Joel Lamangan returns to his roots in theater


Joel Lamangan takes over the position of the late Tony Espejo as the new artistic director for Bulwagang Gantimpala

If film and TV director Joel Lamangan had his way, he would like to bring all those TV and movie stars to theater to instill in them some discipline and make them value their profession.

“A theater artist is so much different from a film or TV artist because in theater, there is that semblance of learning, of knowledge and the desire to learn. Yung kasi mga taga-film, kung ano ang ibinigay mo na script for the day yun lang ang pag-aaralan nila,” Lamangan told reporters at a press conference held at Café Ysabel where he was introduced as the new artistic director for Bulwagang Gantimpala.

The multi-awarded film and TV director, actor for TV, stage and motion picture, takes over the position of the late Tony Espejo, founder, president and artistic director of the dramatic arts company for the past 35 seasons.

Theater, he says provides artists a great environment to learn. “In theater they will be given a chance to learn the entire craft, from acting and directing to stage design and management. Sa film/TV sadly, walang ganoon. Kapag nanalo ka sa isang contest ikaw na ang star for two days then tapos ka na agad because another ‘star’ is coming in. They seldom get the chance to hone their craft and make them love the discipline.

“Most of them look at it as work, which is much different from theater. We don’t look at it as work but as we as an expression of who we are and what we are, iba yun. In theater there is that passion to create, in TV there is the passion to finish it so we can go to the next project. There is no passion to be part of a whole creation; walang wholeness of a certain kind of training, and desire to learn because their atmosphere does not dictate that,” he elaborated.

As he makes his grand return to his theater roots, Lamangan expressed his love for the art form.

“This is where I came from, this is where I find fulfillment. I started with PETA and was with them for more than 10 years. I even directed for PETA,” he said.

“My training came from Lino Brocka as far as theater and arts is concerned. I was trained in theater. Theater is my first love. It just happened that I have to survive that’s why I went to TV and film. It’s where the money is. When Lino died in 1991, that was the time I decided to do films,” he said.

Lamangan who also appeared in a several plays of Bulwagan either as actor or director, said he felt it was time to go back to his roots, prompting him to accept the seat vacated by the late Tony Espejo.

“Bulwagang Gantimpala is so close to my heart that I cannot say no. I feel it’s time for me to give back. I have reached a certain kind of stature na hindi naman katinga-tingala but I would like to contribute, to give back. Because if not for these people, for these companies, I would not be where I am now. The body of true professional, I got it from them. My being strict with time came from them that’s why on my set you can’t arrive late because that was my training.”

As he assumes the role of artistic director, Lamangan bared plans to launch the Tony Espejo playwriting contest in the near future to help the playwrights and vowed to make their classic plays more dynamic and current for their audiences.

“We will try to revive the glory of Gantimpala and although it will be the same staple plays, we will try to introduce something new every time. We will also try to do some experimental plays just like Sayaw Ng Mga Seniorita, which will be for a different audience”

This year Gantimpala will be staging their “Four Classics” and two new touring musicals, Ang Prinsepe at ang Pulubi and Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan.

The first installment of the “Four Classics” begin this August with Florante at Laura, which written originally as an awit by Franciso Balagtas. This Philippine literary masterpiece, created into a play by Bonifacio Ilagan highlights the story of a quartet of lovers.

Kanser, the Jomar Fleras play based on Noli Me Tángere, comes second, and is the longest-running Filipino theater production to date. It also earned a nomination in 2012 as Best Filipino Play (New/Revival) category from

The third play of the season is Ibong Adarna, a korido about a magical bird with a very long fancy tail that changes into seven colors.

Rounding up the Four Classics is El Filibusterismo, the sequel to Noli Me Tangere, penned by Jomar Fleras.

The first touring musical Ang Prinsepe at ang Pulubi, is based on the Mark Twain classic, The Prince and the Pauper.

Finally, Katipunan: Mga Anak Ng Bayan is the very first Bulwagang Gantimpala production written by multi-awarded playwright Bonifacio Ilagan with musical numbers created by award-winning musical composer Jesse Lucas. It presents the short life and turbulent times of the working class revolutionary Andres Bonifacio and his wife, Gregoria “Oryang” de Jesus.

For more information, call 998-5622 or 872-0261 or visit


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