Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Cherie Gil met Terrence McNally--in her own words

Terrence McNally with Cherie Gil, cradling the Tony trophy Mr. McNally won for “Master Class,” at the playwright's home in New York

The Philippine Star's Ricky Lo has run the photo above and a brief backgrounder, and BroadwayWorld.com's Oliver Oliveros has also written about the encounter here. So I thought I'd do something different. I'd invite Cherie Gil, the acclaimed star of Philippine Opera Company's production of Terrence McNally's Master Class, to tell us herself how she came face to face with the Tony-winning playwright whose words she had lived, breathed and brought to life (incandescently) on stage.

Because the pictures first came out in Cherie's Facebook page, I asked her permission if I could repost a couple in this blog. Apparently, I wasn't the only one interested; she went back to Mr. McNally to get his blessing before saying yes to the requests. Then, for good measure, she added: Send me your questions in the meantime.

Aha. That I did. While Cherie is still out of the country and in the midst of travel, she was gracious enough to take time to answer my questions. Her story now paints an exciting, engaging context to that beautiful photo showing her positively glowing, obviously ecstatic and honored at finally meeting Mr. McNally. And not a chance meeting, by the way--she was invited to the playwright's sanctum sanctorum, no less, in the house he shared with his partner Tom Kirdahy.

How the meeting came about
It was through Loy Arcenas, an established set designer here in NY who knew Terrence personally. He didn't tell me until I was in his lovely Soho apartment that he had sent Mr. McNally an e-mail to come for dinner. But, unfortunately, Mr. McNally was in the country that weekend. But in that e-mail he said he has heard a lot about the play and of my performance that he would be delighted to meet anytime in the week. So there! Loy introduced us both via e-mail.

It took me 2 days to muster some courage to write him. He gave his cellphone number, too, but I felt an e-mail was best to begin with. He immediately replied, and since I was then just coming back from Florida (where I was for 2 days to visit my eldest), and after a few more exchange of e-mails and numbers we finally set up to meet for Thursday sometime in the afternoon.

Thursday came and, as I was getting ready to take the train to the city, lo and behold my phone rang, and there he was! The voice of God, it seemed, calling me! I couldn't believe that HE, Mr, McNally Himself, would be calling to confirm the time and place and making sure I knew how to get there. He received me in his lovely home down University Place.

Her thoughts as she prepared for the meeting
I was nervous, of course! Excited! My heart was beating! I had one question, actually--the one thing that always plagued me when I worked on the [“Master Class”] monologue in Act 2: if he actually truly believed that Maria Callas had an abortion! (I never got to ask him that, though. Instead, I asked his partner Tom while Terrence was on the phone.)

The face-to-face
The meeting went so fast, so quick, but he was so warm, so accommodating in spite of his busy day. I decided before I buzzed him that I would just be myself and flow with the moment. The most important thing was to let him know how much it truly was a gift to be able to bring life into his words. I just had to give him a tight hug, and I did--teary-eyed, too. It was pretty emotional for me. He is the most humble, kindhearted, warm man I have ever met. So much wisdom in his eyes, and so selfless about wanting to share of himself and of his work. With the way he behaved, you actually forgot he is such a big and important man in the world of theater and film in the US.

How he heard of her and POC's Master Class
He heard of my performances because they had someone set up a Google alert where they get tags, and there they saw my pics! Thank God now for the Internet! According to both him and Tom, it was one of those very few times they actually had to stop and look at each picture closely, as they were mesmerized with the similarity. Though he admitted upon seeing me that I did not look at all like her in person, after all. And he was a bit surprised to know I had 3 kids, my eldest being 23. Hahaha.

Reminiscing about Callas, etc.
He shared how much he admired opera from the time he was 7 years old, growing up in Texas. How much he admired Callas and how he would line up for days to see her at the Met. He was very open, though, about admitting that when he finally met her in person, he didn't like her at all! I thought that was quite amusing to hear. He thought of her as somewhat crude in her manner. Not a lady at all, to quote him.

How she felt about the whole experience
Surreal! I was just totally bewildered and mesmerized. I felt and truly believed, from that moment on, that we are all connected somehow. No one is smaller or bigger than the other--just creatively and spiritually connected. And if anything is done with the heart and soul, then nothing is impossible! Everything is coming up ROSES from here on. Here's to hope and truly believing in oneself!

Lovely words. Thank you, Cherie, for the photos, and for sharing the story of this most special moment in your life. Congratulations!

Terrence McNally, Cherie Gil and Mr. McNally's partner Tom Kirdahy


~Carrie~ said...

Thank you for sharing this. :) Love the article

Oliver Oliveros said...

Thanks for the mention, Gibbs =)

blue butterfly said...

What a candid account of a memorable meeting! Kudos to Cherie Gil. She makes Pinoys proud. Thanks for sharing this, Gibbs.

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