Fil-Am kids' choir sings carols in Chicago science museum

Fil-Am kids' choir sings carols in Chicago science museum
By Walter Ang
Dec. 24, 2015

Filipino American children sang popular Christmas carols, both beloved English and Tagalog songs, and danced at the Museum of Science and Industries in Chicago.

More than 30 children performed as part of the museum's annual Christmas Around The World program that features performances by different ethnicities from November to December.

The Philippine contingent was composed of Philippine American Cultural Foundation (PACF) Performing Arts group and folk fusion band Samasama Project.

Led by Lou Maningas Cabalona and her husband Baron Lloyd, Samasama, which means "united, together" in Tagalog, performs a blend of Filipino folk, rock, ska and Latin music.

(From left) Baron and Lou Cabalona rehearsing children's choir.
The couple have been teaching PACF's youth performing arts group for the annual Christmas show since 2008.

"We sang 'Payapang Daigdig,' `Sa Paskong Darating' and 'Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit,'" says Cabalona.

"More than half the choir do not speak Tagalog so it was a pleasant surprise that they picked up the songs fast."

"We also sang fun versions of 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.'"

The children also performed folk dances such as the mazurka Boholana, kasaganaan and tinikiling.

They carried parols and candles in a procession symbolizing the Simbang Gabi tradition of anticipating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Maningas says they feel fulfilled when they spur Fil-Am youth's appreciation for music and Filipino culture. "When we celebrate our music, our traditions, our food, our history and our people, we hope to inculcate in Filipino Americans, young and old, a love for our rich heritage."

Michelle Delson, cultural coordinator for PACF Performing Arts group, says that volunteer parents and older members teach the younger dancers.

To book Sama Sama Project go to

Info on Chicago-based Philippine American Cultural Foundation at

When Robbie Guevara and Peachy Atilano got engaged in Edinburgh

When Robbie and Peachy got engaged in Edinburgh
By Walter Ang
Dec. 12, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Robbie Guevara and Peachy Atilano first met at a Repertory Philippines summer workshop in 2007.

He taught a class on musical theater and she assisted.

"At the end of the showcase recital, I joked that she was my 'new girlfriend.' Little did I know that I was going to make that real!" says Guevara, laughing.

"It wasn't difficult to get  attracted to her," he adds. "She's talented, very cute and pretty, and had a bubbly personality that I had never encountered with any other girl before."

Atilano has a slightly different recollection. "I was really scared of him because he was so sungit. But when I got to know him more, I can say that he's really a kid at heart."

Next step
They became a couple for the next eight years. Last summer, Guevara decided to pop the question when 9 Works Theatrical (9WT), of which he is founding artistic director, took its first-ever international company outing to the United Kingdom.

"Edinburgh is my most favorite city. I find it really beautiful. When our group got to Edinburgh, I knew it had to be there," he says.

He secretly signaled his friends and they went through the motions of posing for a group souvenir photo with the castle as a backdrop. "The phone was already set to record in video," he says.

Atilano was excited to get to the castle, walking ahead of the group. "They made everyone pause for a picture, then Robbie knelt. I thought he was going to tie his shoelace. Then suddenly there was a ring in front of me!"

Guevara posted the video on his Facebook account to the joy and thrill of the theater community. In the video, Guevara asked, as he was about to place the ring on Atilano's hand, "Right ba o left?"

"I was quite in shock for a while," Atilano says. "I think I just froze trying to process what was happening. Eventually, we went to see the Scottish Crown Jewels with my own jewel on my finger."

Acting bug
When he was still in college, Guevara went to the Rep office to buy tickets to a show and they were asked to audition. Two weeks later, he was cast in "Arsenic and Old Lace."

"I got in with a minor role, got bitten by the bug and never left," he says.

He currently appears in Rep's "The Secret Garden" and last directed 9WT's "La Cage aux Folles."

Atilano thanks Hollywood's  Katie Holmes for her introduction to theater. "There was an episode in 'Dawson's Creek' where she sang 'On My Own.' The performance wasn't entirely moving, but I really liked the song and it got me hooked on musical theater."

She went on to take summer acting workshops and started working as a professional actor after college. Her recent stage credits include 9WT's "They're Playing Our Song" and "Grease" (as a very funny Frenchy), and Trumpets' "The Bluebird of Happiness."

The pair has shared the stage in Resorts World Manila's "The Sound of Music" and Rep's "Mulan."

"Mostly I've been her director in her shows," says Guevara. When asked who the director is in their relationship, he replies, laughing, "I like to think it's me, but she can get her way, too, most of the time. I have to admit I learn a lot from her despite her being much younger."

Atilano says, smiling, "When we're together, most of the time I'm the one who ends up scolding him for being such a kid. I like how smart his ideas are and how awesome he is as a teacher, a director, an artist and as a person."

9 Works
The workshop where Guevara and Atilano first met did not only produce a relationship between them, it also spurred Guevara to establish 9WT.

The recital for the workshop students was "The Wedding Singer," based on the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie. He and good friend Santi Santamaria liked the show so much that they wanted to mount it on their own. Guevara would handle directing duties and Santamaria would be in charge of ticket sales.

The group's inaugural production was "Songs for a New World" in 2009, followed by "Rent" and "The Wedding Singer" in 2010.

Come 2016, the group's lineup includes "Tick, Tick...Boom!" by Jonathan Larson, the creator of "Rent"; "American Idiot," a jukebox musical using the music of punk-rock band Green Day; "The Wiz," a soul/R&B version of "The Wizard of Oz"; and a new original Filipino musical.

9WT is also staging a coproduction of "50 Shades! The Musical Parody" in February and is holding its annual theater workshop Stage Camp in the summer.

"50 Shades! The Musical Parody" opens Feb. 12, 2016, at Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg, Makati. Visit

Visit and like on Facebook (9workstheatrical). link:

'Miss Saigon's' Jon Jon Briones is off to Broadway

'Miss Saigon's' Jon Jon Briones is off to Broadway
By Walter Ang
Dec. 5, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

From Quezon City to Broadway, with the West End in between. That appears to be the journey of Jon Jon Briones, who will be making his Broadway debut in 2017 as the Engineer in the revival of the musical "Miss Saigon."

Producer Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed that the West End production at the Prince Edward Theatre will close on February 2016 and will transfer to Broadway in 2017.

"This is going to be my Broadway debut, and I'll be turning 51 by that time," says Briones. "Goes to show you that it's never too late for dreams to come true."

Briones had known about the transfer for some time now. "We finished negotiations for Broadway last month but even though I was expecting the announcement to happen, it's still exciting and wonderful to read it in all the news outlets."

"Miss Saigon" returned to the West End in May 2014 with record-breaking advance ticket sales.

His performance has been met with raves. The Telegraph called it "memorably seedy"; The Guardian, comparing him with Jonathan Pryce who originated the role, said his Engineer was "an even grubbier, sleazier figure who is the victim of both his background and pathetic fantasies"; and New York Times hailed his "diminutive presence with a slithery, sleazy command that brings home the sardonic second-act showstopper, 'The American Dream.'"

When it premiered in 1989, the musical thrust Filipino actors into the international theater scene. Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson were cast as alternates for the titular character Kim, a Vietnam war orphan who falls in love with an American soldier during the final days of the American occupation.

The current London revival features Filipino-American Eva Noblezada as Kim, with Filipino actresses Tanya Manalang as alternate for Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi. Noblezada will be part of the Broadway transfer.

Briones was part of the ensemble in the original production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He subsequently landed the role of the Engineer in Germany (where he met his wife Megan), and for a US tour, an Asian tour, a Manila production and a UK tour.

Born and raised in Quezon City, Briones has since relocated to Los Angeles, where his wife and two children also work as actors (

After his stint with the original London production of "Miss Saigon," he acted in several Repertory Philippines productions such as the Lion in "The Wiz" and Enjolras in "Les Misérables."

Before he joined the London revival last year, he was involved in the pre-Broadway development of the musical "Allegiance" with Lea Salonga. He's also done TV work, with guest roles in shows like "Sons of Anarchy," "Bones," "The Mentalist," and "Monk."

During the break from March 2016 onwards before he debuts at the Great White Way, Briones says he will keep himself busy: "Actors don't really go on holidays unless they are really successful and can afford to just take the time off. So, as soon as I get back to LA, I go straight to what actors do-audition and go to acting classes."

He adds: "If there is nothing going on, my family and I will take our convertible and just drive somewhere nice and take a couple of days away." link:

Palanca Award winner Layeta Bucoy is also a 'Star Trek' and 'I Love Lucy' fan

Layeta Bucoy, 5-time Palanca winner, is also a 'Star Trek' and 'I Love Lucy' fan
By Walter Ang
Nov. 28, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Layeta Bucoy was a first-place winner in this year's Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature's English One-Act Play category.

Her play "The Adopted Healthy Baby" is about a college teacher's fears about the new K-12 curriculum.

This is her fifth win. She previously won for "Ellas Inocentes," 2007; "Doc Resurreccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan," 2009; and "El Galeon de Simeon," 2011; all in the Filipino One-Act Play category.

Her very first win was in the Filipino Teleplay category in 1998 for "Ang Repleksyon ni Ms. Trajano."

After having read Euripedes' "Medea" and Henrik Ibsen's "Ghosts" in college, Bucoy was inspired to write something similar, but was leaning towards teleplays and screenplays.

Then she had a class under playwright Nick Pichay. "His dedication, brilliance, selflessness and imagination as a playwright inspired me to take writing for the stage seriously," says Bucoy.

She then joined the playwrights group Writer's Bloc, where, as she puts it, she gets "fortified with inspiration from other playwrights who share not just their playwriting techniques and devices, but also their insights, values and philosophies in life."

Among her Palanca wins, both "Ellas" And "Doc Resurreccion" have been staged at the Virgin Labfest, which is produced by Writers Bloc.

Those plays, along with her other early works that dealt with taboo subjects such as sexual abuse, incest, filicide and gory murders, put her in the radar of theater audiences.

"If I appear to write about the same things at any given period of time, it's not deliberate on my part. An act of kindness or an act of gore may equally linger in my mind at any given time. I may have been repeating myself in terms of my writing style, and I attribute that to my weakness as a writer," she notes.

Facets of humanity
From Tanghalang Pilipino's 2014 staging
of "Prinsipe Munti" ("Little Prince")
Lately, pushing across the spectrum, Bucoy's works have been mostly children's musicals. She points out, "They're all facets of humanity. Writing is my way of understanding life, the highest level of contemplation or concentration I can ever achieve."

"I'll never be successful in comprehending everything there is to life, but being unsuccessful is what bridges my writing range from the gory to the hopeful. Because what's there left for me to do after each failure but to lodge another attempt?"

And what a range. Her theater fans may not know that during the time she was writing those "taboo" plays, Bucoy was also writing chick-lit novelettes and inspirational essays for Psicom Publishing.

"I don't limit myself to one type of content," she says, laughing.

She has since created new works or adaptations for Tanghalang Pilipino ("Walang Kukurap," "Kleptomaniacs"), Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (an adaptation of "Titus Andronicus") and Philippine Educational Theater Association ("Bona," an adaptation of the film).

Her recent credits include "Uod, Butete, at si Myrna," staged at this year's Virgin Labfest; "Melanie," an educational HIV/AIDS awareness play, and "Prinsipe Munti," an adaptation of "The Little Prince," both for TP.

"Prinsipe Munti" premiered last year and will be restaged this December.

Keeping curious
Bucoy says that it's her curiosity as to how a story or play may possibly develop that keeps her in the writing game.

"What will happen to the characters? What did they do in the past that led them to this current dramatic situation? What decisions will they make? What aspects of human nature do they exhibit?"

What propels her to write, she says, are things that "I don't easily comprehend or something that's being hushed. Asking myself these questions deprives me of sleep! My imagination pays me unannounced and lingering visits," she says, laughing.

Bucoy's routine is to use pen and paper to organize a concept, then a typewriter to create the story, then a computer to write as many drafts as it takes until "I can type 'WAKAS' with conviction."

But then it doesn't end there quite yet. "I repeat the process if I'm besieged by doubt or after I consider the reactions, comments and suggestions of people who read the draft."

"I still have so much more to learn," she adds. "And I know that this one lifetime is not enough."

Meanwhile, when she can find breaks from playwriting and teaching at the Univesity of the Philippines-Los Baños, she rewatches her favorite "Star Trek" episodes or searches for "I Love Lucy" merchandise.

"My brother and I are 'Star Trek' fans, particularly of 'The Next Generation' and 'Voyager' series. I've been watching 'I Love Lucy' since I was a child; I found it funny then and I find it even funnier now. I also watch its one-hour episodes and even 'Here's Lucy.'"

"Whenever I see 'I Love Lucy' merchandise, if I can afford it, I immediately buy it," she says, laughing. "If friends and relatives ask me what I want as a gift, I'd say anything that has got to do with 'I Love Lucy.'"

"Prinsipe Munti" runs Dec. 9-13 at Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Call 8321125 loc. 1620, visit; or call 8919999, visit

To inquire about permissions and royalty fees for staging her plays, e-mail Layeta Bucoy at link:

Chicago’s Circa Pintig theater group gets set for 25th year

Chicago’s Circa Pintig theater group gets set for 25th year
By Walter Ang
Nov. 28, 2015

Cast of Circa Pintig's inaugural production
of "America is in the Heart."
Chicago-based Filipino American theater group Circa Pintig is gearing up for its annual Christmas party and fundraiser for its 25th anniversary next year, while still having fun at the party, of course.

"We will have food, holiday performances and karaoke, then dancing," says Angela Mascarenas, a founding member and the current executive director.

Beyond just preparing for the party, Mascarenas and the group's other officers are also drawing up the activities for next year.

"Planning for the 25th anniversary is exciting. We want to make this a festive and reflective community event, in the spirit that represents what Circa Pintig stands for."

Mascarenas was born in Manila and had been active with theater group Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) before moving to Chicago in the '80s.

She had joined the anti-Marcos group Philippine Forum and, inspired by her exposure to social theater with Peta, suggested using performances as an education tool.

"My co-members in the youth committee and I decided to focus on doing cultural organizing and started our own group in 1986. We applied for non-profit status in 1991 as Pintig cultural group," she says.

Pintig means "pulse" in Tagalog while Circa is an acronym for Center for Immigrant Resources and Community Arts.

The group's inaugural production was the play "America is in the Heart," based on the autobiographical novel of Carlos Bulosan.

Recent productions include "Tug of War" and its sequel "Tug of War II," a series of short plays on war and immigration; and "Scent of Home," a trilogy of plays adapted by Larry Leopoldo based on short stories by Bienvenido Santos.

Not just acting
Some Circa Pintig members,
clockwise from bottom left:
Christy Aliposa, Angela Mascarenas,
Ted Kirpach, Luis Pascasio and Divine Calo.
The group's thrust is not just training performers, but also developing artists-teachers/trainors-organizers-researchers, or what the group terms as "ators."

"Very often, we have individuals who come to our events seeking to be trained as professional actors. Our usual response is, if that is all they want, then they will be better served in other theater groups," she says.

The group immerses its volunteers and students in using theater as a tool in tackling difficult community issues.

Mascarenas notes that the group has touched on issues such as internalized racism, homophobia, economic exploitation and youth trafficking, in "creative and engaging ways."

"Circa-Pintig prides itself on being distinct in the sense that we do not exist simply for entertainment or 'art-for-art's' sake. We are a theater group that engages community members in collective action through the arts."

"We strive to produce professionally done performances without sacrificing the values and principles of collective empowerment and self-determination," she says.

Social change and volunteerism
Mascarenas says that the group prides itself in contributing to "transformative social change."

"For example, the theme of our 2015 season was 'work, war and immigration.' Our performances were about anti-war, mental health, disabilities and immigrant rights movements, as well as organizing around the passage of the Illinois domestic workers bill of rights."

"The group's ability to continue to bring insightful, thought-provoking, collectively-produced original works for over two decades is already a huge accomplishment in itself," she says.

In addition, she points out that one significant milestone for the group is that it's lasted this long purely on volunteer members.

"It says a lot about the people who volunteer and commit to this type of community work. It also says a lot about the communities that we get our support from. It truly has taken a village to make Circa Pintig alive this long."

Circa Pintig 2015 Christmas Fundraiser is on Dec. 12, 2015, starts at 5pm at Moooh Dulce Gallery, 2602 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago. All donations are tax deductible. Call +1-312-869-9785, visit, like on Facebook (CircaPintig), follow on Twitter (@Circa_Pintig).

'Entablado': Anril Tiatco's new book on Philippine theater

'Entablado': Anril Tiatco's new book on Philippine theater
By Walter Ang
Nov. 14, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sir Anril Tiatco
Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco (no, he's not a knight; his first name really is Sir) has authored a new book on Philippine theater.

"Entablado: Theaters and Performances in the Philippines" collects his previously published essays and scholarly papers that "attempt to continue the conversation on theater studies and performance studies in the context of Philippine scholarship."

Tiatco has a Theater Arts master's degree from the University of the Philippines, where he currently teaches, and a Theater Studies doctorate degree from National University of Singapore. He's also written a few plays, among them the Palanca Award-winning "Miss Dulce Extranjera" and an adaptation of Francisco Baltazar's "Orosman at Zafira" set to ethnic-rock music that was staged by Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas a few years ago.

The book's writing style is academic and incorporates different kinds of critical theories, but Tiatco invites and encourages readers who are not familiar with this format to give the book a chance.

"Readers shouldn't be intimidated by theories," he says. "In fact, all theories should be questioned. It's really an ongoing discussion of informed ideas and not just blank opinions."

Tiatco begins the book discussing the state of theater scholarship in the Philippines, noting how the subject is taught here compared to other countries, and how theater studies (as differentiated from courses in acting and production disciplines like set or costume design) and performance studies are emerging disciplines.

He acknowledges the pioneering and influential works of Nicanor Tiongson and Doreen Fernandez in laying the path for his own efforts.

In later chapters, he analyzes the three-day Apung Iru (St. Peter) "libad" (fluvial procession) in Apalit, Pampanga, held in June, and the Holy Week "panata" (devotion) of being nailed to a cross in Cutud, Pampanga. He also analyzes selected productions directed by Jose Estrella, focusing on a phase in her career when she directed productions with no clear, linear storylines.

He also analyzes the 2009 protests organized by artists against the National Artists Award, which included a mock funeral. He explains how the acts can be regarded as protest performance and social theater.

Different kinds
Tiatco pushes for a more open interpretation of what a "national theater form" should be.

A number of scholars have pushed for the komedya (a theater form evolved from the Spanish comedia; not to be mistaken as comedy) to become the country's national theater form, similar to the way Kabuki and Noh automatically identify as Japanese, or wayang puppetry as Indonesian.

Tiatco actually has familial and emotional connections to komedya. "Tatang Sitong, my maternal grandfather was a komedyante, a komedya performer, in Pampanga. I was his number one fan. He influenced me so much to love the theater," he says.

Nonetheless, he points out that picking this one form excludes other kinds of Filipino theater forms based on religion, language, politics, power and even location.

He rallies readers to remember that the Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands; ergo, it contains many different kinds of ethnic groups, cultures, languages and, thus, theater forms, too.

Tiatco was exposed to academic writing in college (Theater Arts in UP). "I'd read books on critical theories. I fell in love with the work of theater scholars. I was fascinated with the rigor of the writing.

"That time, Oscar Brockett's 'The History of the Theatre' was our bible. I was frustrated that his book had no entry on the Philippines.

"I was also engrossed with Doreen Fernandez's book 'Palabas.' After she passed away, there was a gap in scholarly writing about theater and performance. No one followed in her footsteps."

He points out that Fernandez's essay on theater and martial law was the last entry about the Philippines in international academic journals.

"It was published in 1983! It frustrated me as a scholar and as a Filipino. Filipino theater was no longer being represented and included in international discussions."

He felt a calling to make a difference. "I vowed to myself that I will one day fill in the gaps in the production of knowledge about theater and performance in the Philippines."

As a grad student, he sent in a submission to Asian Theatre Journal that was promptly rejected.

"I was very idealistic," he says, laughing. But he didn't give up.

"I took the peer reviewers' comments constructively. I rewrote my essay and it was accepted after I resubmitted it. Then we went through another round of revisions; that's really part of the process of being peer-reviewed."

Since then, his work has appeared in local journals like Philippine Humanities Review and Humanities Diliman, as well as international journals such as Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Modern Drama and The Drama Review.

And now, he has a book.

"Entablado: Theaters and Performances in the Philippines" by Sir Anril Tiatco is available at the University of the Philippines Press Office, I. Delos Reyes St., Diliman, Quezon City, Metro Manila. Contact 9266642, e-mail or Visit link:

Fil-Am playwrights headed for U.S. stages in 2016

Fil-Am playwrights headed for U.S. stages in 2016
By Walter Ang
Nov. 13, 2015

Clockwise from top left:
Hagedorn, Pamatmat, Maog and Ortega.
Next year, 2016, will see the works of several Filipino American playwrights staged across the United States.

This increased visibility of Fil-Am works on stage continues to build, after several productions with Fil-Am highlights or involvement on both coasts, such as Lea Salonga in the musical "Allegiance," a number of Fil-Am actors in the cast of "The King and I" on Broadway, and American Conservatory Theater's run of "Monstress," a twinbill of one-acts based on short stories by Fil-Am writer Lysley Tenorio, in San Francisco.

Except for A. Rey Pamatmat, who was born and raised in Michigan, the playwrights listed below (as well as the two directors listed) were all born in the Philippines, with most relocating to the U.S. in the '70s.

West Coast
In San Francisco, Jessica Hagedorn's "Dogeaters" will be staged by Magic Theatre starting February 3 at Fort Mason Center (Marina Blvd.).

"Dogeaters" premiered in 1998 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and has been staged in New York and Los Angeles. In 2007, it was staged in Manila by Atlantis Productions (now known as Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group).

Adapted by Hagedorn from her own novel of the same title, the play is "a tragi-comic look at the Philippines during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos ... with a soft-porn movie star, a Jesuit priest, a Fil-Am Californian, a hustler and deejay, a movie usherette and Imelda Marcos."

Hagedorn's recent plays include "Stairway to Heaven" and "Fe in the Desert" for Intersection for the Arts, an arts institution in San Francisco, and theater company Campo Santo. She wrote the book for the musical "Most Wanted," for La Jolla Playhouse, loosely inspired by the life and crimes of Andrew Cunanan, the Fil-Am who killed fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Aside from Dogeaters, her novels include Toxicology, Dream Jungle and The Gangster of Love. She edited Manila Noir, a short story anthology.

Contact Magic Theatre at +1-415-441-882 or visit

In Los Angeles, Giovanni Ortega's "Criers for Hire" will have its world premiere by East West Players (EWP) from Feb. 11 to Mar. 13 at David Henry Hwang Theater (Judge John Aiso St.).

In "Criers for Hire," three professional funeral criers in California are eager to welcome 14-year-old Ligaya from the Philippines into their world and teach her their somber trade. However, they soon realize that Ligaya has the opposite effect on people, making them laugh instead of cry.

Ortega is artistic director of Mezçlao Productions. He recently wrote the one-act play "Allos: The Story of Carlos Bulosan" for EWP; which was then staged in Chicago by Fil-Am theater company Circa Pintig.

The play will be directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, founding artistic director of Los Angeles-based theater group Playwright's Arena. Rivera directed GodInUs Productions' Manila tour of "Flipzoids" in 2014.

Contact East West Players at +1-213-625-7000 or visit

In Chicago, A. Rey Pamatmat's "All The Terrible Things I Do" will be staged by About Face Theatre at Theater Wit (Belmont Ave.). Previews start March 11 and run is from March 17 to April 10.

In the play, Linda, a middle-aged Fil-Am bookstore owner, hires Daniel, a young white aspiring writer. They discover a dark connection that goes much deeper than a love of literature.

"All The Terrible Things I Do" was premiered by Milwaukee Repertory Theater and was recently staged in Boston by Huntington Theater Company.

Praise from critics include On Milwaukee, "searing;" Journal Sentinel, "smart, sensitive;" Greater Milwaukee Today, "well-crafted;" Boston Globe, "a trenchant, multilayered drama;" and WBUR, "riveting;" among others.

Contact About Face Theatre at +1-773-784-8565 or visit

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Victor Maog's "Tot: The Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (A Filipino) Hulk Hogan" will have its world premiere by Mu Performing Arts from Jun. 16 to Jun. 26 at Park Square Theatre (West 7th Place).

"Tot" follows a boy who migrates from Marcos-ruled Philippines to San Francisco and conjures a wrestling fantasy to cope with his new life.

Maog is artistic director of Second Generation Productions, a New York City-based Asian American theater company.

Mu Performing Arts' artistic director Randy Reyes is also Fil-Am.

Contact Mu Performing Arts at +1-651-789-1012 or visit

East Coast
In New York, Pamatmat's "House Rules" will have its world premiere staged by Ma-Yi Theater from March 22 to April 17 at Here Arts Center (6th Ave.).

"House Rules" is about two families who panic with hilarious and heart-breaking results when they realize their parents won't be around forever.

The play will be directed by Ma-Yi artistic director Ralph Peña. Peña was recently in Manila to direct "Macho Dancer: A Musical" at the 2015 Virgin Labfest 11.

Pamatmat's most recently staged play was "Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them" in Boston by Company One Theatre; about Fil-Am siblings 12-year old Edith and 16-year-old Kenny and his boyfriend.

Contact Ma-Yi Theater Company at +1-212-971-4862 or visit

Repertory Philippines stages year-end big musical 'The Secret Garden'

Caisa Borromeo, back at Rep: 'It always feels like going home'
The 2010 Gawad Buhay! Best Actress in a Musical (for 'Little Women') alternates with Myramae Meneses in Rep's 'The Secret Garden,' opening Nov. 20
By Walter Ang
Oct. 31, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Repertory Philippines' year-end big musical this year is "The Secret Garden," adapted from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, where orphan Mary Lennox has to solve the mysteries of finding a hidden crying child in her uncle's house and finding the key and door to a secret garden.

With music by Lucy Simon and libretto by Marsha Norman, the musical was previously staged by Rep in 2001.

This year's staging will be directed by Anton Juan, whose last directing credit for Rep was 2011's "The Joy Luck Club."

Musical direction is by Joseph Tolentino, with vocal coaching by Camille Molina, set design by Ohm David, lighting design by John Batalla and costume design by Bonsai Cielo.

Three actors from the 2001 staging, Lorenz Martinez, Noel Rayos and Oliver Usison, will also be part of this year's staging.

Aside from lead character Mary Lennox, played by 12-year-old Ashlee Factor and 9-year-old Ginger Karganilla, there is another female in the musical whose presence looms large: Mary's aunt Lily Craven. This role will be played by Caisa Borromeo and Myramae Meneses.

Borromeo started her theater career with Rep with the titular role in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" back in the early 2000s. She's since been in several productions with Rep, and won the 2010 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Best Female Lead in a Musical for her portrayal of Jo March in "Little Women." Her most recent production with Rep was "4000 Miles" earlier this year.

"I grew up in Rep!" she says. "I started taking workshops with them when I was 10. While I've worked with other theater companies and directors over the years, it always feels like going home whenever I work with Rep. There's a certain aspect of respect and gratitude that comes with working with Rep."

Amazing voice 
Now she opens up the Rep home to a new member. Meneses says she's enjoying her foray into Rep. "They're nice to work with. They're very professional. I'm excited to be part of Rep because of their good reputation and their fantastic artists."

Meneses' recent credits include Musetta in Musicartes' "La Boheme" and Maria Clara in "Kanser: The Musical" (Noli Me Tangere) for Gantimpala Theater and "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" for J&S Productions and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. She's had a solo concert with Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation.

In 2010, she won the lone top prize for Category C in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (Namcya).

"I'm so happy to be working with Myramae," says Borromeo. "Her voice is amazing! It's so interesting to work with people with different backgrounds and training. You learn so much from them and the process becomes very collaborative."

The cast includes Robbie Guevara and Lorenz Martinez as Archibald Craven; Red Concepcion as Dikcon; Noel Rayos as Dr. Nevile Craven; and Borromeo, Natalie Everett and Becca Coates as Martha.

"The Secret Garden" runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 20 at OnStage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Reach Repertory Philipppines at 8433570. Like on Facebook (RepertoryPhilippines) Reach TicketWorld at 8919999 or link:

Marc delaCruz joins US tour of 'If/Then' with Idina Menzel

Marc delaCruz joins US tour of 'If/Then' with Idina Menzel
By Walter Ang
Oct. 27, 2015

Marc delaCruz made his Broadway debut last year in the musical "If/Then." Back then, he understudied the role of David, but now he's playing the part for the production's national tour.

He gets to share the stage with Broadway superstar Idina Menzel ("Wicked," "Frozen") and Anthony Rapp ("Rent," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brow").

"Idina and Anthony are incredible to work with," he said. "They are generous, smart and fiercely talented performers, and offstage such grounded, warm and humble individuals."

"I learn so much from them every night. One could easily be intimidated by their accomplishments but there are no egos involved. They are beautiful artists and it is a privilege to be on stage with them," he added.

To read the remainder of this interview, please go to

Lea Salonga, back on Broadway: 'There has been zero video game time for me'

Lea Salonga, back on Broadway: 'There has been zero video game time for me'
By Walter Ang
Oct. 24, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When Lea Salonga got a chance to meet an actor from the original "Star Trek" TV series, she did not pass it up.

"Yes, I'm a nerd, and was very excited," she says.

In 2009, she was invited to the home of George Takei in California to join the cast of a new musical he was going to be part of.

Her "first contact"--to use a Star Trek term--with Takei was even announced on Twitter: "OMG. I'm at Sulu's house!" she tweeted.

Takei and the producers of the musical "Allegiance" wanted only Salonga to fill a role in the show.

That meeting resulted in the first public reading of the show, held at the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Salonga has been working on the show since then. After laboratory work in New York, a world premiere in San Diego in 2012, and more laboratory work back in New York, "Allegiance" began previews this month on Broadway and will officially open next month.

"Going along on this journey with George has been one incredible ride," says Salonga, "and to see his face at the end of every performance is such a joy. He beams, pardon the 'Star Trek' pun, with pride that this, his legacy project, is now being played on a Broadway stage. So amazing."

The musical is inspired by the time Takei's family was forcibly incarcerated during World War II. He was five years old when his family was removed from their Los Angeles home and transferred to converted horse stables in California and then to interment camps in Arkansas.

More than 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry suffered this act of racist paranoia after Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941.

Salonga revealed in a previous interview with Inquirer that Takei's family was eventually relocated again to "a camp in Tule Lake, California, a facility reserved for the most rebellious of internees."

Takei's family returned to LA after the war, and he rose to fame in 1965 when he was cast as starship helmsman (spaceship pilot) Sulu in "Star Trek." (The character's original name was inspired by the Sulu Sea in the Philippines; a first name, Hikaru, was added only in novels and movies after the series ended.)

"Allegiance" follows siblings Sam (Takei) and Kei (Salonga) Kimura as they cope with relocation to an internment camp.

On Broadway, after winning a Tony award for playing Kim in "Miss Saigon" in the '90s, Salonga played Mei-Li in "Flower Drum Song" in 2002, and Eponine (the first Asian to play the part) and Fantine in "Les Miserables." She has done several concerts in Manhattan as well.

"It feels pretty damn fantastic to be back on Broadway," she says. "Doing one-off concerts is also amazing, but there's something to be said about creating a role on Broadway. It's not often that I've had that opportunity, so I'm really mining the experience for all it's worth."

To prepare for the role, she looked to her own family for emotional and historical connections to the show's subject matter: her husband Robert Chien is of Chinese-Japanese descent; he has relatives who served during the war, and his mother was able to escape being interned.

Salonga is known for playing video games for fun and to relax backstage, but she says, "There has been zero video game time for me. My life is way too busy with previews! It will be crazy for the rest of the preview period, it will continue to be.

"My brain sometimes feels like it's going to explode, what with memorizing new things in the afternoon that will go into the show that same night. It's nuts."

In the show, with music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and book by Marc Acito, Salonga sings a soaring solo, "Higher."

"Thankfully it has been retained, along with a few songs from the San Diego staging," she explains. "I have some brand-new duets for Broadway, but a lot of the show is still in flux, so today's information could be obsolete by tomorrow."

Revisions and edits to the show should be locked down by the time it opens in November.

Where to eat near Longacre Theater
Meanwhile, Salonga gets some downtime whenever her husband and daughter Nicole Beverly visit her.

"We try to get to Sushi Gari on West 46th Street," she says, "Rob and I attack the omakase platter, placing our complete trust in the sushi chefs."

She adds: "My mom Ligaya has been here with me, so most of the time, I eat and enjoy her cooking."

For audiences who will go watch "Allegiance," she recommends "basically any of the restaurants on Restaurant Row, West 46th Street, as well as the ones on 9th Avenue."

"Right by the Longacre Theater are Hurley's Saloon (American and seafood) and Pongsri (Thai), both of which are really good."

Asked if there would be a "Star Trek musical" in the future and if she were to choose between playing a Ferengi starship captain or a villain Borg Queen, Salonga answers, "I'll choose Borg Queen."

So now, fans of Salonga and "Star Trek" will know what costume to wear if they can get tickets to the Oct. 31 Saturday Halloween evening show, designated as "Star Trek" Night.

There will be a post-show talkback session with Lea Salonga at the Oct. 31 Saturday matinee. "Allegiance" is currently in previews. It opens Nov. 8 at Longacre Theatre, New York City. For tickets, visit

Published online at on Oct. 26, 2015:


Designing and dressing up Dulaang UP's Southeast Asian 'King Lear'

Designing and dressing up Dulaang UP's Southeast Asian 'King Lear'
By Walter Ang
Oct. 24, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) is currently staging Shakespeare's "King Lear" in English and Filipino, using Nicolas Pichay's translation. Joel Lamangan and Leo Rialp play the titular character, in Filipino and English, respectively.

Director Tony Mabesa, DUP's founding artistic director emeritus, has transplanted the action from ancient Britain to "the waning years of a Southeast Asian kingdom."

This production comes on the heels of Nonon Padilla's 2012 all-male staging using Bienvenido Lumbera's translation for Philippine Educational Theater Association. (Anton Juan cast Repertory Philippines founder Zeneida Amador as Lear in his 2001 staging.)

Padilla employed a post-apocalyptic setting with Gino Gonzales' Japanese-inspired costume design. The production toured Taiwan last year for the Kuandu Arts Festival and had a restaging earlier this year with Bernardo Bernardo as Lear.

To help bring to life Mabesa's own vision of Shakespeare's mighty tragedy, Eric Pineda did the costume design and Ohm David the set design.

"What automatically came to me was the ruins of Angkor Wat, complete with the gigantic roots of balete trees," says David.

His design, based on research using different books from the UP Library, was constructed by 20 students assisted and guided by four professional carpenters. DUP is under the university's Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which offers certificate and degree programs in Theater Arts.

Pineda points out that the reality of designing for a campus-based theater group is "the very limited budget. Hence, Ohm and I agreed not to interpret the period and setting in a literal sense."

This framework gave both designers leeway to incorporate a more encompassing Southeast Asian visual vocabulary instead of a specific country's limiting choices. It also gave them freedom to use and reinterpret existing costumes, props and set pieces from past productions. For example, costumes from DUP's "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" (Floy Quintos' adaptation of the "Mahabharata") designed by Gino Gonzales, have been recycled for this production.

For costume silhouettes, Pineda created a crown and breastplate for Lear inspired by bas relief images of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII, found in Angkor Wat.

"The two evil sisters, Goneril and Regan, have Thai references in their costumes, especially in their chada headdresses (jeweled spired crowns)," he says.

To push the contrast in personality, he gave the good sister Cordelia's costumes a more Peranakan (Chinese-Malaysian) look.

"Tony wanted me to interpret Lear's Fool as a babaylan," says Pineda. "I gave his costume a Balinese feel."

Pineda's goal was to meld these different countries' costumes and influences to highlight commonality in Southeast Asian clothing. "We have the same climate, topography and vegetation, resulting in similar dyes, fabrics and weaves," he says.

The play's movement and choreography, meanwhile, are by Jeremy dela Cruz, with lighting design by Meliton Roxas Jr., sound design by Jethro Joaquin. DUP's artistic director is Dexter Santos.

Dulaang UP's "King Lear/Haring Lear" has remaining performances today and tomorrow at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines Diliman. Call tel. 9261349, 4337840, 9818500 loc. 2449; or e-mail Visit link:

Award-winning playwright Glenn Mas is also a hardcore 'Archie' comics fan

Award-winning playwright Glenn Mas is also a hardcore 'Archie' comics fan
By Walter Ang
Oct. 3, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Not only has Archie Andrews gotten a reboot, he's also going to be in a musical soon. The 75-year-old comic franchise recently came out with a new issue #1 written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Fiona Staples, while writer/director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," will be working on the musical (updates will be posted on

For someone who loves to read and works in theater, Glenn Mas--a theater arts professor at Ateneo de Manila University and current artistic director of Tanghalang Ateneo--is very excited about these developments. He can't wait to get his hands on a copy of the "Archie" reboot. Not to mention the 21 variant covers. That's a total of 22 copies of the same issue, but who's counting?

 "Ever since I was a child," he says, "I've been familiar with Archie and the Riverdale gang. I'd see copies of 'Archie' comics everywhere, in the school library, in the classroom, my friends' houses. I'd lose myself in their adventures, forget all my problems and have a good time with them."

This multi-awarded playwright (nine wins in the Palanca Awards so far) likes "Archie" comics because, "like me and my friends, he's not perfect. He loves his family and friends and will do everything he can to help them. He aims to please everyone which, of course, leads him to all sorts of trouble.

"The comics are a comforting escape. They remind me so much of my youth in Antique where I first encountered the series. They make me feel like the world is okay, people are nice and problems always get solved. For a 47-year-old like me who has been through and is going through a lot in life, that's always a good thing to return to."

Mas cried when publishers killed off the character in the "Death of Archie" story arc. "Archie, dead?! Important, lovable characters in comics don't die! So, tears!" he says.

Mas used to save his school allowance to buy books. "It wasn't a lot of books because my allowance wasn't a lot either!" he says, laughing. As soon as he started earning his own salary, he'd buy books "anywhere and everywhere I could."

"Did I always plan to have a collection? Yes, but not just 'Archie' comics," he notes. "I collect books on theater, film, art, collections of plays, etc."

After spending three years in the United States for his master's degree in playwriting, he brought back 12 balikbayan boxes filled with books.

"I also collect Philippine titles," he says. "Since I have a lot of Pinoy writer friends, most of these books are signed by the authors."

"I'm always looking out for 'Archie' comics," he adds. "I find time to visit my favorite bookstores."

Mas even has a copy of the Mega magazine issue with Betty and Veronica (Archie's two girlfriends) on the cover.

Fully Booked's Katipunan branch informs him "the moment new titles arrive." Mas lives in the area, a short tricycle ride to Ateneo.

Nonetheless, finding all the different issues is not easy. Apart from the regular digests and double digest editions, there are the 1,000-page editions and giant editions. There are also different series: "Life With," "Married Life," "Afterlife With" (in which Archie's best friend Jughead becomes a zombie and infects the town), "Best Of," "Americana," etc.

Fortunately, Mas has thoughtful friends. "I am very grateful for their generosity," he says. For the "Death of Archie" story arc, 10 variant covers were released. "It's an event for 'Archie' comics," says Mas, "so that's great, right? The problem now is, where in the Philippines do you get them?"

Mas had posted a message on Facebook, stressing his "need, need, need" to acquire the variant copies. Minutes later, friends based in the United States began to heed his plea.

He now has eight of the 10 covers. For his birthday earlier this year, a friend sent him the "Death of Archie" Double Sized Commemorative Issue.

Meanwhile, as he juggles his many hats as playwright, university professor, artistic director and juror for the Philstage Gawad Buhay, the search continues for more "Archie" comics for his collection-and the new "Jughead" reboot issue #1, too. link:

Three theater artists want many ‘one-night stands’ with audiences

Three theater artists want many ‘one-night stands’ with audiences
By Walter Ang

Sept. 26, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Concepcion, Pineda and Valdes.
Photo by Jaypee Maristaza
Three theater artists have crossed over from being just performers to now producing one-night-only cabarets featuring musical theater artists.

Chinie Concepcion, Micaela Pineda and Joaquin Valdes are cofounding coproducers of the production company One Night Stand (ONS). "But really, we're just 'co-fans' of musical theater," says Valdes.

Formed earlier this year, ONS has since staged several standing room shows. Its most recent show, "Mundong Entablado," a fund-raiser for the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (Philstage), featured Bituin Escalante, Nonie Buencamino, OJ Mariano, Sandino Martin, Kim Molina, Sweet Plantado- Tiongson and Cris Villonco.

Showcasing talent
The three met through different workshops and productions with Triumphant Peoples Evangelistic Theater Society (Trumpets) as far back as the late '90s.

They not only still work in the industry but also make it a point to watch all of the other productions they aren't part of.

"[Our local productions] are so exciting and the talent is so rich and abundant," says Valdes, whose recent stage credits include FRStage Productions' "Sabel: Love and Passion," 9 Works Theatrical's "The Last Five Years," and Actor's Actors Inc.'s "Red."

Even then, they say there aren't enough productions to accommodate the talent overflow. He points out that, sometimes, the industry's homegrown performers are edged out of roles when companies hire TV or movie personalities for the commercial draw.

"But they are truly more than competent," says Valdes. "We want to give the musical theater industry more light and to bring the underrated triple threats to the forefront. So we set up our own company to produce shows."

Starting small
Their shows are staged at 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub in Century City Mall, Makati, Concepcion says, because it "packs in just the right amount of people; not too big and not too small, a crowd but with the right amount of intimacy."

They have the support of fellow theater actor JM Rodriguez, a co-owner of the venue. "We've just started and our focus is on creating quality shows. We're still learning the ropes," says Concepcion.

Concepcion, whose recent credits include Egg Theater's "Maniacal" and 9 Works Theatrical's "Sweet Charity," notes that they all have busy careers outside of producing, and, as such, "this is what we can handle for now." She is touring Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's "Saturday Night Fever."

Pineda does commercial modeling and teaches at University of the Philippines, while Valdes does film direction.

Planning for success
Valdes pitched the company to the two ladies last year when they had just returned to Manila after completing musical theater studies abroad-a bachelor of arts honors class at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, for Concepcion; and a master's degree at University of London for Pineda.

Using only Facebook (where they also post video snippets of past shows) to announce their shows, the group has been able to draw crowds. "We were very nervous for our inaugural show. We didn't know if people would actually show up," says Pineda, whose most recent appearances have been in Upstart Productions' "Into The Woods," Repertory Philippines' "The Producers" and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Measure for Measure."

"We are very happy, and a little surprised, at the success we're experiencing, even at this early stage," adds Pineda. "We have never had empty seats, people have had to stand. We get teens, senior citizens, theater practitioners and fans."

They already have a lineup for the rest of the year, but just so that it's more fun for everyone, they prefer to announce upcoming shows one at a time.

They want to remind everyone, though, that it's not called One Night Stand for nothing: "No repeats. No reruns. We do not intend to restage shows. Our goal is to make ONS a monthly habit that people won't want to miss."

Contact Visit link:

Free admission to Dulaang Laboratoryo's Filipino version of 'Lord of the Flies'

Free admission to Dulaang Laboratoryo's Filipino version of 'Lord of the Flies'
By Walter Ang
Sept. 19, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

This Sept. 25-27, Dulaang Laboratoryo is staging "Coro de los Diablos," Layeta Bucoy's translation and adaptation of William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies," to be directed by Joey Ting.

The book, about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island and their descent into savagery, was adapted into the movie, "Alkitrang Dugo," in 1975, starring Roderick Paulate and Eddie Villamayor. It was written by Nicanor Cleto Jr., directed by Lupita Concio and produced by Nora Aunor.

For this stage adaptation, Ting and Bucoy will be using dark humor.

"The play will have male and female students on their way to the World Youth Convention during World War III," says Ting.

The challenge for Bucoy was figuring out a milieu for the adaptation.

"The first adaptation didn't work as the dramatic situation became forced," she says. "Thankfully, the students' adviser at the time, José Estrella, helped us identify a more appropriate milieu."

"It's an exploration on leaders and leadership, how leaders are seemingly chosen, the kinds of leadership expected from them and the dynamics of power and altruism."

"The challenge in adapting books is how to make the story move on stage. Novels are rich with narration and description, but the stage calls for action," she adds.

Dulaang Laboratoryo (Dulab) is Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' series of thesis productions by students taking certificate or degree programs in Theater Arts under the university's Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts.

Ting has a bachelor's and a master's degree from UP and has been part of the director pool of DUP since the '90s.

"I'm usually invited to direct for Dulab since I know exactly what theater faculty members want me to do with the students," he says.

His recent directing credits for Dulab includes "Haring Ubu" (Allan Palileo's translation of Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi") and "Elevator Action" (Vladimeir Gonzales' translation of Harold Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter").

"Students can take bigger risks with experimentation since they are still learning. Students have bright ideas and I always learn from them as well," says Ting.

Technical direction is by Ryan Nunez, with set design by Io Balanon, costume design by Mark Mirando, lighting design by Pamela Paige, sound deign by Arvy Dimaculangan and video design by Joyce Garcia.

"Coro de los Diablos" runs Sept. 25-27 at Tanghalang Hermogenes Ilagan, College of Arts and Letters Building, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. Contact 0915-1286401. Like on Facebook (corodelosdiablos). link:

Filmmaker Kanakan Balintagos returns to the stage with his prodigal play

Filmmaker Kanakan Balintagos returns to the stage with his prodigal play, 'Mga Buhay na Apoy' for Tanghalang Pilipino
By Walter Ang
Sept. 12, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Kanakan Balintagos
(formerly Auraeus Solito)
Kanakan Balintagos (formerly known as Auraeus Solito) won first place in this year's Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Dulang Ganap ang Haba category, for his "Mga Buhay na Apoy."

Balintagos sees the win as "magical," a good omen of sorts, as he's currently directing the rehearsals for its debut staging for Tanghalang Pilipino in October. Not to mention that he'd assumed that his copy of the play had been lost.

He'd directed short scenes in class while studying at Philippine Science High School which inspired him to take up theater at University of the Philippines. There, he founded experimental theater group UP Tropa; directed several productions; wrote a play "Esprit de Corps;" and wrote the book and was co-lyricist of the musical "Manhid."

"I even acted for Anton Juan in 'The Bacchae' with Ishmael Bernal," he says.

Shifting visions
Balintagos grew up in Sampaloc, where his mother would put him to sleep with tales of "interwoven myths" from her Palawan childhood. These stories stayed with him and emerged as two plays.

From left: Karen Garelan, Russell Legaspi
and Irma Marasigan
He wrote the first one, "Ang Maikiling Buhay ng Apoy," in 1993 and staged it as his college playwriting-directing thesis.

A year later, he wrote "Mga Buhay na Apoy," but didn't stage it because "it was so personal, my most personal work, I hid it."

After college, Balintagos visited his mother's tribal lands. "I experienced the rituals and the indigenous culture of the Palaw'an people, my mother's roots. I was enthralled by their aesthetics and realized I couldn't capture this in theater. It transformed my mind into a more cinematic vision," he says.

Leaving theater
He may have left theater at that point, but it never really left him.

His first short film, "Ang Maikling Buhay ng Apoy, Act 2, Scene 2: Suring at ang Kuk-ok" (available for viewing on, was based on his play.

His first full length movie, "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros" (for sale on was adapted into "Maxie The Musicale" by Bit by Bit Company in 2013.

Last year, his musical "Manhid" was restaged by Ballet Philippines; he made a film version of "Esprit de Corps."

It was while digging through his files for the script of "Esprit" that he found his long lost copy of "Mga Buhay na Apoy."

Prodigal play
"It reappeared 20 years later, it's my prodigal play," he says.

And now the prodigal son comes home to theater. "Ironically the main character in this play decides to return to Palawan and now this play has made me decide to return to my first love, theater," he says.

He's also fired up by his Palanca win. "I was so inspired by the energy of the writers at the awarding ceremony!" he adds.

The play had received a staged reading at last year's Virgin Labfest. "It made the audience cry. It made the actors cry during rehearsals. For the actual performance, I told them not to cry until the fourth act, but when the third act came, they couldn't help but cry again," he says.

"Medyo masakit kasi. The family in the play reveals sacrifices they've made just to be able to live in Manila." Mother figures loom large in this play. Irma Adlawan-Marasigan plays the matriarch alongside veteran actresses Malou Crisologo and Peewee O'Hara as other maternal characters.

"Maybe the reason why the play only resurfaced after two decades is that it's now time to tell the story. I'm more mature now as an artist, I can face this play now. I have the distance needed to direct my own family's story."

Far from being bogged down by the memories evoked, "Nag-eenjoy ako sa teatro ngayon nang sobra sobra. Kakaiba. The feeling of directing theater again is deep and profound. The feeling is very spiritual, food for the soul."

Now that he's made the switch back to theater, this time, it's cinema that's trying to pull him back. "My actors tell me that I should make it into a film," he laughs.

"But it was written for theater. I want to test its full potential first on stage. I have a feeling I will be in theater for quite some time again. Manunga banar (for beautiful truths)!"

Music is by Diwa de Leon, set design by Paulo Alcazaren, costume design by James Reyes and lighting design by Dennis Marasigan.

Tanghalang Pilipino's "Mga Buhay na Apoy" runs Oct. 2-25 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Call 0917-876-3678 or 832-1125 loc. 1620 and 1621. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 891-9999 or Like on Facebook (TanghalangPilipino). link:

Trumpets returns to C.S. Lewis with 'The Horse and His Boy' this November

Trumpets returns to C.S. Lewis with 'The Horse and His Boy' this November
By Walter Ang
Aug. 29 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society (Trumpets) is staging a new play, "The Horse and His Boy," based on the novel by C.S. Lewis, this November.

The book, about Shasta and his horse Bree and their journey to Narnia, is part of the seven-novel series "The Chronicles of Narnia," which includes "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Trumpets already has a musical version of "LWW" that debuted in 1997. It went on to have multiple restagings in Manila until 2002. It's also been staged in Guam and Singapore. It then had a 45-minute version for mall stagings.

Some of the actors who have played the Pevensie children are still in the theater profession: Joaquin Valdes (last seen in Actor's Actors Inc.'s "Red") and Topper Fabregas (cofounder of Red Turnip Theater company). Sam Concepcion and Paolo Valenciano are now in music recording and TV.

"LWW" was cowritten by Luna Griño-Inocian and Jaime del Mundo with music by Lito Villareal.

This time, for "The Horse and His Boy," Griño-Inocian rode solo.

"Jaime and I had always wanted to write another play from one of the `Narnia' chronicles and were even encouraged to do so by Douglas Gresham, stepson of Lewis himself, after he had seen `LWW,'" she says.

Trumpets president Audie Gemora split up Griño-Inocian (who is on Trumpets' board of directors) and Del Mundo (artistic director) for different assignments. Del Mundo was tasked to write the libretto for "The Bluebird of Happiness," which was staged in 2013, while Griño-Inocian was given "The Horse and His Boy."

Together again
But the two will be working together again since Del Mundo is directing.

"We argue-ay este, discuss passionately pala, a lot," she says, laughing.

Since this is a new play, both are not precious about their output in order to make it work. "We cut and edit as needed. We bargain, we trade. I'll agree to cut one portion if he concedes to give up another type of deal."

She says that adapting from a book is a challenge. "You want to retain the spirit of the story, stay true to the words of the author, yet have to give it a more dramatic twist."

They also had to run the script by the C.S. Lewis company for approval. "They actually veto ideas they deem too far off from the original."

Not a musical
"This adaptation is not a musical, so that the words and dialogue will be given more emphasis. But it will have music-in fact, it will be heavily scored and it will even have a theme song," she says.

Griño-Inocian says that audiences need not have seen "LWW" to appreciate the new play.
"Though you could call 'HHB' a sequel because it has characters in common with  'LWW,' it can also stand alone since the story involves totally new characters in totally new locales and happens after the occurrences in 'LWW.'"

"LWW" will have its 20th anniversary in two years' time, and there are plans to have a concert version with a full-orchestra-"If we can find the budget for it."

For audiences who've seen "LWW" and are worried that the play might not match the musical, Griño-Inocian assures that the scale of this production "will still be epic!"

And how to stage a show with talking horses in it? "Jaime and our set and costume designer, Mio Infante, are still keeping it a secret from all of us!" she says.

The lighting design will be by John Batalla, with movement by Dexter Santos, music scoring by Lito Villareal, and musical direction/arrangement by Jon Meer Vera Perez.

"The Horse and His Boy" runs Nov. 6-22 at Meralco Theater, Pasig City. Call 9014364 or TicketWorld 8919999( Like on Facebook (HHBbyTrumpets).

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Dulaang Filipino represents PH in Québec theater festival in September

Dulaang Filipino represents PH in Québec theater festival in September
By Walter Ang
Aug. 29, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Filipino (DF) will represent the Philippines at this year's Mont-Laurier International Theatre Festival in Québec, Canada.

DF will restage its August production of "Oedipus," a condensed one-hour version of Sophocles' three Theban plays, "Oedipus the King," "Oedipus at Colonus" and "Antigone."

Oedipus becomes king of Thebes after unknowingly killing his own father. He atones in Colonus with his daughter Antigone. When she returns to Thebes, Antigone deals with the repercussions of her brothers' deaths.

Director Riki Benedicto is using translations by Rolando Tinio and Onofre Pagsanghan to "show the disparity of time between the three plays since their respective translations and tones are different."

Benedicto's staging will include stunts and fight scenes, "to help the audiences appreciate the portions where the characters narrate situations. The aim is to have the movement highlight the poetry of the language," he says.

Benedicto is the trainer-director for Dulaang Filipino. His recent professional acting credits include Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Arbol de Fuego," Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption's "Romeo and Juliet" and Virgin Labfest 2015's "Macho Dancers: A Musical."

Dulaang Filipino is the resident theater company of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. The college's School of Design and Arts offers theater-related courses such as Technical Theater, Dance and Production Design.

Jason Dawis plays Oedipus, Ian Santos plays Kreon and Christine Bas plays Antigone.
Costume design is by Jay Conanan, set design by Drea Estrellado, lighting design by Benedict Alfonso and sound design by Ken Aoki.

DF's season this school year (following a trimester calendar that begins in August) includes "Romeo and Juliet" in November and "Luna: An Aswang Romance" in July 2016.

Dulaang Filipino's "Oedipus" plays Sept. 11 at L'Espace Théatre Muni-Spec, 543, rue du Pont, Mont-Laurier, Québec. Contact 819-6231222. Like on Facebook (DulaangFilipino.Benilde).

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Liza Camus–premier PM and ‘pare’ to theater colleagues–exits the stage

Liza Camus–premier PM and ‘pare’ to theater colleagues–exits the stage
By Walter Ang

Aug. 22, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Production manager Liza Camus passed away on Aug. 10 from complications after suffering a stroke on July 4. She was 55. She is survived by her father Louie and siblings John, Tina and José Mari.

Camus had been the production manager at Atlantis Theatricals Entertainment Group (Ateg) since its founding in 2000.

Bobby Garcia,  Ateg founding artistic director, said: "I first met Liza in 1993 through Boy Abunda. He got Liza to production-manage a TV show I was supposed to do. He told Liza, in front of me, 'I want you to always be by Bobby's side. Don't ever leave him.'"

The show didn't push through, Garcia admitted. "But, true to her word, Liza never left me. She would go on to become our production manager  for `Miss Saigon' (Garcia was the local resident director for the 2000 Manila run) and then for Atlantis. Liza is one of a kind. She is, and forever will be, my Wonder Woman."

From concerts to theater
Prior to working in theater, Camus was involved in concerts and television.
After graduating from De La Salle University, she worked as production assistant under director Fritz Ynfante for the Miss Young Philippines beauty pageant.

She went on to work in various concert productions of international acts (Sting, Gloria Estefan, Mike Francis, to name a few) and local artists (Martin Nievera, Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Lea Salonga, Zsa Zsa Padilla).

She also became an associate producer of the seminal TV show "Batibot" in 1983.

According to impresario Dong Alegre, "Liza would kill to keep her production schedule on track
for she knew live shows can be quite unforgiving-and she'd rather be in control of it, not the other way around. Never would you have `the tail wagging the dog'-not under Liza's watch."

Costume designer Eric Pineda said, "She's 'conyo,' but what endeared her to everyone was that she was also very 'koboy.' It's really the required personality of anyone who wishes to go into theater or concert production. She can be 'sosyal' if she's dealing with VIPs, but she can have a good laugh with the carpentry and technical boys."

He pointed out: "She was kind to everyone; whether you are Lea, Regine or Martin or a wardrobe mistress, utility boy or setman, it's all the same to her. "The Filipino adjective that would best describe Liza is 'magaan.'"

Second to none
Salonga wrote in two of her Inquirer columns that Camus was "fearless and peerless. Always in charge, unflappable, unstoppable, imperturbable. Her loud and lively voice (she peppered her sentences with  `Pare') signaled her presence, and you knew that, with her there, you never ever had to worry about anything.

"When it comes to production managing, there is one who is second to none, a diminutive powerhouse of a woman. She must be no more than 5 feet tall but when she enters a room, it's as if [it were] someone bigger.

"Her language is peppered by crunchily enunciated Spanish-accented invectives (which cannot be printed here), and the volume with which she speaks is loud and present.
"Her sense of humor and positive energy infuse every production she is busy with."

Mother to all
Her sense of humor is well known in the theater community. In tribute to her, friends and colleagues have been replacing their Facebook profile cover photos with a collage (created by GA Fallarme) of Camus in wacky costumes and silly facial expressions.

Composer and musical director Ceejay Javier said, "In our last production together, she yelled at me, "You're fat! You're lazy! You're fired!" But after Act 1, she told me I was doing a great job. I will miss her humor, her patience, her drive for perfection.

"She was a mother and tita to us all. Mahal na mahal siya ng ultimo pinakamaliliit na tao sa isang production, because she respected and took care of each and every one. She made each of us around her be better at what we do."

With a report from Cora Llamas.

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Obie-winning Mia Katigbak pushes for more Asian faces on the American stage

Obie-winning Mia Katigbak pushes for more Asian faces on the American stage
By Walter Ang
Aug. 15, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Watching plays written by non-Asians about non-Asians but played by Asian actors may be normal in the Philippines. For obvious reasons, it's not too common in the United States.

But the National Asian American Theatre Company (Naatco)  in New York has been doing just that for 25 years now.

Every season, it produces "an American classic with an all-Asian-American cast; an adaptation of a Western classic by an Asian-American playwright; and a new work not by, for, or about Asians realized by an all-Asian-American cast," says co-founder and artistic producing director Mia Katigbak.

To kick off its silver season, the group recently restaged its 2013 production of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing!"-a 1935 drama about a lower middle class immigrant Jewish family set in the Bronx during the Depression era. ("Wonderful performances," raved The Huffington Post. "These actors. bring full value to the words. A strong production.")

Katigbak reprised her role as monster matriarch Bessie, for which she had won The Village Voice newspaper's 59th Obie Award 2014 (theater awards for Off-Broaway and Off-Off Broadway productions) for best performance.

Katigbak didn't jump at the chance to form the group when co-founder Richard Eng, also an actor, pitched it to her. She'd already been doing stage work with Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and had seen how difficult it was.

"But after Richard agreed that the primary focus of the company would be European and American classics with all-Asian-American casts, I came on board," she says. "I was increasingly frustrated with the lack of opportunities for acting in the classical canon for trained actors who are Asian-American, like me."

In a previous interview, Katigbak said, "We don't get to do [these kinds of roles]! If [doing these roles] becomes the foundation of the company, so that we get perceived as technically skilled, then there will have to come a time when people will say, 'Oh right, we don't have to just cast them as Asian gangsters and gooks.'

"I wanted to. develop a very large pool of acting talent so that it becomes undeniable that we can do this stuff, and hopefully other people would start casting these folks from our shows."
As such, the group aims to "more accurately represent onstage the multi- and intercultural dynamics of our society. [and] demonstrate a rich tapestry of cultural difference bound by the American experience."

Katigbak says part of the group's mission is "to increase awareness among non-Asian-Americans about our contributions to American culture," and also to point out what "Asian" means. "We can go as far east as Japan, as south as Indonesia and all the way west to Turkey.

All that focused work has gained recognition. The group received the 2006 Rosetta LeNoire Award for "increasing diversity and non-traditional casting in American theater," as well as the 2012-13 Lucille Lortel Award.

And it's producing results. "After our production of `Falsettoland,' one of the actors, Christine Toy Johnson, got a recurring role in a soap opera and I don't think her character was [meant to be] specifically Asian," said Katigbak. "Our other alums such as Daniel Dae Kim, C.S. Lee, Joel de la Fuente and Ann Harada have all played roles that are not ethnic-specific."

Theater in DNA
Born and raised in Manila, Katigbak and her parents moved to the US when she was 11.

"I recall wanting to do theater since I was about 5 years old," she says. "I was surrounded by musicians and dancers in Manila because my mother Adelaida Reyes was a musician and then a music critic [for Philippine Evening News and Manila Daily Bulletin], but theater was always, somehow, in my DNA. There was no 'Aha!' moment, I was just always doing it."

Katigbak has acted extensively with different groups in and outside of New York. She received the New Dramatists' Charles Bowden Actor Award in 2006.

Her advocacy for Asian- Americans in theater reaches beyond Naatco. She was one of the organizers of the first and second National Asian American Theater Festivals in 2007 and 2009.

Look to the future
For its next production this season, the group has commissioned Lloyd Suh to adapt Agatha Christie's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles."

"Its working title is 'Charles Francis Chan's Most Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery,'" she says. (Suh's "American Hwangap" was staged by Tanghalang Pilipino in English and Filipino in Manila in 2010.)

                                                         Related article: Review of Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of  "American Hwangap"

"Our 25th anniversary is a milestone, just for the sheer fact that we have survived that long. I believe we enjoy the fortunate reputation of doing good work, no matter what we do, and that's a good thing."

"The anniversary affords me the opportunity to assess what Naatco has accomplished thus far, and it is a good place from which to look to the future. To concoct other strategies for Asian-American representation, visibility and dynamism on the American stage. To reach other constituencies beyond the usual and to forge more meaningful partnerships with other non-Asian-American theater artists and organizations."

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