Sunday, February 8, 2009



OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A PLAY: Ang Bayot, ang Meranao at ang Habal-Habal sa isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte (Tanghalang Pilipino/Virgin Labfest 4); Batang Rizal (PETA); Ellas Inocentes (Tanghalang Pilipino/Virgin Labfest 4); Golden Child (Tanghalang Pilipino); Hamlet (Repertory Philippines); Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna (Tanghalang Pilipino/Virgin Labfest 4);; Kudeta (Tanghalang Pilipino); Three Sisters,  A Noh Play

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL PRODUCTION: Altar Boyz (Repertory Philippines); Skin Deep (PETA)

OUTSTANDING DANCE PRODUCTION: La Revolucion Filipina (Ballet Philippines); Latin Heat (Ballet Philippines); New Beginnings (Ballet Philippines)

OUTSTANDING STAGE DIRECTION: Loy Arcenas (Golden Child); Chari Arespacochaga (Altar Boyz); Nor Domingo (Skin Deep); Jose Estrella (Three Sisters, A Noh Play); Floy Quintos (Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna); Floy Quintos (Kudeta); Tuxqs Rutaquio (Ellas Inocentes); Dudz Terana (Batang Rizal)

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHY: Bam Damian (Latin Heat); Alan Hineline (New Beginnings); Agnes Locsin (La Revolucion Filipina); Alden Lugnasin (Latin Heat); Max Luna III (New Beginnings); Jason Zamora (Altar Boyz)

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL PLAY:  Christine Bellen (Batang Rizal); Rogelio Braga (Ang Bayot, ang Meranao at ang Habal-habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte); Layeta Bucoy (Ellas Inocentes); Floy Quintos (Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna)

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE: Altar Boyz (Repertory Philippines);Ang Bayot, ang Meranao at ang Habal-habal sa Isang Nakakabagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte (Tanghalang Pilipino/Virgin Labfest 4); Ang mga Gerilya sa Powell Street (Tanghalang Pilipino); Batang Rizal (PETA); Coppelia (Ballet Philippines); Ellas Inocentes (Tanghalang Pilipino/Virgin Labfest 4);Golden Child (Tanghalang Pilipino); Hamlet (Repertory Philippines); Kudeta (Tanghalang Pilipino);La Revolucion Filipina (Ballet Philippines); Latin Heat(Ballet Philippines); Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang (PETA); New Beginnings (Ballet Philippines); Skin Deep (PETA);

OUTSTANDING MALE LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Arthur Acuna (Golden Child); Jose Mari Avellana (Tuesdays With Morrie); Dido de la Paz  (Ang Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street); Joe Gruta (Ang Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street); Mario O'Hara (Kudeta); Joey Paras(Ang Bayot, ang Meranao at ang Habal-habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte);   Arnold Reyes  (Ang Bayot, ang Meranao at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte); Jonathan Tadioan (Pamantasang Hirang)

OUTSTANDING FEMALE LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Lovely Balili (Ellas Inocentes); Liesl Batucan (Golden Child); Shamaine Centenera Buencamino (Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna); Tina Chilip(Golden Child);  Jenessa Roque (Ellas Inocentes); Irma Adlawan Marasigan (Golden Child)

OUTSTANDING MALE LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL : Red Concepcion(Altar Boyz); Juliene Mendoza (EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson); Jett Pangan  (EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson); Robert Sena (Skin Deep)

OUTSTANDING FEMALE LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL : Isay Alvarez (Skin Deep); May Bayot  (Skin Deep); Gail Guanlao Billones (Skin Deep);

OUTSTANDING MALE LEAD PERFORMANCE IN A DANCE PRODUCTION: Biag Gaongen (La Revolucion Filipina);  Biag Gaongen (Latin Heat)


OUTSTANDING FEATURED PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY: Riki Benedicto (Kudeta); Bong Cabrera (Kudeta);  Willy Casero (Batang Rizal);  Nor Domingo (Tosca); Mailes Kanapi(Ang Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street);  Raffy Tejada (Tosca);  Cris Villonco (Hamlet)


OUTSTANDING MUSICAL DIRECTION:  Vincent de Jesus (Batang Rizal); Jojo Malferrari (Altar Boyz)

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL LIBRETTO: Vincent de Jesus (Batang Rizal);   Vincent de Jesus (Skin Deep)

OUTSTANDING TRANSLATION OR ADAPTATION:  George de Jesus III (Kudeta); Dennis Marasigan (Golden Child)

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN: Loy Arcenas (Golden Child);Mel Bernardo (Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang); Gino Gonzales (New Beginnings);  Mio Infante  (Coppelia); Mio Infante(La Revolucion Filipina);  Tuxqs Rutaquio  (Kudeta)

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN: Ron Alfonso (Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang); Faust Peneyra (Hamlet);  Gino Gonzales  (Golden Child);  Jonathan Janolo (Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang);  Victor Ursabia (La Revolucion Filipina)

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN:  Katsch Catoy (La Revolucion Filipina); Martin Esteva (Hamlet); Dennis Marasigan (Kudeta); Barbie Tan-Tiongco (Golden Child)

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN:  Janice Dee  (Kudeta) ; Jethro Joaquin (EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson);  Jethro Joaquin (Hamlet);  Shima Takesi (Tosca);   Gidget Tolentino (Altar Boyz);  J. Victor Villareal (Golden Child)

Monday, June 9, 2008


First posted 00:31:41 (Mla time) June 09, 2008

Walter Ang Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - “The Virgin Labfest is a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life ’untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged’ one-act plays,” explains festival founder Rody Vera.

Now on its fourth year, this annual showcase of emerging playwrights has grown organically and now includes a workshop component for high school students who wish to learn more about the craft of playwriting, and even a contest for owners of blogs (web logs or online journals).

Kicking off on June 25 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the labfest is presented by the Writers Bloc, an independent organization of established and aspiring playwrights headed by Vera, and the CCP’s resident theater group Tanghalang Pilipino.

“This year, there will be five sets of one-act trilogies where each set deals with a central topic or unifying theme ranging from comedies to political commentaries to gender issues to ghost stories,” says Vera.

In the set “Katotohanan, Katarungan, Kapatiran,” first-time Labfest entrant National Artist for Literature F. Sionil José’s “Dong-ao” serves as a sequel of sorts to the author’s series of novels “The Pretenders,” “Tree” and “Mass.”

“Dong-ao is a traditional Ilocano funeral ceremony where relatives and friends pay tribute to the deceased. In this short play, Pepe Samson, the lead character in José’s novel ‘Mass,’ is already dead. Different characters from the three novels visit the wake and speak their mind,” Vera explains.

Given that José’s three novels have already been adapted to for the stage, the National Artist will be sharing his thoughts in a forum titled “From Page to Stage: The Novelist in Front of the Footlights.”

Noted director and playwright Floy Quintos will also be a first-time entrant to the Labfest with his “Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna,” included in the set “Pagkagahaman. Panlilinlang. Pananampalataya.”

His play is about “a lady president who wants to be queen and her conversations with the hairdresser,” says Vera.

This year’s inclusion of experienced and veteran writers has provided an air of prestige for the other up-and-coming playwrights.

“They are honored and excited to be included in the same festival with José and Quintos,” says Vera.

Names, however, are never part of Vera’s selection process when he shortlists which plays to include in the Labfest.

This color-blind (or name-blind) method has resulted in the inclusion of two foreign playwrights—Japanese Hasehiroichi’s “Amoy ng Langit,” a ghost story; and Malaysian Koh Jun Eiow’s “Ang Dalawa Niyang Libing.”

Koh’s play is about a Chinese businessman living in Malaysia who converts to Islam to fit in but does not actually practice it.

“The play tackles the travails of a family caught between two faiths and a government unable to address the problem that has turned into a national issue,” says Vera. “It’s a composite of real people because this actually happened in Malaysia. In fact, because it’s such a delicate issue, I don’t know if it will ever be produced there.”

The festival also has one set of plays especially for children.

“These were plays commissioned by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, based on published children’s stories,” explains Vera.The set “Mga Premyadong Kuwentong Pambata” will feature Niel de Mesa’s adaptation of “Terengati” by Victoria Añonuevo; Argel Tuazon’s adaptation of “Bru-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, Bru-hi-hi-hi-hi-hi” by Ma. Corazon Remigio; and Job Pagsibigan’s adaptation of “Uuwi Na Ang Nanay Kong si Darna” by Edgar Samar.

Contest for bloggers
Each of the five sets is scheduled to be staged four times. Attendees to the first weekend performances will have a chance to win prizes.

“All active bloggers need to do is write a blog [web log or online journal] review about a specific set and post it in their blogs within 48 hours after watching,” says Dennis Marasigan, Tanghalang Pilipino’s artistic director.

Winners will be chosen for each set of Labfest plays and receive gift certificates and other merchandise.Full-length plays will be featured in a series of staged readings.

The readings will include excerpts from “Savage Stage,” an anthology of nine plays spearheaded by Ma-Yi Theater Company—the well-lauded Filipino theater company based in New York City led by executive director Jorge Ortoll and artistic director Ralph Peña.This year’s festival has a new component called the Labfest Lab.

“We’ll have 10 slots for high-school students who are interested in theater and playwriting to be mentored throughout the festival by a member of the Writer’s Bloc. They will be given complimentary tickets to all the Labfest performances and will have workshops sessions on playwriting with director and playwright Niel de Mesa,” Vera says.

“At the end of the festival, the students are expected to write short, five- or 10-minute plays.”
The Labfest Lab will culminate in a staged reading of their works.

For details on the Virgin Labfest, call 8321125 loc. 1600 or 8323661. For details on how to apply for a slot in Labfest Lab, call Nikki Torres at 8321125 loc. 1607 or 832-2314 or email

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


"KUDETA" leads with the most nominations in the quarterly citations for the first GAWAD BUHAY! organized by the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (PHILSTAGE).

The full PHILSTAGE release follows.

PHILSTAGE Jury Releases GAWAD BUHAY! Citations

Productions by Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), Repertory Philippines (Rep) and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Ballet Philippines dominated the first and second quarterly citations of GAWAD BUHAY!, the performing arts awards program organized by the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (PHILSTAGE).

Tanghalang Pilipino’s Kudeta romped off with a total of nine citations while Rep's Hamlet and PETA's Skin Deep tied with six citations each.

A Filipino translation of Mustapha Matura's black comedy about a coup that toppled a country's president, Kudeta romped off with citations for outstanding play, stage direction (Floy Quintos); ensemble performance (cast of Kudeta); male lead in a play (Mario O Hara); featured performance in a play (Bong Cabrera and Riki Benedicto); adaptation/translation (George De Jesus III); sound design (Janice Dee); lighting design (Dennis Marasigan); and set design (Tuxqs Rutaquio).

Rep's Hamlet, a futuristic take on the William Shakespeare's classic, was cited for outstanding play; ensemble performance (cast of Hamlet); featured performance in a play (Cris Villonco);sound design (Jethro Joaquin); lighting design (Martin Esteva); and costume design (Faust Peneyra).

Billed as a musical comedy on ordinary people's search for beauty and happiness, PETA's Skin Deep was cited for outstanding musical, stage direction (Nor Domingo); ensemble performance (cast of Skin Deep); male lead performance in a musical (Robert Sena); female lead performance in a musical (May Bayot, Gail Guanlao Billones and Isay Alvarez); and original libretto (Vince De Jesus).

Ballet Philippines' Latin Heat earned five citations for outstanding dance production, ensemble performance (cast of Latin Heat); original choreography (Bam Damian and Alden Lugnasin) male lead performance in a dance production (Biag Gaongen) and featured performance in a dance production (Camille Ordinario-Joson). Another TP production, EJ : Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay Nina Edgar Jopson at Evelio Javier, was cited for outstanding male lead performance in a musical (Jett Pangan and Juliene Mendoza) and sound design (Jethro Joaquin).

Other citations include Jose Mari Avellana for outstanding male lead performance in a play (Rep's Tuesdays with Morrie) and Lisa Macuja Elizalde for outstanding female lead performance in a dance production (Ballet Manila's Le Corsaire).

ALTAR BOYZ, Repertory Philippines' production of an off-Broadway musical about a Christian boy band, was the lone qualified entry for the second quarterly citation cycle. The production garnered citations for outstanding musical, stage direction (Charri Arrespacochaga), ensemble performance (cast of ALTAR BOYZ), male lead performance in a musical (Red Concepcion), choreography (Jason Zamora), musical direction (Jojo Malfrrari), and sound design (Gidget Tolentino).

PHILSTAGE President Dennis Marasigan explained that Gawad BUHAY! honors outstanding accomplishments in theater, dance and music among PHILSTAGE member-companies. Quarterly citations, nominations, and winners are juried by a panel of performing arts practitioners, critics, academicians and enthusiasts invited or selected by the PHILSTAGE Board of Directors.

“The jury members are required to watch all productions of Philstage members and only those who have watched all productions are allowed to cast their final votes for the quarterly citations, nominations and winners, ” Marasigan stressed. The jury meets quarterly for the citations from which will be culled the nominees qualified to vie for the annual award to be announced in fitting ceremonies during the National Arts Month in February 2009.

PHILSTAGE is an alliance of the country's leading and established performing arts companies which include Actors Actors, Inc. (AAI), Ballet Manila (BM), Ballet Philippines (BP), Gantimpala Theater Foundation (GTF), Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), Repertory Philippines (REP), Tanghalang Pilipino and the Triumphant Peoples' Evangelical Theater Society (TRUMPETS). It can be reached via email

The complete list of Gawad Buhay! citations for the first and second quarters of 2008:

Outstanding Play: Hamlet (Repertory Philippines); Kudeta (Tanghalang Pilipino);

Outstanding Musical: Altar Boyz (Repertory Philippines). Skin Deep (PETA)

Outstanding Dance Production : Latin Heat (Ballet Philippines)

Outstanding Original Libretto: Vince De Jesus (Skin Deep)

Outstanding Original Choreography: Bam Damian and Alden Lugnasin (Latin Heat) Jason Zamora (Altar Boyz)

Outstanding Stage Direction: Chari Arrespacochaga (Altar Boyz); Nor Domingo (Skin Deep); Floy Quintos (Kudeta);

Outstanding Ensemble Performance: Altar Boyz (Repertory Philippines), Hamlet (Repertory Philippines); Kudeta (Tanghalang Pilipino); Latin Heat (Ballet Philippines); Skin Deep (PETA)

Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Play: Jose Mari Avellana (Tuesdays with Morrie); Mario O’Hara (Kudeta);

Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical: Red Concepcion (Altar Boyz)), Jett Pangan and Juliene Mendoza (EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson); (Robert Seña (Skin Deep)

Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Dance Production: Biag Gaongen (Latin Heat)

Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Musical : May Bayot, Gail Guanlao Billones and Isay Alvarez (Skin Deep);

Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Dance Production : Lisa Macuja Elizalde (Le Corsaire)

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play: Bong Cabrera and Riki Benedicto (Kudeta); Cris Villonco (Hamlet);

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Dance Production: Camille Ordinario-Joson (Latin Heat)

Outstanding Translation/Adaptation: George de Jesus III (Kudeta);

Outstanding Musical Direction: Jojo Malferrari (Altar Boyz)

Outstanding Set Design: Tuxqs Rutaquiio (Kudeta)

Outstanding Costume Design : Faust Peneyra (Hamlet)

Outstanding Lighting Design: Martin Esteva (Hamlet); Dennis Marasigan (Kudeta)

Outstanding Sound Design : Janice Dee (Kudeta); Jethro Joaquin (EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson); Jethro Joaquin (Hamlet); Gidget Tolentino (Altar Boyz)

Thursday, February 28, 2008


by Francis Reyes
Published in STARWEEK,
Sunday, February 24, 2008

It is the second day of theater rehearsals for “EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay ni Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson,” and the CCP Little Theater’s stage is occupied by thespians who call this iconic place home.

The wooden floors rumble as the artists run and dance across the stage. During moments of apparent rest, they memorize lines from a script. And then harmonies fill the air, each voice a rich hue contributing to a vibrant rainbow of sound, breathing new life to melodies and words to songs that are primarily rock. There is a lot of work ahead, but the atmosphere is light and playful.

Meanwhile, the authors of those songs, The Dawn, ponder over one of their old tunes chosen specifically to highlight a scene in the play. They whisper among themselves:

Me: I think we only played ‘Can You Tell’ four times at the most… I don’t remember the chord voicings…
JB: Wait, who came up with the music anyway?
Me: Um… you did. Those are your voicings, and you played keyboards.

The Dawn is a band that loves taking risks,” our drummer/keyboardist JB Leonor smiles reflectively as he sums up the attitude of the band he co-founded with guitarist Teddy Diaz two decades ago. I nod back in agreement, and almost immediately say to myself: “And sometimes, we realize it when it’s too late!”

My feeling is, of course, not one of regret but anxiety gilded with forgotten chords, and colored by caffeine. I can still hear those beautiful voices echoing around the theater… followed by a discordant clink that could only emanate from my guitar.

We were approached to provide the music for “EJ” late last year, and our response was a unanimous “Yes!” Our vocalist Jett Pangan is no stranger to musical theater and straight plays and garnered critical acclaim over the past few years for his performances. Buddy Zabala, our bassist, had experience as a keyboardist and musical arranger for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” among others.

As a group however, it was uncharted territory for us to do a rock opera or something of a similar nature. We have talked about it intermittently as one of our goals, and clearly “EJ” presented the opportunity. Equally as important, maybe even more so, are the lives of Evelio Javier and Ed Jopson upon which this play is based. We get a taste of one of our musical plans with a story filled with emotional and social resonance.

The idea was to pick out songs from our entire catalog to score, and underscore, key moments in the play. Director Chris Millado and the band went through Ed Maranan’s astonishing script and figured out which songs would fit certain scenes. JB was the most involved in the process, scribbling instructions all over a copy of the script; plus he went the extra mile and read a book about Ed Jopson.

We knew we had to change the original arrangements to fit the play, and we had to adjust our playing style. (During our normal performances, we tend to push decibel levels to the limit. Not maliciously, of course, but clearly not a good dynamic in the context of musical theater). Some of the choices were easy and obvious and the original lyrics remain as they were: “Abot Kamay,” for example, is simply a song about lovers separated by fate and in the context of the play embodies the feelings of Evelio and Edjop and their respective spouses Joy and Precious.

To provide a musical context for a rally, we suggested “Living Seed.” Its minor key main riff gives a sense of menace, and the descending chromatic motif that originally preceded Teddy Diaz’s tonally freewheeling guitar solo provided the right mood for a chaotic scene. “Salamat,” that old chestnut of ours about friendship, is used somberly in a bittersweet scene far removed from its reputation as a good ol’ celebratory drinking song. The song “Can You Tell” was something we rarely played, and only the most obsessive Dawn listener would remember it but when the script called for a wedding song of sorts, it practically presented itself.

We were genuinely flattered when a lot of our original lyrics fit specific scenes perfectly, despite the fact that we are not really a ‘political’ band, and we don’t fancy ourselves as having the degree of literary virtuosity as Mr. Maranan. The Dawn approaches music and songwriting like a lab experiment, trying out endless combinations of themes and ideas. I believe the eclecticism is what led to our involvement with “EJ.”

EJ, a rock musical, is presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Tanghalang Pilipino in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Performances are at 8 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, until March 9. For tickets, call 832-3661, 832-3704 or 891-9999, or visit

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The rock musical “EJ: ANG PINAGDAANANG BUHAY NINA EVELIO JAVIER AT EDGAR JOPSON” opens on February 15, 2008, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater).Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Written by Palanca Hall of Famer Ed Maranan with songs and music by The Dawn, EJ stars Ricky Davao as Evelio Javier and Jett Pangan as Edgar “Edjop” Jopson, two men who rocked a nation during the turbulent years of the Marcos regime.

Described by its director Chris Millado as a “rock memoriam, ” EJ outlines the beginnings of social consciousness in the early lives of Evelio and Edjop Jopson, to their contrasting reactions to the turmoil in Philippine society, and their eventual violent deaths. Edjop blazed into the headlines as the President of the National Union of Students of the Philippines at the time when Martial Law was declared, while Evelio is best known as the crusading governor of the province of Antique who refused to be co-opted by the ruling party and its minions.

Though Evelio and Edjop never met in real life, EJ puts them face to face with each other in an imagined debate, with Evelio taking the side of gradualist and enlightened reformist politics as the way forward for the country, and Edjop believing in violent struggle due to the futility of reforms in the political culture and class structure of Filipino society.

“Evelio and Edjop can be likened to rock stars of their time, and what better way to present their lives to contemporary audiences than through rock music”, says Chris Millado.

The Dawn, one of the most enduring bands in the country, was tapped to provide the music component of EJ, a challenge the band members took up willingly. Aside from hearing original music composed specifically for the play, audiences can look forward to some of the band’s more popular tunes in EJ, including “Talaga Naman”, “Alam Ko, Alam Niyo”, “Abot Kamay”, “Dreams” and other favorites. The band will perform live in selected performances.

Others in the cast of EJ ; ANG PINAGDAANANG BUHAY NINA EVELIO JAVIER AT EDGAR JOPSON are Rody Vera, Juliene Mendoza, Stella Cañete, Tex Ordoñez, Mayen Estañero, Wenah Nagales, Bong Cabrera, Nar Cabico and the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company. It will run for four weekends from February 15 to March 9, with 8 PM shows on Fridays to Sundays and 3 PM matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets at P300 and P600 are available at the Tanghalang Pilipino (832-3661), CCP Box Office (832-3704) and Ticketworld (891-9999). Website:; email:

EJ ; ANG PINAGDAANANG BUHAY NINA EVELIO JAVIER AT EDGAR JOPSON completes Tanghalang Pilipino 21st Theater Season and is presented in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts with the support of the Evelio B. Javier Foundation.


A coup has toppled the government and the President is held captive in an undisclosed location. Young military officers consolidate their position by trying to get the President to sign a document confessing to crimes he has committed against the nation. To regain power, the President must use everything in his possession.

Futuristic news headlines from the Philippines?

It’s an independent Trinidad and Tobago, the setting for Tanghalang Pilipino’s 2008 opening salvo, KUDETA! (The Coup), a “wickedly funny play” written by Mustapha Matura and directed by Floy Quintos from the Filipino translation by George de Jesus III.

Celebrated actor/writer/director Mario O’ Hara returns to the stage to star as President Eddie Jones, now facing the very same officers he sent for training in the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. The Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company comprise the ensemble that play the coup plotters as well as the characters from past and present that inhabit the President’s life and dreams.

Playwright Mustapha Matura was born in Trinidad in 1939 and moved to London in 1961. In 1974, he was named The Most Promising Playwright by the Evening Standard and is now considered as one of the leading theater figures in Britain.

“The Coup” was commissioned by the Royal National Theater of Great Britain in 1991, enjoying great acclaim, with critics calling it an “untidy and intermittently very funny play about an evidently untidy and intermittently funny country,” making for a “knowing, affirmative and fun evening.”

KUDETA! (The Coup), written by Mustapha Matura with Filipino translation by George de Jesus III, will have its final weekend run with 8pm performances on Friday(February 1) and Saturday(February 2) and 3pm matinees on Saturday(February 2) and Sunday(February 3). The cast is headed by Mario O’Hara as President Eddie Jones, with the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors’ Company. Production Design by Tuxqs Rutaquio, Lighting Design by Dennis Marasigan, Sound Design by Janice Dee, and Direction by Floy Quintos.

Tickets at P500 (regular) and P250(student) are available at Ticketworld (891-9999), CCP Box Office (832-3704) and Tanghalang Pilipino (832-3661/832-1125 locals 1620 and 1621.) Visit the Tanghalang Pilipino website

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


By Dennis N. Marasigan

Printed in the Philippine Daily Inquirer 01/07/2008

“Why are Filipinos very good performers, especially in music?”

“Maybe because we are blessed with it.”

This was the answer given by choreographer Jose Jay Cruz to a question from a Chinese member of the audience at the talkback following the last performance of Tanghalang Pilipino’s production of “Himala, The Musical” at the 2007 Asian Contemporary Festival in Shanghai, China.

Afterwards, some other audience members shyly admitted they were moved to tears by the performance. Others were more openly ecstatic.

The Festival, which originated in Osaka, Japan but has been organized by the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center for the last three years, finally got a Filipino theater group to participate, thanks in a large part to the efforts of the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai headed by Consul General Ma. Rowena Sanchez and Consul Aileen Mendiola-Rau.

After submitting several plays for consideration, Tanghalang Pilipino’s production of the musical based on the landmark film by National Artist Ishmael Bernal was selected.

Downsized production
Getting the production to Shanghai was in itself almost a miracle. After its premiere at the 200-seater Tanghalang Batute (CCP Studio Theater) in 2003, “Himala, The Musical” moved to the 421-seat Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) in 2004. For the Shanghai festival, the organizers could only accommodate a 12-man touring company. The venue would be a flexible space configured for a maximum of 180 viewers.

The challenge at the outset was how to downsize the production. Director Soxie Topacio, composer and lyricist Vince de Jesus, and choreographer Cruz went about the task, mindful of maintaining the integrity of the original production’s vision. Production designer Gino Gonzales also modified his design to fit the festival venue.

The result was a running time reduced from its original two-and-a-half hours to one hour and 45 minutes, with a cast of 11 actors and one technical person. The minimalist set consisted of a fiberglass tree and some twigs.

Original cast members May Bayot, who played Elsa, plus Isay Alvarez (Nimia), Cynthia Culig Guico (Chayong), Mia Bolanos (Aling Saling), and Bong Embile (Igme) all signed up for the Shanghai performances. Lionel Guico, who originated the role of the priest, stepped up to play Orly, the filmmaker.

Jay Cruz was prevailed upon to do double duty as Pilo. Similarly, stage manager Chynna Roxas was assigned several roles. They were joined by Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company members Marj Lorico, Bong Cabrera and Jonathan Tadioan, each of whom had also been in the last staging. I was the Tour Manager and Technical Director.

During the preview at the CCP before the company’s departure for China, audience members who had seen previous stagings noted that the tour version seemed more compact, yet was still gripping. Despite the good feedback, the company still continued to fine-tune the performance right up to departure date.

In Shanghai, with only 12 hours allotted for setup, stage adjustment and rehearsals, the company was in mixed spirits at curtain time, more so since there were more native Chinese than Filipinos in the audience. Would the non-Filipino speakers catch on through the projected Chinese subtitles?

Overwhelming response
The audience response at the end of the opening night performance was overwhelming. As if reserving their applause till the very end, the mixed audience rose to their feet, a scenario that did not come often, we were told. The Chinese who watched that evening were as lavish in their praises as the Filipinos who came.

The organizers themselves expressed their thanks to the company for a splendid performance by extending an invitation to next year’s festival right there and then.

Not completely satisfied with the performance, the company went back to the theater the following afternoon for additional rehearsals, and their efforts were rewarded by the warm response of a more diverse audience on the second performance.

Gauging from the questions and comments from the audience during the talkback portion, all except one of which came from non-Filipinos, the language barrier seemed non-existent. The Filipinos in the audience, most of whom were conversant in Chinese, shared not only their comments but also the positive comments from the Chinese that they had overheard.

They added that “Himala, The Musical” not only made them proud of being Filipino, but added spice to their otherwise customary and uneventful daily routines. And, as if in chorus, they said they looked forward to more performances by Filipino groups in Shanghai and watching Filipino plays when they get back to the Philippines.

“Himala, The Musical,” by Ricky Lee (libretto and lyrics) and Vince de Jesus (lyrics and music), with direction by Soxie Topacio, was performed by Tanghalang Pilipino at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center Drama Salon on Nov. 22 and 23 as part of the 2007 Asian Contemporary Theater Festival. Billed as “The Creative Asia” but not limited to Asian theater groups, the festival ran from Nov. 8 to 30 and featured 55 performances from 21 groups coming from 11 countries and territories.

Aside from the Philippines and China, other countries represented included Korea, Singapore, Turkey, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Spain and Hungary.