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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Dulaang UP's 40th season (2015-2016) kicks off with two Shakespeare tragedies

Dulaang UP's 40th season (2015-2016) kicks off with two Shakespeare tragedies
By Walter Ang
Aug. 8, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas's 40th season (schoolyear 2015-2016) kicks off with two Shakespeare tragedies.

The season's theme is titled "20/20 Vision: Clarity. Originality. Perspective."

Starting this year, principals and teachers of high school students (and other colleges) are advised to recalibrate the schedules of when they send students to watch the productions of campus-based theater groups due to the revised academic calendar of universities: what used to be June to March is now August to May.

Romantic tragedy
"#R</3J: A multimedia hallucination on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" will be set in Metro Manila in a staging that "exploits our hyper-real contemporary moment of globalization, ultra violence, internet inanities, intergenerational alienation" and will use "a psychedelic mix of all available arts."

The tragic love story between star-crossed lovers is adapted by Guelan Luarca, to be directed by DUP artistic director Dexter Santos with music by Krina Cayabyab. The production is scheduled for Aug. 19-Sept. 16, 2015.

Family tragedy
Up next is a back-to-back staging of both the English and Tagalog translation of Shakespeare's "King Lear/Haring Lear," adapted and directed by DUP founding artistic director emeritus Tony Mabesa using Nick Pichay's translation.

Lear descends into madness after dividing his kingdom between two of his three daughters.

Mabesa will set the play in the waning years of a mythical Southeast Asian kingdom. Scheduled for Oct. 7-25, 2015.

Jose Estrella directs Henrik Ibsen's "Peery Gynt" using a translation/adaptation by Rody Vera and Gilda Cordero-Fernando.

Gynt's encounters with trolls and other creatures and his travels to different locales will be adapted using Philippine mythological entities and local folklore. Scheduled for Feb. 3-21, 2016.

The season ends with the English and Tagalog translations of Shimuzi Kunio's "The Dressing Room: That which flows away ultimately becomes Nostalgia."

Four actresses prepare for a production of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," but "we soon discover that not all is as it seems."

English translation by Chiori Miyagawa, Tagalog translation by Nick Pichay, to be directed by Alex Cortez. Scheduled for April 13-May 1, 2016.

40 seasons and counting
Dulaang UP is the official theater group of the University of the Philippines. It's managed by the university's Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which runs certificate, undergraduate and graduate theater programs.

Mabesa joined the faculty in 1975 and collaborated with then department chair Leticia Tison to establish a production arm for the department with a regular season of plays.

In the summer of 1976,  Tison provided the seed money of P15,000 for DUP's inaugural production of "Pagkahabahaba Man ng Prusisyon, sa Simbahan din ang Tuloy," Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" translated by Lilia Antonio.

It was directed by Mabesa with Salvador Bernal as production designer, Monino Duque as lighting designer, Eliseo Clamor as composer, and Cora Iñigo as choreographer.

Mabesa's artistic thrust was his passion for "great works of dramatic literature, translated into Filipino," informing the group's objective: produce world drama and original Filipino plays spoken in the language of the people.

Since the group's aim is to ultimately train students, the material chosen for staging "covers a variety of themes, genres and styles to afford the students a diverse experience."

Artistic directors
Mabesa stepped down as artistic director in DUP's 25th season (2000-2001), passing the baton to Jose Estrella. Alex Cortez became artistic director in the 34th season (2009-2010).

Dexter Santos is the new artistic director starting this season.

All productions will be staged at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. 

Contact Dulaang UP at 9261349, 9818500 loc. 2449 or 4337840. Like on Facebook (DulaangUnibersidadNgPilipinas), follow on Twitter (@Official_DUP).

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