• Pinoy thespians star in multiple plays



    Theater, both as entertainment and arts, must really be doing well in Metro Manila. Some actors now have to make “lagari” the way movie stars used to.

    Take for instance Jef Flores, OJ Mariano, Topper Fabregas, the couple Lorenz “Loy” Martinez and Shiela Valderrama, Poppert Bernadas and Gab Pangilinan. All seven are in the thick of rehearsals for the musical Godspell (of Stephen Schwartz) but some of them have to give way to other theater commitments before it goes onstage mid-June for two weekends at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater in RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

    Jef and Topper will have to squeeze in pick-up rehearsals for The Normal Heart, slated for its third run at the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) Theater Center in Quezon City from June 3 to 5. The straight play’s first two runs were at the RCBC Plaza so director Bart Guingona (who’s also the play’s lead actor) may have to do some re-blocking and other adjustments in PETA’s more intimate stage and house set-up.

    Jef, who takes the lead character of Jesus Christ in Godspell, plays multiple roles in The Normal Heart, which deals with the gays’ struggles to make the US government in the 1980s to urgently fund more researches about a mysterious ailment that was decimating the secretive gay population (the ailment would be later named AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, whose initial stage is being positive to what has been labeled as HIV or Human Immune-deficiency Virus).

    ‘The Girl King’ stars Malin Buska as Queen Christina (right) and Sarah Geldon as Ebba Sparre, her lover

    ‘The Girl King’ stars Malin Buska as Queen Christina (right) and Sarah Geldon as Ebba Sparre, her lover

    Topper, on the other hand, plays a major role and a heart-breaking one at that. But that was what producing company MusicArtes, together with Anton Juan as director, can share as of press time. The only other role revealed is that of OJ Mariano as Judas, while Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo is said to top “the powerhouse cast” in the press release.

    It is most likely that when Jeff and Topper take time to rehearse and perform in The Normal Heart, OJ, Loy, Shiela, Poppert and Gab (who is a woman, in case you don’t know) may devote their rehearsal time to Rak of Aegis also of PETA, which will have its fifth run from June 17 to August 28. OJ and Loy are among the alternates as Kiel since the play’s second and third runs who may have to interact with new cast members for the musical’s fifth run. And the reason several alternates are needed for certain roles is that Rak of Aegis happens to be the only theater production in the country that’s mounted nightly (or six nights a week) since its second run in 2014.

    Meanwhile, it’s possible that there may be other stage performers in the country whom we may not be aware of who have or may have to shuttle from one rehearsal to another. Aside from the likes of PETA, Repertory Philippines and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Pilipino, there are other professional (meaning, not school-based) theater companies that have been staging theater presentations in Metro Manila and beyond. In fact, even some school-based theater companies have also been casting professional actors in their productions. Among them are the ones based at the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University’s College of St. Benilde and the University of the Philippines.

    Incidentally, though The Normal Heart’s third run is produced by PETA, the first two stagings were produced by Actors’ Actors/The Necessary Theater headed by Bart himself, too. It’s a professional company.

    * * *

    And now a movie about a lesbian queen: The Girl King. It appropriately comes all the way from Sweden—as it is about Queen Christina of that temperate country.

    The Girl King, directed by Mika Karismauki, is actually the second known film about Queen Christina, though the first one was done in 1933 yet starring someone who was whispered about to be a closet lesbian herself, if not bisexual: the aloof, the enigmatic Greta Garbo.

    The queen’s controversial life in the 1600s is well documented. At the age of 2, her father, King Gustav II Adolf, named her “king”—yes, not “queen”—before he set off to go to war, anxious that he might not come back alive. Which came true.

    Historical accounts have it that her father left instructions to his court that Christina was to be trained and brought up as a boy who would be king. She did receive abundant training in sports and military tactics.

    At 16, she was crowned but not as a king but queen to avoid embarrassing Sweden and its people. She soon took herself a lover: Ebba Sparre, one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. And then she refused to allow Sweden to join any more wars. Instead, she promoted Arts, Philosophy and other scholarly cultural pursuits. Her court hated her.

    When she reached mid-20s, her court persuaded her to get married and produce a potential successor to her throne. In 1654, she abdicated in favor of a blood kin.

    The Girl King stars Malin Buska as Christina and Sarah Geldon as Ebba. The film is largely in English, though there are scenes in French, with subtitles in English. Solar Pictures is showing the film starting June 1, and with a premiere night at Gateway cinema on May 30.


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