The spotlight shone brightly at the stage of the Cultural Center
of the Philippine’s (CCP) Little Theater this month as the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (Philstage) Gawad Buhay Awards recognized the best of the best in the local performance arts scene of 2013.
The theatrical groups that comprise Philstage—namely PETA, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, Trumpets, Actor’s Actors, 9 Works Theatrical, Gantimpala Theater Foundation Philippine Opera Company, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, Ballet Manila, and Ballet Philippines—were in full force on their big night. It was a clear signal, that even as performing artists continue their struggle in gaining a larger following among the public, live artistic productions have nonetheless gained ground in the country, and is alive and well.
Hardly his breath following his wonderful performance as “the worst director” Roger de Bris in an excerpt from the musical hit The Producers, theater producer, director, actor and Philstage president Audie Gemora gave a profound reason why local talents persevere onstage despite the odds.
Still dressed in drag, he declared, “If you want to be a good actor, you have to be willing to look stupid. In a nutshell, tonight is all about that. This is about all these artists out here giving their best who reminds us na kahit mukha na tayong tanga [that even if we look stupid]; that even if we do get paid too little; that even if we spend so many hours performing when other people choose to watch Broadway upstairs [CCP Main Theater], we love what we do because we strive to be as good as we can possibly be. And in Philstage, we want to honor all this hard work that we put on this stage.”
The major players of the theater community bagged most of the prizes in this year’s Gawad Buhay Awards, based on the decision of a panel of 16 jurors that included performance arts luminary Basillo Esteban Villaruz, and journalists Gibbs Cadiz and Rome Jorge, among others.
Trumpet’s Bluebird of Happiness, with its 16 nominations was adjudged the big winner of the night. After winning top awards for Outstanding Original Musical and Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical, the heartwarming story was also given the Outstanding Production for Children Award and Outstanding Set Design Award (Mio Infante).
Tanghalang Pilipino’s (TP) Der Kaufmann, a Rody Vera adaptation of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, received 12 nominations and took home six awards, including Outstanding Translation or Adaptation (Rody Vera) and Outstanding Production for Existing Material for a Play. Regina De Vera meanwhile won Best Female Lead Performance in a Play; and Raquel Pareno, Best Female Featured Performance in a Play.
Still for Der Kaufmann, Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play/Musical was given to Tuxqs Rutaquio and Rody Vera, while the Best Sound Design was given to TJ Ramos.
Also added to TP’s trophy case were awards for the new-age opera, San Andres B, which won Outstanding Musical Direction and Outstanding Original Musical Composition (Josefino “Chino” Toledo).
Still for TP, the Bicolano epic, Ibalong, bagged two awards for Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical (Alden Lugnasin) and Outstanding Costume Design (Leeroy New).
PETA, on the other hand, managed to win three awards for D’Wonder Twins of Boac, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Outstanding Original Libretto (Rody Vera), Female Lead Performance in a Musical (Cris Villonco); and Female Featured Performance in a Musical (Shamaine Centenera Buencamino).
Actor’s Actors Inc. (AAI) won two awards for its adaptation of the Tony award-winning play, Red. Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Play was given to Bart Guingona, while Joaquin Valdes received the Male Featured Performance in a Play.
“It’s not every day that we [actors]get to do material that compels us, that challenges us to sink into those words of good writing,” Valdes professed while receiving his award.
Repertory’s staging of the Broadway comedy The Producers deservingly won the Best Male Featured Performance in a Musical for Audie Gemora, and the Male Lead Performance in Musical for Robbie Zialcita.
9Works Theatrical’s Grease won Outstanding Production of an Existing Material for a Musical.
For dance, Ballet Philippines garnered 10 awards for their productions Rock Supremo, Giselle, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Shakespeare classic won BP awards in choreography (Carlo Pacis), Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance (Cyril Fallar), Female Featured Performance in Modern Dance (Guia Gequinto), Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance, and Outstanding Modern Dance Production.
Rock Supremo received the award for Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance (Carissa Adea) and Male Featured Performance in Modern Dance (Earl John Arisola).
Giselle won the award for Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance (Jean Marc Cordero), Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance (Rita Winder), and Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Classical Dance.
Philippine ballet gem Liza Macuja-Elizalde was given the Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance for The Nutcracker, with Ballet Manila also receiving the Outstanding Classical Dance Production Award. The recognition for Best Male Featured Performance in Classical Dance was given to Gerardo Francisco Jr. for another Ballet Manila offering, Le Corsaire.
Besides the awards, highlights of the evening included special recognitions for Philippine theater and dance icons. Veteran actress, director, and teacher, Naty Crame-Rogers and renowned dancer, choreographer and visual performing artist and critic, Basillo Esteban Villaruz were both honored with the Natatanging Gawad Buhay Lifetime Achievement Award.