Stage manager Sheryl Polancos and her quest to learn more

Stage manager Sheryl Polancos and her quest to learn more
July 9, 2016

Sheryl Polancos
"I've always been inclined towards the arts. I was always involved with dance, drama and art classes when I was a little girl," says Sheryl Polancos.

She expressed her affinity for the arts by joining dance clubs in grade school and high school. When she enrolled in University of Santo Tomas, an injury waylaid her plans to audition for the school's famed Salinggawi dance troupe.

"I joined the official theater guild of the College of Arts and Letters, Artistang Artlets. That's where I caught the theater bug."

She fell in love with the profession. So much so that the first job she applied for right after graduating was with the resident theater group of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Shifting gears
"I started out as a production manager at Tanghalang Pilipno," she recalls.

"Then I noticed that I enjoyed the rehearsal process more than paperwork and I wanted to be involved in the creative process of how a show is mounted."

That's when she switched to stage management. "I feel happy and alive whenever I'm in a rehearsal space and in theaters. It's become my comfort zone."

"I like being able to work closely with the director. Knowing you're responsible for trying to execute his/her vision is a challenge."

During her time at Tanghalang Pilipino, in addition to plays based on Filipino indigenous chants ("Hudhud") and on a popular film ("Himala"), she cut her teeth on Shakespeare and works by playwrights from Japan, Australia and Sri Lanka.

The works she was exposed to started to spark a wanderlust, a desire to see how theater was done elsewhere in the world. These productions included works that dealt with Filipino-American relations such as "The Romance of Magno Rubio," based on immigrant Carlos Bulosan's short story, and "Oraciones," a play that tackled American government in the Philippines, a Filipina suffragette and even the location filming of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" in the Philippines.

Adventures in stage management
While her desire to see the world was growing, she went on to work for Atlantis Productions (now Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group) and Stages Production Specialists, switching seamlessly between Philippine stagings of foreign material and original Filipino works.

Her credits include the Philippine or Asian premieres of Broadway hits such as "Next to Normal," "Aida," "Xanadu," "Shrek," "Avenue Q," Rock of Ages," "The Addams Family,"and Disney's "Tarzan."

Even when she took a short foray into corporate work, she was still tasked with overseeing the company's marketing shows and events.

One of her memorable experiences was when the lead actress for the musical "Carrie" fell ill after their opening weekend. She and the entire cast had one week to rehearse the replacement.

[Read about the actress who learned the Carrie role in only six days here.]

"We didn't sleep for that whole week but in the end, we pulled through and had another opening night with a different lead." The original lead was able to return for the last week's shows and "On closing night, both leads sang together during curtain call. It was pretty emotional. That musical will always hold a special spot in my heart."

Breaking out
Finally, after years of working on shows in Manila, she began to plan her journey to expand her horizons.

"I always feel like I need to learn more and experience more. So where else to go but to the melting pot of theater, New York."

In the beginning, she was, to quote from the musical "Into the Woods," both "excited and scared."

Nonetheless, she's kept her objective in mind: "I want to learn more and absorb as much as I can."

The fear seems to have all but disappeared. Since landing in the Big Apple, she's hit the ground running. She's already observed with companies such as Riant Theatre during its Strawberry One-Act Festival and Soho Repertory during its staging of "Duat."

She's also attended open read-throughs and has had a chance to see other stage managers in their milieu, like Cristina Sison from Juilliard and Rachel Gross of Soho Rep. "I've also seen how directors in New York work, like Van Dirk Fisher, Will Davis, Herbert Go."

"I still want to attend workshops or courses for further training. I want a chance to stage manage a show here so I can get my hands dirty and really experience the differences between what I already know and how things are done here."

"As a stage manager, it has always been my goal to strive for perfection and to run the show smoothly and keep its integrity. Once a show opens, there's always a sense of pride and fulfillment in knowing that I played a big part in making the show come to life."

Visit Sheryl's LinkedIn profile or contact her at sherylpolancos @   

From dislike to devotion: How Topper Fabregas conquered yoga, cardio and the stage

From dislike to devotion: How Topper Fabregas conquered yoga, cardio and the stage
July 23, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Topper Fabregas.
Photo by JC Inocian
Trying new experiences has always proved life-changing for Topper Fabregas.

He never liked performing as a child. "It was like pulling teeth to get me to sing at family gatherings!" he says.

He wanted to become a writer and would join journalism contests. One summer, two of his friends joined an acting workshop by Triumphant Peoples Evangelistic Theatre Society (Trumpets), and he gave it a go as well. Trumpets was holding auditions at the time for its musical "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

"My friends dared me to audition. I got a callback on my pager. I didn't even know what a callback meant," he says, laughing. His acting career began when he originated the role of Peter Pevensie.

"I worked nonstop from when I was 19 until I was about 25," he says. There weren't as many theater groups and acting opportunities back then, so he decided to pack up for New York to study acting at Circle in the Square Theatre School.

Something new
He'd begun to establish roots in the United States, even getting his Equity card (the American union for actors). But when he returned to Manila for a visit in the early 2010s, he discovered that "the theater landscape had changed considerably."

"I realized this is where I was supposed to be, that I could contribute to some bigger picture and I was part of some shift," he says.

While taking on numerous acting assignments for Repertory Philippines and other companies (most recently, "Godspell" for MusicArtes and "The Normal Heart" for The Necessary Theatre), he cofounded Red Turnip Theater, where he's been able to transition to directing.

He directed "This Is Our Youth" last year and is now helming the company's 2016-17 season-opener "Tribes." Written by Nina Raine, it's about a deaf man raised by his family to lip-read instead of using sign language to communicate. He then meets a woman who teaches him how to do sign language.

"Someone recommended it to us, and we all fell in love with the material. It felt like something up my alley, with its family setup, its comedy scenes. There's a running joke in Red Turnip that I get to direct all the plays that happen indoors with a lot of props."

Preparation, direction
From left, standing,
Dolly de Leon, Teroy Guzman, Cris Pasturan;
Thea Yrastorza, Kalil Almonte, Angela Padilla.
Photo by Jojit Lorenzo
As further validation of the healthier theater industry he'd come home to, Fabregas had to recruit actors as early as February.

"We have to cast people early since there are so many productions now. You have to get them before anyone else does. I started begging one of them as early as last year."

Kalil Almonte plays the main protagonist, Dolly de Leon and Teroy Guzman take on the parents, Cris Pasturan and Thea Yrastorza are the siblings, and Angela Padilla is the girlfriend.

The play has set design is by Ed Lacson Jr., costume design by Marta Lovina, video design by GA Fallarme, sound design by Teresa Barrozo and lighting design by John Batalla.

Fabregas has been consulting with John Baliza, a math professor to deaf students.

"We discussed how it is and what it's like to grow up and live being deaf. It's a common misconception that there's only one kind of sign language, but there's Filipino Sign Language (FSL), American Sign Language, British Sign Language, etc.

"Like the title of the play suggests, there is a sense of being in a tribe, of having values and language passed down from one generation to the next within that community."

For this staging, he's decided to let the cast use FSL as a way to reach out to deaf Filipinos. Some shows will specifically be tailored to deaf audiences by having supertitles projected throughout.

"My cast asked me, 'Are we a Filipino family in London?' and my direction has been to stick to what the playwright intended but to craft the story through our Filipino filters. Let's read the words, and we'll let audiences receive it as they will."

From hate to love
"I'd always wanted to be a director, I just didn't think it would happen this soon," he says.

Fabregas' past experiences have fortified him for exploring new ones. Back in New York, he'd always been scared of yoga. "I was running a lot and had a lot of physical work in school. My knees started to go. Someone recommended yoga, and I was hooked. It's a total body-and-mind workout, it calmed me down, centered me a lot, and made me in touch with my body."

So much so that he became a certified instructor. "It bled into how I would perform. Now it's my warm-up for any show that I do. As an actor, my body is my instrument, and yoga opens up the heart space."

These days, he has an addition to his regimen: leading cycling classes at Saddle Row- something he also thought he'd never do.

"I don't like cardio, I hate the gym. Toff de Venecia, who is friends with the owners, asked me to try it out because they needed instructors with personality. Before I knew it, I was teaching."

Spreading out
Fabregas' expanding horizons mirror Red Turnip's growth.

Last year's "This Is Our Youth" was staged in an art gallery, marking the company's foray into performance spaces outside of Whitespace events warehouse.

"Tribes" will be staged at Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater. "We're feeling out this venue and will see how it goes," says Fabregas.

"When we founded the company, we came up with a five-year plan. Our intention was always to move around and pop up around the city. We stayed put at Whitespace the first few years just to help establish awareness for the company, but now we've started exploring."

Instead of being encouraged to try yet another new idea, there is one that Fabregas himself brought to the table: the company's ".5" series of smaller productions.

"It's the company's way of staging a show that doesn't have to quite fit in the larger theme of the season. I'm so happy and excited that people have recognized it," he says.

"This Is Our Youth" was the maiden ".5" production, and this year's installment will be revealed later on in the season. "Para may surprise," he says.

"Tribes" runs Aug. 5-Sept. 4 at Power Mac Center Spotlight Theater, Circuit Makati. Season passes available. Contact or Ticketworld at 8919999 or Visit or

Saddle Row is at 2/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Call 9663610. Visit or link:

Guide to different yoga styles

Different yoga styles

If you're considering taking up yoga, here is a short guide to the different kinds of yoga commonly offered by commercial/for profit yoga studios.

Yoga is popularly known as a series of physical poses that combines breathing and, sometimes, a bit of meditation/chanting.

Most people who are new to yoga go into it for its physical exercise/conditioning aspects. Most yoga studios and teachers do not incorporate chanting, but even if they do, it's not religion-based, so anyone can still do the chanting or choose not to.

The classics
Hatha yoga
A blanket term that means "physical yoga." Though usually, this is used to describe a moderately paced class using Vinyasa Flow (see below for description), ask your instructor.

Ashtanga yoga
- Vigorous style with set poses and sequences. First timers are usually led by an instructor, though eventually, are encouraged to practice by themselves (which is called Mystore style).
- Developed by K. Patthabi Jois (a student of Krishnamacharya)

- Focuses on correct alignment, poses are held longer
- Developed by BKS Iyengar (a student of Krishnamacharya)

Most commonly offered styles
Vinyasa/Vinyasa Flow/Flow
- Recommended for first-timers/beginners as an entry-level yoga style, once you've tried a class, you can decide if you prefer a more vigorous or slower style.
- Derived from Ashtanga, "freestyle Ashtanga," uses different poses for each session depending on sequence given by instructor
- Vinyasa also means "combining breathe with movement" and it also refers to a particular sequence of poses

Power yoga
- Same as Vinyasa, though usually at a slightly faster or more vigorous pacing
- Popularized in the 1990s by Americans Bryan Kest, Beryl Birch and Baron Baptiste

Bikram yoga
- 26 postures in a 104F/40C room, usually with no ventilation except when the instructor will open a window or door during the session. Studios in countries with dry climates use humidifiers (up to 40%). The sequence stays the same.
- Developed in the 1970s by Indian Bikram Choudhury, who has been accused of sexual harassment (see below)

Hot/Heated yoga
- Vinyasa Flow or Power Yoga in a heated room
- Usually offered by studios/instructors in lieu of Bikram because of trademark issues. The sequence does not follow the set poses of Bikram yoga.

- Usually based on Vinyasa Flow sequences but slower and more gently paced
- May focus more on breathing, relaxation poses and meditation/chanting

Newer styles
- based on Vinyasa flow with adjustments for pregnant bodies

Acro/Aerial/Anti-Gravity yoga
- combines yoga poses with poses done in/hanging from a hammock

Less Commonly Offered Styles
Bhakti/Bhakti Flow/Urban Bhakti
- uses music, sometimes chanting is included

- less physical
- repetitive motions, meditation/focusing, chanting

Yoga styles with creators or teachers accused of sexual harassment/exploitation or having sex with students
By Indians
Bikram yoga
- read about the cases here.

By Americans
- based on Vinyasa Flow
- developed in 1984 by Americans David Life and Sharon Gannon
- usually involves chanting in Sanskrit
- emphasizes vegetarianism and love for animals
- read about the case here.

- based on Iyengar yoga
- developed in 1997 by American John Friend
- read about the case here