Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Giving them their due

Something I contributed unbylined to the “thumbs up, thumbs down” section of last Sunday's Inquirer Lifestyle--the texts shortened versions of what I had originally written here and here. Because boxers and CNN heroes weren't the only ones who brought pride and honor to the country last year.


And not in the usual acting or singing parts, but in the less heralded but no less important fields of scenic design and theater criticism.

Virtually unmentioned in the 2009 year-end surveys are the back-to-back wins notched by Philippine-born theater artists Randy Gener and Clint Ramos in the US last year.

Gener, a Fil-Am critic, playwright, visual artist and senior editor of American Theater Magazine, was the 2009 recipient of the George Jean Nathan Award, considered the most prestigious award for theater criticism in America. Named after the preeminent American drama critic of the early 20th century, the award also comes with a $10,000 cash prize.

Its past winners have included the greatest practitioners of the craft: Stanley Kauffman, Walter Kerr, Robert Brustein, John Lahr, Hilton Als, Harold Clurman, Elizabeth Hardwick, Eric Bentley, Ben Brantley, Michael Feingold, Charles Isherwood.

The citation recognized Gener for using “that venue [America Theater Magazine] and others to draw our attention to largely ignored voices and visions on the international theatrical scene, to the work of Filipino-American playwright Jessica Hagedorn, to a small but lively Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, and to the future of theatrical criticism itself in essays that wed critical intelligence with a beat reporter’s love of the telling and unruly fact.”

Soon after Gener’s triumph, scenic and costume designer Clint Ramos was given the “Young Master Award” in the Theatre Development Fund’s 2009 Irene Sharaff Awards, which aim to “pay tribute to the art of costume design and honor legendary designer Irene Sharaff.” (Among her works are the original Broadway stagings of “West Side Story,” “Funny Girl,” “The King and I,” “Sweet Charity,” “Candide” and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.”)

Ramos’ co-awardees included two other Broadway stalwarts, Tony Award-winning designers William Ivey Long and Bob Crowley.

A Theater Arts graduate of UP-Diliman, Ramos has had a long string of acclaimed works on and off-Broadway, as well as with performing arts companies in other countries. In 2008, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Play for St. John Hankin’s “The Return of the Prodigal” at the Mint Theater.

His latest work in Manila was the set for the Dulaang UP production of Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” directed by Tony Mabesa, which ran last November-December 2009 at Palma Hall’s Guerrero Theater.

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