Tacky, kitschy, gaudy and fabulous queens (Review of 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert')

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Yay! My review of Full House Theater Productions' staging of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's June 28, 2014 issue.

Tacky, kitschy, gaudy and fabulous queens
By Walter Ang

From left: Jon Santos, Leo Valdes, Red Concepcion.
Let's remember that while Full House Theater Productions' staging of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," a musical about two drag queens and a transgender woman searching for love and acceptance of self and from others, is being shown in Manila this year, countries left and right have been legalizing homosexual marriage while the Philippines remains the only country left in the entire world that has no divorce proceedings for heterosexual marriage.

Now, speaking of a long way to go, if you are looking for a road trip comedy with '70s and '80s disco and radio pop hits festooned with glitter and feathers, this show delivers.

Literary and theatrical purists needn't fret. If, during Shakespeare's time, male actors portrayed female characters who cross-dress as males, here we have a male actor who portrays a trans woman who dresses up in female drag. How's that for a 21st-century twist? Hi, Bill!

The musical, with book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, showcases Jon Santos and Red Concepcion in very strong acting form.

The seasoned drag queen, Santos as Ralph/Bernadette, versus the young upstart drag princess, Concepcion as Adam/Felicia: Hilarity ensues. But only because these two work hard at filling in their very high heels with energy, earnestness and fabulousness.

They don't talk with a lisp. They choose an accent they can maintain (no morphing accents here). They don't ape their songs; they sing their songs-with heart. They set up their punchlines with correct timing. They don't put on an affected caricature of their characters; they become their characters.

Concepcion is an unfaltering powerball of energy, cackles and sass. It doesn't hurt that he has a cute tush, too. Santos is not the strongest singer, but audiences don't care a bit since he creates a Bernadette so sincere and believable that her elegance and gravitas shine through to the hilt.

Michael Williams and OJ Mariano, both competent performers, are severely underutilized in this show. Mariano has one spoken line! Audiences would be much better off if either one of them played (or if both alternated) the role of Tick/Mitzi, the character that serves as the impetus for this adventure.

But due to Leo Valdez's ineffectual execution of the role, which drags the show's momentum, the character's dramatic arc now merely serves as forgettable narrative bookends to this fun, fierce journey.

Color and vitality
The look and feel of the production, courtesy of Jaime del Mundo's direction, Jo Tecson's set design, Edgar San Diego's costume design, Shakira Villa-Syme's lighting design and Nancy Crowe's choreography, has a campy, tacky, kitschy vibe that, strangely enough, works!

To wit, there is that opening number with a gaggle of backup dancers twirling their umbrellas, reminiscent of lunchtime variety shows. There are costumes that are (lovingly) inspired by Sto. Niño statues and ati-atihan garb. It's all topped off by a hokey Powerpoint presentation that looks like it was made by a third grader.

Here is a show about drag queens that doesn't quite have the sheen and sophistication of a Vegas or Moulin Rouge showgirl act, but rather, the rawness, color and vitality of the corner beauty parlor that has linoleum floors, pin lights left over from last Christmas and a plastic fortune plant; plus the loudness and pomp of the annual local barangay gay pageant, all mixed in with the gaudy, paid-by-our-taxes, imported street lamps of Roxas Boulevard.

In other words, the aesthetic is Pinoy na Pinoy! And it triumphs because it is unblinkingly (but with false lashes, of course) and unapologetically so.

Strong singing
Musical director Inday Echevaria has guided the ensemble into a strong singing unit and they execute Crowe's pop, energetic choreography with gusto. Take note, these are men who sing and dance in "regular" clothes and drag; and the women, too, are in drag. Androgyny and ambiguity abound.

Pinky Marquez in male get-up and a mullet is a joyful and hilarious sight (this is the woman who showed audiences full back nudity in Rep's "The Graduate"!). Bituin Escalante's powerful voice booms throughout the theater as one of the three divas who provide the drag queens' sync-voices. Listen carefully, Bernadette gives the audience a Drag 101 lesson on why drag queens lip-sync.

The church choir at the funeral in Act One, while fun, feels a tad illogical; perhaps singing mourners in drag instead next time? Unless church choirs at funerals is a thing now?

San Diego's costumes are colorful, though there are a few ensembles that seem ill-proportioned, making the leads look squat, like men in drag instead of real drag queens. He also gives a nod to Madonna (whose songs were used in the Broadway version instead of Kylie Minogue's, which was in the West End version and now in the Manila staging) via one of his costumes for Concepcion.

Cinematic effect
The production smartly frames the very long stage with a false proscenium, focusing the audience's sightlines and the acting space to the center. This also makes the theater's two flanking video screens less distracting (though they seem to have been moved a bit farther to the sides as well). Someone please banish these two pointless monstrosities permanently.

Students who ride a school bus or employees who ply Edsa on commuter buses will tell you that the side panels of the eponymous bus, Priscilla, needs more details (such as rivets and grooves) and paint texturing (to make it look less like plywood and more like metal). But then again, if we're going for kitsch, this fits the bill.

The production employs the theater's video cyclorama to cinematic effect (a wink at the musical's provenance: Elliott's 1994 film "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") when it becomes the desert backdrop, moving in sync with the rotating bus. The animation is clean and the perspective is correct, unlike previous ones used in this theater that looked like desktop computer video games from the mid-'90s.

The giant stiletto that appears on top of the bus (in the movie as well as the other international versions of the musical) couldn't be reproduced in Manila due to licensing agreements. However, Del Mundo's tongue-in-cheek, hilarious and very theatrical staging of this scene completely upends the iconic prop. Queens couldn't be any prouder of his fabulous idea.

Full House Theater Productions' "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" runs until July 13 at Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater, and will play in Singapore in October 2014. Visit rwmanila.com or call 9088833.
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Fil-Am Eva Noblezada is new ‘Miss Saigon’ on West End

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Yay! My interview with Annette Calud, the aunt of Eva Noblezada--the actress cast as Kim for the 2014 West End revival of "Miss Saigon," was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 23, 2013 issue.

Fil-Am Eva Noblezada is new ‘Miss Saigon’ on West End
By Walter Ang

Eva Noblezada (photo by Annette Calud)
Seventeen-year-old Filipino-American Eva Noblezada has been cast to portray the titular character Kim for the upcoming West End revival of “Miss Saigon,” reports The Daily Mail.

Noblezada is slated to do four performances a week while remaining shows will be covered by two understudies once the show opens at the Prince Edward Theatre in May 2014.

Noblezada hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her father was born in Guam to Filipino parents.

Earlier this year, Noblezada won Best Actress at the Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards for her portrayal of Ariel in Northwest School of the Arts’ production of “Footloose.”

She was spotted by Broadway casting director Tara Rubin when she joined the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York.

Noblezada was given a private audition with “Miss Saigon” director Laurence Connor in New York. She auditioned for producer Cameron Mackintosh a few weeks later.

The paternal cousin of Noblezada’s father, Annette Calud, performed on Broadway as part of the original ensemble cast of “Miss Saigon” in 1991, and took over from Lea Salonga in the lead role of Kim in 1992. Calud also played Celina on “Sesame Street” from 1992 until 1996.

“Eva came home already knowing she was cast,” says Calud. “But she had to wait for the official casting announcement before she could share the news with family and friends.”

“I was fortunate to get to work through the songs with her before she auditioned, though she didn’t need much help at all. Hearing her sing … I knew for certain she would land the part.”

Born to do it
In her blog, Calud foresaw Noblezada’s future in a post she wrote years ago: “Even at age 3 Eva had pipes.  She would stand on a piano bench and sing Disney princess songs with that sweet and perfectly pure innocent voice. Now at age 14, she can command the stage with the presence of any Broadway diva.

"With a God-given talent, her amazingly versatile voice can effortlessly croon everything from Lady Gaga to Barbra Streisand."

With a cavernous Broadway belt and the vocal finesse of Celine Dion, my niece will undoubtedly see her name in lights on the Great White Way.”

“Eva has never needed to be inspired about musical theater.  She was born to do it,” says Calub, who took Noblezada as a child to watch her first Broadway shows. “I took her to see ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera.’”

“I am beyond thrilled and excited for Eva.  I had no doubt because I know what it takes to conquer this role, and she has the vocal power and control to sing the score.  She has the acting depth to break your heart.  She was born to play Kim.”

“Miss Saigon” celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. It features music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from the original French lyrics by Boublil.

Based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” the musical is set in 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War. Kim is a bar girl who falls in love with and is abandoned by an American GI.

The 2014 production set a new record for the largest single day of sales on West End and Broadway history, with £4,402,371 recorded on the first day the tickets went on sale in September this year.

Mackintosh told The Daily Mail that Noblezada reminded him of Lea Salonga, who was cast as Kim in the original West End staging in 1989.

“Eva’s going to be our new Lea,” Macintosh said.

“Miss Saigon” was staged in Manila in 2000-2001 with Salonga reprising her role.

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Frencheska Farr: Hopelessly devoted to her… tattoos

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Yay! My interview with Francheska Farr about her involvement in 9 Works Theatericals' staging of "Grease" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 23, 2013 issue.

Frencheska Farr: Hopelessly devoted to her… tattoos
By Walter Ang

Francheska Farr and Gian Magdangal
Singer-actress Frencheska Farr has two tattoos. Instead of visual designs, she has two statements branded on her body.

She got her first tattoo at her nape, “Forever Young,” three years ago on her birthday.

“I really wanted a statement that’s simple yet meaningful to me,” she says. “I searched online for fonts, then I had my tattoo artist copy it.

“I just wanted to feel what it would be like to get a tattoo. I was excited. It was painful but I enjoyed the thrill of it. It made me happy that I got to express myself and I got to do what I wanted to do.”

The second one, “Keep the Faith,” on her inner right wrist, was done this year. “Both tattoos serve as reminders for me as to what and who I am,” she says.

She doesn’t plan on getting a new one anytime soon but is not closed off to the idea.

“Only until I achieve something great. I don’t know when or what great is but I’ll know when I’m already there,” she notes.

Left and inset, her back and wrist tattoos. “It made me happy that I got to express myself and I got to do what I wanted to do,” she says.

Stage debut
Farr's tattoos
She’s currently playing a character that may not be immediately accepting of tattoos. Farr is having her professional stage debut playing “nice” girl Sandy Dumbrowski in 9 Works Theatricals’ ongoing staging of “Grease,” the iconic musical about the love lives of teenagers in 1950s middle America.

Directed by 9WT artistic director Robbie Guevarra, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the staging includes songs from the 1978 movie adaptation (such as “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One that I Want”) starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as the lead couple.

Sandy Dumbrowski eventually sheds her inhibitions and joins the rest of her friends’ groove. If Farr had her way, she’d offer this life advice to Sandy: “Get a tattoo—not just to fit in but also to get to experience everything life has to offer.”

Farr was tipped off to the auditions by Gian Magdangal, whom she’s worked with in the defunct Sunday afternoon variety TV show “Party Pilipinas.”

“I’ve forgotten everything that happened at the audition because I was so nervous,” she says, laughing. “But I’m happy that I went through it.”

She’s learned to adjust her acting style, since she’s more used to acting for TV and film. “In theater, I have to make bigger movements so I can show the audience the emotion I’m feeling. On TV, you can make little movements and the director can just shoot a close-up. I also had to work on my singing and dancing because in theater, you can’t make mistakes, there are no second takes.”

Farr had participated in productions during high school. “I joined the high school choir, and I represented our school in inter-school competitions. I was shy at first but I eventually became more confident of myself,” she recalls.

In 2009, she joined and won GMA’s television singing competition “Are You the Next Big Star?” Regular appearances in several TV shows followed.

She was then asked to audition for the movie musical “Emir.” She landed the lead role of a nanny in a royal household of a fictional emirate in the deserts of the Middle East.

“Surprisingly I got the role,” she says, recalling that acting wasn’t one of the things she thought she’d ever enjoy doing. “But when I did it, I discovered that I could act and I fell in love with it.”

The character that Sandy falls in love with, Danny Zuko, the leader of the student clique/gang T-Birds, is played by Magdangal. He was recently seen in Spotlight Artists’ restaging of Musical Theater Philippines’ “Katy!” and 9WT’s “The Wedding Singer” and “Rent.”

Another debuting actor, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, plays Kenickie, second-in-command of the T-Birds, while Iya Villania alternates with Jennifer Blair-Bianco as Betty Rizzo, the leader of the girl’s clique, the Pink Ladies.

Surprise guests fill in the role of Teen Angel, an apparition that will serenade one of the characters. Tom Rodriguez of “My Husband’s Lover” fame was the Teen Angel on opening night.

Musical direction is by Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, choreography by Arnold Trinidad and Francis Matheu, set and costume design by Mio Infante, lighting design by John Batalla, sound design by Chuck Ledesma, and hair and makeup design by Myrene Santos.

“Grease” runs until Dec. 1 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati City. Contact 5867105, 0917-5545560, e-mail info@9workstheatrical.com; or 8919999, www.ticketworld.com.ph

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Sipat Lawin Ensemble bats for alternative theater with ‘Karnabal’

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Yay! My article about Sipat Lawin Ensemble's "Karnabal: A Def. Defying Festival" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 16, 2013 issue.

Sipat Lawin Ensemble bats for alternative theater with ‘Karnabal’
By Walter Ang

Sipat Lawin Ensemble is hosting “Karnabal: A Def. Defying Festival,” a theater festival featuring groups and solo artists, in alternative performance spaces within Intramuros from Nov. 20 to 24.

“The ‘Def.’ stands for ‘definition,’” says SLE’s artistic director JK Anicoche. “It best explains the mix of programmed performances as transgressing norms and going beyond definitions of art and what it should be.”

Unlike noncurated fringe theater festivals abroad like Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe Festival where artists simply apply to join and can perform a wide variety of works, “Karnabal” is a curated festival. Anicoche did the curating along with SLE member Sarah Salazar.

“The festival allows artists to freely test new works and/or develop existing ones, as well as share and generate new audiences for the Philippine performance scene,” he adds.

Main shows
The Main Performance Platform features the original devised works of independent companies and solo artists.

SLE leads this category with “Reenactments.” “It’s a performance of new works devised from national events that have been forgotten by the public, made visible again via performance,” says Anicoche. “It’s devoid of the formal literary structure of a story or plot. It reenacts recent pasts and forgotten presents that are easily erased from our national memory, as one news and Internet fad after another buries last week’s headline.”

Kolab Co., meanwhile, stages “@Home,” a devised work that explores the different definitions of what “home” is, including the notion of “e-parenting,” where Filipino migrant workers connect with their children via the Internet.

Shaharazade Theater Company is staging “Story #15,” about four strangers who hook themselves up to a machine that transforms dreams into reality.

There’s also Destiyero Theater Commune, which is staging “Ang Mga Bata, Ang Mga Bata,” based on a play written by Erick Dasig Aguilar about three children gravely affected by a landslide.

Fire hula-hoop dancer and slam poet Daniel Darwin will direct “Green Glass Door,” a piece with two men that explores “faith, loyalty, free will, submission and liberation.”

Dance, workshops
Ea Torrado will perform “Nga-nga,” a solo dance piece exploring the “vacuum world of the humdrum and the ways we try to make life a little more bearable for ourselves.”

Transitopia Contemporary Dance Commune is screening “Rehearsal for Disaster.”

Works in progress are featured, too, in the Tsubibo Open Platform. Performances under this category will offer Blank Tickets. Audience members will pay what they feel the experience is worth.

Featured performances include two plays (Glenn Mas’ “Games People Play,” directed by Ed Lacson; and David Finnigan and Isabelle Martinez’s “Appropriate Kissing For All Ocassions”); and a film, Whammy Alcazaren’s “Colossal,” among others.

Workshops, talks, forums and panel discussions include topics on freelancing as a performer, how men are depicted in performance, the dynamics of staging free performances, and what subject matters are considered offensive for audiences.

“Karnabal” runs Nov. 20-24 in different venues within Intramuros, Manila. Contact 0917-5008753.

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Guelan Luarca tames tricky translations for Eurydice: opens Nov. 14, 2013

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Yay! My interview with Guelan Luarca, winner of the 2013 Palanca Memorial Award for Literature's Dulang May Isang Yugto category, and his involvement with Tanghalang Ateneo's upcoming production of Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 11, 2013 issue.

Text below is the original submitted draft. It differs from the published version in terms of paragraph sequencing.

Guelan Luarca tames tricky translations for Eurydice: opens Nov. 14
By Walter Ang

Guelan Luarca
"I was delighted. Shocked. Couldn't move. I was shaking," says Miguel Antonio Alfredo "Guelan" Luarca, recalling his winning first place in this year's Palanca Memorial Award for Literature's Dulang May Isang Yugto category.

His "Mga Kuneho," about five men hired by a mysterious employer to transfer a loaded body bag from one room to another, had its world premiere at last year's Virgin Labfest and was chosen to be in this year's "Revisited" set.

Currently wrapping up his Literature in English course at Ateneo de Manila University, the first play Luarca ever wrote and directed, "Lingon," was for Ateneo High School's Palig, an annual competition hosted by the Filipino department.

Since then, he's worked on a few more plays and translated even more. And he's only 22 years old.

He's written, acted and directed for both the high school's Teatro Baguntao and the university's Tanghalang Ateneo. His recent credits for TA is devise-work for "Sintang Dalisay," an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

Currently, Luarca is handling translation duties for TA's staging of Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice."

Unlike the Greek myth on which it's based, Ruhl's adaptation adds a father for Eurydice when she ends up in the underworld. When her lover Orpheus comes to claim her, Eurydice's torn between her love for these two men.

Luarca has been working with director Loy Arcenas. "He is super hands-on, even with the translation process. We are not adapting Ruhl's text but [Arcenas] didn't want to locate it in America, either. So I went for Filipino that's quite devoid of historical connotations."

"[Arcenas] also has a unique reading of Orpheus, less the romantic hero and more of a jock who learns to sacrifice life for love; so my translation accommodates that specific reading."

In the blood
Theater, for Luarca, is partly in the blood. His mother dabbled in theater under Fr. James Reuter. His father Ward acted for Dulaang Sibol and Teatro Pilipino; whose recent credits include a role in the movie "Zombadings 1: Patayin sa shokot si Remington."

"I grew up watching my dad rehearsing scenes alone at home. The first time I watched a play was when he was in Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Lysistrata.' That play was directed by Ricky Abad [Tangahalang Ateneo's artistic director]. The first production I acted in for TA, 'Walang Sugat,' was also directed by Abad. Father and son's theater experience came full circle."

It was watching Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Makbet" using National Artist for Literature and Theater Rolando Tinio's translation that triggered Luarca's passion for translation. "I was amazed that you could do that with Filipino."

He started studying English-Filipino dictionaries, collecting stock vocabulary. In high school, he wanted to direct Chekhov's "The Boor" but couldn't find a copy of Tinio's translation. So he translated it himself.

Tricky translations
Most of Luarca's translations thus far have been of classic playwrights (Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors"/"Komedya ng Kalituhan" and "Troilus and Cressida"/"Trobol sa Troya").

Ruhl's work, on the other hand, is undoubtedly contemporary, premiering only just a decade ago.

"Translating modern Western plays is always harder than translating classics like the Greeks or Shakespeare. It's a balancing act between respecting the historical context of the original and allowing the specific needs of the target language to sort of bend the material for its own uses.

"Something as American as Ruhl's 'Eurydice' is a lot trickier. Her dramaturgy is so, so very poetic. You can't quite reword her; she seems to be very sure about how she chooses her words, how long or short a sentence is, how arbitrary some of her images are.

"It was clear that we were doing a translated version. So I didn't want to take too many liberties with the language. But, of course, there will always be unintended 'Filipino-ness,' something very specific to the language and culture, that I think adds to Ruhl rather than distorts her. At least that's my intention."

Likes it both ways
When it comes to translation work, Luarca idolizes Tinio. "He'd contribute to Filipino and also to the original work. For example, he translated Hamlet's 'a little more than kin, and less than kind' to 'higit mang kamag-anak, hindi naman kamag-isip.' His 'kamag-isip' is genius!"

Otherwise, Luarca looks to his father for guidance. "[When I won the Palanca], more than anything, I was really excited because I knew it'd make my parents happy. Especially my dad, who's really one of my most trusted mentors in writing. I bounce my ideas off him. I admire his poetry."

Luarca admits he feels "friendless and alone" when writing original plays. On the other hand, translation is "always fun" and makes him feel that he's given "a backstage pass to the workings of minds greater than my own."

Nontheless, "Original plays allow me to torture and indulge myself. Translating teaches me selflessness and discipline. I like them both."

Set and costume design by Arcenas, lighting design by Lex Marcos, sound design by Teresa Barrozo.

"Eurydice" runs Nov. 14-30 at Fine Arts Black Box Studio, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Contact 09177931175 or 09175760805.

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The Supremo on the march: productions focus on Bonifacio in 2013

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Yay! My article on the line-up of productions commemorating the birth sesquicentennial of Andres Bonifacio was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 2, 2013 issue.

I had researched for other productions that had Bonifacio as a lead character but the editors omitted all of it. It is restored below in green fonts.

Thanks to Dennis Marasigan, Rody Vera, Fred Hawson, Alvin Dacanay, Nick Pichay, Myra Beltran, Angel Lawenko-Baguilat, Cora Llamas, and Jovi Miroy for the information.

The Supremo on the march
By Walter Ang

Gantimpala Theater’s “Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan”
Andres Bonifacio is popularly called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.” He was a founding member and, later, Supremo (“supreme leader”) of the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respected Society of the Country’s Children), a secret revolutionary society that fought for independence from Spanish colonial rule.

His colorful life has inspired several works in the performing arts—fitting, in a way, because Bonifacio was a part-time actor who performed in moro-moro productions. He joined Samahang Dramatista ng Tundo and founded El Teatro Porvenir or Teatro Circo de Porvenir (depending on different sources).

Domingo Landicho's book, "Sa Bagwis ng Sigwa: Mga dula sa buhay at panahon ni Andres Bonifacio," is an anthology of his plays about Bonifacio ("Sa Bagwis ng Sigwa," "Unang Alay," and "Dapithapon.").

Jovi Miroy's "Anak ng Bayan" explores Bonifacio's "existential struggles;" Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio's "Dalawang Bayani" compares the lives of Bonifacio and Jose Rizal; Vincent Tañada's "Bonifacio: Isang Sarswela" depicts Bonifacio as a martyr saint.

Plays dealing with the events leading up to his death include Adrian Cristobal's "The Trial of Andres Bonifacio" (and its Tagalog translation "Ang Paglilitis" by Alexander Cortez) and Rene Villanueva's "Huling Gabi sa Maragondon."

There is a musical: "Andres Bonifacio: Ang Dakilang Anakpawis" (music by Jerry Dadap, libretto by Dionisio Salazar and Rogelio Mangahas).

In dance, there is Philippine Ballet Theatre's "Andres KKK: Ang Buhay at Pag-Ibig ni Andres Bonifacio" (choreography by Gener Caringal, libretto by Lillia Quindoza-Santiago, music by Jessie Lucas); and, staged earlier this year, Ballet Philippines' "Rock Supremo" (choreography by Paul Morales, Alden Lugnasin and Dwight Rodrigazo; libretto by Nick Pichay).

In film there is "Andres Bonifacio: Ang Supremo" (1964) directed by Teodorico Santos; Raymond Red's (direction and screenplay) "Bayani" (1992); Mario O'Hara's (direction and screenplay) "Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio" (2010); and "Ang Supremo" (2012) screenplay by Jimmy Flores and directed by Richard Somes.

To commemorate Bonifacio’s birth sesquicentennial (Nov. 30), several theater groups are staging productions about him. Three will be staged in November this year and one in 2014.

Gantimpala Theater
Film and television director Joel Lamangan co-directs Gantimpala Theater’s musical version of Bonifacio Ilagan’s 1978 Cultural Center of the Philippines Playwriting Contest-winning (first place) “Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan.”

“We want to make it relevant [for current audiences] in terms of music and movement. This is all sung through and fast. We’ll also show the role of women in the struggle, the internal conflicts that weakened the Katipunan,” says Lamangan.

The production has music by RJ Jimenez and lyrics by Ilagan and Jeffrey Camañag. It stars Sandino Martin as Bonifacio, with Anna Fegi and Rita de Guzman alternating as Bonifacio’s wife Gregoria “Oryang” de Jesus.

Lamangan is Gantimpala’s new artistic director (following the death of founding artistic director Tony Espejo). Lamangan was in the cast of “Katipunan,” Gantimpala’s inaugural production in 1978.

Jun Pablo co-directs. Costume design by Pablo, set design by Sonny Aniceto and lighting design by Ninya Bedruz.

“Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan” runs in Manila on Nov. 20 to 22 at Armed Forces of the Philippines Theater, Quezon City; Nov. 29 at Bonifacio High Street Open Field; and Nov. 30 at Taguig University. It tours Cavite City on Dec. 7 at Montano Hall.

Contact 9985622/8720261 for Manila shows and 09162759938 for Cavite shows.

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas
Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas stages Tim Dacanay’s 2006 Palanca Award-winning play (second place, Dulang Ganap ang Haba category), “Teatro Porvenir: Ang Katangi-tanging Kasaysayan ni Andres Bonifacio, Macario Sakay at Aurelio Tolentino sa Entablado.”

“It is a re-imagining of the history of the Katipunan through an amalgamation of myth and literature, history and religion,” says DUP artistic director Alex Cortez, who is directing the production. “The play highlights Bonifacio as artist.”

Romnick Sarmenta and Russell Legaspi alternate as Bonifacio while Jean Judith Javier, Karen Guerlan and Emerald Bañares alternate as De Jesus.

Choreography by Angel Baguilat, Filipino martial arts choreography by arnis expert Bot Jocano, and komedya batalla movement by Jess Macatuggal and Grace Jaramillo. Costume design by Nimrod Sta. Ana, set design by Faust Peneyra, and sound design by Jethro Joaquin.

“Teatro Porvenir” runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 8 at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City.

Contact 9261349, 9818500 local 2449, and 4337840.

Tanghalang Pilipino
Tanghalang Pilipino stages a modern Filipino opera in Filipino, “San Andres B,” with music by Chino Toledo and libretto by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario.

To be directed by Floy Quintos, the production will feature tenor Dondi Ong as Bonifacio and soprano Margarita Rocco as De Jesus. Ong alternated in the role of Ubaldo Piangi in last year’s Manila run of a touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“‘San Andres B’ is by no means a historical account of Bonifacio’s life. Rather, it is Almario’s imagistic and evocative interpretation of Bonifacio’s internal struggles. Toledo’s jagged and riveting score captures this internal struggle,” says Quintos.

Sound design by Aji Manalo, choreography by Kris Belle Paclibar-Mamangun, costume design by James Reyes, set design by Eric Cruz and lighting design by Jay Aranda.

“San Andres B” runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 8 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Contact 0917-7500107 or 0908-8941384.

University of the Philippines-Los Baños
In 2014, Joey Ting will direct Layeta Bucoy’s “Bonifacio Freak Show,” a black comedy about a group who wants to join the Katipunan but have a problem: the blood pact initiation is done at night—when this group turns into different halimaw such as manananggal, tiyanak, duwende and tikbalang.

The production will be staged by UPLB’s Office of the Initiatives for Culture and Arts for the Southern Tagalog Arts Festival 2014 and 2014’s National Arts Month in February. Music by Angel Dayao, set and costume design by Louie Navarro, and video design by Rudyard Pesimo.

“Bonifacio Freak Show” runs Feb. 19 to 21 at Dioscoro Umali Auditorium, UP Los Baños, Laguna.

Contact 0917-4578874.

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