Meet Rep's 'Agnes of God' and her 'two boyfriends'

19-year-old Rebecca Coates headlines the intriguing play of science vs faith, along with Pinky Amador and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo
February 10, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Rebecca Coates
From Facebook. Photo by Shutterheads.
Repertory Philippines' second production for its 50th anniversary is John Pielmeier's "Agnes of God."

A psychiatrist (played by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo) clashes with a mother superior (Pinky Amador) over novice nun Agnes--whether she gave birth by virgin conception or if she's mentally blocking the truth.

Rep first staged the play in 1983 with Pinky as Agnes and Rep co-founders Zeneida "Bibot" Amador as the mother superior and Baby Barredo as the psychiatrist.

This time, 19 year old Rebecca Coates has been cast as Agnes.

When she found out who she'd be acting with, "I came the closest thing there could be to a human explosion," said Coates. "I was so excited. But it's also very intimidating to work with your idols."

But, after meeting the two veteran actresses, Coates discovered that "their incredible talent and experience come with equal amounts of kindness. They're so accommodating and fun. I know I'll learn tons just being in the same room."

Pinky Amador and Zeneida Amador in 1983 staging.
Photo from Repertory Phils.

Shocking screams
Rebecca Coates as Agnes.
Photo from Repertory Phils.
Coates debuted professionally in Resorts World Manila's "The Sound of Music" and has been in Rep's "Alice in Wonderland," "Snow White" and "The Secret Garden."

Inquirer theater reviewer Vincen Yu praised her work as the alternate Dani in The Sandbox Collective's "Dani Girl" as "wondrous."

She shocked her mother when she auditioned for "Agnes." Coates had to send in an audition video as she was abroad at the time. "I chose the part where there's a lot of screaming and my mom rushed in freaking out!"

A freshman taking up Speech and Language Pathology at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, Coates said her classes have helped her understand the mental health aspects of her character.

"I've written a paper dealing with the psychological factors. I needed a paper for a class, so I killed two birds with one stone."

"My path in college is all about research, research, research. As rehabilitation professionals, we're also required to observe the behavior of others to the point of understanding them fully. We're taught that it's important to be empathetic above anything else-a trait shared by actors."

Pinky Amador and Baby Barredo in 1983 staging.
Photo from Repertory Phils.

Two boyfriends
Pinky Amador, Rebecca Coates
and Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo.
Photo from Repertory Phils.
As for mining the character's faith, Coates needn't look too far. Her middle name is Faith, "which is a great reminder to always lift things up to God. 

"My faith keeps me up and running. I always say 'Jesus take the wheel' before I step on stage. It holds true offstage, throughout my life."

"Agnes is the deepest, most multilayered character I've yet encountered. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the incredible script. It's going to be a fun challenge landing on the truth of it all," she added.

Coates considers school and theater her "two boyfriends, always vying for my attention.

"One minute I'm applying makeup, performing and getting flowers. Next, I'm at an HIV seminar, or a truck of cadavers is blocking my way to class. I love the contrast. It keeps things really interesting."

Her extra time is spent with family and journaling. "It started when I was 12 as a way to pass the time but now I intend to continue for as long as possible. I'm not necessarily the best writer, but it's a great way to release and psychoanalyze myself."

And like any young adult, she also indulges in retail therapy. "I'm particular with the notebooks and pens I use but they don't have to be any particular brand. If you leave me at a bookstore long enough, I'll probably emerge with a handful of new things I definitely don't need! I love finding a good, smooth pen or notebook for cheap and I could talk about it all day."

Repertory Philippines' "Agnes of God" runs Feb. 17-March 12, Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati. Tickets: Details: link: