1. “Children's Letters to God,” the Off-Broadway hit musical with music by David Evans, lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen and book by Stuart Hample, will open at the RCBC Theater, Makati City, on Friday, August 31. It will run for only one weekend, or until Sunday, September 2, and will be restaged again in October. Don't ask me about the odd scheduling, I've no idea why.
This Actor's Actors Inc. staging stars, among others kid actors, the precociously gifted Julia Abueva, whom I first saw in New Voice Company's “Aspects of Love” two years ago. For my money, this girl can be our next Lea Salonga, with her pure voice and powerful singing. It'd be worth checking out how she's growing as a musical theater artist.
Another reason to watch “Children's Letters to God:” the powerhouse creative team. Musical direction by Michael Williams, choreography by Denisa Reyes, production design by Gino Gonzales, assistant direction by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and overall direction by Bart Guingona. I can't wait.
2. Dulaang UP's “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare runs August 29-September 16 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, UP Diliman. This production is directed by Dulaang UP's Artistic Director, Jose Estrella (a she, by the way), and comes with an alternate Filipino version based on the translation by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio. That means I have to go to faraway UP at least twice to catch both the English and Filipino shows, yay.
Good thing this is by Jose Estrella, whose work I always find fresh, exciting and compelling (e.g., “Three Sisters” at the recent Virgin Labfest, Tanghalang Pilipino's “Orpheus Descending" last year). Of the cast, I'd say you can't miss the Old Reliables: Richard Cunanan, Paolo O'Hara and the divine Mailes Kanapi. So it's Shakespeare for me this Sunday, 10:30 a.m.--Lawd, the agony of waking up so early.
3. Entablado's “Buwan at Baril” goes onstage at the Rizal Mini-Theater of the Ateneo de Manila University on its last weekend, August 29-31. Trivia: this Chris Millado play was one of the first plays staged by the acclaimed New York-based Ma-yi Theater Company. As Executive Director Jorge Ortoll recalled, “The idea was to bring in Filipino plays from the Philippines, do them in Tagalog alternating with English. We did that with one of Chris Millado’s plays, 'Buwan at Baril.' It was translated to 'Moon and Gun'--sounds better in Tagalog, right? 'Moon and Gun' just doesn’t do it!”
This Entablado version is directed by Allan Forte, with production design by Jika Regala. Something to look forward to: the theater troupe's skill in mining the comic vein of quintessentially Pinoy plays, like Rene Villanueva's “Sandaang Panaginip” and Marcelino Agana Jr.'s “New Yorker in Tondo,” both staged this year.
4. Lastly, Floy Quintos's “Fluid,” a project by the senior Theater Arts majors of Ateneo, opens on Friday, August 31 and runs until September 16 at the Fine Arts Theater, Gonzaga Hall, ADMU. “Fluid” won a Palanca for Best Play (second prize), and was staged by Dulaang UP to euphoric reviews a couple of years back. I didn't get to see it, unfortunately. This time, Mr. Quintos, who also directs, has updated his play to fit his younger, friskier cast of actors.
There's been talk of a mini-tempest in campus over this audacious move by the Ateneo Theater Arts seniors to stage an independent play as part of their creative thesis showcase. I'm loathe to wade into the fray, and I sincerely wish the parties would be able to thresh out their differences soon. But, purely out of belief in the worthy cause and artistic capabilities of the people behind “Fluid,” I'd like to make a special pitch for this scrappy underdog production. One of its lead actors, JJ Ignacio (a fine, fine performer, so memorable in Tanghalang Ateneo's “Middle Finger Po”), has blogged about it, furiously and movingly:
“Ang Fluid project ay isang malinaw na fund raiser ng batch namin, para sa aming creative seniors' project (a.k.a. thesis). hindi nalalayo ang layunin namin sa mga nakaraang batch na nagbenta ng cookies at ng mga mumurahing alahas galing divisoria. tulad nila, kailangan namin makalipon ng sapat na salapi para mabuo ang aming thesis. ngayon pakisabi sa akin, kasalanan ba na imbis magbenta ng mga mumurahing abubot, eh gumawa na lang ng isang dula? na imbis cookies ang produkto namin, dula ang aming ibenta? imbis na hasain ang kasanayan namin sa pagbebenta ng mga bagay-bagay, eh hasain namin ang aming kasanayan sa pagbuo ng isang dula?
“at oo nga pala, THEATER ARTS MAJORS pala kami. kelan pa naging 'hindi academic' ang pagbuo ng dula ng mga theater arts majors? ngayon ang tanong dapat yata ay ganito: alin ang mas academic--mga theater arts majors (na gusto talagang ituloy ang teatro kahit pagkatapos ng kolehiyo) na gumagawa ng dula o mga non-theater arts majors (na hobby-hobby lang naman ang teatro) sa mga theater orgs na gumagawa ng dula?”
That kind of passion and vision, especially from people so young, and in a field as difficult and materially unrewarding as theater, deserves our stoutest support. I'll be at the Ateneo's Gonzaga Hall this weekend, too, to show mine. (Can you say bilocation?)
How about you? That's four plays to choose from--five if you count Tanghalang Pilipino's “Pilipinas Circa 2007,” which is also on its closing week. C'mon now, give yourself a dose of intrepid Pinoy theater this weekend!
PLUS: There's more to come!
“Avenue Q” by Atlantis Productions
“621,987 Taon ng Paglimot” by UP Dulaang Laboratoryo
“Mulan” by Tanghalang Pilipino
“Romulus D Greyt” by PETA
“Art” by Little Boy Productions and Actor's Actors Inc.
“Into the Woods” by New Voice Company
“Fiddler On the Roof” by Repertory Philippines
“Insiang” by Tanghalang Pilipino
“Dogeaters” by Atlantis Productions
“Sister Act” by Ateneo Blue Repertory
“Katipunan, mga Anak ng Bayan”/“Ramona Reyes ng Forbes Park”/“Bombita”/“Taluktot,” all by Gantimpala Theater as part of its Pearl (30th) Festival