Filipino theater designers featured in 2015 intl exhibitions in Prague and Moscow

Filipino theater designers featured in 2015 int'l exhibitions in Prague and Moscow
By Walter Ang
March 28, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

2015 Philippine pavilion scale model designed by De Leon.
The Philippines is preparing its display entries and delegates to two international theater design events this year: the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ) 2015 in the Czech Republic and the "Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990-2015" exhibition at Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, Moscow, in Russia.

To be held from June 17 to 28, the PQ exhibits a variety of performance design disciplines such as costume, stage, lighting and sound design. It's been held every four years since 1967.

US-based students
Two designers whose works are included in the entries to PQ, set designer Lex Marcos and costume designer Raven Ong, are both currently in the United States, on opposite coasts, taking up master's degree programs in set design and costume design, respectively.

Marcos is taking up a Master in Fine Arts in Scenic Design at the University of Washington's School of Drama in Seattle, while Ong is taking up an MFA in Costume Design at University of Connecticut's School of Fine Arts.

Marcos' entry is his set design for University of the Philippines Playwright's Theater's "Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal ang Tikbalang" (2011).

Ong's entry is part of a collaborative set of new designs for his school's group entry, "Country of Many Nations: E pluribus unum."

As both are studying under financial aid programs, they are  trying to find ways to generate resources and funds for their airfare to Prague and accommodations there.

Marcos' recent credits include Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Adarna" and "Bilanggo ng Pag-Ibig" and the Philippine Educational Theater Association's (Peta) "D Wonder Twins of Boac."

Ong's recent credits include Atlantis Productions' "Carrie," Red Turnip's "Closer," and Repertory Philippines' "The Producers" and "Alice in Wonderland."

Philippine booth
In the 2011 PQ, the Philippines' exhibition pavilion, a 6-meter-high bahay-kubo design by set designer Rolando "Rollie" de Leon, was a Children's Choice awardee, receiving a Rainbow Cormorant award hand-crafted by Czech schoolchildren who cast their votes for their favorite pavilion.

He has designed this year's pavilion as well, an installation that aims to show a devastated scene, with bamboo poles that seem to have been washed out and clumped together by floods. The photos and items for display will be inserted into the bamboo poles.

"The visitors will see how our theater productions are related to our country's situation: calamity, destruction, political turmoil, etc. Filipinos keep moving on, past these struggles," says De Leon.

Historical material
To be held from June 15 to Aug. 1, the "Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990-2015"  exhibition in Russia aims to "showcase the development of ideas, materials and technologies of costume design over the past 25 years from all over the world . as well as archive and preserve this historical material for future designers and the general public."

Igor Roussanoff, the exhibition's chief curator, selected the works of three designers from the Philippines to be included among the works of designers from 27 countries: De Leon's costumes for Music Theater Foundation's "Why Flowers Bloom in May" (2008); Mark Higgins' costumes for Triumphant Peoples Evangelistic Theater Society's (Trumpets) "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (1996 and subsequent restagings); and Mio Infante's costumes for Atlantis' "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" (2007) and Trumpets' "The Bluebird of Happiness" (2013).

De Leon is the Philippine curator for both PQ 2015 and this exhibition.

Higgins' other credits include costumes for Agnes Locsin's dance piece "The Four Last Songs." He is currently codirector of Slim's Fashion and Art School, Manila.

Infante's recent credits include Peta's "Rak of Aegis," Rep's "The Graduate" and 9 Works Theatrical's "Grease."

To offer funding support to Raven Ong, e-mail; to Lex Marcos, e-mail

For details on Prague Quadrennial 2015, visit For details on "Costume at the Turn of the Century 1990-2015," visit

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Sheila Francisco sings, acts--and cooks

Sheila Francisco sings, acts--and cooks
By Walter Ang
March 14, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sheila Francisco
Sheila Francisco is currently playing the ultra conservative mom Marie Dindon in 9 Works Theatrical's "La Cage Aux Folles."

While younger audience members have been watching her in plays recently, they may not know that her entry into the theater profession was through musicals.

She was recruited by Freddie Santos to perform for Trumpets' "Joseph the Dreamer" in 1991. A decade's worth of musicals in Manila and Singapore later, she was chosen by Trevor Nunn (director of the original productions of "Cats" and "Sunset Boulevard," among other musicals) to play Bloody Mary in the Royal National Theatre's revival of "South Pacific" in London.

Love of singing
"I have to credit my father, Ramon Francisco, for my love of music," says Francisco. "He loved music and would require us kids to listen with him when he'd play his music after meals.

"I love musicals and I will continue to do them, but doing a play is more challenging because all you have are the words. No quiet or big notes to help intensify a point-just words."

As an actor, she says that her job "is to find the right delivery, the right balance to make those words come alive and serve the story that is being told. It is a skill that one continually learns and I love it."

Two plays
Last year, Francisco was seen as Nat in Red Turnip's "Rabbit Hole," a mother who comforts her daughter who'd lost a son. But Nat herself is still coping with the death of her own son who committed suicide years back. "She is a study of contradictions. I loved playing her."

She also performed two roles for Repertory Philippines' "August: Osage County." She was tasked to play Matti Fae and to alternate for the role of the main protagonist, Violet.

"It is the most challenging and most fulfilling play I have ever done," says Francisco. "I memorized practically half of a three-hour play!"

On certain days, she would sometimes do one role for the matinee and the other role for the evening show. "I'd barely had an hour to change makeup and prepare. To shift characters in such a short time was extremely difficult for me but by God's grace, I was able to do it."

Cooking and eating
When she's not busy rehearsing or performing, she manages Franciscan Home Cooked Meals Restaurant in Makati City.

She'd been managing a recording studio, Sound Design, in Mile Long Building for the past 15 years. "But a spot was suddenly available. My sister, Poe Blay, who herself is a fabulous cook, asked if I was interested to try out opening a small cafe and that was that."

It was also her father who influenced this aspect of her life.

"He loved eating good food! He would drive as far as Angono, Rizal, to eat fried dalag for lunch and then drive to Binondo to buy the shrimp kikiam of Carvajal Street so we could have it for dinner."

"Dad had an incredible palate. He would come home, say, from eating at Casino EspaƱol and ask me to replicate the paella or the callos. He'd run down the ingredients from his memory of how the dish tasted and then give me instructions how to cook it."

Features and favorites
Now on its fifth year, the restaurant has become a favorite spot of her theater colleagues for meetings and reunions.

"We offer home-cooked flavors. The top favorites of the customers on a daily basis are the mechado flakes, arroz a la cubana, binagoongan, bangus tocho and Alaminos longganisa."

"Audie Gemora's favorite is the adobo flakes, Pinky Marquez likes the bangus belly paksiw, Leo Rialp loves my chicken curry. Tita Baby Barredo loves our Winner Kangkong, which is cooked in coconut milk."

Pasta favorites include pesto with smoked salmon bits, bolognese, Spanish sardines, and puttanesca.

The restaurant usually has a special or two for the week. "I'm the one who usually cooks these dishes. They are inspired by my dad's fave dishes. We have callos, fabada, stuffed calamari, lechon kawali, paksiw, humba. We have a fish curry dish where I make the sauce blend from scratch."

Franciscan Home Cooked Meals Restaurant is at Mile Long Bldg., Amorsolo St., Makati City. Contact 512-4670 or 0917-3864789. Like on Facebook (franciscanhomecookedflavors).

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