Gantimpala Theater Foundation is looking for a new home

Gantimpala Theater Foundation is looking for a new home
By Walter Ang
Oct. 25, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

From a Gantimpala Theater production
of "Kanser (Noli Me Tangere)"
Gantimpala Theater (GT) is moving house again.

Its office and rehearsal space is currently at the Rizal Library of the Rizal Park (Luneta). Not to be confused with the National Library facing Kalaw Street, the Rizal Library is a smaller building between the Planetarium and the Japanese Garden.

The building will be demolished to give way to park renovations. Part of the refurbishing will supposedly include a canopy being built for the park's open-air auditorium, where the Concert at the Park series is held. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra is scheduled to perform this month to reopen the auditorium to the public.

Wish list
"We are now on the lookout for a new home. Any referrals would be appreciated," says Jun Pablo, Gantimpala chair and president.

Theater, television and film director and actor Joel Lamangan is Gantimpala Theater's current artistic director. He stepped into the position months after GT's founding artistic director Tony Espejo passed away in 2012.

"Our wish list is this: a location in Metro Manila convenient enough for members and artists to reach the place; an area where the company could house its office, hold rehearsals and a storage portion for costumes, sets and props; a lot area of probably 300 to 500 sq. meters, preferably with an existing structure," says Pablo.

"A warehouse-type structure would seem ideal. We could hold productions in that kind of space (similar to Whitespace in Makati or Sinag Arts Studio in Mandaluyong).

"An old house may suit us as long as other residential dwellers wouldn't mind the volume of people coming in and out of the venue," he adds.

Also, "affordable rent that's within the company's budget. Or, even better, if the space could be used by Gantimpala for free, in exchange of services that Gantimpala could give, as is our present setup with the National Parks Development Committee."

Changing landscapes
It remains to be seen where the group's new office space will be, but real estate developments have been incorporating or preserving spaces for the performing arts in recent years.

SM Development Corporation has announced it "will save and preserve the culturally historic Philam Life Theater" in Manila.

The Public-Private Partnership Center has announced that it will be providing funding support for the Department of Finance's Manila Heritage and Urban Renewal Project, which aims to "preserve heritage buildings and landmarks" including "the preservation of. Manila Metropolitan Theater."

Megaworld's Resorts World Manila has the 1,500-seater Newport Performing Arts Theater, which recently presented Full House Theater Company's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (currently on a Singapore tour until Oct. 26) and is now hosting a touring opera production of "Noli Me Tangere" from the United States.

Solaire Resort and Casino will house Lunchbox Theatrical Productions/Concertus Manila's touring production of the musical "Chicago" (Dec. 2-21) in its 1,700-seater The Theatre.

Rockwell Land has announced the development of its 600-seater Proscenium Theatre at its Proscenium development in Makati.

Ayala Land's Circuit Makati, meanwhile, has announced the development of its 1,500-seater Circuit Makati Theater and its Circuit Lane, a black box theater. The developer aims to build on the location's performing arts heritage: in the 1900s, the 3,000-square-kilometer Santa Ana cabaret was the largest in the world.

Espejo was the first Filipino student and first Asian scholar at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating with a diploma in Production and Stage Management.

He was one of the pioneers of dinner theater in the late '70s, staging Jose Javier Reyes' 1977 Taglish adaptation of Mart Crowley's "Boys in the Band" (which included Inquirer Lifestyle contributing writer Larry Leviste and current Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Fernando "Nanding" Josef in the cast).

That same year, Espejo established at the Cultural Center of the Philippines the Gantimpala Pool of Talents, a group whose objective was to stage the winning entries to CCP's (now defunct) annual playwriting contest.

The group had its first few performances at the end alcove of CCP's third floor Main Gallery. Espejo recommended to then CCP president Lucrecia Kasilag to transform part of the ground floor canteen into a black box theater, where the group eventually staged all its productions.

The theater was called Bulwagang Gantimpala, which also became the company's name. (At that time, the other CCP resident theater company was National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio's Teatro Pilipino, holding court at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, then called Little Theater.)

The Luneta years
Following the 1986 Edsa revolution and change in government administration, Gantimpala's 1987-1988 season became its last at the CCP.

Away from the auspices of the government, the group was renamed the Gantimpala Theater Foundation. (The theater it used to occupy was later renamed Tanghalang Huseng Batute.)

The group held office and rehearsal space (and performances) at Manila Metropolitan Theater for a decade, moved to Makati for a few years, before settling in Luneta.

Espejo employed the "Four Classics" as a fixture of Gantimpala's annual season lineup (namely: "Ibong Adarna," "Florante at Laura," "Noli Me Tangere," and "El Filibusterismo"). Still being staged now (with occasional new versions), the productions are popularly described as the "curriculum plays," referencing GT's advocacy of using theater to augment schools' instruction of classic Filipino texts, since all four texts are required reading in high school.

Gantimpala Theater currently stages performances at Luneta Park's open-air auditorium, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Theater in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, and in various theaters when touring its productions.

To collaborate with Gantimpala or to offer it housing grants or referrals, contact 5280603, 8816424, 0933-4900724, 0915-2199058. Like them on Facebook (Gantimpala).

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On his 27th year as an actor, Roeder Camañag plays Apolinario Mabini

On his 27th year as an actor, Roeder Camañag plays Apolinario Mabini
By Walter Ang
Oct. 11, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Roeder Camañag
Roeder Camañag caps his 27th year in the performing arts by playing the titular character in Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' ongoing production of "Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini."

Mabini is one of the country's national heroes. He was a revolutionary leader during Spanish colonial rule and was an advisor to the Emilio Aguinaldo-led revolutionary government, later serving as its prime minister.

With the coming of the Americans, he was exiled to Guam by the US colonial government. He earned the sobriquet "Brains of the Revolution" and "Sublime Paralytic," after having contracted polio just prior to the revolution against Spain.

DUP's production, meant to commemorate Mabini's birth sesquicentennial, chronicles the last days of his exile in Guam and explores the conditions that spurred him to return to his homeland.

The book is by Floy Quintos, with music by Krina Cayabyab, direction and choreography by Dexter Santos, set design by Ohm David, costume design by Darwin Desoacido and lighting design by John Batalla.

The songs were composed by Cayabyab for piano, cello, viola, and two violins.

"We wanted a musical that would reflect Mabini's character, his introspection, his statesmanship," says Quintos.

Little physical action
Camañag first prepared for the role by taking voice lessons with Pablo Molina.

"The music is difficult, so I needed to drill my vocal agility," he says.

"I also read available materials about Mabini and his writings. I went to Mabini's shrine just to get the feel of who he was and to trigger my imagination.

"And, of course, I had to lose weight," he says, laughing.

"The play is difficult in the sense that there is very little physical action," he adds. "Everything is internal, cerebral, if I may say, so it's necessary to know where it is all coming from so that the lines and lyrics make sense."

Quintos points out: "To the public mind, there are no great bravura moments, no dramatic battles or acts of extreme heroism that can be associated with Mabini. Hopefully, this musical reflects that very stoic and selfless character that has made Mabini the most underappreciated of our revolutionary heroes."

Cameo role
Born and raised in Cavite City, Camañag had his first stage exposure as a child.

"My uncle was a member of Dulaang Kabataang Barangay and I appeared in one of their productions. It was a cameo role in the play 'Gabun' where I sang 'Ugoy ng Duyan'."

"After college, I was itching to sing professionally. After high school, I took a workshop at the Ryan Cayabyab Music Studio and I was discovered by Ernest Gonzaga during our recital. I had my first professional concert at Rumors Game Room in Makati. The title of the show was `Take One.' I was 17."

He eventually got a recording contract with Vicor and he cut several albums, earning gold and platinum record awards along the way.

"I'm on iTunes and Spotify," he points out, laughing.

"At that time, Frannie Zamora was my stylist so I would always hang out at his place," Camañag recalls. "He lived in Pasay City in a compound owned by the family of Chito Valenzuela. He and Chito were both connected with Gantimpala Theater. A lot of stage actors lived in that compound, like Roobak Valle, Ronnie Lazaro, Joey Nombres, Len Ag Santos. Nonie Buencamino and Shamaine Centenera were newly married then.

"There were many professional actors who would hang out there and throw lines. I would observe them and listen to their conversations. I would also watch their productions.

"My manager Rene Durian decided that I should take an acting workshop with Gantimpala. I was inspired by Nonie Buencamino when I saw him in Tanghalang Pilipino's sarswela `Paglipas ng Dilim.'"

To teach and inspire
Camañag joined Gantimpala Theater's acting workshop in 1992 and played Bonifacio in the staging of "Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan."

From there, he was cast in productions for other companies such as New Voice Company and Musical Theatre Philippines. He later joined Tanghalang Pilipino and became a member of its Actors Company from 2001-2003.

His first production for DUP was the lead role in "Elias at Salome." He was also seen as Abdalap in "Orosman at Zafira."

"One of my main goals now is to be able to inspire and teach young and aspiring actors," he says.

He's doing just that, as artistic director of Valenzuela City Center for the Performing Arts since 2006. The group provides its members free training in singing, dancing and acting, and produces musical productions that showcase their talents.

"Our artistic direction and thrust is focused mainly on developing productions that are not only entertaining but educational as well," he says.

"Our productions are geared toward providing schools and students in all levels with innovative learning aids, positive awareness of the arts and creative experiences that elevate values and morals," he adds.

"Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini," extended until Oct. 24, runs at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. Call 926-1349, 433-7840, 981-8500 loc. 2449 or

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Pinoy theater productions tour Asian stages

Pinoy theater productions tour Asian stages
By Walter Ang
Oct. 4, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sandosenang Sapatos
This October, Philippine Educational Theater Association's all-male production of "Haring Lear" will tour Taiwan, while Full House Theater Productions' staging of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" will tour Singapore. (Full House is the newly established theater company of Resorts World Manila.)

Using a translation by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera of William Shakespeare's "King Lear," the Peta production, directed by Nonon Padilla with set and costume design by Gino Gonzales, will be staged Oct. 11-12 at National Taipei University of the Arts.

Lighting design is by Jonjon Villareal and music by Dodjie Fernandez.

(Visit or contact +02-3393-9888.)

Peta also recently staged "Strong Boy, Deaf Boy and a Girl in an Abaya" in Japan, at the Showa University of Music in Kawasaki, as part of the Asian Gems of the Arts Concert for the Federation for Asian Cultural Promotions.

The production is a nonverbal, multimedia performance that makes use of contemporary and indigenous Filipino music and movement to tell the story of three children-Strong Boy, a street kid who has to work to survive; Deaf Boy, a simple boy living a frugal life until a storm strikes his coastal town; and Girl in an Abaya, a girl caught in an armed conflict between rebels and soldiers in the southern Philippines-as they journey to a place where they can live and dream without fear and danger.

This production was originally staged 13 years ago for the International Drama and Education Association World Congress in Bergen, Norway. This led to several invitations and touring performances in the Netherlands, Greece and France.

Written by Nicolas Pichay and directed by Dudz Teraña, this year's staging has been updated to include the experience of children who survived the recent Typhoon "Yolanda" tragedy. Musical direction is by Jeff Hernandez, and set and costume design by Joan Pamintuan.

"Strong Boy." will also have a limited two-show run from Oct. 29 to 30 (twinbilled with an excerpt from Peta's latest season production "FnL") at The Imaginarium Multi-Arts Festival of the Absurd, Peta Theater Center, Quezon City.

(Contact 0917-8996680. Tickets are also available through TicketWorld at 8919999 or

Meanwhile, Full House Theater Company's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" will tour Singapore this October after ending its Manila run at Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater.

The musical, with book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, stars Michael Williams, Jon Santos and Red Concepcion as three gay friends who travel across Australia on a bus they christen as Priscilla.

The show is directed by Jaime del Mundo with musical direction by Inday Echevarria, set design by Jo Tecson, costume design by Edgar San Diego, lighting design by Shakira Villa-Syme and choreography by Nancy Crowe.

"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" runs Oct. 16-26 at Resorts World Theater, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore.


In November, Tanghalang Pilipino's musical version of "Sandosenang Sapatos" will be the Philippines' entry to the sixth Theater Olympics to be held in Beijing, China.

"Sandosenang Sapatos" is a children's musical based on Luis Gatmaitan's Palanca Award-winning children's book adapted by Layeta Bucoy, with music by Noel Cabangon and Jed Balsamo.

The story is about a shoemaker who dreams of having a ballerina daughter but ends up with a crippled daughter. The TP production, where several kinds of shoes appear as characters in the show, premiered last year and has had several reruns, including a limited 15-performance rerun last August at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

At the 2013 Philstage Gawad Buhay!, it was a finalist in three categories: Outstanding Production for Children in a Musical or Play, Outstanding Female Lead in a Musical or Play (Trixie Esteban) and Outstanding Musical Direction (Noel Cabangon and Jed Balsamo).

The musical was commissioned by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People in cooperation with CCP as part of the celebration of the 28th National Children's Book Day last year.

Celebrated every third week of July, the National Children's Book Day is held to commemorate the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal's "The Monkey and the Turtle."

The first musical adaptation of the book, created by the Valenzuela City Center for Performing Arts in 2008 with music by Jesse Lucas and adaptation by Jose Jeffrey Camañag, was recently restaged by Gantimpala Theater.

The Beijing-bound production will feature members of the Actors Company, TP's resident pool of actors, under Tuxqs Rutaquio's direction. Gerald Mercado choreographs, with sound design by TJ Ramos, lighting design  by John Batalla, costumes by James Reyes and Leeroy New, and set design by Rutaquio.

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