Is this a ghost I see before me? Theater artists share their ghost stories

Yegads! Is this a ghost I see before me?
Theater artists share their ghost stories
Oct. 29, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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When a theater goes dark for the night, a stagehand leaves a lighted lamp on stage. No one knows why anymore, but some oldtimers say it is to keep ghosts away. Others say it lights the stage for the ghosts to play. Whichever theory one adheres to, most people agree: "A great theater is haunted."

So said multi-awarded American director and playwright Emily Mann. For some Halloween fun, here are encounters with stage ghosts and haunted theaters by theater artists.

Adriana Agcaoili, actress, Gantimpala Theater and Dulaang UP. 
When I was a freshman at the University of the Philippines, I was told that one of the theaters had a resident spirit named Marita and that she usually made her presence felt backstage left, especially when a female character was maltreated on stage.

I was doing stage management for a show and I was assigned at backstage left. When Tess Dumpit started weeping after her character was humiliated, a lower-pitched female voice started groaning and sobbing along with her-from backstage left!

My hair stood on end. I thought I was imagining that unearthly sound. But my companions whispered, "Who's making fun of your leading lady backstage?"

They had heard it, too! My wide eyes told my answer. I had goosebumps till the end of that show.

Roeder CamaƱag, artistic director, Artist Playground.
In that same venue (UP's Guerrero Theater), I was supposed to slap my co-actress, Jean Judith Javier- but a hand stopped my arm. I was frightened because I realized both of Jean's hands were on her navel.

My costume bracelet fell off my arm in the opposite direction of the slap. Later on, an audience member said he saw the bracelet move up my arm and thought it was a special effect. Marita doesn't like it when women are hurt on stage!

Oliver Usison, actor, Repertory Philippines.
During a workshop, Rep's resident sound engineer was fixing the speaker cables in the orchestra pit underneath the stage. Kids were running all over the place. He saw a girl standing with her back turned towards him. He thought she was being naughty, as students were not allowed in the pit.

He called out to her. She slowly faced him with a very angry look on her face. He immediately realized she wasn't one of the students. He ran as fast as he could out of the theater.

Aries Alcayaga, stage manager, Philippine Educational Theater Association.
When we were rehearsing this play, the cast started getting injuries every day. One actor noticed that a small chair on the stage had been missing for a few days. Another actor pointed out that the chair was for our "munting audience."

We looked for the chair and returned it. We also had a priest bless the stage and we left some food for the little guests. After that, the actors stopped getting injured.

Jonathan Tadioan, actor, Tanghalang Pilipino.
One of our crew members arrived early for our call time. While he was in the restroom, he heard knocking on the door of the cubicle he was using. When he glanced down, he saw a very hairy foot.

Topper Fabregas, actor/director/cofounder, Red Turnip.
Actress [and Red Turnip cofounder] Cris Villonco is as white as a ghost. Does that count? link:


Homegrown son Joaquin Valdes takes over Trumpets Playshop

Homegrown son Joaquin Valdes takes over Trumpets Playshop
Oct. 22, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Joaquin Valdes
Joaquin Valdes was only 13 years old when he first performed in Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society's (Trumpets) "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe."

He then started taking several years' worth of summer workshops with Playshop, Trumpets' theater training arm.

He didn't just study, though. With other stage credits already under his belt (debuting professionally as a chorus member in Repertory Philippines' "Evita" and then playing the lead in "Pinocchio"), he was tasked to teach classes at Playshop starting at age 14.

"I just really wanted to extend the high I'd get from a show and keep filling my system with as much theater education as I could," he said.

And now at 32, it's his turn to steward a new generation of future professional performers.

Valdes is the new executive director for Playshop, and of Playhouse, its newly formed youth theater group composed of workshop alumni.

Mentor, apprentice
Aside from forays into directing films, fitness coaching  and coproducing the "One Night Stand" series of monthly cabarets featuring theater performers, Valdes has always stayed connected to theater.

His credits include Atlantis Productions' "Spring Awakening," 9 Works Theatrical's "The Last Five Years" and, most recently, ABS-CBN Events-Cornerstone's "Ako Si Josephine." He received the Philstage Gawad Buhay Best Featured Actor for his work in Actors' Actors Inc.'s "Red."

It was veteran actor Audie Gemora, founder of Trumpets and Playshop, who sought Valdes out.

"He and I have developed a mentor-apprentice relationship. He's always believed that the next generation has great ideas," said Valdes.

"He asked me to bring in some of my expertise from working in advertising, film and digital content, giving my two cents on where the product should go and how it should address a new generation and new market."

"Extending the mission of Trumpets, Playhouse will stage productions for children and families. Focusing on original Filipino creativity, the group aims to bring a brand new experience with values to audiences."

First show
Cast of "Always Upon A Time"
For its inaugural production, Playhouse will stage "Always Upon A Time," a musical where brothers Tommy and Danny, neglected by their busy father, find a book of stories that their mother used to read them to sleep with.

The tales will be brought to life via puppets designed by Make It Happen Workshop, which also handles set and costume design. Inspired by book pages, the puppets will have the look and feel of paper sculptures, and the set design will evoke pop-up books. Lighting design is by Joseph Matheu.

The show's title is from a song used in one of Trumpets' first musicals, "Fables and Parables," written by Freddie Santos and composed by Lito Villareal.

In "Always Upon a Time," Lorenz Martinez plays the father, while the brothers will be played by a rotating cast that includes Andee Achacoso, Daniel Drilon, Gabo Tiongson and Teddy Velasco.

Also in the cast are Chimmi Kohchet-Chua, Anton Posadas and Guido Gatmaytan, all of whom played leads in Trumpets' musical "Bluebird of Happiness" in 2013.

The show is written and directed by Steven Conde, with Vince Lim as composer and musical director, and lyrics by Conde, Lim and Valdes.

"Always Upon A Time" runs Oct. 29-30, Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Tickets: 0917-5864177, For Playshop workshop schedules, call 9014364. link:


Carlon Matobato is lone Filipino in multinational 'Mahabharata'

Carlon Matobato is lone Filipino in multinational 'Mahabharata'
Oct. 15, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Carlon Matobato as Krishna
Photo by Hiroshi Koike
"Nganga ako," Carlon Matobato says, when he saw a movement-led staging of "Mahabharata" last year at the Peta Theater Center.

"The performers were so strong and their lines were so clean. I was excited and scared."

Scared because he'd soon be part of the show's next installment. He had auditioned for Japanese director Hiroshi Koike and won the slot as this year's only Filipino in the multinational cast.

Hiroshi Koike Bridge Project's "Mahabharata" began in 2013. Chapters are created annually in a different Asian country; it's intended to conclude with a full-length staging in 2020.

Last year's "Part 2.5" included Manila in its performance tour. This year, Matobato worked with performers from different countries for "Part 3," which was recently staged in Indonesia.

The ancient Indian epic deals with two warring branches of the Bharata dynasty battling for the throne of Hastinapura.

(Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas staged the musical adaptation "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" in 2014, written by Floy Quintos and composed by Ceejay Javier.)

Different dances
Matobato played the roles of the Hindu god Krishna and the warrior Karna.

The production combines different Asian dance forms and recruits performers with backgrounds in all manner of dance (traditional, ballet, contemporary) and movement (circus) so they can contribute to the process.

Rehearsals had started without Matobato, as he was still acting in Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Rak of Aegis." But, with his dance experience and skills, it wasn't too hard to catch up.

"Malaki ang utang na loob ko kay National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan. He was my mentor, he honed me in Philippine dances. I knew my knowledge of these forms would become useful one day."

Matobato knows more than 70 kinds of Philippine traditional dances.

"Hiroshi wanted a Filipino actor-dancer-singer who also knew martial arts," he says. It just so happens he knows Indonesian aduk-aduk, Brazilian capoeira, Chinese wushu and tai chi, and, of course, Philippine kuntao. But who's counting?

Matobato started performing when he was a student at Lyceum of the Philippines University. "I was part of our college theater group Tanghalang Batingaw and I also joined the dance troupe.

"That's also when I joined Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group. Theater and dance converged at the same time in my life."

Theater and dance, together
He started choreographing while he was part of Tanghalang Pilipino's pool of resident actors, "while learning from respected theater gurus."

Matabato then joined Jay Cruz's Dancing Wounded group. "Jay was my second mentor, teaching me a deeper understanding of dance."

He's been with Peta since 2005, performing, choreographing, teaching-and collecting awards for his efforts, such as Philstage Gawad Buhay Best Choreography nods for "Ismail at Isabel" and "Care Divas."

Productions he's choreographed or acted in include "D' Wonder Twins of Boac," "Lola Basyang," "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal" and "Katy!"

This wasn't his first international production, but it was particularly challenging. Prompted partly by a complex piece of costume, he had to "completely master the performance space, even with eyes closed."

"The masks made me see very little. I had to dance, sing and act without seeing much of my surroundings. I hoped I wouldn't bump into my castmates!"

"I ignored the calluses and wounds on my feet. The roles were wonderful but not easy. I put a lot of heart into it. I usually cried during rehearsals because I was so moved. It was important that I played these roles well."

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Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' gets Filipino staging

Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' gets Filipino staging
Theater House of Black's adaptation incorporates Baguio's haunted Laperal White House
Oct. 1, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As a prelude to Halloween, Theater House of Black will stage the suspense-horror supernatural play, "14 Leandro Road," based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher."

The story of two eccentric siblings and their macabre home has been adapted by Jay Crisostomo and CK Bautista. Their adaptation incorporates elements of Baguio's allegedly haunted Laperal White House, which was built in the 1920s and used as a Japanese garrison during World War II.

The house has spawned tales of the lingering presence of those who've been killed in it. (In 2013, it was repurposed as the Ifugao Bamboo Carving Gallery.)

The production will alternate male and female actors for the main roles. TV mainstays Mosang and Migui Moreno will play one sibling; Ahlex Leyva and Gry Gimena, the other.

The cast also includes Peewee O'Hara, May Bayot, Patricia Ismael, Gold Villar and Harry David.

Mosang admits to believing in a lot of superstitions. "Mostly the old, traditional Filipino ones like when you whisper your wish to a dead person, it will come true. Or when a dog howls, it's a sign of death," she says.

While TV audiences are more familiar with her comedic work in "Pepito Manaloto," Mosang has done several stage dramas. "I keep coming back to theater because it helps me  hone more of my love for acting."

Recent credits include Gantimpala Theater's "Kanser (Noli Me Tangere)," Virgin Labfest's "Ang Goldfish ni Prof. Dimaandal" and Theater House of Black's "Peratedes (The House of Bernarda Alba)."

Producer Harry David says, "The audience can expect to be entertained through spooky thrills and a few scares here and there. But they'll also leave the theater asking questions about the points the play brings up."

While Poe's work follows the conventions of dark romanticism/gothic literature (fascination with melancholia, insanity, the grotesque, the irrational), some modern interpretations use mental health conditions to demystify the story, such as hyperesthesia (sensitivity to stimuli) and hypochondria.

Theater House of Black makes an effort to support various advocacies for its  productions. "We chose mental health for this one because it's a concern that has to be addressed by everyone," David says.

Part of the proceeds will go to the Philippine Mental Health Association of the Philippines.

The play is directed by Jay Crisostomo, whose recent credits include Ikarus Theater's "Habulan sa Pagitan ng Maliliit na Kamay ni Kamatayan" (his Palanca award-winning play) and "End Of The Gallows."

Alex Conbalay, set designer; Bambi Bucao, lighting designer; Vince Lim, scorer; The Closet, costume design.

"14 Leandro Road" Oct. 7-8 at Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati. Tickets: 0917-656-1109, Visit link: