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