Summer of 2015 saw me going back to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for another round of Summer Theater Adventure with it’s resident theater company, Tanghalang Pilipino. It was a tough decision to make considering that the 6pm-10pm Tuesday to Saturday schedule for Rehearsals to Performance Technique class with Sir Dennis Marasigan will be in conflict with my Star Magic Advanced Acting Workshop every Tuesday at 4pm-8pm. This means having to be absent about 3 times in RPT class.
At that time, I was on fire to further my acting studies since I have no formal education on theatre. It would also be a pity to drop the next level Star Magic Workshop which I qualified for on my first try. Indeed nothing is impossible when you’re hungry for something.
My RPT class was on a totally different level from my previous Beginning Acting Workshop under Ms Sherry Alingod. On the first day, we were greeted by a long table, with folders and papers prepared for each student. I chose to sit nearest the teacher in the hopes of keeping my focus and being able to listen clearly. At first, I was intimidated by my classmates, plenty were actively involved in productions in school and out. They were also incredibly talented. I wondered if my TV acting training helped to up my game a bit.
For the duration of the workshop, we studied one material which turned out to be our recital piece. As the title of the workshop suggested, we poured over the pages of the play, studying each character, and acting out different characters and scenes. The pressure was intense as we were asked to memorize a handful of lines overnight. The only practice time we had with our groupmates/partners were the few minutes before class starts. I never imagined I would come out of it alive.
Regardless of the mental stress the script analysis gave us, one would probably think 4 hours of lecture and discussion would be too long. Rather, when Sir Dennis starts to wrap up the day, we would be shocked that the time passed so quickly. We all wanted to hear more from our teacher. There was so much to learn. In fact, when we go out for a group dinner, we would revert to our classroom setup and listen to our teacher’s stories.
I just loved that harmonious feeling our group had – whether or not someone is already skilled or learned in theater, we were all so eager to learn more. Our ages ranged from 16 to 60. Legit! Of course it helped a lot that our mentor was someone who was renowned in this field with his decades of experience as an actor and director.
Perhaps that collective thirst for knowledge helped us empathize with each other as by Day 2, we found real friends in each other. Rarely do you meet people in such setting and keep a really good relationship even after the workshop.
As we neared our recital day, we were all on our toes as we do not know yet the characters we will all play. And judging by the few plays I’ve read, it wasn’t a simple one. It was also the first Filipino play I’ve read – one with an incredibly long title: Aba, ano’t nangangamatay itong Mga Idolong Romantiko at ilang nakamulatang tampalasang gaya nila sa Isang Dulang nanunukso’t nagpapatawa nguni’t bahagya ring Sumusuri sa Lipunan natin, gaya nito? Aba, aba! To which we just call, Mga Idolong Romantiko. The play was written by four-time Palanca awardee Bienvenido Noriega Jr.. The play, which features a multitude of casts whose lives are all crazily intertwined and fates interchanged, was perfect for our class size.
By Friday night, we finally reached the end of the script. We were all exhausted as we shared our realizations and feelings about the play, how it reflected the political landscape when the playwright was alive. We were given assignments to find the core of a specific character and build our analysis based on the technical side of character analysis which we learned during the workshop.
Saturday morning, everyone was tense as our mentor grilled us to the deepest bit of each character. And surprise, the characters we were assigned will be the ones we will play during the recital – on TUESDAY! That afternoon, we had our first blocking at an outdoor space since the stage wasn’t available to us yet. The day ended on a sour note when we didn’t seem to be ready for Tuesday. We wanted to practice on Sunday and Monday, but that wasn’t allowed nor agreeable for some. We just crossed our fingers.
Afternoon of the performance day, we had our first and only on-stage blocking and there were a few mishaps with the costumes and fellow actors. Everyone was so tensed, I doubted if we could put on an acceptable, let alone a good show. A few minutes before the show, I was fumbling with my lines. Can I really do this? Is our director in his right mind? We can’t do this! We can’t be ready yet!
Fast forward to the end of our recital, we realized how much of a trusting genius bordering fool our mentor was. At least, in my opinion. And I mean that with the utmost respect. No, our show wasn’t perfect. We missed some lines and did some adlib, but no one knew except us and our director. Turns out, he has been building up our memories by shuffling character assignments in our exercises and keeping us to it once he saw how it fit.
While we were scrambling around with our nerves killing us as the recital date neared, he was smug and confident that we could pull it off! Such risk. Such trust only a fool could have. And I admired that. We all did. During the month-long workshop, we have all grown to be like siblings with this awesome sauce for a father/mentor. While our workshop ended on the 30th of April 2015, our friendship and learning didn’t.
We constantly hang out with each other for Salsa nights at Brazas (we’re chill AF and titas like that) and our teacher continued to give us tips and push us to auditions. I had other acting workshops, but this was by far the best. It was the perfect mixture of an interesting class, a great teacher, and wonderful classmates-turned-real friends. And I haven’t felt so happy and fulfilled in a long time.