominatrix's arsenal of latex and rubber gloves, flowers and fur, their games mirror the prolonged masturbation of their lives without the benefit of a climax.

Juan dominates Fabregas' smooth submissive neck alternately with kisses and strangling (erotic asphyxiation?). Without a television or computer monitor's glass pane to separate audiences from these intimate acts of brutality and brutal acts of intimacy, the effect is startling, suspenseful, frightening, visceral. (Depending on your location in the seating areas, the mirror doubles these efforts, both distancing and amplifying the suffocations.)

And as it turns out, their "rehearsals" are not in a recursive circle; the repetitions build up and spiral out (and down). Playacting shifts to power play as Claire has apparently written incriminating letters to the police, causing Madame's husband to be arrested.

When he is freed on bail, the balance of power, the sisters realize, swings only one way--despite their attempts at inversion/perversion of roles.

The oppressed are always trapped. The dominant always get off free. Consider that this production comes at the heels of the recently enacted Senator Jinggoy Estrada-authored Republic Act 10361, also known as Batas Kasambahay (Domestic Workers Act), vis-à-vis the current headlines of Janet Napoles' daughter's extravagant lifestyle amidst unexplained (as of yet) wealth.

Now who says theater doesn't mirror the roles we play/act/perform in real life?

"I'm sick of seeing my image thrown back at me by a mirror," wails Claire. Defeated, they retreat to their familiar playacting and enact one last defiant performance: Solange's ultimate act of sadism as she stands complicit to Claire's ultimate act of masochism.

"The Maids" runs until Aug. 18 at Mirror Studio Theatre, 5th flr, SJG Centre Building, 8463 Kalayaan Ave., Makati City. Actors portraying Madame: Aug 17 Saturday 8pm Gwyn Guanzon, Aug 18 Sunday 3pm Liza Diño and 8pm Joel Saracho. Contact 09175343223 or 8958098.

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While preparing this review, I tried to find out if there had been previous stagings of the play in Manila with male actors. Thanks to the communications function of Facebook, the list started with one professional production and grew and grew. Most of the past stagings had been in campuses, so I decided to split it off into a sidebar. Then the sidebar grew and grew until the editors didn't have space for it anymore. The list is included in this blog post. Thank you to all the theater professionals who contributed to the list.

"The Maids" is staple material for acting or theater students in Manila, being restaged every so many years.

At University of the Philippines, just with the past few years, with Cindy Mayo, Lucky De Mesa and Hazel Maranan alternating in all three roles directed by Paul Santiago using a group translation by all four ("Ang Seremonya") with Chic San Agustin as Madame (2010);

Jules dela Paz (Solange), RJ Solis (Claire) and Jacinta Remulla (Madame) directed by Victor Villareal (2008).

In the 90s with Lia Moran (Solange), Starr Dimayuga (Claire) and Bobong Lacanilao (Madame) directed by Grace Budac;

in the late 70s, translated by Adele Victorino ("Ang Mga Muchacha") directed by Jorge Ledesma under Juan's supervision with Betty Mae Piccio as Clara, Ces Mangay (now Quesada) as Soledad, and Ledesma as Senyora (Madame).

At Ateneo de Manila University in 1969, with Jo-Ann Maglipon (Claire), Nieves Campa (Solange) and Cherry Mercado (Madame) directed by Paul Dumol for Rolando Tinio's Ateneo Drama Group.

Rep’s children's musical ‘Alice in Wonderland’ 2013

Bituin Escalante, Joel Trinidad headline Rep’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’
By Walter Ang
August 10, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bituin Escalante (center, top). Joel Trinidad (left).
“This is a musical about Alice’s incredible journey into a world unlike her own where she meets the most surprising set of wild characters,” says director Joy Virata, founder of Rep’s Children’s Theater.

Based on English author Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fantasy novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the story has had many interpretations across different mediums. Some adaptations incorporate elements from the book’s 1871 sequel “Through the Looking-Glass.”

The latest high-profile adaptation was a Walt Disney Pictures film version directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as White Queen and Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen.

Disney Theatrical is reportedly adapting the movie into a stage musical. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her book of Disney’s stage version of its animated musical “Beauty and the Beast,” will be adapting the material for the stage.

Prior to the live-action movie, Disney produced an animated version in 1951.

Audiences who are also fans of the Batman franchise may be familiar with several Batman villains who are based on characters from the books, such as The Mad Hatter (who usually quotes from the books) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Best decision
Rep is using the version with book and lyrics written by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy.

Bituin Escalante, who made her Rep debut as Sour Kangaroo in “Seussical,” returns to the Rep stage as Queen of Hearts (alternating with Natalie Everett).

“I’m fulfilling a promise I made to myself that I would go back to RCT once I was physically able to,” she says. Escalante was “at the height of a very difficult first pregnancy” when she did “Seussical.”

“It was one of the best decisions I made. Performing for children put me in such a positive state of mind,” she adds.

She had committed to joining last year’s staging of “The Wizard of Oz” but found herself pregnant with her second child.

“I am grateful to be part of ‘Alice’ and to be playing such an iconic part. I am grateful to be part of RCT’s long tradition of creating new audiences for theater by introducing it to children,” she says.

“I’m grateful to be sharing the stage with my husband Reymund Domingo for the very first time. When we rehearse at home, it doubles as entertainment for our two beautiful girls,” she points out.

Domingo had his stage debut as a pirate in Rep’s “Peter Pan” and plays Duck/Kettle in this production. “The musical’s codirector Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo discovered him when he was picking me up from Seussical rehearsals. They needed a pirate and he looks like one,” she says, grinning.

Two veterans
The first time Rep staged this musical was in 1997, and two actors from that staging are part of this year’s show.

Leisl Batucan, 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! recipient for Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Musical for Rep’s “Sweeney Todd,” played Alice in that first staging and is now the assistant director for this one.

Oliver Usison was cast as Cheshire Cat, Dodo Bird and King of Hearts. “Although I became the unofficial male swing (actor assigned to learn several parts and performs as a substitute whenever another actor is absent) and I ended up playing six more roles,” he says.
This time, Usison will have it a little easier, as he’s been cast to play only two roles: Walrus and King of Hearts. For now, anyway.

Japanese elements
Two actresses who have performed in recent Rep productions will alternate as Alice: Dani Gana (“Wizard of Oz”) and Chaye Mogg (“Camp Rock”). Nic Campos and Joel Trinidad alternate as The Mad Hatter.

Gino Gonzales handles set design, using an origami theme, and Raven Ong handles costume design, expanding on the origami concept with other Japanese elements such as lanterns and knots.
Musical director is Baby Barredo, choreographers are Lisa, Tintin and Cecille Martinez, and lighting designer is John Batalla.

“Alice in Wonderland” runs Aug. 17 to Dec. 15 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Contact 5716926, 5714941 or Visit Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or

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Joel Lamangan is Gantimpala Theater's new artistic director

Joel Lamangan is Gantimpala Theater's new artistic director
By Walter Ang
August 3, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Joel Lamangan
Theater, television and film director and actor Joel Lamangan is Gantimpala Theater's new artistic director.  He steps into the position months after GT's founding artistic director Tony Espejo passed away last year.

GT's theater season line-up for 2013-2014 includes its iconic "Four Classics:" "Ibong Adarna," "Florante at Laura," "Kanser (Noli Me Tangere)," and "El Filibusterismo."

Also included in this year's season are two touring musicals: children's musical "Ang Prinsepe at ang Pulubi," Beth Puyot's translation of Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper," and the historical drama "Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan," to commemorate the birth sesquicentennial of nationalist and revolutionary Andres Bonifacio.

Lamangan, while well known for his work in film with multi-awarded commercial and critical productions, actually started out in theater.

He was part of the cast in Gantimpala's inaugural production in 1978 directed by Espejo, Bonifacio Ilagan's "Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan," a look at the "short life and turbulent times" of Bonifacio.

Now as artistic director, Lamangan comes full circle as he will co-direct with GT Board Chair Jun Pablo a new musical version with lyrics by Ilagan and Jeffrey Camanñag and music by Jesse Lucas.

Born and raised in Cavite City, Lamangan's earliest influence towards a life in the performing arts was watching his paternal grandmother Juanita directing moro-moro productions.

His activism was sparked while doing odd jobs at the Naval Station in Sangley Point, then still run by the US Navy (where his paternal grandfather served as a constable). "There I saw how the Americans treated the Filipinos. I knew that there was something wrong, that there was injustice," he says.

These two passions already merged as early as his student days at Cavite National High School where he formed a theater group called Teatro Caviteño. "We staged agitprop plays."

For college, he enrolled in Political Science at Lyceum of the Philippines University. "There my eyes were opened to the fact that reforms are needed in our country." He later transferred to University of the Philippines to take up Philippine Studies.

This was during Martial Law (1972-1981) where he would join street demonstrations and, as a result, was jailed twice (1973 and 1977) and tortured. While he was incarcerated in Camp Bagong Diwa, he staged poetry readings and one-act plays.

Expanding horizons
Upon his release in 1978, he resumed his studies at UP and there he directed "Mayo A-beinte Uno Atbp. Kabanata," for Samahan ng Mag-aaral sa Pilipino.

He was hungry to learn more about theater and took an acting workshop with Repertory Philippines where he was tasked to do Brutus' monologue from Shakespeare's "Julius Caeser."

"In the province, the Brutus monologue is usually an oratorical piece rather than an acting piece, so I orated. [Rep founding artistic director] Zeneida 'Bibot' Amador asked me 'What are you doing?!' and I said 'Ma'am, I am orating.' She screamed at me to get out and threw an ashtray at me. I never went back," he says laughing.

Lamangan used to hang out at For Santiago and, one day, as he passed by the open-air theater Dulaang Rajah Sulayman, where Philippine Educational Theater Association was based at the time, he saw their rehearsal for "Antigone."

"Their work impressed me and I joined their workshop," he says. This time, he finished the workshop and was later accepted as a member. He honed his writing and directing skills under the likes of Lino Broka, then Peta's executive director, among others.

He first acted for Peta in Tony Perez's "Si Moniko at ang mga Higante" (directed by Nonon Padilla) and first directed Malou Jacob's "Rajah Sulayman." "In the beginning, I really wanted to be an actor, but with time realized I would like to be the pilot in shaping the interpretation of texts in a certain way, that I would like to direct."

He joined Gantimpala because "I wanted to expand my horizons," he says. Lamangan also did productions with the Manila Metropolitan Theater. As a delegate of the International Theater Institute, he was able to go abroad to study different schools of thought, such as Brechtian theater and Theater of the Oppressed.

After his acting debut for Gantimpala, the first production he directed for GT was Benjamin Pascual's "General Goyo" (1979). The most recent production he directed for GT was "Balisawsaw Pusong Ligaw," Ricky Lee's adaptation of "Dog Day Afternoon" (1989).

Social realist
Lamangan transitioned to TV writing and directing in the 80s. "In the early days of my TV directing, I had a lot of separation anxiety from theater. I really missed theater."

He cast Amador in one of his TV shows and asked her, "Do you remember me? You threw an ashtray at me."

"She told me, 'See? If I didn't throw that ashtray at you, you wouldn't be where you are now!" he says laughing.

"When Lino [Brocka] died in 1991, I decided to join the film industry," he says, debuting with "Darna" in 1991.

His filmography spans comedy to drama (and for good measure, a musical, too: In 2006, he directed "Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Ze Moveeh," an adaptation of the Tanghalang Pilipino musical adapted from the graphic novel by Carlo Vergara.) and his advocacy of social realism is reflected in the themes of his films.

Social realism as filtered through his own interests in activism, human rights and related topics are common subject matter in his film output. This year alone, he has directed "Burgos," about desaparecido activist Jonas Burgos (which will be the closing film of the 2013 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival), and "Lihis," about communist rebels during the '70s (an entry to the 2013 Sineng Pambansa All Masters Series Film Festival).

This advocacy, of course, permeates all his works, including theater. "I believe that we are citizens first before we are artists. Artists do not stand on a pedestal, we are part and parcel of the community that we live in. Artists' work should be a reflection of the truth."

"[Social realism] is part of the thrust of Gantimpala Theater. All art, whether theater, film, literature, music, should say something about a certain group of people in society at a certain time. Anything that is expressive of something is social. We are all social beings."

While his appointment as GT's artistic director may be perceived as a homecoming, he has never really completely left theater. He constantly gives workshops to theater groups and he ensures he either directs or acts in at least one theater production every year. Just last year, he acted in Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Forsaken House" and GT's "Sayaw ng mga Seniorita."

"I was trained in theater. I would not be where I am now if not for theater. Theater is my first love. Not that I don't find fulfillment in film and TV work, but this is where I find fulfillment. I have reached a 'certain' stature, na hindi naman katingala ngala (that's not really anything worth looking up at), [nonetheless] I have to use it, I have to give back. This is where I came from."

He hopes for a better appreciation of what the arts has to offer. "The arts is never seen as a force. People talk of economic forces or political forces but culture and arts are the soul of a people. It is a strong force, instrument, system that can be used for change, to expose and correct weaknesses and to strengthen what is right. It can uplift us to a certain kind of standard."

Lamangan points out the role that Gantimpala aims to fulfill, to plant seeds into audiences and artists that will hopefully will take root and bloom. "We want to do theater that serves the needs of the people through the truth of our productions. We want to train young people in the disciplines of theater to produce future good Filipino artists."

"Florante at Laura" runs Aug. 2-17 and "Ang Prinsipe at Pulubi" runs Aug. 8-Sept. 15 at different venues including AFP Theater, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; Star Theater, Star City, Pasay City; and SM Southmall Cinema 3, Las Piñas City. 

Contact 5280603 or 09215286308. Add on Facebook (gantimpala) and Twitter (@gantimpala_tf).

Thank you Alwyn Ignacio, Ed Murillo, Roobak Valle, Fernando "Nanding" Josef, Ige Ramos, Dennis Marasigan and Nikki Torres.

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