Peta to restage its landmark production 'Galileo' for 3 nights only

Bertolt Brecht's take on Galileo Galilei-when real science was considered fake news
Nov. 18, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) is bringing back one of its landmark productions, "Ang Buhay ni Galileo," on Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, as part of its 50th anniversary season.

Peta first staged the material in 1981.
Joel Lamangan (left) will reprise his role as Galileo.

Even more significantly, the play will be mounted in Peta's original home, the open-air Rajah Sulayman Theater in Intramuros.

Translated by Alan Glinoga based on German playwright Bertolt Brecht's "Life of Galileo," the play is about the titular Italian scientist's problems with authorities when he attempts to deliver scientific truths to the masses.


Peta first staged the material in 1981 with young actors who are now stalwarts in the profession: actor Bodjie Pascua, composer Lutgardo Labad, playwright Manny Pambid, and current Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Fernando "Nanding" Josef, just to name a few. Current Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda was part of the production's publicity team.

Reprising his role as Galileo is current Gantimpala Theater artistic director Joel Lamangan.

Rody Vera, who is directing the new production, was also already a member of Peta at the time. He recalls Peta inviting Weimar National Theater's Fritz Bennewitz from Germany to direct the show simultaneously with a children's/street theater version of "Hatol ng Guhit na Bilog" (Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle").

"I was involved in 'Hatol,' but I attended a number of rehearsals of 'Galileo.' I saw the play a few times during its Fort Santiago run," he says.

Vera admits he was quite apprehensive when asked to direct this revival. Soxie Topacio had been originally assigned as director, while Vera was to be the dramaturg.

"My job was to provide him with as much material as possible to restage the play as it was first staged at Rajah Sulayman. But when he passed away, the job fell into my lap."

Resonant as ever

More than just simply reproducing the 1981 staging, Vera is focused on what messages the play can convey to 2017 audiences.

"The play was written just before Hitler invaded Europe. It became even more resonant when the atomic bombs were dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The apolitical stance of scientists who are dedicated to only achieving scientific discoveries without realizing the political implications to mankind is devastatingly presented by this play."

The relevance of the play, he notes, goes deeper than just merely comparing Galilei's problems to modern-day issues of fake news and fighting for truth.

"The play also shows how the power that authority wields, whether religious or secular (the State or those who control the economy), can also control the direction and philosophy of science and its pursuit of truth.

"Even in the digital age of information, advances in science and technology have benefited only those who see the immense potential of power and influence these advances can wield for them.

"More advancements in science can only mean more suffering, not just because a scientist like Galileo can give up his control of truths he's discovered, but also because he has to relinquish that control to other people in power."

"Mabigat ang play na ito (This play is grave)," he says. "Probably Brecht's most important play."

"Ang Buhay ni Galileo" runs Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Rajah Sulayman Theater, Fort Santiago, Manila. link:


Fil-Ams star in Chicago thriller on fake news, media manipulation

Nov. 17, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

CHICAGO  Christine Bunuan and Karmann Bajuyo are playing the leads in Silk Road Rising's staging of "Wild Boar," a "turbulent thriller about media manipulation and fake news," which runs until December 17 at Chicago Temple Building.

Karmann Bajuyo plays Ruan.

Written by acclaimed Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong, "Wild Boar" depicts a student and her editor's quest to publicize the truth when a controversial professor goes missing.

Originally staged in Cantonese, "Wild Boar" is an adaptation by playwright David Henry Hwang (Trivia: Hwang's mother was born in China but grew up in Cebu before immigrating to the US.)

Windy City

Christine Bunuan, who plays Tricia, was born in Vallejo and raised in Vacaville, both in California. Growing up, Bunuan saw other Filipino girls her age singing in talent shows.

Bunuan (left) and Bajuyo.

"I wanted to sing just like them," she said. "Then I saw children's theater production of `The Wizard of Oz' with a bunch of kids and thought, if those kids can do it, then I can do this, too."

The four-foot tall mezzo-soprano has worked with Chicago theater companies such as Steppenwolf, The Goodman, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, among others.

Six-foot tall bass-baritone Bajuyo plays Ruan. He was born in Peoria, Illinois and moved to Chicago in the late '90s. Originally involved in athletics and pursuing a career in law, he became interested in acting while attending an acting class in college.

Aside from working in productions at Porchlight Music Theatre and Timer Lake Playhoues, Bajuyo has acted in Danny Bernardo's play "Mahal" for Bailiwick Theater.

Research and reflections

Both actors prepared for working on this play by holding discussions on and reviewing the background of the story's milieu.

"The research I did consisted of reading up on the history of Hong Kong and asking questions of our director Helen Young, who is very familiar with the city," says Bajuyo.

Christine Bunuan plays Tricia.

Bunuan adds, "With the help of our dramaturg Carol Ann Tan, who is from Singapore, we discussed the culture, the political climate in Hong Kong as well as China's influence"

When it comes to accessing news and information, Bajuyo follows business and sports news as well as Chicago's PBS affiliate WTTW. "I am on Facebook and Instagram but certainly not consumed by either. I am not a social media nor TV addict."

"I have actually stepped away from Facebook quite a bit because of the cyberbullying that I have seen out there," reveals Bunuan.  "Now, I mostly just post about shows or events that are happening in the community and then I leave."

For her news sources, Bunuan reads articles from the New York Times or Washington Post. "I also listen to NPR. Our current political climate can be depressing at times so I turn to John Oliver for some humor about our news."

She adds, "It can be difficult to know what is real or fake news. I do hope that this play will educate people to dig deeper to find the truth, understand the importance of doing their research and consider who their sources are.

"Social media seems to be the source of news for many people. They have become so quick to judge and state things as fact but don't take the time to step back and really see the big picture and dig for the truth."

"The play hopefully challenges the audience to apply their critical thinking skills to the news they hear or see on social media," says Bajuyo. "I think we have to be especially discerning when seeing 'news' on social media that corroborates our own point of view.

"In these instances, we must be diligent about researching and validating a story before we just post the link onto our social media account. Snopes, FactCheck, Politifact, PunditFact are all great websites to check the veracity of a statement, report, or article. Assuming they themselves can be trusted."

"Wild Boar," previews until Nov. 18, runs Nov. 19-Dec. 17 at Silk Road Rising, Chicago Temple Bldg., 77 West Washington St., Chicago. Visit

Justin Huertas' new musical, 'Howl's Moving Castle,' to open in Seattle

Nov. 16, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SEATTLE  Justin Huertas has composed music and written songs for the musical "Howl's Moving Castle" for Book-it Repertory Theatre to be shown starting November 29.

Composer/lyricist Justin Huertas (right) with adapter/director Myra Platt.
Photo by John Ulman.

Huertas first worked with Book-it, whose ethos is adapting books for the stage, as an actor in its production "Welcome to Braggsville" earlier this year, for which he received a nomination at this year's Gregory Awards for Best Actor in a Play.

It was during that show when founding co-artistic director Myra Platt assigned him to write songs for "Howl's."

Huertas recalls, "When she told me they had secured the rights to adapt the book, I literally fell on the floor with a 'Yaaaas!'" Platt is adapting and directing the show.

"Howl's Moving Castle" is by British author Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1986, wherein Sophie Hatter is turned into an old woman by a witch and seeks the notorious wizard Howl and his fire-demon Calcifer to help her break the curse.

The role of Sophie will be played by Filipino American actress Sara Porkalob, who recently concluded her one-person play "Dragon Lady," about her Filipino gangster grandmother, for Intiman Theatre. (Read about it here.)

Book and movie fans

The book had been previously adapted by Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli into a film in 2004, directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

He's excited for Miyazaki-philes like himself ("I'm a huge fan of the Studio Ghibli films," he says.) to come watch the musical. "It's cool that there's this whole amazing fanbase for the movie, and a large portion of those fans have never even read the book, so this musical will have a lot of plot points and characters they've never seen."

Seattle boy

Huertas was born and raised in Seattle. "First generation Filipino on my dad's side, second on my mom's." He studied theater at Pacific Lutheran College and has not stopped working since graduating in 2009.

Sara Porkalob (left) as Sophie Hatter with Michael Feldman as Howl.
Photo by John Ulman.

He started off with acting gigs at Seattle Repertory Theatre, then playing cello in the national tour of the Broadway musical "Spring Awakening" for eight months, then back to Seattle Rep to play Rod in the staging of "Avenue Q" (Seattle premiere), then writing and acting in his first musical, "Lizard Boy."

Seattle Rep artistic director Jerry Manning knew Huertas as an actor first. When he found out Huertas also played the cello and was a fellow comic-book lover, a commission for the musical was assigned. Huertas went on to develop his coming-of-age love story cello-rock musical about a young gay boy who develops lizard superpowers, which premiered in 2013.

Pop folk-rock

"The way I write can vary," Huertas says of his composing style. "Sometimes I find a melody by noodling on a guitar, but most of the time, I free-write in character, then some magical line will appear to me."

He always composes songs using a guitar. "My writing style fits somewhere in between pop-musical theatre and folk-rock. It's an easy access point emotionally for me, because it's the kind of music I grew up listening to."

For "Howl's," Huertas found inspiration from the book itself. "The awesome thing is that Diana Wynne Jones has done all of that work for me! I find a magic sentence in her book and, boom, I've got a song!"

"Howl's Moving Castle" runs Nov. 29-Dec. 30 at Center Theatre, Seattle Center Armory, 305 Harrison St., Seattle. Visit

Don Darryl Rivera wins Seattle’s Gregory Award for best supporting actor

Nov. 9, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SEATTLE  Broadway actor Don Darryl Rivera won Best Supporting Actor at the recently held 2017 Gregory Awards for playing Sancho Panza in 5th Avenue Theatre's "Man of La Mancha," which ran late last year.

Don Darryl Rivera as Sancho Pancha in "Man of La Mancha."

"When they called my name, I think the first word that came out of my mouth was a curse word because I was so pleasantly surprised!" says the Seattle native.

Named after Gregory Falls (1922-97), founding artistic director of A Contemporary Theatre and a former chair of University of Washington's School of Drama, the awards are administered, funded, and produced by Theatre Puget Sound.

"I was so not expecting to win that I didn't even prepare a speech. The talent in Seattle is so immense that it is a privilege and an honor to even be nominated among my colleagues. I love the Seattle theatre community so much."

Rivera previously won the 2009 Gregory Award in the Person to Watch category.

Several other Filipino American theater artists were nominated this year. Corrina Lapid Munter in the Best Actress in a Musical category for playing Mrs. Lovett in ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery's "Sweeney Todd;" Ben Gonio in the People's Choice for Best Actor in a Musical category for playing Sweeney Todd in the same production; and Justin Huertas in the Best Actor in a Play category for playing Louis in Book-it Repertory Theatre's "Welcome to Braggsville."

Hosting the awards ceremony at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall were Huertas and Sara Porkalob, who recently concluded her one-person play "Dragon Lady," about her Filipino gangster grandmother, for


Rivera currently plays Iago in Disney's "Aladdin" on Broadway, which he's been doing since the show opened in 2014. Iago, a parrot sidekick to the villain Jafar in the animated film, is human in the musical.

Sara Porkalob (left) and Justin Huertas hosted the awards show.

Rivera originated the role in the musical's world premiere in Seattle and through its developmental run in Toronto prior to opening on Broadway.

Princess Jasmine's singing voice was done by Lea Salonga in the animated film that the musical is based on.

Other Fil-Ams in the "Aladdin" machinery include Reggie de Leon who plays Iago in the US national tour together with Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, who originated the role on Broadway. Jacobs' sister Arielle opened the show in the Australia production, where Fil-Australian Aljin Abella (Blue Ranger in TV's "Power Rangers Jungle Fury") plays Iago.

Rivera and his wife have moved to New Jersey, after a brief stay in Brooklyn, because of the job, which he is contracted for until next year. Disney management allowed Rivera to join "La Mancha" last year.


"I was gone from 'Aladdin' for about seven and a half weeks. Alan Muraoka, who you might know as Alan from `Sesame Street,' took over the Iago role while I was gone and he was fantastic! He's a Broadway vet and one of the sweetest, most humble people I know," says Rivera.

Corrina Lapid Munter (left) and Ben Gonio in "Sweeney Todd."

Rivera's parents immigrated to the US in the '70s and his father, Danny, became a founding member of Filipino folk dance group Kultura. It's no surprise that he grew up learning to dance tinikling and itik itik; and eventually joining kaSAma, a hip-hop dance group.

Rivera, whose acting credits stretch from Shakespeare to children's theater, was bitten by the acting bug in high school and took up acting at Cornish College of the Arts.


Rivera is also a playwright and composer. He's written the book for children's musical "Harold and the Purple Crayon," adapted from the children's book; and he's co-composed and co-written children's musical "Adventures With Spot."

Rivera as Sancho Panza in "Man of La Mancha."

For Philippine history buffs, one of the musical's songs, "The Impossible Dream," is associated with anti-Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship activist Evelio Javier and politician Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino.

Rivera's favorite song from "La Mancha" is "To Each His Dulcinea." "Nick DeSantis, who played the Padre, sang it so beautifully every night," says Rivera. "There is always something worth fighting for. There is always beauty in the world."

READ previous coverage of Seattle-based Filipino American theater artists:

Actress Sara Porkalob stages the story of her gangster lola

Fil-Am actors play homicidal couple in musical thriller "Sweeney Todd" in Seattle

Anti-beauty pageant Fil-Am teens to be depicted on stage

Musical 'Portrait of the Artist as Filipino' to screen in San Francisco

Nov. 8, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SAN FRANCISCO  "Ang Larawan" ("The Portrait"), a Tagalog musical adapted from Nick Joaquin's play "A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino," will be screened with English subtitles on November 9 at the Cinematografo International Film Fest, Kabuki 8 Theaters.

Rachel Alejandro (left) and Joanna Ampil
play the Marasigan sisters.

Variety has praised the film as "stunning . impeccably performed and crisply photographed . Clearly made with the utmost love and care . beautifully decorated and top-notch in every technical detail," based on the film's world premiere at the Tokyo Film Festival on October 29.

Directed by Obie Award-winner Loy Arcenas, the film features Filipino actresses Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil as the Marasigan sisters. The two are having financial difficulties and must decide if they should sell their father's last great painting.

"This movie is our love letter to Filipinos everywhere to look back at our heritage," says Arcenas, who will be at the screening together with Alejandro for a talkback session with the audience.

"The core of the story is about commerce versus art and love for family. We want our Filipino American youth to think about what is truly important in life," says producer Girlie Rodis. "Candida and Paula could make a fortune selling the painting and their lives could change. It's important for us to know what's behind their final decision."

Behind the scenes

Libretto is by Philippine National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio (who studied for a master's in Creative Writing from State University of Iowa) with music by Ryan Cayabyab.

Arcenas designed sets for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions and directed theater in New York with groups such as Ma-Yi Theater ("Flipzoids," "Romance of Magno Rubio") before shifting to filmmaking in the Philippines.

Ampil is a mainstay in West End musicals and has played Kim in "Miss Saigon," Mary Magdalene in "Jesus Christ Superstar," Christmas Eve in "Avenue Q," and Fantine in "Les Miserables." Her most recent credit is Grizabella in a UK touring production of "Cats."

Alejandro's recent stage credits include "Avenue Q," "Xanadu," "Aida," and "Rock of Ages."

Production design for the film is by Gino Gonzales, who has a master's degree in set design from New York University and recently won 2nd place in the costume category of the World Stage Design competition earlier this year. [READ ABOUT IT HERE.]


First published in 1952, Philippine National Artist for Literature Joaquin's "Portrait" has been a staple on Manila stages both in English and in Tagalog translations. Director and theater teacher Edgardo de la Cruz staged the English version at University of Hawaii Manoa in the early '70s. Ma-Yi Theater staged it in New York in '97.

Joaquin had written "Portrait" at the behest of his sister-in-law, theater actress and director Sarah Joaquin (who later retired to Washington, DC and staged Filipino productions there in the '90s).

Lamberto Avellana's Barangay Theater Guild edited down Joaquin's original script to the definitive staging version. He also directed a film version in 1965.

In 1997, Musical Theater Philippines (Musicat), now Culturtain Musicat Productions, headed by singer Celeste Legaspi and producer Girlie Rodis, commissioned and staged "Ang Larawan" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with Legaspi playing one of the sisters.

A bit of trivia: Musicat has also produced a musical, "Katy!" on the life of jazz and bodabil (Filipinized vaudeville) singer Katy de la Cruz, who was popular in Manila in the 1920-'30s and performed at San Francisco's Forbidden City nightclub in the late '40-'50s.


To celebrate Joaquin's birth centenary, Penguin Classics (headed by publisher Elda Rotor) published "The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic" earlier this year, a collection of his works that includes "A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino." The book has a foreword by New York-based writer Gina Apostol and an introduction by scholar Vicente Rafael.

Culturtain Musicat has also published a book "Ang Larawan," which includes the Tagalog libretto, the English play, the Tagalog screenplay, and behind-the-scenes photos of the filmmaking process. Limited copies are signed by the film's actors.

"This material was originally written by Filipino genius Nick Joaquin in English but the soul of the story is Filipino. Then it was translated into Tagalog by another genius Rolando Tinio. They are both National Artists. The music was created by Ryan Cayabyab, who obviously will one day become a national artist," says Rodis.

Filipino American theater groups or cultural organizations interested in staging "Ang Larawan" can contact Rodis at for arrangements.

Cinematografo International Film Fest runs Nov. 9-12 and features shorts and documentaries by Filipino American filmmakers and full-length films from the Philippines. (List of films can be seen here.)

Alejandro and her cousin Nino will have a concert featuring Original Pilipino Music (OPM) songs on Nov. 12, 8 pm at Fort McKinley concert hall in South San Francisco.

"Ang Larawan" screens Nov. 9, 6 p.m., AMC Dine-in Kabuki 8 Theaters, 1881 Post St., San Francisco. Visit

Some books on Filipino American history

Oct. 26, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SEATTLE  Spouses Dorothy and Fred Cordova founded the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) in 1982 to champion the preservation and public awareness of Fil-Am history.

FANHS lobbied for years for the month of October to be observed as Filipino American History Month in the United States. California officially declared it so in 2009 and Congress followed suit the following year.

In 1986, FANHS established the National Pinoy Archives here in Seattle, a collection of historical documents and photographs on Fil-Ams across the US. It opened the FANHS Museum in Stockton, California in 2015.

It's also established chapters across the country (that can be reached via their respective Facebook pages).

It has also published pictorial essay books on Fil-Am history.

Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans
A Pictorial Essay/1763- circa-1963
By Fred Cordova
Published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing in 1983
If you type in "Filipino American history" at online bookstores, this is one of the oldest publications that pop up in the results. A seminal publication in Fil-Am history titles.

Filipinos in ____
(Images of America series)
Published by Arcadia Publishing with editions starting 2001

This series of locale-specific pictorial essay books are charming visual accounts. Children of Fred Cordova's seminal publication, as they were. Editions include Puget Sound, the Willamette Valley, Vallejo, Stockton, the East Bay, San Francisco, Ventura County, Los Angeles, Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown, Hollywood, Carson and the South Bay, San Diego, Hawai'i, Chicago, Greater Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New York City.

The internet has a trove of articles, videos and podcasts that touch on Fil-Am history. There are also history books, memoirs, and academic books about specific periods, individuals, or geographic areas in Fil-Am history.

But it can be challenging sometimes to decide what precise topics to search online for or find books to read about, without first having a general idea of the broader timeline of Fil-Am history.

For readers who'd like to go beyond the Wikipedia entry and dig a little more, here are some beginners' books on Fil-Am history.

Unlike some available in-depth and topic-specific books, these titles are geared towards general readership and provide an overview Fil-Am history from early Filipino settlers in the northern American continent (even before the US declared its independence) all the way through the different contexts and reasons that spurred the multiple waves of immigration to the US and the growth of the Fil-Am population.

Although some are already out-of-print (sad!), these titles are still available for purchase online, with some even having e-book versions.

Filipino American Lives
By Yen Le Espiritu
Published by Temple University Press in 1995
Though a collection of interviews with Fil-Ams from different sectors, Vietnamese scholar Espiritu's (she married a Filipino) introductory essay is an overview of Fil-Am history.

The Filipino Americans from 1763 to the present:
Their history, culture, and traditions
By Veltisezar Bautista
Published by Bookhaus Publishers in 1998; 2nd edition published in 2002

The Filipino Americans
By Barbara Mercedes Posadas
Published by Greenwood Press in 1999

For context, there is:

History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos
By Luis H. Francia
Published by Overlook Press in 2010

For younger readers, there are:
Filipino Americans
(New Immigrants series)
By Jon Sterngass
Published by Chelsea House in 2007
For teenagers.

The Filipino Americans
(Peoples of North America series)
By Jennifer Stern
Published by Chelsea House Publishing in 1989
For teenagers.

Filipino Americans
(We Are America series)
By Carolyn Yoder
Published by in 2003
For 7 years and up / Grades 2 and up

There is an obvious dearth of publications that are available for general readership; hopefully an article like this one will help remind and jar scholars, writers, illustrators, photographers, editors, and publishers into producing; organizations, businesses and noble patrons into funding; and readers into clamoring(!) for more titles. (Or at the very least, for publishers to keep marketing or start producing ebook versions of existing titles.)

For more recommendations on books about Fil-Am history, approach a librarian or get in touch with Fil-Am bookstores like Arkipelago in San Francisco and Philippine Expressions Bookshop in Los Angeles, or contact the Philippine American Publishers Consortium.

Filipino ghosts to haunt San Francisco theatergoers

Oct. 19, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SAN FRANCISCO  "Mumu," a show about ghosts will premiere this Halloween weekend at Bindlestiff Studio in the SOMA (South of Market) area.

Suzette Sagisi (center) plays Josefina,
who has twin spirits, shown behind her.
Photo by Julie Munsayac.

"We all have ghosts," says Irene Faye Duller, one of the founding members of Susmaryosep & Co., a group of multidisciplinary artists that's co-presenting the show with Bindlestiff Studio. "The show deals with the celebration of death and a meditation of our darker selves."

"Mumu" is the children's diminutive for the Tagalog word for ghost "multo," itself a corruption of the Spanish "muerto" ("dead").

The concept of "celebration of death," Duller points out, is informed by Philippine traditions. "All Soul's Day in our history is not a day of mourning; in the homeland, it is a day to gather, remember and celebrate," she says.

"Since we [here in the US] no longer go in hordes to fill the cemeteries with song and ceremony on November 2nd, the time is very ripe to conceive new rituals and continue a community gathering in the name of our ghosts," she adds.

Crafting the experience

Susmaryosep would like to keep as much of the plot confidential, though it is willing to say that "Mumu"'s story is set in 1977 San Francisco and involves a Filipino immigrant.

It also advises interested audience members to wear comfortable shoes.

Sumaryosep & Co.'s publicity GIF file used in social media for "Mumu."

While the venue can usually seat up to around a hundred theatergoers, this particular production limits each show to only 40 audience members, all of whom will need to obtain online reservations.

The 90-minute production will involve acting and choreography set to music collected by Joel Quizon from original vinyl records from the 1970s.

The soundscape includes influences from disco music and the Manila Sound, the popular music movement in the Philippines from that decade that focused on original Filipino music versus foreign works.

The script and designs for sets, costumes and lighting were devised by the entire group.

Choreographer is Kyle Limin. Featured dancers include Alexandria Diaz De Fato and Cassey De La Pena.

Stories and symbolisms

The show "Mumu" is only one part of a multi-tentacled endeavor.

Another installment of Susmaryosep's work is "#HelloMumu," a project to preserve ghost stories and their telling.

Recent sessions held at Arkipelago Bookstore have included singer and poet Golda Sargento, writer Paul Berrara, and Desi Danganan, one of the founders of the Undiscovered Night Market. Theater directors Allan Manalo of Bindlestiff Studio and Sean San Jose of Campo Santo theater company have also made appearances.

It may seem the efforts are simply to collect ghost stories and to keep alive the practice of communal storytelling. But Duller explains that the larger goal is to forge a deeper connection to Filipino and Filipino American culture and history.

The ghost stories are to serve as metaphors, a jumping off point to think about broader issues. "The bigger theme of the relationship between Filipinos and what haunts us is definitely something we want to continue exploring.

"This exploration of our unknown darkness reveals an intimate story of connection, cultural psyche and death. This is our inquiry of everything that haunts us as a people."

In other words, "What do ghosts symbolize about us and why are we afraid to confront them?"

"Mumu" runs Oct. 27-Nov. 18 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., cor. Howard St., San Francisco. Visit

Aswang and halimaw to hold concert in Sonoma County, Calif.

Oct. 7, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

RONHERT PARK, California  About an hour and a half's drive from San Francisco, aswang and halimaw of all sorts will sing at a concert at Sonoma State University this October. In Tagalog no less. But there will be English supertitles.

Charmaine Clamor (left) as Manananggal rehearsing
with composer and librettist Florante Aguilar.

With music and libretto by Florante Aguilar, "Aswang the Concert: Mga Kuwentong Halimaw, Their True Stories" is a dramatized song cycle that debunks the common stories about Philippine mythical creatures such as manananggal, tikbalang, syokoy, lady in white and tumao.

"My co-writer Fides Enriquez and I endeavored to create back stories that tie them with actual historical events. We tend to like events that history books 'forgot.'" Aguilar says.

The concert is free admission and guests can come dressed as their favorite aswang or in Filipiniana attire to celebrate Filipino American History Month.


The concert builds on a previous incarnation of the show when it was workshopped at Yerba Buena Center and Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco in 2013.

"This is the fuller version," says Aguilar. "Whereas the 2013 version approach was one song per aswang, this 2017 concert version has more of a full arc with certain stories told over several songs."

Aguilar's most recent work was composing the percussive music for last year's "Bae Makiling," a dance production staged by San Francisco- based performance group Kularts. Born in Manila,

Aguilar learned to play the octavina in a rondalla group. He studied at University of the Philippines' College of Music and trained as a classical musician. He later moved to New York with a scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music, and he received his Bachelor of Music Degree at the San Francisco Conservatory for Music.

Aguilar is an advocate of harana music, songs used in the now-vanished Filipino courtship ritual of serenading. He and Enriquez produced the 2012 documentary "Harana: The Search for the Lost Art of Serenade," where Aguilar returned to the Philippines after 12 years to interview and collaborate with three haranistas from remote provinces.


Growing up in Cavite province in the '70s, Aguilar experienced many "brownouts.'" "When there'd be no electricity at night, my cousins and family friends would gather over candle light and tell really scary ghost stories. You can imagine what that does to an impressionable young boy."

Cast records for "Aswang the Concert" soundtrack.
From left, top row: Kyle de Ocera and Leon Palad.
Bottom row: Kristine Sinajon and Giovanni Jose.

Fast forward 30 years later, when Alleluia Panis of Kularts and Aguilar were exploring ideas for a new performance piece, Aguilar immediately thought of the creatures from his childhood.

He wanted to have these creatures come out and tell the "truth" of their stories themselves. "That they're really not what we thought they were," he says. "That some were born out of misconceptions, or they're just humans portrayed as evil by the Spanish friars in order to discredit shamanic figures so they could convert (people) to Catholicism."

"Fides and I don't like the usual horror movie representations of these mythological creatures, we don't think that's interesting. We hope to successfully portray them more as multidimensional figures that would ruin your usual preconceived notions." Multimedia This concert is only one component of a multiformat endeavor.

Sneak-peek videos of rehearsals have already been posted in the production's Facebook event page and a raw soundtrack has been uploaded to Augilar's Soundcloud account.

The concert will also be filmed and the footage will become part of a planned "Aswang" movie production. There is also another staging of the concert being planned.

Cast includes Charmaine Clamor as Manananggal, Leon Palad as Tikbalang, Kyle de Ocera as Isagani/Syokoy, Giovanni Ortega as The Host, and mezzo-soprano Kristine Sinajon as Candida/Lady in White.

Music is performed by the Fandangueros, Florante Aguilar (guitar), Chus Alonso (flute and laud), Sage Baggott (percussion) and Greg Kehret (double bass). Sound engineering is by Chris Bell, lighting design by Kevin Myrick, costume design by Lara Waters.

The concert is presented by Filipino American Association of Sonoma State University. A production of New Art Media in partnership with Center for Babaylan Studies, co-produced by Esperanza Catubig.

Free admission; donations accepted for Center of Babaylan Studies. "Aswang the Concert" runs Oct. 15, 5 p.m., at Schroeder Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, California. Visit

Art Theatre Manila debuts with 'Mahabharata' excerpt-adaptation 'Sakuntala'

Sept. 23, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Joey Ting wants to stage Asian stories for Filipino theatergoers through his new theater group Art Theatre Manila (ATM).

"I want to share what Asian theater can do to change perspectives on global issues like religion, politics, race, gender, ethnicity and art," he says. "A lot of these issues are tackled in the classic texts and, yet, are still relevant in our current times."

"Sakuntala at ang Singsing ng Kapalaran,"
Art Theatre Manila's inaugural production

As founding artistic director, he intends for the group to make classical Asian theater stories accessible using the "vocabularies and symbols of this generation."

"Art Theatre Manila wants to offer a Filipino sensibility in interpreting different Asian plays," he says.

Love and justice

The group's inaugural production is "Sakuntala at ang Singsing ng Kapalaran," a Filipino adaptation by Alan Palileo from the Shakuntala episode of the Sanskrit epic "Mahabharata," using various sources such as Kalidasa's play "On Recognizing Shakuntala."

The play deals with Sakuntala (who will eventually give birth to Emperor Bharata), the man who falls in love with her, and an ill-tempered sage who gets in their way. Matel Patayon and Alex Reyes alternate as the title character.

ATM's staging will set the action in the Philippines in the 2030s, after nuclear weapons have caused a global plague. "Sakuntala is part of a surviving tribe where spirituality is at the center of their core," Ting says.

The material is close to Ting's heart as one of the topics of his research work for both his college and master's degrees in theater at the University of the Philippines.

"I'm amazed at how this material is so applicable to the contemporary world. The play is about love and justice, issues that should be thoroughly discussed in our present times."


Ting speaks fondly of his time at UP learning from such mentors as Tony Mabesa, Alex Cortez and Ami Bonifacio-Ramolete.

Theater director Joey Ting.

And just as how he was inspired and guided by his teachers, Ting has become one himself. While also working in TV and film, he's been teaching theater in colleges, most recently at UP Los BaƱos, and directing students in various productions. Last year, he mounted "Coro de los Diablos," an adaptation of "Lord of the Flies," at UPLB.

"I really try to reach students who're very enthusiastic to be in the realm of theater arts and the performing arts," he says. He's also a regular go-to director for student theses productions of UP's theater majors.

In fact, the stimulus to establish his own theater group came from his students.

"Many of my anak-anakans in the theater, current students and graduates, have been constantly encouraging me to put up my own professional theater company."

Ting's zodiac sign is Taurus, and he's channeled the bull's traits of patience, perseverance and preparation to the task of launching his own company.

"My reinforcements have come in the form of theater artists who've agreed to help me build my vision. And now, Art Theatre Manila is opening its first production."

Also on the drawing board are planned stagings of "Ramayana" from India, "The Injustice Done to Ngo Tou" from China and, from Japan, a stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's film "Dreams."

A production of Aurelio Tolentino's "Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas" is also in the pipeline. "Yes, after all, Philippine theater is part of Asian theater! We also plan on tweaking western texts with Asian interpretations."

"Sakuntala" runs Sept. 27-Oct. 21 at Studio 72, Kalayaan Ave., Quezon City. Visit link:


Play inspired by labor leader Larry Itliong to premiere in SF

Sept. 22, 2017
USA & Canada Section,

SAN FRANCISCO  A Filipino American teenager living in San Francisco who'd rather play music than go to school is inspired by a union leader to fight for his mother's rights and their home.

Adisorn Wannajirov (left) and Lorenz Gonzales are part of the cast of "Welga."
Photo by Rob Suguitan.

This is the theme of Conrad Panganiban's 90-minute play "Welga," Tagalog for "Strike," which will be premiered by Bindlestiff Studio in October, to be directed by its artistic director Aureen Almario.

The labor organizer featured in the play is Larry Itliong, who immigrated in 1929, one of many Filipinos that did so from the 1920-30s, to work in salmon canneries in Alaska and in farms in Washington, Oregon and California.

History-haters may remain calm. The play is set in the present, to give theatergoers a current connection to this particular slice of the past.

Panganiban had always wanted to write a play about the manongs. "Manong" is an Ilocano honorific for men, somewhat similar to "uncle," used as an affectionate umbrella term for the Filipino immigrant laborers.

Discovering the manongs

"Through Ethnic Studies classes taken at Sacramento State in the early '90s, I knew about the manongs through having to read the novel America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan," he says.

Itliong initiated the 1965 Grape Strike in Delano, California after an earlier successful one in Coachella Valley. Though accounts of the incident have usually focused on union leader Cesar Chavez and the Mexican laborers' side of the story, Itliong was responsible for convincing the Mexicans to join the strike instead of replacing the slots vacated by the Filipino workers.

Panganiban discovered Itliong's story through the Destination Delano project, which had sessions taught by Itliong's son Johnny. "When I found out about Manong Larry and his contributions, I knew I had to do something to remember him."

Community theater

Born in Monterey, California, Panganiban was inspired to become a playwright after hearing the audience's reaction to a script he wrote for the Pilipino Culture Night program of the Filipino Club of California State University at Sacramento in 1995.

Playwright Conrad Panganiban has a new play about
Fil-Am union leader Larry Itliong.
Photo by Rick Garcia.

"The show was called 'Hangga't Kaya Ko'ng Pangarap' and was set in a palengke in the Philippines. The approach was very teleserye with different character stories. There were serious and comedic moments throughout the play, but when I first heard an audience laugh at something I wrote, I was hooked!"

He was a business major at the time. "Like many Fil-Ams in college campuses, a Pilipino Culture Night is the closest we come to being in theater," he notes.

Fortunately, Panganiban found out about a group in Sacramento that could help him nurture his newfound interest. Sinag-tala Filipino Theater and Performing Arts Association, a Fil-Am community organization founded by Sonny Alforque, offered him a chance to write and perform on stage.

"From there, I found out about Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco that offered playwrighting workshops for their annual program Stories High."

Panganiban went on to write his first short plays with Bindlestiff and seeing them produced on stage fueled what had become a hobby into seriously being considered as a career. In fact, he event went on to complete a master's degree in Creative Writing with a focus on playwriting at San Francisco State University.

"I can honestly say that without Sinag-tala and Bindlestiff Studio, I wouldn't be where I'm at today with wanting to write about events from Filipino American history and topics that affect the Fil-Am community like domestic violence," he says.

Panganiban's works have been staged in San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Scotland, and even in a staged reading in Manila.

Connection to the present

He's been working on "Welga" for several years now. "It originally started as a one-person show written for my master's. The play grew as I felt the play needed to also include a reason for the younger generation to appreciate and know about Itliong and other agricultural workers who helped shape labor rights in America."

"I was over the moon when Bindlestiff's managing director Oliver Saria and artistic director Aureen Almario contacted me with the opportunity to produce this play at Bindlestiff Studio," he says.

Adjustments that he's made include resetting the play's location, originally in a generic San Francisco neighborhood, to the South of Market district, which was recently named the Filipino heritage cultural district.

"By doing so, the play now feels grounded as a tribute to not only to our Manongs, but also to the vital people, history and resource of this Golden Gate City."

Cast includes Marissa Ampon, Doy Charnsupharindr, Lorenz Gonzales, Nikki Nutterfield, Aaron Orpilla, Ely Orquiza, Krystle Piamonte, Ava Tolentino, and Adisorn Wannaviroj.

"Welga" runs Oct. 6-21 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., cor. Howard St., San Francisco. Tickets available at Visit


Abaca, ‘banig’ and other Pinoy visual elements in ‘Janus Silang’ book 2

Sept. 16, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Earlier this year, excitement greeted Tanghalang Ateneo's (TA) staging of Edgar Samar's young adult series, "Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon."

Scene from the first "Janus Silang" play.
Photo by Waldo Katigbak

The story revolves around teenager Janus Silang and his encounters with supernatural creatures as he tries to solve the mystery of why players of an online game have all died simultaneously-except him.

Fans will be happy to know that the group will open its 2017-2018 season with a staging of the series' second book, "Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang."

Cast in featured roles are Jenny Jamora of Red Turnip Theater, and Carlo Vergara, graphic novelist and playwright of musicals such as "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal" and "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady." Vergara returns to the stage for the first time since acting for Monique Wilson's New Voice Company in the 1990s in productions such as "Angels in America."

Adaptation is again by Guelan Luarca, and direction by Charles Yee. Gwyn Guanzon returns to design the set.

Building on the first work

The instruction from TA's artistic director Glenn Mas was that this production should build on its previous work and introduce new visual elements.

Set designer Gwyn Guanzon

Guanzon, whose set design for the first play was inspired by circuit boards-a nod to Janus' online gaming milieu-said dissecting the book and inspiration from his travels helped him design the sequel's look.

"Our director Charles Yee showed me photos of caves, especially ones with hexagon pillars," says Guanzon. "It was just months after I had traveled to a place in southern Iceland where you could actually see these hexagons by the beach. We are Filipinizing and adding texture to the main visual elements by adding abaca and banig."

He adds: "The main setting of the second Janus book is a mansion. Visually, the main takeoff is the amulet/USB pendant that Janus wears. Its shape is very Art Deco. From there, the set design's motifs were formed."

When working on design projects, Guanzon says that research is important, "especially for the details of the design. History plays a major role on the silhouette and consistency of such details. Unless you are creating another world, research on period styles is essential. But even if it is another world, a takeoff from these period styles is still helpful."

Design career

Guanzon began his design career decorating the set for Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Merry Wives of Manila."

Carlo Vergara (left) and Jenny Jamora.
Photo by Waldo Katigbak

Training under Ogie Juliano as a student at University of the Philippines, Guanzon recalls: "I was his assistant in costume design when he asked me if I really wanted to pursue design. I said yes; he told me to go back to school."

He adds that "at the time, there were no Production Design courses being offered in the country. Studying abroad was not an option since I could not afford it."

So he went to study at the Philippine School of Interior Design, and from there built his body of work.

His recent credits include set and costume design for TA's "Rites of Passage" and Sugid Productions' "Buwan at Baril sa E Flat Major," and costumes for the Philippine Educational Theater Association's "A Game of Trolls."

"Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang" runs Sept. 20-Oct. 21, Tuesday to Saturday, Ateneo Black Box Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Visit link:


Expect glamour, social awareness, hilarity at Seattle's Mr. and Ms. Gay Filipino '17

Sept. 13, 2017

SEATTLE   The winner of 2017 Mister and Miss Gay Filipino pageant will receive a crown, cash and the honor of being the Filipino Community of Seattle's LGBT Ambassador.

Filipino American drag diva Aleksa Manila hosts this year's
Mister and Miss Gay Filipino pageant in Seattle.

Organized by Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS) and Pride ASIA, the event will be hosted by Filipino American drag queens Aleksa Manila and Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse. It will be held on October 15 at the Filipino Community Center here.

"Gay Filipino pageants have been produced in varying years," explains Manila. "Also, there have been different iterations of the pageant's title over the years, including `Miss Fil-Am' and `Miss Gay FCS.'"

Social and political

"This pageant came about because FCS board member Lou Vargas wanted to revive the rich relationship of the LGBTQ communities and the Filipino Community of Seattle," says Manila.

"Historically, gay pageants have always been more than just opportunities for drag queens and transfolk to parade in gowns and crowns.

"In addition to being a great event for LGBTQ folks to celebrate our colorful community, pageants have always been a social and political movement that reminds mainstream folks about the diversity of gender, and the existence gender-variant folks."

Drugs and drag

A drug counselor by day and drag diva by night, when Manila is not in "face" (in his drag persona), he educates the community through the Seattle Counseling Service where he's currently Program Coordinator and Addictions Services Program Supervisor. He's also worked as an HIV and STD counselor.

Filipino American drag crooner Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse
will join Aleksa Manila in hosting duties.

Born in Manila and raised in San Fernando, Pampanga, Manila attended St. Scholastica's Academy and Assumption High School. "Both institutions are exclusive all-girls schools in Manila but are co-ed in Pampanga. So, yes, I am technically a `Kulasa' and `Assumptionista!'"

"When in drag, I prefer `she/her' pronouns. But out-of-drag, `s/he' pronouns since I present more gender variant and identify genderqueer," says Manila.

Community service

Manila moved to the US when he was 20 and debuted his drag persona in 1998. Since then Aleksa Manila has gone on to win several pageants and titles.

For her, glamour and glitter have always gone hand in hand with community service and leadership. Manila has served as an Honorable Commissioner under the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities, working with the City of Seattle's Office of Civil Rights where she advises on LGBTQI equal rights.

Manila has also founded with FCS the Lola Maharlika LGBT Youth College Book Fund. "Lola Maharlika is also known as `Lola Maria, Empress VII of Tacoma.' The fund is in honor of her outstanding achievements as an openly gay Filipino in the community," she says.


This pageant is another opportunity for her to work with and help nurture ties in the Fil-Am community in Seattle.

"Registrations are coming along and we've very excited to see what the amazing contestants have to offer!" she says.

The pageant's categories will include Cultural Fantasy (National Costume), Tropical Realness (Swim Wear), Talent Competition (lip sync, etc.), Evening Eleganza (Formal Wear), and Spokesmodel Q&A (Impromptu Question).

"We will also be graced by reigning titleholders and phenomenal performers from the Pacific Northwest like Miss UTOPIA, Miss Gay Seattle, Miss Neighbors, Nubian Pride Prince and Princess, Emperor and Empress of Seattle, and so on."

"And of course, hilarity and banter between myself and Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse as your pageant hosts. We're your true Filipina amigas so there might be tsismis (gossip) or two!"

Mister and Miss Gay Filipino 2017 is on Oct. 15 at Filipino Community Center, 5740 MLK Way S., Seattle. Register at Visit

Anti-beauty pageant Fil-Am teens to be depicted on stage

Sept. 7, 2017

SEATTLE  When two Filipino American teenagers are pushed by their parents to join the Seattle Filipino Community Queen Contest, rejection and conflict occur.

Robert Francis Flor's play "Mabuhay Majesty," which is set in the 1960s, explores the challenges that traditional societies face when transitioning into modernity, all combined with the hurdles immigrants face when adapting to life in America.

Playwright Robert Flor and actress/director Eloisa Cardona.

The beauty pageants are not fictitious. Flor, whose father immigrated from Iloilo in 1932, was born and grew up in the Central and Rainier Valley areas of Seattle during the years when these pageants were held.

"These contests were fundraisers held by Filipino communities," he explains. "Contestants danced in box socials. The girls reject the tradition as humiliating."

Meals prepared in boxes, usually made by women at the time, were auctioned off to men at box socials. The winning bidder earned the privilege of sharing the meal with the box's preparer.

In Flor's case, "The boxes weren't meal boxes but empty, like collection plates for money," he explains.


Despite having worked in the academe and government, Flor has always had creative ways with words. He writes poetry and is currently the co-chair of writers' organization Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts.

"My father Vincent Fernandez, who passed in 2003, had always inspired us to read and pursue an education. He read Whitman, Poe and other American writers to us from time to time at the dining room table."

Flor's foray into playwriting was sparked when he unearthed some of his late uncle Baltazar's personal items. His uncle had immigrated to Seattle in 1921, ahead of Flor's father.

Flor discovered that Baltazar had been a playwright for the community and had formed the Filipino Catholic Club Drama Guild. "My uncle's affects included programs from plays he'd written and one surviving play," he said.

Flor showed the items to friends who suggested the materials could be fashioned into a play. "Not knowing how to write one, I enrolled in courses at Freehold, ACT and Seattle Repertory theaters."

The past

Since then, Flor has worked on his own play "My Uncle's Letters," scenes of which were performed in ACT Theatre's Multicultural Playwrights Festival in 2014.

He has written other plays, too. He has had his short plays produced at the Eclectic and Burien Actors theaters and has several other plays in various stages of development-most of which are set in the past, from the 1930s to the 1970s, and all set in Seattle. "I write about what I've experienced and what I love."

The love for the culture and dynamics of his Filipino heritage was partly nurtured by community leaders when he was younger. Flor had been a member of the youth social group Filipino Youth Activities, founded by Dorothy and Fred Cordova in 1957, both of whom went on to establish the Filipino American National Historical Society.

"During that time, Uncle Fred and Auntie Dorothy fostered in the second generation (i.e. Filipinos born in America to immigrant parents) a resonating pride and interest in our roots and our families."

The present

"Mabuhay Majesty" is Flor's first full-length play to be produced and will be directed by Fil-Am actress Eloisa Cardona.

He says he chooses to focus on stories in the community for several reasons.

"There are few writers writing about the Bridge Generation, author Peter Jamero's term for the children of Filipino immigrants who arrived in the US in the early 1900s.

"Each of us likely gives some thought to celebration and retention of the values of language, food, dance, dress, arts and customs. Those stories delve importantly into the assimilation of Filipinos in America and the maintenance or loss of cultural elements."

Flor also points out how little the greater American society knows of Filipino culture. "For sure, they enjoy lumpia, adobo and the tinikling. But, there's very little understanding or knowledge even among Filipinos of their history, role and contributions to this country. I wanted to seed the public mind and consciousness of Filipino participation in this nation through the arts: theater, fine arts, poetry and literature."

He also intends to have his plays be used as a bridge for Filipino theatrical and artistic aspirations. "They can be used for the development of our actors, directors and technicians.

"The Seattle area has seen the growing rise of Filipino talent in the arts. In theater, we're blessed to see and experience the talents of actors Ray Tagavilla, Ben Gonio, set designer Lex Marcos, composer Justin Huertas, and others. Actress and playwright Sara Porkalob is remarkable. She's an ascending shooting star!"

"We're also fortunate to have poets and writers Rick Barot, Donna Miscolta, Roberto Ascalon; artists Jeanette Tiffany, Olivia Zapata, Romson Bustillo and more. We have a rich tradition and more talent developing in the coming generations."

Cast includes Linda Rigor and Roxie Torres as sisters Reina and Marrietta, respectively; and Manny Golez and Laurie Rocello Torres as the parents. Language translations and music are by Roger Rigor and Josh Valdez. Lighting design is by Kiera Stevens.

"Mabuhay Majesty" runs at Sept. 27-28 at Rainier Arts Center, 3515 S Alaska St., Seattle. Visit

Actress Sara Porkalob stages the story of her gangster lola

Aug. 30, 2017

SEATTLE  Sara Porkalob wants to tell you the story of her gangster Filipino grandmother who immigrated to America.

Sara Porkalob (left) and her grandmother.

In her upcoming show "Dragon Lady," Porkalob will unravel 60 years of shady history and faulty memories through multiple family members across three generations. By the way, she's acting all the roles herself.

It's a show that she's been developing, writing and performing since she was a student at Cornish College of the Arts. From its original seven minutes, the show is now a full two-hours and it's still growing and morphing.

Its most recent incarnation was in cabaret and dinner-theater form earlier this year under the title "Madame Dragon's 60th Birthday Bash."

This time around, the staging will be a musical with music composed by Pete Irving.

"It will keep evolving and I think that's one of the script's strengths. It allows me to take the show to different places and it allows me to tailor the show specifically for an audience demographic," she says.


"It's the story of my [maternal] grandmother's past in the Philippines as a gangster and a nightclub singer," explains Porkalob.

But more than just that, it's a statement of Porkalob's anger at Asian stereotypes, her assertion as a woman theater artist, and her love for family.

"My grandmother's first time in seeing the show was in 2014. She was embarrassed and proud," Porkalob says.

"Embarrassed because she couldn't believe I was telling people all this history about our family, then proud because she knew I was doing it to honor and celebrate where we came from and who we are."


"'Dragon Lady' describes Asian women who are strong, sexual, deceitful and domineering," writes Porkalob in an essay posted in the Intiman Theatre website. "The opposite is 'Madame Butterfly,' demure, passive, alluring and a martyr. Both terms are racial slurs, objectifying and negatively portraying Asian women."

She noted how these were the only representations of Asian women she saw in mainstream media growing up.

"Yet, there I was, an Asian woman being raised by strong, complex Asian women. Why wasn't I seeing their experiences portrayed on TV, in the movies, and in books? Was I a Dragon Lady or was I a Madame Butterfly? Or was I neither?" she added.

"To me, a Dragon Lady is a woman taking control of her narrative, a woman who knows where she came from, where she's going, and a woman who is not afraid to burn some shit down."


Porkalob's grandmother immigrated to Hawaii in 1971 and then moved to the West Coast soon after. "My mom's side of the family is Filipino and Chinese. My father's side is Filipino and Hawaiian."

Sara Porkalob.
Photo by Joshua Taylor.

Born and raised in Bremerton, Washington, with a few years in Anchorage, Alaska, in between, Porkalob moved to Seattle for college and has been based there since.

Though she's acted for Book-It Repertory Theatre, 5th Avenue Theatre, Taproot Theatre, Artswest and Bumbershoot, for now, she's most identified with her solo show.

In fact, after she was appointed Intiman Theatre's co-curator for this year, she taught the participants of its Emerging Artist Program how to develop their own solo shows.

And there's more to come. "I'm in the process of developing two other solo shows about my family. Those plus 'Dragon Lady' would make a trilogy of plays dedicated to family."

And then some: "I plan on adapting the material for television, film, and eventually a book," she adds.


Since Porkalob also directs and because the show is autobiographical, she usually self-directs the different incarnations of "Dragon Lady."

Every once in a while, she works with a director to take in a second eye's point of view. This staging will be helmed by Intiman Theatre's artistic director Andrew Russell.

"This collaboration with Andrew is a very non-traditional. We always defer to my instinct, rather than his, which is normally the case for a director. Andrew is a great listener and he helps me keep track of my ideas and he's great at saying, `You don't need that.' He's been a wonderful editor."

"Dragon Lady" is scheduled to be staged at Random Howse Thai Restaurant in Orcas Island, Washington in October for Woman in the Woods Productions; and at Oberon theater club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, next year in March for American Repertory Theatre.

This December, Porkalob will play the lead in Book-It Repertory Theatre's world premiere of the musical "Howl's Moving Castle," where her character is turned into an old woman by a witch. Music and lyrics are by Filipino American composer and actor Justin Huertas.

"Dragon Lady" runs Sept. 5-Oct. 1 at Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse, University of Washington, 4045 University Way, Seattle. Visit