K-La Rivera learns a lead role in just six days

How to learn a lead role in six days–take it from K-La Rivera
By Walter Ang
Oct. 26, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

K-La Rivera
The theater community, practitioners and audiences alike, have been abuzz about an actress who learned a lead role in six days.

When Mikkie Bradshaw fell ill after the Friday opening night of Atlantis Productions’ recent staging of “Carrie,” a musical based on Stephen King’s novel, K-La Rivera was approached to step into the titular role.

Atlantis called her the following Saturday morning, asking her to come in to learn the songs, dialogue and blocking so she could open the show the following Friday.

“I was going to school, it was our finals week,” recalls the actress who’s currently taking up Communications at Miriam College.

“My heart just dropped. I had just watched Mikkie the night before. I was so happy for her when she got the role because I knew she really wanted it. I was devastated for her. I knew how important the role and the show were for her,” Rivera says. “I didn’t know if I could do it. I informed my professors and went in to rehearse. On the way, I cried and I was freaking out. I asked myself, ‘Can I do this?’”

From scratch
Unlike if she were to learn a role from a long-running, popular musical where some of the songs might have been familiar, Rivera didn’t know any of the songs from the musical save for one, which she sang when she auditioned for “Carrie.”

Except that it was for another character.

“When I arrived at the studio, the staff was already there to teach me the songs,” she says. “Mikkie had been preparing for the role for almost a year because she was cast since last year. I couldn’t imagine how I could learn the role in just six days.”

But it happened. Saturday was spent learning 13 songs. She learned the blocking for Act 1 on Sunday, Act 2 on Monday (she had “dropped script” by then, meaning she had her lines memorized and no longer held a script while rehearsing).

A run-through of Act 1 was done on Tuesday, Act 2 on Wednesday. Thursday was for a run-through of the entire musical. The first time she rehearsed with the band was on Friday afternoon, just hours before her opening show.

She opened that night—to acclaim from audiences and reviewers alike. (Bradshaw recovered and returned for the production’s last weekend and alternated with Rivera for the remaining shows. Rivera was called up on stage at the last show’s curtain call, where she sang a duet with Bradshaw and shared a bow.)

“It was unreal. I couldn’t have done it without the entire cast and crew. They were very supportive. They never once pressured me,” she says.

During rehearsals, to get Rivera up to speed on where onstage she was supposed to be, the cast employed what theater folk endearingly call the “push-and-pull” method of blocking, where they literally pushed and pulled an actor to guide her along.

“It helped that Carrie was bullied a lot, so it was OK that I was being pushed around,” Rivera says, chuckling.

Coactress Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who played Carrie’s abusive mother, also offered support.
“She kept telling me not to worry and that, worse comes to worst, if I blank out on stage, she would just slap me!” she says, laughing.

Rivera’s past experiences were what built up the endurance and reserves that equipped her through the one-week preparation. She loved performing as a child. Born and raised in Canada, she constantly joined choirs, productions and pageants at a young age.

When she was 13, she landed a singing appearance in Las Vegas. With frequent trips back and forth to Manila, she was also approached by a Philippine record label for a contract.

“But I was too young then,” she says.

In 2009, Rivera relocated to Manila to establish a career. By 2011, her hard work started paying off. She was a finalist in ABS-CBN’s “Starpower,” a talent competition, and won MYX’s “VJ Search.” That same year, she had her professional stage debut as Nina Rosario in Atlantis’ “In the Heights.”

Last year, she played Princess Jasmine in Atlantis’ staging of “Disney’s Aladdin” opposite Tom Rodriguez as the titular character.

Kind of crazy
K-La Rivera plays Wednesday Addams
with Ryan Gallagher as Lucas Beineke
The bubbly, earnest Rivera is all humility when she shrugs off the “Carrie” feat. “I’m kind of crazy kasi e,” she says, laughing. “I just jump into things. Like when I moved from Canada to Manila, I just went ahead and did it. When I landed at the airport, it hit me that I was finally here on my own. With a lot of things in my life, I just go for it. Life is short! Never once in my life did I ever say to myself, ‘That’s impossible.’”

The craziness, this time, is appropriate as Rivera prepares for her new role as a somewhat off-kilter character: as Wednesday Addams in Atlantis’ staging of the musical “The Addams Family.”

Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, the Addams Family is a “ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre.”

The original comic panels have inspired several television series, movies and even video games. A 1991 movie adaptation starred Cristina Ricci as Wednesday with Angelica Houston and Raul Julia as the family’s matriarch and patriarch, Morticia and Gomez.

The musical, which uses a new story line, debuted on Broadway in 2011 with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music and lyrics by Drama Desk-winning composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa. The local staging stars Arnell Ignacio and Eula Valdes as Gomez and Morticia Addams, respectively.

Rivera relishes the prospect of fleshing out a creepy character: “I love scary movies. And I love theater. It combines everything I enjoy doing: singing, dancing, acting. I love trying out new things and expanding my horizons.”

“The Addams Family” is directed by Bobby Garcia, with musical direction by Ceejay Javier, choreography by Cecile Martinez, costume design by Pepsi Herrera, set design by Faust Paneyra and lighting design by Dong Calingacion. It runs Nov. 15 to Dec. 1 at Meralco Theater, Pasig City. Contact 8927078. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or ticketworld.com.ph

Also published online:

Paolo Rodriguez designs bead jewelry

He acts with Eula Valdes, Wilma Doesnt –and supplies their bangles, too
By Walter Ang
Oct. 9, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Paolo Rodriguez
During a break from rehearsals one day, Paolo Rodriguez found out that some women in the cast were willing to skip a meal in order to save money to buy a pair of earrings.

“I was fascinated by it,” he says. “I started selling accessories that I bought from Divisoria.”
When his clients started to place orders with specific materials and sizes that Rodriguez couldn’t find, he started making them himself. He’s been selling his designs to the theater community since.

“Eula Valdes asked me to make her a big armband. Wilma Doesnt inspired me to make big, big statement earrings,” he says.

He’s peddled necklaces, bracelets and earrings, among other pieces, to coactors in his recent productions such as Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (Peta) “’D Wonder Twins of Boac” where he played Malvolio; Resorts World Manila’s “The King and I” where he was a monk in the ensemble; and Tanghalang Pilipino’s (TP) “Tatlong Mariya” as Daniel.

Eula Valdes wearing Paolo Rodriguez bead jewelry.
Rodriguez attributes his innate ability to design and create jewelry to his environment growing up. “I spent my childhood among craftsmen. It’s second nature for me to use my hands,” he says.

Born and raised in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, his mother was a street vendor who sold fruits, vegetables and merienda fare; and his father worked as a carpenter.

“When I was growing up, my family couldn’t afford toys. All of my toys were made by my father. Sometimes I made my own toys using old cans or dirt,” he recalled.

Growing up smack in the middle of the market provided rich influences that captured his imagination and creativity.

He’d seen the colorful results of meticulous artistry. “I grew up seeing the wares of Maranao jewelers, tabak (swords) makers and potters. I saw the woven banig (mats) of Maguindanaoans,” he said.

He was also exposed to beauty in functional materials. “We had a neighbor who built trucks. There was an upholstery shop nearby. I would see some Manobo making rattan furniture in the neighborhood where my father, a very skilled furniture maker, used to work.”

Love of singing
Bead jewelry by Paolo Rodriguez.
It wasn’t just the sights, but also the sounds of a bustling market that fed his impressionable young mind.

“My mother had a stall near a movie theater, so I would watch movies all the time because we didn’t have a television at home. And if I couldn’t watch, I would listen to the dialogue because they had speakers outside the theater. I know all the theme songs of different movies,” he says, laughing.

By the time he relocated to Manila for college, his love for singing made him acquiesce to his friends’ urging to join Dulaang Asilaw, the resident theater group of New Era University, where he took up Mass Communications.

The theater bug bit hard, and he ended up being the group’s president for two consecutive years.
After graduation, Rodriguez auditioned to join the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company, its resident pool of actors.

“Before college, the idea of becoming an actor didn’t really register in my mind, but the more I did it, the more I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The rest is history,” he says of his career, which now spans work mostly for TP, Peta, as well as television and film.

Keeping grounded
When his parents finally saw him on stage, in the titular role of TP’s “The Romance of Magno Rubio,” it was also their first time ever to watch a play.

When Rodriguez stabbed another actor, his mother, seated in the front row, shouted, “Hoy makatama ka!”

“In my next scene, I was supposed to break down, but I was trying so hard to contain my laughter. Good thing I had my back to the audience,” he recalls.

And when Rodriguez brought home an acting award during college, his father deadpanned, “My grandfather acted in the moro-moro, too.”

Aside from retailing his pieces, Rodriguez’s beadwork has also been used in Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas’ “Orosman at Zafira” as well as in TV shows such as “Indio” and “Amaya.”

“I miss doing production design. The last time I did work like that was back in college. I would design the sets and props, and go to Divisoria to buy the materials needed. The entire budget for a production would only be P5,000,” he says, laughing.

Rodriguez continues to do acting work while creating bead jewelry. He works mostly using seed beads, but can also work with semiprecious stones.

“The smaller the materials, the better. I love intricate designs,” he says.

Contact Paolo Rodriguez at 0917-5417849.

Also published online:

REVIEW: ‘Der Kaufmann: Ang Negosyante ng Venecia’–terror made all too real

‘Der Kaufmann: Ang Negosyante ng Venecia’–terror made all too real
By Walter Ang
Oct. 5, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pardon the language, but there is no other way to describe Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Der Kaufmann: Ang Negosyante ng Venecia" except to say it is a complete mindf*ck.

William Shakespeare's "The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice" has a bunch of Christians turn the tables on Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, over an unpaid debt. Portia, the female protagonist, uses legal maneuverings to defeat him, predating Elle Woods of "Legally Blonde" by centuries.

The tables are turned in a different way in Rody Vera's adaptation. While portraying Shylock as a sympathetic character (versus an anti-Semitist caricature stock villain) started as early as the 19th century, Vera transposes the action squarely onto the event that informs the identification of Jews since the mid-20th century: the Holocaust.

Vera reworks a British playwright's 16th century piece that's set in Italy using a Tagalog translation by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio, layering it with Nazi Germans forcing Jews and homosexuals to perform characters in the play while the tormentors play the "good" guys.

A short chilling prologue to establish this concept, which includes a baby carriage not to be seen again, introduces the play's first line. The titular character Antonio's (an affecting, effective Marco Viana) "Ewan ko ba kung bakit ang lungkot-lungkot ko," takes on a vastly differentiated meaning that casts a dark, sinister color on the rest of the play.

Vera's risky layer transforms the comedy into a psychological suspense horror drama. With a competent ensemble adeptly co-directed by Vera and TP artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio, the highly charged staging is deeply disturbing and suffocatingly intense.

Audiences during the Bard's time may have found it clever and fun to watch young boys (women weren't allowed to act) portray female characters who cross-dress as men, as Portia does later on in the play. Audiences to this production are bound to note the cruelty and absurdity of having people forced to act in a comedy under duress.

The wretched
Rutaquio's set design, a two-tiered enclosure with wire fences, repurposed from last season's "Walang Kukurap," is a cold, creepy setting that twists Tanghalang Batute's usually intimate vibe into a constricting concentration camp. John Battalia's lighting design and TJ Ramos' sound design adds harshness and anxiety. 

Audiences are constantly reminded of the Nazi's unrelenting depravity and ruthlessness via Viana and Jovanny Cadag (Salanio)'s scared, pained expressions and startled jerks of fright; portrayed here as bearers of the inverted pink triangle.

Reduced to one of many mice being played with by cats before being devoured is the father of a Jewish family forced to play Shylock. Jonathan Tadioan elevates the much maligned moneylender into a real harrowed individual, imbuing Shylock with vulnerability, turmoil and indignation. 

Raquel Pareño plays the man's wife and is coerced to parody Shylock's famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. She acquiesces with a sharp performance.

When Shylock discovers the loss of his daughter and his money, in an inspired bit of stragecraft by the directors and actors, the production's staging multiplies and magnifies the loss poignantly.

The torturers 
Leading the incessant torture are Tracy Quila, whose crazed eyes fire up a dangerous and menacing Gratiano, who does nothing remotely related to the meaning of his name (grace); and Regina de Vera, whose chilling glare captures a calculating, bossy Portia.

The sense of mercy that Portia appeals to in Shylock at the merchant's trial is exactly what she withholds from him (regardless of a comedic or sympathetic interpretation of the moneylender's character). What would have been lighthearted cheers at Portia's every turn of winning argumentation now becomes line upon line of unrelenting humiliation and degradation of Shylock.

The occasional laughs (locked with a sense of unease) come by way of Doray Dayao's funny Nerissa, Aldo Vensilao's Lancelot burlesquing the Führer, Lou Veloso's (as always) spot-on comic timing as Gobbo. But here lies the genius (or insanity) of the staging: Is it okay to laugh at the funny bits?

Do we laugh because we know this is supposed to be a comedy and our brains fight to reconcile it as so, despite the new hair-raising context? Do we laugh because we know the context, though based on real events, isn't real and therefore easier to become desensitized to?

After a particularly harrowing scene, the nonchalance at which the Nazi actors portray the succeeding idyllic scene creates a sense of discomfort for the audience. These ambiguous reactions are elicited by the production's staging, which highlights what has actually been embedded by Shakespeare into the lines: Portia concludes, "… nababatid kong hindi pa ganap ang inyong pagkakaunawa sa nangyaring lahat."

Though addressed to the other characters, it functions for the audience, too. Yes, how does one even begin to understand the horrors our fellow men inflict on each other? And what of the unpaid debts and injustices outside the theater? 

Of fundamentalist Islam groups perpetuating the stereotype that all Muslims are war freaks. That the Philippines is the only country left in the world that doesn't allow divorce while countries left and right have started to allow gay marriages. Of the farce that has politicians implicated of mishandling public funds using verbal acrobatics to defend themselves. The terrors threatening love, dignity and freedom abound. They are all very real and the joke may very well be on us.

"Der Kaufmann: Ang Negosyante ng Venecia" runs until Oct. 13, 2013 at Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines. 

Discounts available for students, senior citizens, government and military employees and persons with disabilities. Contact 09177500107, 09189593949, 8321125 loc. 1620/1621. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.

Also published online:

Angel Aquino conquers her monsters with ‘Closer’

Angel Aquino conquers her monsters with ‘Closer’
By Walter Ang
Sept. 28, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Angel Aquino
It’s been a year of firsts for Angel Aquino.

A few months ago, she started making her own water kefir—sugar water or juice that has been fermented with grains that contain bacteria and yeasts. “I started out with four tablespoons of kefir grains and now I have five jugs of kefir water,” she says.

Aquino discovered water kefir from a friend and decided to brew her own. “I have friends who are vegetarians and their healthy eating habits seem to be rubbing off on me,” she says. She brings a glass bottle filled with the amber liquid, rich in probiotics and B vitamins, everywhere she goes.

She takes sips from it during rehearsals and tapings for her work in movies and television. This year, she did her first portrayal of a male-to-female transgender character in the film “Porno,” written by Ralston Jover and directed by Adolf Alix Jr. The film was shown in the recently concluded 9th Cinemalaya film festival.

This year, she is also debuting in her first full-length play in English. Aquino is in Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” Red Turnip’s maiden production. Directed by Ana Abad Santos, the play is a four-character piece that deals with relationships and betrayal.

She is sharing the stage with Cris Villonco, Bart Guingona and Marc Abaya. “Closer” has been adapted into a film version directed by Mike Nichols and starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen.

Breaking out
Feeling shy and awkward in high school, Aquino had never done any school activity that involved performing. In college, she broke out of her shell in a very big way. Discovered by film director Jeffrey Jeturian in a mall, she became one of the country’s top fashion models.

She transitioned to acting in time, debuting in the film “Mumbaki,” written by Amado Lacuesta and Butch Perez, directed by Perez. Many award-winning movie roles and television hosting stints followed. A recent credit is “On the Job,” written by Erik Matti and Michiko Yamamoto, directed by Matti. The film premiered at this year’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight), a section of the Cannes International Film Festival.

She also recently won Best Supporting Actress for her turn in “Ang Huling Cha-cha ni Anita” at the recent Cine Filipino Film Festival.

Clean slate
Her first foray on stage was in 2002, performing a single monologue in “The Vagina Monologues” staged by New Voice Company, at the Folk Arts Theater, no less. And, later that same year, in a restaging as only one of three actresses for the whole show.

Aquino was intrigued by the film version of “Closer” when it came out in the cinemas. “I bought two DVD copies because the first one didn’t work. The second one ended up not working, too,” she recalls.

Which apparently prefigured her eventual involvement in the play. “When I prepare for a role, I want to come in with a clean slate, without having seen previous versions. I want to do my own take,” she says.

Aquino is thankful for the warm acceptance of her fellow actors, since she needed to calibrate her acting methods.

“[In movies and TV] our scenes are very short, the emotions are there and then they’re gone, unlike in a play where it’s two hours straight,” she explains. “I have to shift the underplaying I am more used to. I have a hard time going ‘overboard.’ It’s not the kind of space I give myself.”

At first, “I asked myself what I got myself into, opening myself up to criticism, feeling vulnerable… But I don’t like staying in my comfort zone. So it’s a new kind of learning for me. It’s a new monster I have to conquer.”

“Closer” features set design by Gino Gonzales, lighting design by John Batalla and costume design by Raven Ong. Sound design will be by Jethro Joaquin with original songs by William Manzano.

Red Turnip’s “Closer” runs Oct. 4-27 at Whitespace, 2314 Don Chino Roces Ave. (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati City. Contact 0908-8829750. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.

Also published online:

UPLB stages ‘Banwa!,’ based on ‘The Jungle Book’

UPLB stages ‘Banwa!,’ based on ‘The Jungle Book’
By Walter Ang
Sept. 21, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Arts and Sciences is staging “Banwa!” by Om Velasco, under Joey Ting’s direction.

“Banwa!” is a translation and adaptation of Edward Mast’s “Jungalbook,” a play adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories, “The Jungle Book.”

The book is a collection of stories dealing with Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle with the help of Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black panther, and his encounters with the tiger Shere Khan. First published in 1894, the book is now in the public domain and e-book versions can be downloaded for free from sites such as Gutenberg.org and Amazon.com.

Neil Gaiman’s children’s fantasy novel “The Graveyard Book,” is inspired by Kipling’s book while a popular adaptation is Disney’s 1967 animated musical film version of the same title. The movie was adapted for the stage in Chicago (premiering this past June) by Goodman Theater and Huntington Theater Company with book and direction by Mary Zimmerman.

Laws of the jungle
Mast’s play shifts the action of the Indian jungle to a children’s playground, while Velasco’s “Banwa!” transposes the adaptation to Filipino culture.

Mowgli is now Kawayan and he deals with inhabitants of the jungle such as kuwago (owl), buwaya (crocodile), musang (wild cat), unggoy (monkey), sawa (snake), elepante (elephant), uwak (crow), baboy ramo (wild boar), among others.

“In the Visayas region, ‘banwa’ means ‘town,’” says director Joey Ting. “The adaptation explores the parallels between the laws of the jungle and those of the human community.”

Ting has done directing work for the stage, television and events. Recent credits include Tagalog translations of Euripides’ “Elektra” and Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter.”

“It’s a play that talks about human survival and hope. The staging deals with territoriality, culture, folklore, ritual and the laws that bind the resident dwellers.”

Blending styles
Ting aims to incorporate “major influences from popular and traditional artistic forms” in his staging: “The evolving concept of Dadaism, contemporary pop art and culture, industrial and machine art installations, stylistic movement, techno-folkloric music combination, and circus-like elements and spectacle using kinesics (body motion), proxemics (interaction with space), and aero-dynamics (concept of flying and aerial stunts).”

Trevor Lim, Gife Laforteza and Ronald Paolo Luna alternate in the role of Kawayan.
Music is by Alfred Dalisay with movement and choreography by Jeremy dela Cruz. Set design by Janelle Cabrera and Renz Nollase, costume design by Maria Carina Quintos and Alecx Bagotsolon, lighting design by Karla Napay, and sound design by Julio Luna.

“Banwa!” runs Sept. 25-27 at Senior Social Garden, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, Laguna. Contact 0916-3390541 or 0906-8785837. Like on Facebook (“Banwa!”).

Also published online:

‘Carrie’–a musical prelude to Halloween

‘Carrie’–a musical prelude to Halloween
By Walter Ang
Sept. 14, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Atlantis Productions will stage the suspense-horror musical “Carrie” in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

The musical is based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel (first published in 1974) about a girl who is bullied in school and suffers under a cruel mother. She soon discovers a special power that she wields over her tormentors.

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo headlines the show as the titular character’s mother Margaret White, while Mikkie Bradshaw (“Rock of Ages,” “Nine,” “Disney’s Aladdin,”) will play Carrie.
An upcoming film adaptation has Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother and Chloe Grace Moretz (“Hugo,” “Kick-Ass,” “(500) Days of Summer”) as Carrie. Prior to this version, there was a 1976 film adaptation directed by Brian De Palma, starring Sissy Spacek in the title role.

The musical version debuted on Broadway in 1988 with book by the film’s screenwriter Lawrence Cohen, music by Michael Gore (“Fame,” “Terms of Endearment”), and lyrics by Dean Pitchford (“Fame,” “Footloose”).

The 1988 version was critically panned and closed after only five performances. The incident was notorious enough to be immortalized in the title of Ken Mandelbaum’s book “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.”

Last year, a reworked version by the original collaborators was staged on a limited engagement Off-Broadway, earning numerous nominations from different award-giving bodies.

Atlantis is staging the 2012 version. “It is a beautifully tragic retelling of the Cinderella story with an amazing Broadway pop score,” says Atlantis’ artistic director Bobby Garcia, who is directing the show with Jamie Wilson as assistant director and Ceejay Javier as musical director.

Choreography is by Cecile Martinez, with set design by Otto Hernandez, lighting design by Martin Esteva, sound design by Bobbit Jacinto and costume design by Raven Ong.

“Carrie the Musical” runs Sept. 20 to Oct. 6 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati City. Tel. nos. 8927078, 8401187 or 0917-8381534. Visit atlantisproductionsinc.com. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or ticketworld.com.ph.

Also published online:

Noel Rayos–singer, actor, serious bike collector

Noel Rayos–singer, actor, serious bike collector
By Walter Ang
Sept. 7, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Noel Rayos
Noel Rayos doesn't just ride bicycles, he folds them with his bare hands, too.

No, he's not a muscleman who bends metal for fun. Rayos is a versatile actor who is at ease in plays and musicals, comedy and drama, English and Tagalog and once had a bike stolen, even though it was chained and locked.

"I never again owned a non-folding bike that I couldn't bring inside to where I was going," he says.

"My first folding bike was a 12-inch wheel Dahon copy from Zhuhai, Mainland China. I've bought and sold dozens of others since then."

Rayos tread the boards recently as Tenyong in Tanghalang Pilipino's "Walang Sugat," Dasaratha/ Lakshmana in Ballet Philippines' "Rama Hari," (for which he won the 2012 Philstage Gawad Buhay! Male Featured Performance in a Musical) and Princeton/Rod in Atlantis Productions' Singapore run of "Avenue Q." He was also in Philippine Opera Company's ensemble show "Ang Bagong Harana."

He's been doing theater work professionally since the mid-90s, starting out with Repertory Philippines. "I've had several teachers but I most look up to the late [Rep founding artistic director] Zeneida Amador as my mentor. She taught me about theater as a craft, a lifetime calling."

His first encounter with her, however, goes a little further back. "She directed our school production when I was a student at De La Salle-Santiago Zobel School and I've been in theater ever since."

Until the mid-2000s, he was a resident actor for Rep, appearing in almost all its productions every season. He had occasional forays into shows by Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) and Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theatre Society (Trumpets) as well as Singapore Action Theatre's "Chang and Eng the Musical."

Rayos then became a performer at Hong Kong Disneyland for three years straight and has since been flying back and forth for projects in Manila, for Gantimpala Theater, among others, and the rest of Asia.

He currently has 16 folding bikes, two of which are for regular commuting while the rest are for leisure and fun.

Other than flipping over twice because of "overrated brakes" while breaking in a certain model that he'd acquired, Rayos rides them everywhere with no incident. "My latest all-round commuter bike weighs just over seven kilos. I bring her everywhere, and if it rains, I fold and take her on the bus or MRT. I average about 100 kilometers per week on it."

"They attract a lot of attention but, overwhelmingly, the reaction is positive for the bikes' cool-cute factor."

Rayos says his collection went into "overdrive" when he moved back to Manila. "There's lots of space in my parents' house in Las Piñas, unlike my tiny condo in Makati and the dinky apartments I lived in when I worked overseas in Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland China-which is the Mecca of folding bikes in Asia next to Japan."

When it comes to his collection, Rayos knows his stuff. He rhapsodizes about these contraptions, ticking off the different models' specs such as cogs, cranks, rear sprockets, Kevlar belt drives, pneumatic wheels, and greaseless enclosed dual-chains, whatever those mean.

From scouring the internet to getting leads from fellow riders and enthusiasts, Rayos' collection includes models from all over the world: Europe, America and Asia.

"My Zerobike was made in Spain and retailed in Japan from where it was imported by a Malaysian surplus bike seller and sent to Singapore from where my friend was nice enough to send it via balikbayan box it to me in Manila. It's a very well-traveled bike!" he says laughing.

He has one purchased from a dealer in Manila who used to be connected to the Light Rail Transit Authority. Apparently, folding bikes had been purchased for mass distribution but plans were scrapped when there was a change of administration. "It weighs 10 kilos with 16-inch wheels and still has an LRT sticker on it."

In addition, Rayos owns five unicycles. His tallest "giraffe" unicycle is five-feet high and comes with a yellow tire. "But I have spare red and white tires. I juggle on that one."

Rayos got into unicycling only a few years ago while working for the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Macau. He'd been assigned to do promotions work and he started to miss performing. "I bugged my coworkers, a stiltwalker and a unicycle clown, to teach me their skills."

He now goes to Hong Kong once every few months to do stiltwalking or unicycle juggling gigs.

Rayos has, obviously, a high sense of body awareness. As it turns out, he's also a fifth kyu (level) aikidoka (aikido practitioner). "It's a great 'soft-style' martial art that develops balance, flexibility and centeredness. I got into it after watching Steven Segal films. He's aikido's most famous practitioner."

For now, he's preparing to begin rehearsals for Trumpets' musical "The Bluebird of Happiness," based on Maurice Maeterlinck's play "The Blue Bird," with book and lyrics by Jaime del Mundo and music by Rony Fortich.

A homecoming of sorts, as he originated the role of Prince Christian for the group's "Little Mermaid" back in 2000.

He's looking forward to the venue of their rehearsals. "I heard the location hall is a bit out-of-the-way, a good excuse to use my bikes!"

For unicycling, juggling and stiltwalking bookings, contact +639157650226. "Bluebird of Happiness" runs Sept. 20 to Oct. 20 at Meralco Theater. For sponsorship or show buying, contact 9014364.

Also published online: