Filipino ghosts to haunt San Francisco theatergoers

US & 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

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

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sept. 23, 2017

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 Baños, 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
US & 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


From the acclaimed team of 'Mabining Mandirigma,' a new rock musical

Aug. 26, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The same creative team that infused steampunk visual elements into Tanghalang Pilipino's acclaimed "Mabining Mandirigma" is back.

David Ezra as Aurelio Tolentino and Baron Geisler as Tikbalang.

Their original Filipino musical about Apolinario Mabini that grabbed 12 awards at the 2016 Philstage Gawad Buhay, including Outstanding Musical, Direction, Musical Direction, Script, Set Design, Costume Design, and Choreography.

This time, they tackle the life of playwright Aurelio Tolentino in "Aurelio Sedisyoso," which collides the world of rock music with a theater genre popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s: the sarsuwela.

If the name sounds familiar to theatergoers, it's because one of the Cultural Center of the Philippines' theaters is named after him.

In 1901, after Spain had sold the Philippines to the US, the American colonial government passed the Sedition Act, prohibiting any form of advocacy for independence.

Filipino playwrights defiantly broke the law with their "drama simbolico" (symbolic/allegorical drama), now known as the seditious plays. Many of them were imprisoned, including Tolentino.

Lessons of history

In "Aurelio Sedisyoso," librettist Nicanor Tiongson continues his quest to mine the lessons of history for the Filipino present.

"My interest in history is not antiquarian. I'm interested in the past because it's a good way to understand why the Filipino is the way he is today and to learn from past mistakes. I am in history because of the present," he says.

Meanwhile, whereas classic sarsuwela used song genres like kundiman (love songs) and balitaw (lovers' duet), composer Joed Balsamo is using modern instruments and arrangements.
"Rock music's riffs and distortions will be incorporated," he says.

"The setup will be very '90s, with an electric guitar, electric bass and drums. Sarsuwela-type music will still be there, but transformed into rock."

Francis de Veyra of Radioactive Sago Project is on board to do musical arrangements.

Costume designer James Reyes, whose great grandfather is sarsuwela playwright Severino Reyes (aka Lola Basyang), assures that "Aurelio Sedisyoso" will be different from "Mabining Mandirigma."
"We want to surprise and maybe shock the audience. The feel will be rock but deeply rooted in sarsuwela."

As for his costume designs, "Contemporary elements and materials will be used. The look will sometimes be familiar turn-of-the-20th-century, but the focus is more on the attitude of rock."


Classic sarsuwela usually included a love story with a happy and "morally correct" ending. Librettist Tiongson's storyline is a bit more complicated. He credits director Chris Millado for conceptualizing the melding of rock music to the songs he wrote.

"I can't escape history. It's in my bones," he says. "I was born and grew up in an old house in Malolos, in the old Pariancillo where many of the Women of Malolos lived from the 1860s to the 1940s. My great grandmother, Eugenia Tanchanco-Reyes was one of them."

"Barasoain Church, the site of Malolos Congress, and the Malolos cathedral, formerly Emilio Aguinaldo's headquarters, were part of my everyday life."

He focused on Philippine literature, specifically theater, and history for his masteral and doctoral studies at University of the Philippines; and pioneered the study of Philippine traditional dramatic forms like komedya, sinakulo and sarsuwela in the '70s.

He also founded Dulaang Babaylan, which researched, revived or revitalized these forms. "They're not only part of our history, they should be revived and revitalized so that they can become part of our national theater."

Theater debut

David Ezra, who played Emilio Aguinaldo in "Mabining Mandirigma," will play Aurelio Tolentino. The cast includes Norby David, former co-vocalist of Rivermaya; Jing Reyna-Jorge, former vocalist of Sugar Hiccup; and the Actors Company, TP's pool of resident actors.

The project has also attracted TV and film actor Baron Geisler, who waited in line along with everyone else to audition.

Now set to make his theater debut as antagonist Tikbalang, he says, "Ibang klase yung mga castmates ko. There are times at rehearsals when I feel overwhelmed with their overflowing talent. I'm so thankful for my co-actors' and director's support and encouragement."

Chris Millado directs, with sound design by TJ Ramos, choreography by Denisa Reyes, set design by Toym Imao, lighting design by Katsch Catoy and projections by GA Fallarme.

READ previous coverage of Tanghalang Pilipino here.

"Aurelio Sedisyoso" runs Sept. 1-17 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Visit or link


Fil-Am director-actor Randy Reyes named to board of nat’l theater group

Aug. 24, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minnesota  A Filipino American theater director has been named to the board of directors of a big organization that promotes the development of professional, community and university theaters.

Randy Reyes

Stage director and actor Randy Reyes will be a board member of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), founded in 1961 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, and has over 700 member theaters and organizations and more than 12,000 individual members nationwide.

"TCG is a dynamic institution with a diverse group of constituents," says Reyes, who has been artistic director of Mu Performing Arts (Mu) since 2013 and is board president of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists.

"I'm excited to add my voice as an artist of color, a Filipino American who runs a theater of color, an Asian American theater, in the Midwest. I am excited to learn from my esteemed colleagues."


This is not Reyes' first encounter with the organization. In 2006 he was a recipient of its New Generations Future Leaders Mentorship grant.

Born in Manila, Reyes and his family moved to California when he was a child. He grew up in a household where he was encouraged by his mother to perform, sing and dance whenever they had guests.

Reyes went on to study acting at University of Utah in Salt Lake City, then at Juilliard School in New York.

Frustrated at the lack of opportunities for Asian American actors in New York, he relocated to Minnesota after a stint with the Guthrie Theater where he did acting and education work.

He eventually started working with and learning under Rick Shiomi, who had founded Theater Mu (later renamed Mu Performing Arts) in 1992.

"It was an amazing two-year grant that allowed me to learn the inner workings of being the artistic director of Mu Performing Arts with Rick," says Reyes of the mentorship grant.


Reyes has had leading roles in "M. Butterfly," "Yellow Face" and "Flower Drum Song." He has played the lead in Lonnie Carter's "The Romance of Magno Rubio," based on a short story by Carlos Bulosan.

Aside from acting for Mu and other groups in the area, Reyes was given an opportunity to direct a production by Shiomi. This opened the door for Reyes to continue in that path, and he has continued to act and direct since.

As Mu's artistic director, Reyes oversees season line-up selection, budgeting and fundraising, marketing and administration, hiring and human resources, curriculum development and outreach programming.

A colleague in the profession who had been on the TCG board nominated Reyes to be a new member. When asked if he'd be interested, Reyes said yes.

"Seven years after that mentorship grant, I became the Artistic Director of Mu. And now four years after, I've been appointed to the TCG Board. It's truly been a full circle type of experience. When I stop to think about it, it feels very surreal. It's great to be invited to the adult table."

"I have the highest respect for executive director Teresa Eyring's leadership and look forward to working with her to make TCG the best organization it can be," he says.

Another Filipino American at TCG is Emilya Cachapero, director of its Artistic and International Programs where she oversees TCG's grant programs, international programs and selected special projects which include Beyond Orientalism, a national initiative to address the use of yellow face, brown face and whitewashing. Randy Gener was a senior editor of TCG's American Theatre Magazine from 2002 to 2012.

Season line-up

Meanwhile, Reyes is busy preparing for Mu Performing Arts' 2017-18 season. The line up will kick off with Leah Nanako Winkler's "Two Mile Hollow," a parody containing a dysfunctional family. Damon Chua's "The Princess Nightingale" follows, a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale" set in eighteenth century China.

In 2018, Sun Mee Chomet's "The Sex Show" is scheduled for June, an exploration of intimacy, sexual stereotypes, and sexuality in the Asian American community. May Lee-Yang's "A Korean Drama Addict's Guide to Losing Your Virginity," follows in August, a romantic comedy where a K-drama addict with a secret meets a Korean heir.

READ previous coverage of Mu Performing Arts here.

Visit Visit

Massage is the medium in play set in LA’s Historic Filipinotown

August 16, 2017

LOS ANGELES  Filipino American actor Rodney To is directing playwright Boni Alvarez's comedy "Fixed," an adaptation of Spanish writer Pedro Calderon's "The Physician of His Own Honor." "Fixed" will be staged by Echo Theater Company in September.

Rodney To. Photo by Patrick Gaurano.

Alvarez's adaptation features massage therapists who work at the House of Malacañang Massage in Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown.

One of the therapists, Miracles Malacañang, enters into a forbidden love affair that soon catches the attention of the city's hottest political family and prompts her to re-evaluate her desires, identity and honor.

Alvarez's recent work includes "Bloodletting," about Filipino siblings who discover that one of them is an aswang (Filipino vampire), at Playwrights' Arena earlier in the year and "Nicky," a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "Ivanov," at Coeurage Theatre Company a few months ago.

"Bloodletting" has been named a finalist in the drama category in this year's PEN Center USA's 27th Annual Literary Awards Festival; winners will be announced in September. PEN Center USA is the West Coast arm of PEN International, the world's oldest international literary and human rights organization.

Providing opportunities

Rodney To, the director, became a member of Echo Theater last year after acting in its production of "One of the Nice Ones."

"It was directed by Chris Fields and the entire experience was a positive one for me," To says. "I really appreciate Echo Theater's commitment to producing provocative, relevant, and exciting new work."

"In many other theaters both big and small, I, being a short Filipino guy of a certain age, wouldn't have necessarily even been considered to audition for my part in 'One of the Nice Ones.' So having been actually cast in it showed me the Echo was willing to see things in a 'different way' and I will always appreciate that."

To added: "I had a terrific part which was not specifically written for an Asian American, so to me that also showed a lot of integrity on their part."

And thanks to his role in that play, To was cast in a featured role on television as a series regular on NBC's upcoming "Redliners."

Getting into theater

Born and raised in Chicago, To enrolled in Marquette University to study chemistry but stumbled upon an "Acting for Non-Majors" class in his freshman year. "The teacher of that class, Fr. Gerald Waling, saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue it further."

After cutting his teeth in school productions, he interned at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater (where Fil-Am theater director May Adrales has been appointed associate artistic director for its 2017-18 season).

"There, I worked with some of the best actors I've ever witnessed to this day. Both those formidable experiences really shaped my career."

To has gone on to work with theater companies across the US and has appeared on television in shows such as "Rosewood," "Parks and Recreation," "Modern Family" and "Vice Principals."

He didn't hesitate to accept when he was offered a membership with Echo Theater. "I have worked with so many companies throughout my career, but I have to say that the Echo has been one of the most exciting to work with."


This isn't To and Avalrez's first time working together. Several years ago, To acted in workshops for Alvarez's plays "Ruby, Tragically Rotund" and "Driven."

To was initially approached to act in "Fixed," but after reading the script, To offered to direct it instead.

In addition to acting, To has always been passionate about workshopping new plays. "There's nothing like being a part of an exciting new play from the ground floor. I love being introduced to new characters, worlds, ideas, etc. and getting to discover new ways of storytelling."

His recent directing credits in LA include a reading of "Mutt: Let's All Talk About Race!" for East West Players and staged readings of Victor Maog's "Tot: The Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (a Filipino) Hulk Hogan" for Artists at Play.


To also directed the staged reading of "Fixed" last year for Echo Theater.

"The world of `Fixed' is one that I've become quite obsessed with and I really feel like I serve the play better by guiding and shaping its world rather than performing in it."

"I've always admired how unique and daring Boni's work is. His work has such specific rhythms and pacing that I relished in working on his previous plays and I felt compelled to infuse and maintain Boni's thumbprint in this piece."

To says the challenge of bringing a new play to life lies in the vulnerability of being in a continuous process of discovery. "That said, if your head is in the right place and you always concern yourself with what's best for the story that the playwright sets out to tell, it will always be both satisfying and exhilarating."

Cast includes Renee-Marie Brewster as Dana Fernandez, Adrian Gonzalez as AJ Chavez, Wade Allain-Marcus as Mariano Fernandez, Anna Lamadrid as Lizette Castro, Chris Aguila as Miracles Malacañang, Allen Weaver as Jenny Malacañang, and Tonatiuh Elizarraraz as Carmie Malacañang. Boni Alvarez is also included in the cast as Gigi Malacañang. Echo Theater's artistic director is Chris Fields.

READ about Boni Alvarez's play "Bloodletting" here.

READ about May Adrales' appointment as associate artistic director of Milwaukee Rep here.

"Fixed" runs Sept. 17-Oct. 22 at Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. Visit

Storytelling and remembering in 'Tagu-taguan,' a new children’s musical

August 12, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Playwright J-mee Katanyag has written a children's musical about a young boy, Popoy, who tries to save his forgetful grandmother, Luna. He does this by looking for her stories that have been imprisoned in a dark realm of fear, guarded by the evil monster Papaw Halimaw.

From top: Phil Noble as Ngo, Joan Bugcat as Prinsesa Misa
and Noel Comia as Popoy. Photo by Dax Rivera.

The Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Tagu-taguan, Nasaan ang Buwan?" will be directed by Dudz Teraña with music by Jeff Hernandez. It runs Aug. 18-27 at Peta Phinma Theater, Peta Theater Center, Quezon City, and Sept. 1-3 at Star Theater, Star City.

Noel Comia, Albert Silos and Omar Uddin alternate as Popoy, with Joann Co, Marichu Belarmino-Cariño and Upeng Galang-Fernandez as Lola Luna and John Moran, Vien King and Eric dela Cruz playing Papaw Halimaw.

Fascinated by memories

"I usually forget things like locking the door, my brother's birthday, my anniversary with my boyfriend," says Katanyag. "I'm fascinated by memories, how the mind works, how the heart and other senses remember."

J-Mee Katanyag previously acted in Peta's "Batang Rizal."

Her one-act play "Betang," an entry at the Virgin Labfest a couple of years ago, also deals with a memory-challenged protagonist who only remembers her one true love.

The act of remembering and the emotional impact of memories aren't just the premise for this musical, they're also aspects that informed how Katanyag wrote the material.

That this musical is part of Peta's golden season wasn't lost on the young playwright. Katanyag took the opportunity to make a new work for the group by respectfully looking back at Peta's long heritage of children's productions.

"I went to our library to read scripts and watch videos of Peta's previous children's plays to serve as my inspiration," she says.

Fun theater games

She also looked to her own experiences teaching Peta's children's theater workshops and the lessons she learned from the person considered as Peta's pillar of children's theater, the late Ernesto Cloma, who died Dec. 27, 2016.

Ernie Cloma. 
Photo from Facebook.

"Tito Ernie developed a creative pedagogy for children's theater, using, for example, the use of fun theater games to teach children."

Katanyag goes on to recall how Cloma was known as the Little Giant. "He'd attend international conferences and would speak to hundreds of delegates without using a mic; he'd just use his voice projection. He didn't use Powerpoint presentations because he'd use his own body to demonstrate how effective theater is for education."

She personally witnessed his mastery of facilitating children's workshops. "He was able to make children focus. You could see the twinkle in their eyes as he told them different stories. He always had new stories, new games to share.

"He had a way of making it fun without you realizing that you're already making a theater show with children. He taught us how fun it is to learn and create while playing.

"He was always there to empower and guide us. He taught us to trust children's abilities. To trust ourselves to create effective syllabi to teach children with. To trust yourself as a facilitator to mine the gold within every child."

Full of life

While writing this musical, she realized that all the elements she was working hard to incorporate into the play were influenced by Cloma.

"While I was writing the musical's conclusion, I realized that Tito Ernie is the forgetful Lola Luna! He had dementia toward the end of his life. I got goose bumps when I realized that this musical is for him.

"All her life, Lola Luna offered her stories to help children to believe in themselves, but her memories are fading. What will happen to her wonderful stories?" Katanyag asks.

But Katanyag already knows the answers: to keep on retelling them, to teach others how to tell them, and to keep on telling new stories.

READ previous coverage of Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) here.

"Tagu-taguan, Nasaan ang Buwan?" runs Aug. 18-27 at Peta Phinma Theater, Peta Theater Center, Quezon City, and Sept. 1-3 at Star Theater, Star City, Pasay City. Visit link


Filipino drama grad student in Canada gets $10K grant, scholarship

August 14, 2017

VANCOUVER  Filipino theater director Dennis Gupa has won the 2017-2018 Ada Slaight Drama in Education Award, which includes a C$10,000 cash component for producing a future performance.

Scene from "Nawa'y Muli Tayong Makauwi (Isang Dula sa Bundok Makiling)."
Photo by Eljay Deldoc

Gupa is currently taking doctorate studies in applied theater at University of Victoria in British Columbia (UVIC) with a focus on sea rituals and climate change. He will use the award to develop a production for his dissertation that will include Canadian and Philippine artists.

The award is managed by Toronto-based Young People's Theatre and is intended for doctoral students in theater-related disciplines.

Gupa is also a recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada's 2017 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. The program aims to attract and retain world-class doctoral students who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement.


Gupa has a master's degree in theater directing from University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, completed on various scholarships, and a master's degree in theater arts from University of the Philippines.

Dennis Gupa
Photo by Javier Porres.

"My mentors here in Canada, just like the ones in the Philippines, are all unique and have distinct ways of engaging students creatively and intellectually. They exude love for theater grounded with intellectual curiosity," he says.

"I feel humbled and deeply grateful to learn from them. They've taught me to develop my own critical perspectives so that my artistic and scholarly practice becomes stronger."

His doctoral work explores how theater can be used to show indigenous people's knowledge about ecological sustainability and climate change.


In 2013, Gupa was in his first year of masteral studies at UBC when Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Typhoon Haiyan) struck the Philippines.

Scene from "Nawa'y Muli Tayong Makauwi (Isang Dula sa Bundok Makiling.)" ELJAY DELDOC
"The typhoon's rage decimated an entire city, leaving the whole Visayan region traumatized due to the magnitude of its destruction. I began to re-think my own work as a diasporic artist. I was homesick and removed from the suffering of my country."

He then met a fellow Filipino scholar, Chaya Ocampo Go, who inspired him to use his theater background to engage with his sentiments.

An anthropologist, Go was also taking up her master's at UBC at the time and would go on to work with Waray women survivors of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan."

"She told me how their resiliency informs a critical engagement with disasters issues and climate crises; and that I'd resonate with them because they are animated, soulful and strong storytellers."

A storyteller himself, Gupa realized that "pursuing this subject would be a necessary step. Not only for me to understand the effects of climate change on my home country, but also to make a contribution toward global climate justice."


Born in Mariveles municipality in Bataan province and raised in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Gupa was born with an affinity for nature, specifically water.

"My first introduction to survival is from the water. My mother and siblings taught me how to swim in Talaga Beach. When I learned that UBC and UVIC were close to the Pacific Ocean, I applied. I think through the water."

Some of his past directing work that deal with the effects of nature or indigenous peoples include "Nawa'y Muli Tayong Makauwi" ("Hopefully, We'll Return Home") in 2015 for the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in Los Baños, Philippines; and last year's "Tlingipino Bingo" for Conversation Collective at the Whitehorse Nuit Blanche arts festival.

His fieldwork research for his dissertation is scheduled to begin this fall. "I plan to work with indigenous elders from seacoast communities, possibly from an island province in Luzon.

"Together, we will build a framework to understand the relationships between human beings, the ocean and the earth. In this study, I am curious about examining the links between indigenous epistemology, climate justice and performance."

READ previous coverage of Dennis Gupa here.

Manila Shakespeare Company takes on the little-known "Cymbeline'

August 5, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For its sophomore production, the Manila Shakespeare Company is staging the Bard's "Cymbeline" starting today, Aug. 5, at Pineapple Lab in Makati.

Iachimo (Gio Gahol) looks on at lovers
Princess Imogen (Gabby Padilla) and Posthumus (Rico del Rosario)

"It has a kind of fairy tale element that we think people will enjoy," says Nicanor "Nic" Campos, the group's founding artistic director.

He's the first to say that this particular play is not well known. "It's rarely done abroad, even in England. It's nowhere near as famous as 'Romeo and Juliet.' In fact, it may very well be Shakespeare's least famous, certainly here, and maybe only exceeded abroad by 'Pericles.'"

Why do it then? "That's the challenge, the interest, the thrill," he says.

The group's maiden production was "Romeo and Juliet," staged in 2015 with Nel Gomez (Twin Bill Theater's "My Name is Asher Lev" and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Angry Christ") as Romeo and Rachel Coates as Juliet.

Richer experience

"Contrary to what may be popular belief, I think the less expectations you have of Shakespeare, the richer your experience may be," says Campos.

Nic Campos

"Cymbeline" may be seen as a compilation of Shakespeare's "greatest hits," he adds. King Cymbeline's new wife schemes to kill him and his daughter Imogen (who has secretly married Posthumus).

And that's just the beginning. Aside from elopement, a father feeling betrayed by his daughter and a plot against the king's life, the play contains many of Shakespeare's "signature" story devices used in his previous works.

There are separated siblings, a medical professional who provides poison, spying and hiding in bedrooms, fashion accessories as tools of deception, a woman cross-dressing as a young man, more disguises, mistaken identities, duels, an approaching enemy army-you get the idea.

Magic alchemy

"You could say it's excessively stuffed and convoluted. It draws from all over Shakespeare's genres. It's a bit of a mess, in fact. And that's life, isn't it? That's exactly why I like it a lot. I like stuffed stories. I like challenging audiences to focus on several different plot threads," says Campos.

Recycled plot devices or not, "Only this play has the different strains combined in this particular way. It creates an alchemy, a magic. And with the help of some judicious cuts and simplifications, we hope to offer that magic to the audience possibly for the first time [in Manila]."

Also, "Part of our mission, as well as of those who translate and adapt Shakespeare, is to remind or reveal to audiences that, in different hands, you won't have the same experience twice of the same play. And that can be so rewarding."

The cast includes Gabby Padilla (Repertory Philippines' "A Little Princess") as Imogen and Rico del Rosario as Posthumus, along with Christine Cojuangco as the Queen and Gio Gahol (Peta's "Care Divas") as Iachimo.

Campos plays the title character in addition to directing. The set and costume design are by Likhain Productions. This production will be available to tour schools and other venues for the rest of the year.

"Cymbeline" runs Aug. 5-20 at Pineapple Lab, 6071 Palma St., Makati. Visit link:


May Adrales is new associate artistic director of Milwaukee Rep

Aug 1, 2017

NEW YORK  Theater director May Adrales has been named associate artistic director of Milwaukee Repertory Theater for its 2017-2018 season.

May Adrales

She is slated to direct the group's productions of Ayad Akhtar's "The Who and The What," scheduled to show this September, and an adaptation of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" next year.

"The Who and The What" is a play about Zarina, whose religion is Islam, and her controversial writing that's discovered by her conservative family.

Before their season kicks off, she's directing a reading of Fil-Am playwright A. Rey Pamatmat's "A Power Play; or Whats-Its-Name" this August for New York-based Atlantic Theater Company's "Asian American Mixfest," a series of readings of plays by Asian American playwrights.

New works

In a statement, Milwaukee Rep artistic director Mark Clements praised Adrales' extensive experience in bringing to life new plays, with more than 20 world premieres "in a myriad of eclectic styles, at some of the nation's most prestigious theatre companies to great acclaim."

"It may be easier to work with a dead playwright, but not nearly as gratifying, or as much fun," Adrales said in a previous interview with "I gravitate towards new writers because I thrive from those collaborations."

She says, "Mark Clements is a dear and wonderful colleague and mentor. I look forward to learning the ropes of leading a large multimillion-dollar theater, including marketing and audience development, board relationships, and production process."

"Milwaukee Rep is a tremendous and nurturing artistic home to so many writers, actors, directors and producers. They produce top-notch, exciting work."

In addition to directing the two productions this season, Adrales will work with Rep's artistic team in planning their season line-up and in launching their new plays development program.

She's previously directed "Yellowman," "The Mountaintop" and Pamatmat's "all the terrible things I do" for Milwaukee Rep.

Expanding and learning

She will divide her time between the Milwaukee and Brooklyn, where she lives. "I'll use my NYC roots to continue cultivating and developing relationships with writers, like-minded producers and artists in hopes of widening Milwaukee Rep's scope," she says.

Born and raised in Covington, Virginia, to Filipino immigrants, Adrales' work as a freelance director spans across the country.

Aside from her directing work, she is also known for her administrative and teaching work. She's served as Director of On Site Programs at Lark Play Development Center, an Artistic Associate and faculty member at the Public Theater, spearheading its Shakespeare Lab, and has directed and taught at Juilliard, New York University, Brown University/Trinity Rep and Yale School of Drama, where she received her master's degree in directing and theater production.

New York Mixfest

Also involved in the Asian American Mixfest is Fil-Am director Ralph Peña, artistic director of Ma-Yi theater company, who will be directing "Franklinland" by Lloyd Suh.

Pamatmat's new play is about State Assemblyperson Alex Hathaway and her efforts to capture a House seat in the next election after her district suffers a terrible tragedy. Through supernatural practices, she employs a strange, nameless entity to gain victory over her enemies.

"I think with any position of leadership you must make difficult decisions that test your core values. In the play, Alex must learn that every decision has its consequences," says Adrales.

For fun, when asked if there are any old Filipino superstitions she remembers or still believes in, she says, "When I was younger, I was scared to go out after dark for fear the aswang would eat me. Also, my father used to tell me that every grain of rice I left on my plate would be one year of bad luck. So though I don't always eat all the rice, I think about that every time I do."

"The Who and The What" runs Sept. 27-Nov. 5 at Stiemke Studio, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, 108 E Wells St., Milwaukee, WI. Visit

Free admission. "Asian American Mixfest" runs Aug. 9-17 at Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16th St., New York. Visit