A Filipino 'Ramayana' dazzles on the Asean stage

A Filipino 'Ramayana' dazzles on the Asean stage
April 30, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Scene from "Sita: The Ramayana Revisited."
Photo by Giovanni Atinen
The Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Ipag), the resident theater group of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, represented the Philippines in the Asean Plus Ramayana Festival held in Bangkok.

Ipag performed at the National Theatre and The Royal Field along with groups from other Asean nations and India.

The festival was part of Thailand's Asean Culture Expo, which aimed to promote the variety of cultures among its member countries.

The "Ramayana" is a Sanskrit epic poem about Rama, an avatar of the god Vishnu, who saves his wife Sita, an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, after she's abducted by Ravana, a multi-headed demon king.

Asean countries have their respective versions; the Philippines has Maranao versions which include a portion in the Darangen epic song, from which the singkil dance is derived, and the story of Maharadia Lawana (King Ravana). The Darangen has been declared one of Unesco's Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.

Thailand Deputry Prime Minister
Prawit Wongsuwan (top row, 2nd from left),
Steven Fernandez (second row, left)
and participants of
Asean Plus Ramayana Festival.
Ipag performed excerpts from "Sita: The Ramayana Revisited," an adaptation of the Maranao versions using Filipino language and setting the story in Mindanao, which it first performed in last year's Asia-Pacific Bureau Theatre Schools Festival in Singapore.

The production incorporated native dance forms such as pangalay, also known as igal or pansak, a dance found in the Samal, Badjao, Jama Mapun and Tausug cultures; and martial/combat dance forms lanka silat and kuntao.

The libretto and direction was by Steven Fernandez, with choreography by the cast and facilitated by Trixcel Emborong, with music by Geejay Langois and Fernandez, costume design by Tres Canteras, props design by Hermi Dico, and set and lighting design by Vicmar Paloma.

Cast included Yvonnie Emit (Sita), Restinil Kim Indino (Rama), Gaspar Cortes (Lawana), Trixcel Emborong (Hanuman) and Primo Bagasol (Sugriva/Lakshamana).

From left, Steven Fernandez,
Thailand Deputy Prime Minister
Tanasak Patimapragorn, Yvonnie Emit (Sita).
Seated, from left, Trixcel Emborong (Hanuman),
Restinil Kim Indino (Rama).
Fernandez, Ipag's artistic director, gathered feedback from different personalities during the festival.

He said Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn called the group's work "very impressive," while Saroja Vaidyanathan from New Delhi, founder of Ganesa Natyalaya dance school and bharatanatyam (a classical dance form) teacher, declared it "the best 'Ramayana' in the festival! India should see it!"

"Saroja's stature in India perhaps approximates that of our National Artists," said Fernandez. "I was floored when she declared to those sitting around our table, and to their agreement, that the Philippines had the best 'Ramayana' production among all the countries.

"A knockout because this came from a guru whose country gave birth to the 'Ramayana.' She then described the movements, techniques and intensity of our actors-dancers. I am still awake unbelieving!"

Gaspar Cortes (Lawana) and 
Yvonnie Emit (Sita).
Photo by Jez Orbe.
There have been several Philippine adaptations of the epic for the stage.

Ballet Philippines' dance-musical "Rama Hari" premiered in 1980 and was restaged in 2012, with choreography by Alice Reyes, music by Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by Bienvenido Lumbera.

The Philippine Educational Theater Association staged Rody Vera's "Ang Paglalakbay ni Radiya Mangandiri: Isang Pilipinong Ramayana" in 1993.

SK Productions staged "Rama at Sita" in 1999, a multi-million-peso musical featuring Ariel Rivera as Rama and Lani Misalucha as Sita, using excerpts from "Rama Hari" and new songs by Danny Tan, Roy Iglesias and Dodjie Simon.

The "Ramayana" has also been used before to bridge Asean countries. In 1998, Asean produced "Realizing Rama," featuring two dancers from each member country, with choreography by Denisa Reyes and book by Nicanor Tiongson.

Restinil Kim Indino (Rama) and
Trixcel Emborong (Hanuman).
Photo by Jez Orbe.
For the festival's opening production, which featured all the participating groups presenting different vignettes from the "Ramayana," Ipag performed Rama and Ravana's climactic battle scene and Sita's fire ordeal scene.

"At least four applauses punctuated the Philippines' 10-minute segment, capped by long hand-clapping during curtain call," Fernandez said.

He also noted that Thai musician Manop Wisuttipat, the composer of a portion in the opening production, had studied at the University of the Philippines under National Artists for Music Jose Maceda and Ramon Santos.

Ipag performed two more times during the festival.

"Epics are not only about heroes and what they confront, but reveal the societies and time these heroes come from," he says.

"These stories show values and the way people deal with their realities; these narratives reveal how deep people cherish the hopes they strive for. Epics all over the world share truths about humanity, values we all uphold, saying that we are not different from the rest."

Ipag has represented the country in over 100 cities worldwide. The group received the 2015 Gawad Pedro Bukaneg from the Unyon ng Mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas. The group's founding chair, Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, received the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Award for her work in dance.

Ipag's participation in Asean Plus Ramayana Festival was supported by a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Like Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Ipag) on Facebook.

More photos of the festival here: ASEAN Cultural Center Facebook.

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Philippine Opera Company's musical revue 'Harana' to tour U.S., Canada

Philippine Opera Company's musical revue 'Harana' to tour U.S., Canada
April 27, 2016

The Philippine Opera Company (POC) will serenade U.S. and Canadian audiences this year with its musical concert revue "Harana: A Cultural Journey" starting in May.

"Harana" means serenade in Filipino, a traditional form of courtship where a suitor woos a lady's affection with love songs outside her home as she watches from an open window or balcony.

The revue will feature traditional and contemporary songs in different genres such as children's songs, tribal chants, farming songs and courtship ditties.

There will be song-and-dance tributes to iconic comediennes such as Nida Blanca and Sylvia la Torre, featuring songs like "Waray Waray" and "Kung Ako'y Mag-aasawa."

Kundiman, traditional Filipino love songs, will also be performed.

"Harana" kicks off in Los Angeles on May 21, San Francisco May 28 and Seattle May 30. It then tours Canadian cities Gibsons, Victoria, Vancouver, Okanagan, Calagary, Edmonton, June 1 to 6 and Winnipeg on June 8.

It will then return to the U.S. with shows in Colorado Springs (June 12) and Denver (June 15). On June 21, it will have a show in Toronto.

POC is still open to adding cities to its tour. "We can tour your city if there are any organizations, independent producers or even Filipino American or Filipino Canadian student groups in colleges or universities who could partner with us," says POC Artistic Director Karla Gutierrez.

For today's audiences
"We're committed to preserving indigenous Filipino music. At the same time, we restructured and enhanced these songs to suit the tastes of today's audiences. The treatment is a little bit more modern but the original arrangements of the songs are respected," Gutierrez says.

The revue will open with songs from the northern highlands of the Philippines. The Cordillera suite features an Igorot medley.

The show goes on to feature songs from the mid-lowlands (Rural Suite) such as "Kalesa," "Ano Kaya Ang Kapalaran," "Ang Maya" and "May Ibong Kakanta," and southern islands (Muslim Suite), with songs such as "Mamayog akun," "Dayo dayo kupita," "Pok pok limpako" and "Dayang dayang."

The Maria Clara Suite will featuring songs such as "Bituing Marikit" and "Nasaan Ka Irog," while the Folk Songs Suite features songs such as "Rosas Pandan," "Sarumbanggi" and "Aruy Aruy," among others.

It will conclude with a Contemporary Classics Suite, featuring songs such as Freddie Aguilar's "Anak," "Bayan Ko" and "Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal."

Using music arrangements by Von de Guzman, the revue's songs have been composed by the likes of Nicanor Abelardo, Ryan Cayabyab, Willy Cruz, Francisco Santiago, Antonio Molina, Resti Umali, George Canseco, Ernani Cuenco, Levi Celerio, Jose Estrella, Constancia De Guzman, Felipe de Leon, among many more.

The revue features eight singers led by Gutierrez, whose credits include Cosette in "Les Miserables" and Cinderella in "Into the Woods" for Repertory Philippines. Opera credits include playing the Dew Fairy in "Hanzel und Gretel" at the Rome Opera Festival and as a soloist in David Glass' "The Lost Child."

Other female singers in the show include Janine Santos ("La Traviata," "Maxie the Musicale"), Marian Santiago ("The King and I," "Cinderella") and KL Dizon ("Manhid," "Kabesang Tales").

Male singers include Nazer Salcedo ("Candide," "Orosman at Zafira"), Lawrence Jatayna (Singapore Lyrica Opera and Singapore Symphony Orchestra), Noel Rayos ("The Producers," "Rama Hari") and Ellito Eustacio (Coro Tomasino and Imusicapella Chamber Choir).

The production uses video and photo projections as well as colorful and detailed costumes designed by Zeny Gutierrez.

The revue was originally directed by Kokoy Jimenez, director of the seminal children's TV show "Batibot."

The show has been staged in Manila, Palawan and in the Visayas. It toured Amsterdam in 2009.

"Almost ninety percent of its audiences did not understand the lyrics but they loved the melodies. And they gave us standing ovations," Gutierrez says.

Contact +63-2-822-9609 or +63-917-527-2880 or message Philippine Opera Company on Facebook.

Giselle Garcia presents Philippine dramaturgy practices at int’l symposium

Dramaturg Giselle Garcia presents Philippine practices at int’l symposium
Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 23, 2016

Giselle Garcia
Giselle Garcia is representing the Philippines at an international dramaturgy symposium in Singapore.

"Mapping Out, In & About" happens today, April 23, at Black Box, Centre 42 Art Center, 42 Waterloo St., and April 24 at Theatre Studio, Esplanade, 1 Esplanade Dr., Singapore.

This inaugural symposium of Asian Dramaturgs' Network features more than 15 Asian-based dramaturgs from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Korea, Philippines and Australia. Talks are open to the public.

Garcia will present an overview of dramaturgical work in the Philippines and specific case studies.

Dramaturgs have a range of work roles in theater, though one of their major functions is to provide research materials and insights to the director, designers and cast of a production.

The research can range from the sociopolitical milieu of a play's setting to what foods and fashions people of a certain era ate and wore, from a psychoanalytic profile of a character to what a slang word means.

Other functions include evaluating (and sometimes helping playwrights edit) new plays, recommending plays for production to a director, and serving as a second eye or sounding board to a director during rehearsals.

Human Google
"A dramaturg is like a human Google search," Garcia says. "Though we're probably the first people in a room to admit what we don't know about a topic.

"Sometimes people think a dramaturg is the 'resident critic or intellectual.' It's helpful if one can think in this capacity, but sometimes it is assumed we know everything, which is problematic.

"A dramaturg is actually one who embodies scheinwissen, a fancy German word that means 'the destruction of illusory knowledge.' It's my favorite definition from my dramaturgy mentor Mark Bly. We question what we seem to think we already know."

Garcia has recently worked on Nicolas Pichay's "Macho Dancer: A Musical" for the Virgin Labfest; Elmer Gatchalian's "Juego de Peligro," his translation and adaptation of "Dangerous Liaisons"; Rody Vera's "Der Kaufmann: Ang Negosyante ng Venecia," his adaptation of "Merchant of Venice"; and "Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente," Roland Tinio's translation of "Death of a Salesman"-all three for Tanghalang Pilipino.

Her blog, GiselleGGarcia.wordpress.com, contains links to the research and notes she's done for different productions.

Bit of everything
Garcia took up English Literature at Ateneo de Manila University. "But my electives were all over the place: playwriting, Shakespeare in performance, art history, French and cultural journalism, the problem of God in existentialist literature, Filipino-American postcoloniality. I took both Asian and Western history, even if we were only supposed to pick one.

"It turned out to be a good thing that I tried a bit of everything because it's beneficial to being a dramaturg," she says, laughing.

While contemplating higher studies, she discovered a master's degree program in theater that has a dramaturgy concentration at Hunter College, City University of New York.

"It was exactly what I wanted to do: something in between being a scholar and researcher but still with a practical artistic purpose in the development of theatrical work."

She says: "I love that dramaturgs have to be voracious readers, interested in everything from mung bean farming to Moliere. As a lit major with varied interests, going into dramaturgy was perfect.

"I found a possible career that would let me read and learn a little bit about everything, from cereal boxes to serial killers, for a living!"

She's worked on the development of over 250 new plays by established and emerging playwrights in New York and Manila.

Since her return to Manila, Garcia has been teaching at the Ateneo and is a resident dramaturg at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where she either works on specific shows or assists in establishing connections and networks with artists.

"If one can support artists by helping them develop and generate work via research, development, education and advocacy to nourish the art form, that's dramaturgy to me," she says.

Contact info@asiandramaturgs.com, visit AsianDramaturgs.com, like AsianDramaturgs on Facebook.

Inquirer.net link:

Look! Chinoy theater actors Reuben Uy and Herbie Go in Super Bowl commercials

Look! Chinoy theater actors Reuben Uy and Herbie Go in Super Bowl commercials
Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 23, 2016

Screengrab of "Higher" video commercial.
Theater actor Reuben Uy has been cast in a US commercial for Toyota Prius that aired during the pre-game segment of this year's Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the US National Football League.

The ad begins with a child staring at the sky from his bedroom window. His father fetches him in a red 2016 Prius and a montage of scenes follow where the child stares at the sky from the car's backseat.

The child grows up to become an astronaut played by Uy.

As the father looks at an old photo of himself and his son, the camera cuts to Uy, in a space suit, standing on what is presumably another planet, looking out into space (where the Earth and the moon can be seen).

The 60-second ad, titled "Higher," can be viewed on Youtube.com/ToyotaUSA.

There are also Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese voiceover versions, presumably targeted at Asian American markets.

The ad's pregame appearance at the Super Bowl meant it had a huge audience debut; this year was the 50th Super Bowl, with Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé performing in the halftime show. The show itself had a reported 111.9 million viewers.

This year's average cost for a 30-second commercial slot in the Super Bowl was $5 million (roughly P240 million).

Watch video here:

Party guest
Screengrab of Amazon's Echo video commercial.
Meanwhile, Herbie Go, theater actor and former Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director now based in New York, was cast as a background actor in a commercial for Amazon's Echo, a hands-free, voice-controlled speaker device for Internet access.

He plays a party guest, together with Missy Elliott, in Alec Baldwin's home as Baldwin demonstrates what an Echo can do.

The commercial also aired during the Super Bowl and can be viewed on Youtube.com/Amazon.

Go's recent theater acting credits include "Gospel of Matthew," "A Couple of Poor Polish-Speaking Romanians" and "AutoMotive" for East River Commedia, and "Auto da Fe" for International Wow Company.

On TV, he was cast as a shopkeeper in the HBO series "Girls."

He recently directed a staged reading of Juan Miguel Severo's "Hintayan sa Langit," translated into English by Ralph Peña.

Watch video here:

Hot suit
Reuben Uy
Uy, now based in Los Angeles, has a commercial agent who got him the slot to audition.

He recalls: "They had me act out the scenario, then I came back for a final callback. I found out through my agent that I booked the part!"

His part took one day to film. "We really shot on a different planet," he jokes. "We shot on location in the Inland Empire, a region in southern California."

He notes: "The space suit was really hot inside. Good thing the weather was around 85°F (29°C) that day because usually it's in the hundreds (38°C or higher)."

Filipinos have seen Uy in commercials before. He played a Chowking chef in its delivery hotline commercial. He's seen stir-frying ingredients in a wok and the camera pulls out to reveal he's actually cooking on a moving delivery motorcycle.

"I proceed to do a kung-fu leap to deliver the dish to the customer," he says.

He's also appeared in commercials for PLDT, Smart, Mountain Dew and Jollibee.

Theater background
Herbie Go
"I was a really hyperactive kid who needed a creative outlet," he says.

"My sister Charry convinced my parents to enroll me in a theater workshop with Repertory Philippines. Actually, she was the one who wanted to join so she used me to get in, too," he says, laughing.

"Robbie Guevara was my teacher, he saw something in me, and he gave me the confidence to pursue this craft."

Uy's credits in Manila include World Theater Project's "The Threepenny Opera" as Readymoney Matt; Actor's Actors, Inc.'s "Hedda Gabler" as Eilert Loevborg; Tanghalang Pilipino's "A Streetcar Named Desire" as Stanley Kowalski; Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Orosman at Zafira" as Abdalap and "Rizal X" as Jose Rizal; Atlantis Productions' "Piaf" as Charles Aznavour, and Rep's "Altar Boyz" as Luke and "Jekyll and Hyde" as Lord Savage.

He was cast as JJ in the 2013 film "Metro Manila," with John Arcilla, Jake Macapagal and Althea Vega.

Uy is thankful for his theater career in Manila, which gave him the opportunity to play non-Asian roles.

"I was lucky to play roles such as Stanley Kowalski, Eilert Loevborg and even Charles Aznavour," he says. "In the US, it would have been a stretch for an Asian to play an Armenian, but in Manila, no one batted an eyelash."

Since relocating to the US in 2013, he's been in Candlelight Pavilion's "The King and I," Theatrum Elysium's "Hamlet2" and East West Players' "Beijing Spring."

He is currently part of the TV gag show "Pun Plip Pridays," which airs every other Friday on LA 18 TV, a channel for the Filipino-American community in Southern California. The show is syndicated to KIKU station in Hawaii.

Inquirer.net link:

Filipino stories onstage in New York and San Francisco

Filipino stories onstage in New York and San Francisco

Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 16, 2016

Lee Robin Salazar
Ma-Yi Theater Company's "House Rules," a comedy about two sets of Filipino-American siblings who realize their respective parents won't live forever, is ongoing in New York until April 16.

Fil-Am theater artists involved in "House Rules" include playwright A. Rey Pamatmat, director Ralph Peña, sound designer Fabian Obispo, and actors Jojo Gonzalez, Mia Katigbak, Tiffany Villarin and Tina Chilip.

Peña, who is also Ma-Yi's artistic director, recently directed "Macho Dancer: A Musical" at the 2015 Virgin Labfest in Manila.

Chilip was in Ma-Yi's revival of Peña's play "Flipzoids" and is thrilled to be working with the theater group again.

"Ma-Yi does amazing work," she said. "In this production, I get to collaborate with these insanely talented people whose work I've admired. I'm really proud to work alongside them. On a personal level, it makes me very happy to see Filipinos portrayed in mainstream theater, whether I'm the one playing them or not."

Born and raised in Manila, Chilip said her mother nurtured her love of theater.

"She was a season subscriber of Repertory Philippines and she used take our family to see all its plays," Chilip recalled. "I absolutely loved it. It was such a treat and I'd always look forward to the productions."

She was already working at a consulting firm in the US when she began taking acting lessons for fun and getting professional work. She pursued a master's degree in acting at Brown University.

Chilip has since acted with theater groups across the US in productions like "Our Town" and "Chinglish" for Portland Center Stage; "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures" for Berkeley Repertory Theatre; and "A Dream Play" for National Asian American Theatre Company. She's also been on TV shows such as "Mysteries of Laura" and "Royal Pains."

Chilip was also in "Golden Child" in Manila for Tanghalang Pilipino, for which she received a Philstage Gawad Buhay! citation for Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role.

"House Rules" runs until April 16 at Here Arts Center, 145 6th Ave., New York. Tickets at here.org or +1-212-3523101. Visit Ma-YiTheatre.org.

Three plays
Bindlestiff Studio's "Tagalog: A Festival of One-Acts," featuring three plays from last year's Virgin Labfest, will be staged in Filipino with English supertitles, with previews starting April 19 in San Francisco.

Rody Vera, founding festival director of VL, recommended the three plays to Bindlestiff Studio artistic director Lorna Velasco. Bindlestiff had staged Vera's "Guerrillas of Powell Street" a few years ago.

"Bindlestiff's Allan Manalo once acted in one of the earlier VL plays that I directed," Vera said. "They recently staged a production on short plays about love, so I sent over three plays chosen for next year's VL's Revisited Set that are also about love."

The three plays are "Dalawang Gabi" by Maynard Manansala, a comedy of impossible love between a college professor and her student, directed by Aureen Almario and Joe Cascasan; "Hintayan ng Langit," by Juan Miguel Severo, about former lovers reuniting in the afterlife, directed by Allan Manalo; and "Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala" by Eljay Castro Deldoc based on Dean Francis Alfar's short story "The Kite of Stars," about a girl who desires to be a star to catch the attention of a young man, directed by Ramon Abad.

"Hintayan" had a staged reading in New York by Ma-Yi Theater last year, directed by Herbie Go and starring Madlen Nicolas and Jojo Gonzalez.

Velasco said he noticed that audiences responded positively to Bindlestiff's adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" whenever characters spoke in Filipino.

"A lot of Fil-Ams here dream for more exposure to our languages, whether Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan or Visaya. We miss it, we miss home," he noted.

Among the cast members is Lee Robin Salazar who, before relocating to the US, was in several Manila productions with Actor's Actors Inc. such as "Hurly Burly," "Fool For Love," "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," and "Promises, Promises."

He's been a cohost on The Filipino Channel's "Adobo Nation" since 2011 and has worked with Bindlestiff in productions such as "The Strange Case of Citizen De La Cruz" and "A Kind of Sad Love Story." Other stage credits include "Everything Go Boom" at the 2013 San Francisco Fringe Festival and "Perishable, Keep Refrigerated" with Renegade Theatre Experiment.

"Tagalog: A Festival of One-Acts" previews April 19-20, runs April 21-May 7 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., San Francisco. Tickets at Tagalog.bpt.me or +1-650-2783110. Visit BindlestiffStudio.org.

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School-based theater groups join Kilos Sining 2016

40-plus school-based theater groups join Kilos Sining festival
April 9, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Participants of Kilos Sining sa Paaralan
 with playwright-National Artist for Literature
Bienvenido Lumbera.
More than 40 college and university-based and community-based theater groups* participated in Kilos Sining sa Paaralan (KSP), a theater education program held from February 6 to March 7 to celebrate National Arts Month (February) and World Theater Day (March 27).

The program had three major components: Danas-Dula, where participants watched productions staged by participating schools and professional groups; Sanay-Danas-Dula, discussion sessions on how to evaluate/review the shows they'd seen; and Usapang Teatro sa Unibersidad at Kolehiyo, a symposium on theater-making processes.

The event was organized by Tanghalan ng Mag-aaral, a network of university and college-based theater groups; Guro sa Sining ng Bayan, a network of teachers advocating for theater as an education tool, and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Pangkultura sa Kamaynilaan at Karatig Pook, a network of theater groups and artists.

"The aim of KSP was to give students and teachers a way to learn about theater-making through actual engagement, as in act/action, as in kilos," says Alyansa founding chair and KSP coordinator Glecy Atienza.

"The term 'kilos sining' was used by dramatist Severino Reyes to mean 'actors,' or 'doers of performances.' We evolved the meaning from 'one who moves art' to 'one who uses art to move people to action.'"

Subsidized tickets
The program subsidized tickets for approximately 300 students to watch from a selection of 30 productions. "One student shed tears of joy when she shared her excitement and appreciation in watching plays and meeting theater artists face to face," she said.

Aside from shows by school groups, participants watched professional productions like Philippine Educational Theater Association's "3 Stars & A Sun," puppet theater group Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas' "A Bread of Salt," and Tanghalang Pilipino's "Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major," a staged reading recital performance by TP's resident pool of actors, and "Mabining Mandirigma."

Interactions with cast and production staff were also held. "Actors shared their experiences in building characters, directors explained the process of staging plays. Participants heard from no less than playwright-historian Nicanor Tiongson after watching 'Mabining Mandirigma,' and from playwright-director Chris Millado after watching 'Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major.'"

Across the country
The program also featured the results of the Likha Dula-LakBayan project: a play devised by a collaboration of representatives from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao under the direction and supervision of Sipat Lawin Ensemble artistic director JK Anicoche and dramaturg Ness Roque-Lumbres.

The devised production is the output of this year's Tanghal National University, College and Community Theater Festival, organized annually by the National Commission of Culture and the Arts. It premiered in Bacolod (Visayas) and showed in Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao) before being performed in Manila (NCR). It was then performed in Los Baños (Luzon).

The resulting production featured vignettes of different scenes, the cast asking the audience what their wishes for the country were, and concluded with a rendition of the national anthem in different Filipino languages and dialects.

The Usapang Teatro sa Paaralan symposium was held at Tanghalang Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Speakers who shared their experiences in creating theater included Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete of Teatrong Mulat; Romualdo "Raffy" Tejada of Harlequin Theater Guild, De La Salle University; Sir Anril Tiatco of Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, Jerry Respeto of Ateneo ENterteynment para sa Tao, Bayan, LAnsangan, at DiyOs (Entablado); Frederick Castro of University of the East Drama Company; Romualdo Protacio of Collective Arts of Students and Thespians, University of Makati; Alyson Gimenez of Sinagbayan, Polytechnic University of the Philippines; Kaila Ababao of Dulaang Pilipino, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde; Anthony Cruz of Tanghalang Bagong Sibol, Malabon National High School; Gio Potes of University of the Philippines Repertory Company; Mari Joyce Laspuna of Kapit Productions; and Roberto "Bobet" Mendoza of Haraya Artists Ensemble, Manila Tytana Colleges (formerly Manila Doctors College).

For details, visit 2016 Kilos Sining sa Paaralan on Facebook.

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In San Francisco, Bindlestiff Studio stages 'Tagalog,' three short plays about love

In San Francisco, Bindlestiff Studio stages 'Tagalog,' three short plays about love
April 5, 2016

Rehearsals for "Si Maria Isabella ..."
Filipino-American theater group Bindlestiff Studio will stage "Tagalog: A Festival of One-Acts" this month in San Fracisco, featuring three plays about love to be performed in Tagalog with English supertitles.

"Dalawang Gabi" (Two Evenings) by Maynard Manansala is a lighthearted comedy of impossible love between a college professor and her student, directed by Aureen Almario and Joe Cascasan.

"Hintayan ng Langit" (Heaven's Waiting Room) reunites Lisa and Manolo, former lovers who've not seen and heard from each other in years, in an otherworldly location. Directed by Allan Manalo. The play is by poet Juan Miguel Severo, known for the viral Youtube video of his spoken word poem "Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko Para Sa'yo" (The Last Poem That I Will Write for You).

In "Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala" (Maria Isabella and the Kite of Stars) by Eljay Castro Deldoc, based on Dean Francis Alfar's "The Kite of Stars," Maria wants to be a star in the sky to catch the attention of a young man. Along with a butcher's assistant who is fond of her, she embarks on a 60-year adventure to gather all the materials needed to build a giant kite. Directed by Ramon Abad.

From Manila to San Francisco
The three plays are selected from the Virgin Labfest (VLF), an annual showcase of new one-act plays that has been held in Manila since 2004.

Playwright Rody Vera, founding festival director of the Virgin Labfest, recommended the three plays to Bindlestiff's artistic director Lorna Velasco.

He translated his own play "Mga Gerilya ng Powell Street" into English for the group in 2014. (The play is based on the award-winning novel of the same title by San Francisco-based journalist and INQUIRER.net "Kuwento" columnist Benjamin Pimentel.)

Will audiences in San Francisco relate to these plays from the Philippines? "Absolutely," says Velasco.

"All three plays deal with love," she says. "Unrequited, long-buried, forgotten love. They deal with the passion to pursue your dream amidst the impossible. There will be drama, there will be laughter, and there will be love."

Languages of home
She also notes that "there is a hunger from the audience to hear Tagalog spoken on stage."

When Bindlestiff Studio mounted "A Pinoy Midsummer," Velasco's adaptation of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," where some characters spoke in Tagalog, she "felt how the energy of the audience shifted, as if they sat up taller and leaned forward just to hear every single Tagalog word uttered."

This observation inspired her to consider staging a production in Tagalog. "It's a dream for a lot of Fil-Ams here in the states to have more exposure to our languages, whether it's Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan or Visayan.we miss it, we miss home."

Nonetheless, the four directors involved want to ensure that the language used "will be accessible to everyone."

Velasco explains, "We will try to find new ways to incorporate supertitles in a seamless way, not as a distraction but very much a part of the scene."

Cast features Melvign Badiola, Benita Benavides, Richgail Enriquez, Tiffany Estrellado, George Imperial, Jamie Nallas, Jed Parsario, Patrick Silvestre, Lee Robin Salazar, and Paula Sison. Lighting design by Paciano Triunfo.

In June, Bindlestiff Studio will offer a theater workshop on writing, acting and directing for the stage. The workshop will conclude in a recital production "Stories High," scheduled for Aug. 7-Sept. 4.

"Tagalog," previews April 19-20, runs April 21-May 7 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., cor. Howard St., San Francisco. Tickets available at Tagalog.bpt.me.

Contact +1-650-278-3110. Visit BindleStiffStudio.org or BindlestiffStudio on Facebook.

'Dark and terrible' character lures Gabs Santos back to the stage

'Dark and terrible' character lures Gabs Santos back to the stage
April 2, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Gabs Santos
After a three-year hiatus, Gabs Santos returns to the stage in Egg Theater Company's (ETC) staging of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman," in a Filipino translation by George de Jesus.

Santos will play Katurian, a writer living in a police state who is questioned about his macabre stories that resemble gruesome child murders that have been committed recently.

De Jesus says, "With the coming elections and the incessant specter of dictatorships and martial law, this production reminds us that there is a fine line between the freedom of an individual to tell a story and its impact on the security of society."

The play's use of suspense and "unreliable" testimonies from its characters won it the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Play in the United Kingdom and the 2004-2005 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play in the United States.

Santos hasn't been seen on stage in a while as he'd focused on his work as a producer in the advertising industry.

"It's a completely different set of responsibilities and, unfortunately, not the kind of thing where I can clock out at 6 p.m., head over to rehearsals and have my head fully in a scene," he says.

However, the stage continues to call out to him. "Acting is not something that I can put on the shelf for too long. It's a huge part of who I am and what I love."

Back to work
Santos says he feels great being in rehearsals again.

"I am with very intelligent and generous co-actors. Rehearsals for this play have been a process of discovery as a group."

In "The Pillowman," he works with Acey Aguilar, Paul Jake Paule and ETC members Renante Bustamante and Paolo O'Hara. Paule and O'Hara alternate as Katurian's brother; Aguilar and Bustamante play Katurian's interrogators.

Santos grew up watching Repertory Philippines (Rep) productions at the defunct William Shaw Theater in Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

"My mom would take us to see their season productions. I recall watching their production of Neil Simon's 'The Good Doctor' and wanting to jump on stage and join the cast."

Later on in high school, another inspiration prompted him to finally join his first audition. "I was in third year. Two friends and I were hanging out after dismissal. We saw a couple of cute girls enter the auditorium. On the door was an announcement that auditions were being held for the theater org's next show. We went for it and I got accepted."

He's done work with Rep ("Disney's Mulan," "Fiddler on the Roof"), Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society ("N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)," "Little Mermaid") and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) ("Lulu," English version).

Turning point
His being cast as Katurian, a mature character, in Filipino, marks a departure from the kinds of roles Santos used to be cast in.

Though he's been in Filipino productions like Philippine Educational Theater Association's (Peta) "Bona" and DUP's "Orosman at Zafira," he's mostly identified with English productions. Also, with his large eyes and youthful demeanor, he'd been mostly cast in male ingenue or comic relief roles.

"I think I've been away from theater long enough that audiences have no idea what to expect from me," he says with a laugh.

"But seriously, characters and stories like this are among the reasons I fell in love with acting in the first place. Katurian's journey is dark and terrible and I can only hope to give it the telling it deserves."

Direction is by George de Jesus, with lighting design by Joseph Matheu, and music and animation by Joee Mejias.

"The Pillowman," in Filipino translation, runs April 8-24, at Pineapple Lab Gallery, 6071 Palma St., Bgy. Poblacion, Makati. Contact +63-917-844-0520 or like EggTheaterCompany on Facebook.

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