Tanghalang Pilipino's Regina De Vera, 26, makes it to Juilliard

Tanghalang Pilipino's Regina De Vera, 26, makes it to Juilliard
By Walter Ang
May 30, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Regina De Vera, a resident actor of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), has been accepted to The Juilliard School's Masters of Fine Arts in Acting program.

She is one of 18 applicants admitted to the program out of 1,900 hopefuls from all over the world. Her first semester of a four-year course begins September this year.

While De Vera has received financial aid from Juilliard, it's far from the total amount needed. The aid is $28,000 but the total cost of attending (including housing, supplies, insurance, etc.) is $61,290, she posts on Facebook.

If she can raise the funds on time, she will have the chance to study in the school that has produced the likes of movie stars Robin Williams and Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty," "Interstellar"), TV stars Viola Davis ("How to Get Away with Murder") and Elizabeth McGovern ("Downton Abbey"), and Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald.

De Vera has set up a page on Indiegogo.com (tinyurl.com/GoFundRegina), a crowdfunding site that allows people from around the world to donate to different causes or projects. The site collects a percentage from donations.

In order for De Vera to qualify for a student visa (due on June 15), she will need to show proof of funding of at least $33,000 or approximately P1.5M. Payment for the semester is due on Aug. 10.

While several Filipino classical singers, dancers and musicians have graduated from Juilliard, De Vera is only the *fourth Filipino who will attend the drama program, after directors/acting teachers Ana Valdes-Lim (group 13), Orlando Pabotoy (group 27) and Randy Reyes (group 28).

"Earlier this year, I gambled my childhood savings to fly to New York City to audition," she writes.

Last year, she sent videos of herself for the prescreening: one of St. Joan of Arc's monologues from George Bernard Shaw's "St. Joan" for the contemporary dramatic monologue; and one of Diana's monologues from Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well" for the classical comedic monologue.

Juilliard requires its international applicants to include a third monologue in their native language for the prescreening. De Vera did a Rolando Tinio Tagalog translation of Portia's "The quality of mercy" speech ("Ang pagdadalang-awa'y hindi kailangang iatas") from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

If international applicants pass the prescreening phase, they are scheduled for in-person auditions in January.

"They let you perform only two monologues, but we were asked to prepare four in case they'd like to see more: two contemporary and two classical, preferably dramatic and comic, to showcase the applicant's range."

"I did St. Joan and Diana. For backup, I prepared the Portia speech and a contemporary monologue from Theresa Rebeck's `Loose Knit,' but was not asked to perform them."

Juilliard also encourages applicants to prepare a song to be sung a cappella, just in case. "I had 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly' from 'My Fair Lady,'" says De Vera.

For the final round of callbacks in March, De Vera was asked to perform the St. Joan monologue again and to sing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly."

"We were told that we'd learn about the results via e-mail by April 1. I got back to Manila the evening of March 17. The following day, pagbalik na pagbalik ko sa Manila, recital agad! We were wrapping up a training workshop for TP's Actor's Company."

She had received an e-mail from Juilliard's administrative director that morning, asking for a phone call. "I called her when I got home from the recital. I was so afraid that there might be a problem."

When told she was accepted, De Vera became confused. "I said, `Umm, sorry, I do not understand. I thought we would learn about the results on April 1? So wait, I'm in? I am admitted? I got in?' I was rambling!" she says, laughing.

"I ran to my parents' room where my dad was sitting on the bed and my mom standing. My mother hugged me, and my father, in his true loving fashion, congratulated me without getting out of bed," she recalls. "I have a loving and unconventional family!"

Rare opportunity
"My life changed when I decided to audition for my high school's drama club," she says. "It set me on this path. I was an unusually quiet and reserved pre-adolescent then. The decision came as a surprise to my family and my high school batchmates. Never looked back since."

De Vera's interest in American musicals led her to attend Repertory Philippines' summer Musical Theater workshops. Her sensibilities grew to include Western classics and straight plays, influencing her decision to enroll in Ateneo de Manila University's Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theater Arts program.

She then joined Tanghalang Ateneo, one of the university's theater groups, performing in Philippine works such as "Walang Sugat" and in both English and Filipino productions of Shakespeare plays and Western classics.

After graduating with several awards, including the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts (Theater Arts category), she auditioned with TP's Actors' Company, its resident pool of actors who are trained continuously throughout their stay with the group.

Her recent credits for TP include Rhoda in "Walang Kukurap" and Ms. Forsythe in "Pahimakas Sa Isang Ahente" (Death of a Salesman).

For portraying Portia in "Der Kaufmann" (A Filipino adaptation of "The Merchant of Venice"), she won the 2013 Gawad Buhay!, the Philstage Awards for the Performing Arts, for Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Play.

She's also done outreach work using theater as a tool for awareness and therapy for HIV-awareness for Unicef, and for calamity survivors of "Yolanda" (Haiyan)-affected communities for the World Health Organization.

"This opportunity comes rarely in the lifetime of an artist especially for someone born and raised in the Philippines. I am determined to pursue this path and hopefully make my country proud," she says.

Contributions may be deposited to BPI Family Savings Bank Philippine Peso savings account 6866-1099-72 and BPI US Dollar savings account 0424-0776-58. 

Visit reginadevera.com or tinyurl.com/GoFundRegina. Follow on Twitter (@regina_devera).

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*ERRATUM: The list originally did not include Randy Reyes.

Pinoy Broadway producer Jhett Tolentino gets Tony nominations--again

Pinoy Broadway producer gets Tony nominations--again
By Walter Ang
May 16, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jhett Tolentino has just added two more Tony Award nominations to his name-Best Play for "Hand to God" (still running), and Best Revival of a Play for "This Is Our Youth" (which ran from September 2014 to January this year).

Both these productions are in the running for this year's awarding ceremony, which will be held on June 7 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and will be hosted by Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth (originator of the role Galinda/Glinda in the musical "Wicked.")

No, he's neither an actor in the cast nor a part of the artistic team. He and his business partner Joan Raffe, through their company JoanJhett Productions, served as coproducers for these two productions.

More and more Broadway (and Off-Broadway) productions now accept investors who are given the privilege of being named producers in the billing; as such, they also get the honor to go up the stage to receive the award if and when their show wins.

Tolentino and Raffe's Broadway investments have won them Tonys before. Last year, they won Best Revival of a Play for "A Raisin in the Sun," starring Denzel Washington, and Best Musical for "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre (Tony Award) honors theater professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway. It was founded by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, after whose cofounder the award is named after.

From Iloilo to NYC
Born and raised in Iloilo, Tolentino moved to New York in 2004; he was then 25 years old.

"After working in accounting for five years, I had had enough of the 9-to-5  life," he says. He shifted to serving as a personal assistant and ended up being employed by Raffe, who would accompany him to Manhattan when he'd watch shows.

"My solitude took me to the theater while working in New York. I like taking my mind off things. I go in, lights out and I get entertained. I get to think, laugh, cry and sometimes get annoyed. I have many opinions on how a show should have been done in certain parts or how it should have ended," he says.

He blogged about his opinions until "I realized that my writing hurt some people in the business. That wasn't my intention. I just wanted to save my readers time and money. So I took down my blog and explored how to be a part of the industry without hurting people. And that was my entry to producing."

Mutual love
With Tolentino and Raffe's mutual love for theater, her finances and his eye for potentially popular shows and accounting background, the idea to become producers was floated to them by professionals from the industry.

"Producing is a very expensive gamble. I don't have that kind of money. I have a little but not enough to stand on my own. That's where Joan comes in," says Tolentino.

They started investing in shows around 2011 and debuted as billed producers by late 2012.

In 2013, they invested in the comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," and before the year ended, they'd won their first Tony for Best Play.

"We formed our company JoanJhett Productions in January 2014. Now we can properly charge our traveling expenses!" he says, laughing.

Selecting shows
He has three criteria in selecting shows to invest in. "One, I have to love it. Not like, dapat love! And after seeing over 1,200 shows, it takes a lot for me to love a show.

"Two, potential for critical acclaim or awards. Critics may no longer make hit shows nowadays, but the industry insiders still recognize their importance since they can shut down a show with bad reviews. When you have positive reviews from critics, then you will have potential awards recognition. That is important to both the show and the actors.

"Three, is it commercial enough? As a commercial producer, this is very important. A show shouldn't only have quality but must be viable enough to tour outside of New York."

Most importantly, "I always study a show's production costs and recoupment charts."

While he and Raffe have come in early (and with high enough an investment) in some productions to potentially receive a better profit-sharing deal and to be given the privilege to be part of the decision-making process in a show's development, "there have been a few instances that we took the back seat and let other producers decide and take the lead. Trust me, you wouldn't want to put on a multimillion-dollar show's success or failure on your shoulders. It's a lot to take on!"

Nonetheless, he always gets his hands dirty.

"Every show hires advertising and publicity for print, radio, online and event TV sometimes. There are sales and promotions firms to guide us throughout the process. But no matter how big the production or how little my involvement in any show, I personally help in reaching out to our target audience."

He promotes shows by rallying the Fil-Am community to come watch them through word of mouth and through his social media accounts.

Seems like they know how to pick 'em, since the productions they've invested in have won several Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel and Off Broadway Alliance awards.

Tolentino now travels to other US cities to scout for regionally-created productions that they can possibly bring to Broadway.

"Whenever there is a buzz about a Broadway transfer, believe me, we will be there in the next few days or a week, the latest."

The momentum has been steadily gaining for the pair. From Broadway to, well, the world: He and Raffe have invested in productions that have toured internationally, such as the musical about Imelda Marcos, "Here Lies Love," for its West End tour that starred Mark Bautista in the role of Ferdinand Marcos.

All that passion and hard work have garnered him an Outstanding Filipino Americans of New York award in the Entertainment category  last year.

"Broadway is never too big for anyone. If anyone is aspiring to be a Broadway producer or any part of the creative team, I would encourage them to go for it. Never give up on it. There'll be challenges and it may take a while, but you'll get there."

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Pinoy theater actors in LA TV comedy sketch show

Pinoy theater actors in LA TV comedy sketch show
By Walter Ang
May 9, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Giselle Töngi (fifth from left) and
Reuben Uy (fourth from right).
Theater actors Reuben Uy and Giselle Töngi are now part of gag show "Pun Plip Pridays" on a local Los Angeles TV channel.

The show airs on KSCI-TV LA 18, a channel for the Filipino-American community in Southern California, and is syndicated to KIKU station in Hawaii.

The show is touted as the "first-ever televised original sketch comedy show written, produced and performed by an all-Filipino American team."

Recent credits
Töngi's recent credits on stage include playing Ulla in Repertory Philippines' "The Producers," and as Marlene Dietrich in Atlantis Productions' "Piaf."

"I sent in my resume and demo reel from Manila as I heard that LA 18 was looking for a host/producer that spoke Tagalog for its show 'Kababayan Today,'" she says. "I interviewed over Skype and was offered the job shortly after."

Reuben Uy was recruited by Töngi to join the program that airs as part of the "Kababayan Today" show every other Friday. "Nobody can say no to Giselle!" says Uy, who worked with Töngi in "Piaf."

Uy's other credits in Manila include Tanghalang Pilipino's "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Rep's "Jekyll and Hyde." Since relocating to Los Angeles, he's been in Candlelight Pavilion's "The King and I,"  Theatrum Elysium's "Hamlet" and East West Players' "Beijing Spring."

Extra boost
Both acknowledge the extra boost that their theater backgrounds have given to their work for the TV show.

"Theater is something I discovered late in the game when I moved to New York to pursue theater school at Lee Strasberg Theater Institute," says Töngi.

"With comedy, being reactive and in the moment is key to delivery. Theater has taught me that having a clear objective and a method behind a character is a beautiful and creative process that depends on collaboration and teamwork."

Uy, on the other hand, has taken improv classes at University of California Berkeley. "Improvisation comedy helps you recognize what is funny in the moment and allows you to seize it," he says.

Their show is on Youtube (LA18KSCITV). Follow on Facebook (PunPlipPridays) and on Twitter (PunPlipPridays).

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Chrome and Che Ramos-Cosio: Husband and wife, exercising actors

Chrome and Che Ramos-Cosio: Husband and wife, exercising actors
By Walter Ang
May 2, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Being physically fit helps us do more as we juggle many roles. We hardly get sick even if we usually work late into the night," says Che Ramos-Cosio.

Her husband and fellow actor, Chrome Cosio, agrees. "There are many benefits to being physically fit. You have more energy, you don't tire easily. You have better endurance to do a wider range of different things."

Ramos adds, "Especially now as parents of an also active two-year-old girl, we still have enough energy to work, take care of her, and have fun as a family."

Ramos was last seen in Red Turnip Theater's "Rabbit Hole," while Cosio was in Philippine Educational Theater Association's "D'Wonder Twins of Boac" (an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"). Both are familiar faces in the annual Virgin Labfest, and both have either been cited or nominated for their performances in Gawad Buhay!, the performing arts awards by Philstage.

Cosio and Ramos have been acting since their college days. Ramos started doing theater at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños while Cosio was with Centro Escolar University's Dramatic Guild.

Both ended up auditioning for, and getting into, Tanghalang Pilipino productions. Ramos' first play for TP was "Oraciones," while Cosio was cast in "R'meo luvs Dew-lhiett."

"We had seen each other around," says Ramos, smiling. "It was when we worked together in TP's 'Tatlong Mariya' (an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's 'Three Sisters') that we started going out. We were together for two years before we got married. We are now on third year of

Working out
Cosio became conscious of his body when he was in his early 20s.

"I decided to go to the gym. I only went to a bakal-bakal gym, meaning a low-end neighborhood gym," he says, laughing.

"The thing is, in those kinds of gyms, no one gives you good advice. So my brother and I researched online for different types of workout techniques. We realized that fitness is something you can maintain anywhere and anytime, no excuses."

He does half an hour of jogging on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, followed by 45 minutes of weight training, focusing on a different muscle group each day: back muscles one day, chest on another, shoulders and legs on Fridays.

Two years ago, Cosio tried out a free Muay Thai class. "I wanted to experience a different and new level of pain," he says, laughing.

"Muay Thai," or "Thai boxing," calls itself "the science/art of eight limbs," meaning the hands, elbows, shins and knees are all used extensively.

"After that first intensive training, I fell in love with it,"  says Cosio. Now he trains two hours a day, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, under Johnwin 'Makata' Sarmiento. He will also begin teaching the martial arts this year.

Plana Forma
Ramos had been a varsity athlete most of her school life since grade school.

"I did volleyball, track and field and table tennis. My dad is also big on doing sports every summer," she says. "In college I fell in love with jazz dance. I joined Douglas Nierras' Powerdance and became a professional dancer for a few years."

"Unfortunately, I also started smoking cigarettes. I was doing almost two packs a day. By 2009, I was all bad habits! My weight was yoyo-ing, I'd be super thin one week then chubby the next," she adds.

She quit smoking when Cosio asked her to.

"It was super difficult; I would be extremely short-tempered and say the meanest things, but I did it. Afterwards, I'd started getting fat because I'd munch on food. I had to get back into shape. So dancing found me again. My Powerdance teacher Julie Alagde-Carretas was head trainer at Plana Forma and got me into it."

"Forma combines ballet, barre and Pilates in a circuit workout," explains Cosio. "It aims to work the muscles to the point of exhaustion, then there are quick stretches in between to create long lean muscles minus the bulk."

Ramos now teaches Plana Forma and is also a freelance Zumba instructor.

"I teach about three to four Forma classes and about three Zumba classes a week. I take a minimum of two Forma classes weekly and as much Zumba as I can. Otherwise, I do a bit of yoga stretching at home and chase after my two-year-old," she says, laughing.

"In short, all bad habits are gone, and I am in better shape than I have ever been."

Plana Forma is taught in Quezon City (7099174, 0917-5838022) and Bonifacio Global City (5530870, 0917-8094392). Visit forma-asia.com, like on Facebook (PlanaFORMA) and follow on Twitter (PlanaFORMA).

Conqueror's Gym is at 2/F Jongco Bldg., Mikesell Compound, Marcos Ave., Las Piñas. Contact 0917-8968210, 0917-8319739 or 0906-2079829. Like on Facebook (conquerorsboxing).

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