Fifty-six years ago, the International Theatre Institute (ITI) celebrated the first World Theatre Day in Helsinki, Finland, in recognition of thespians and theatre lovers all over the world to promote the art form’s value.
Here in the country, the culture is alive and well with theatre companies producing relevant shows that audiences can appreciate and learn a thing or two from. One outfit, Resorts World Manila’s (RWM) Full House Theater Company, continues to champion the Filipino by producing world-class all-Filipino productions of beloved musicals every year.
This March, as World Theatre day coincides with Women’s Month, RWM takes the opportunity to show everyone how the women of Philippine theatre empower people with their skill, knowledge, experience, and passion for their craft.
Here are six women from past RWM productions who have devoted their life’s work to reflect the many layers of how beautiful women really are:
Being the ‘First Lady of Philippine Theatre’, Menchu actively lives up to her title with a firm grasp of the future of local performing arts.
Playing one of her most important roles as co-artistic director for RWM’s Full House Theater Company and as President for the Original Pilipino Performing Arts (OPPA) Foundation—an organization that aims to nurture new talents and promote progress for the art form, Menchu never fails to share her evident passion and dedication for performance with her scholars and the people she works with.
“Filipinos have a long track record of performing on big stages, from New York’s Broadway, London’s West End, and every other major theatre all over the world,” says Menchu. “The foundation is here to select future professionals, passionate and dedicated students more than anything else. Individuals who are determined to pursue their course,” she adds.
Today, with numerous roles under her belt, Menchu has proven her versatility by playing spirited female roles. “I always work inside out,” she shares. “I create a history of my character. Each character I play must stem from a reason or action. If I don't justify why she behaves a certain way, then my character will be one dimensional.”
“You never forget your first audition,” says veteran stage actor and singer Pinky Marquez who first ventured into theater via Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Javier Reyes’ Katy: The Musical in 1989 as Hanna. But long before that, Pinky had already decided to tread the path of a true Filipina thespian.
Though she has already created an extensive curriculum vitae performing in film and television, Pinky has also found a special place for her heart onstage. “If you were born as a singer or if you have been singing all your life, I guess the next step is theater,” she shares. “I felt the drive to be in theater ever since I stepped onstage the very first time. There is something about it that makes me feel complete,” she adds, noting how theatre hones one in being a ‘triple threat’ in dancing, singing, and acting.
And it takes a complete actor to really move a live audience, as Pinky did time and again in her performances. With her diverse experience in the performing arts, Pinky’s swan song is yet to come. “It’s a very great responsibility and I am taking on the challenge even up to today,” she says. “As much as I can share, if I still have the voice, if I still have my acting skills, then I can affect people and make their lives even better”.
Cris comes from a family of performers but audiences have seen her own flair in being one of the most multi-faceted actresses today. From playing likeable characters to the spiteful antagonist, Cris’ perseverance and burning passion for performing arts honed her skills and effective delivery onstage.
“You have a platform to do, show, and express what you are good at. That’s how people become the stars that they are. That’s when fate and destiny step in and that’s what happens.”
With numerous performances to her name, Cris gained the approval of both her audiences and critics alike earning her major awards from Philstage’s Gawad Buhay and ALIW Awards—two of the countries most trusted entertainment award-giving bodies.
However, what really strikes her co-artists aside from her pure talent is her brilliant attitude towards her work and co-workers, not to mention her determination to succeed. “Number one is discipline. You don’t give anybody a headache,” she shares. “Whatever shape or form you’re in, whatever you’re going through, you always give your best,” she adds.
West End alumni Joanna Ampil is as bright as the stage’s spotlight as she is in person and has come a long way since she headlined as Kim in Miss Saigon from 1993 to 1995.
Without any previous training or experience, the then 17-year old Joanna landed the prized role at a time when she was just adjusting to the life of a theatre actress.
Joanna’s attitude towards work led her to polish her craft and land more major roles after Miss Saigon including Les Misérables, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Rent-European Tour, The Sound of Music, and Bridges of Madison County.
Now based in London, Joanna comes home occasionally to perform for her Filipino audience. Her solo album also gave her the opportunity to work with such Filipino recording luminaries as Vehnee Saturno, Martin Nievera, and Mark Bautista, among others.
Aside from being the well-rounded actress that she is, Joanna’s character is also another factor in how she emits beauty in every way. To date, she has released two solo albums, the proceeds of which were donated to the Sun and Moon Village—a housing project organized by RWM together with the generosity of Miss Saigon’s Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg for the benefit of Yolanda stricken families in Ormoc, Leyte.
Joanna has also given pride to the country by performing for such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former French president Jacques Chirac among others.
It takes undeniable strength to be a serious actor and seasoned Filipina thespian Sheila Valderrama-Martinez knows this all so well.
“Before I come into rehearsals, I make sure that I’ve already studied the script and the character, so that it’s easier for me to absorb more information and direction,” she shares. “When you have a role to play, there’s a little bit of research there and of course there’s a little bit of you.”
Martinez has numerous theater credits to her name, including memorable roles as Belinda Blair and Flavia Brent in Noises Off, as Anna in The King And I, as Princess Fiona in Shrek: The Musical, and as the mother of a cancer-stricken child in Dani Girl, among others.
Offstage, Sheila’s role as a wife to actor Lorenz Martinez and mother to daughter Simone does in no way hinder her passion for acting, but rather provides her with more inspiration onstage. “It started very young for me. You kind of know who you really want to be,” she shares. “I accidentally joined a repertory workshop and luckily I was dragged into auditioning for a show and that’s what I told myself—this is what I wanted to do,” she adds.
Today, Sheila continues to pursue roles that can empower woman by her portrayals. “As a Filipina actress I have the power to show other Filipina talents that we can be as great as any other all over the world,” she states as how confident a true Filipina can be.
“I was quite young when I decided for myself that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Tanya shares as she reminisced her first professional play at eight years old performing the role of Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “While I was doing it, it was all playtime-- I mean I was 8. But after the experience, that’s when it dawned on me that it’s something very important to me. That I can’t just take it as something I can play around with,” she added.
Since then, Tanya has devoted her life to the performing arts, graduating Media Production from the Assumption College Makati, and performing in such titles as Godspell, Whistle Down The Wind, Footloose, The Heights, KAOS, The Sound of Music, and The King And I prior to landing the coveted role of Kim in the 2014 revival of West End’s Miss Saigon.
To broaden her acting prowess, Tanya took a scholarship to the Arts Educational Schools in London at the same time she was into the grueling auditions for Miss Saigon.
“It was really challenging because I was on my own for two years,” says Tanya. “I was away from home, from friends, from the support of the Philippine theatre community, and I guess I just had to learn everything on my own,” she revealed.
And like in any beautiful love affair, Tanya’s experiences continue to teach her valuable lessons in her continuous journey towards her true potential as an actor. “It takes guts, confidence, which isn’t easy. Every experience is a learning experience. You have to get something out of it and it definitely takes willingness to learn,” she adds confidently.
Catch the full video of Leading Ladies: A Glimpse into the Life of a True Filipina Actress by visiting the official Resorts World Manila Facebook page and be one with us in honoring the beautiful women of Philippine theatre.
Meanwhile, watch all-female vocal group Singing Sensations live at entertainment venue Bar 360 on March 27, 30 and April 1 starting at 8:45 p.m. as they present the World Theatre Day specials featuring songs from musicals of the Disco era, Motown, and your favorite pop and love show tunes.
Over at music lounge Bar 180, songbirds Joanne, Charlotte, and Monica will also give their World Theatre Day special performances from March 27 until April 2
We'll let you see for yourselves just how amazing these women are:
Visit www.rwmanila.com or call the Tourist/Visitor Hotline at +632-9088833 for more thrilling offerings from the country’s premier entertainment and tourism destination.
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