Mad About Theater
This hub features an excerpt of a one-act play I wrote six years ago. The main character's monologue provided the backdrop to introduce the different forms of theater we use in the Philippines while tackling issues often faced by theater artists in our country. I chose to share only the monologue parts as these were the ones written in English.This was one of the few times I acted on stage while directing the play. The following monologue segments are those nearing the end of the play.
"For richer for poorer in sickness and in health ‘til death do us part" --vows that seem too difficult to keep, especially when your artist-husband barely brings enough food on the table. That was the time I started resenting theater and all it stood for. Bills started piling up and we would end the day in a cold war.
I mean there he was playing all sorts of roles to the hilt but couldn’t even play “provider” at home. Never mind if he was never given a break to play lead roles, my Roberto, was just ridiculously happy being part of a production.
Well, the bitterness and the resentment started building up real fast. Coming home late one night I found him slouching in the sofa in front of the television set with the volume turned up to maximum and the place scattered with all his costumes and props from pictorials. I wasted no time in turning off the TV and started my litany of complaints about his inconsiderate habits while picking up his things. He never even budged and instead sat there like a man hypnotized by darkness. That blew my fuse and I shouted to the top of my voice “for crying out loud would you kindly get a decent job like everyone else!”
A long and eerie silence followed. It was like time stood still. I felt my heart stop. I just knew I could lose him that night. It felt like forever waiting for him to react. He finally stood up and turned toward me. He had tears in his eyes and with a trembling voice said “Tony committed suicide in New York.” I cradled him in my arms as he wept the night through. Tony was his best friend – his theater buddy who constantly got the major roles in all the plays they ever joined in.
Tony left for New York a week before the incident. His parents forced him to pursue law there. They didn’t have faith in theater.
I remember Tony saying “take away theater and you take away my life!”, I never thought he was serious. If only his parents knew, if only they had listened
A Segment from our Kids TV Show called Kiddos featuring our Musical Theater students
The Wake-up Call
Tony lived or at least his vision of theater did, my lifetime partner made sure of that. He started his own little theater company determined to prove that there was sense in his chosen craft. He focused on training. He linked up with NGO’s and trained street children, young unwed mothers and abused children on the basics of theater. He even designed modules that focused on assisting the healing process of these young artists. He was out to nourish their sense of self-worth and moral values. He even composed songs for them, something he hasn’t done for awhile.
He loved acting with them on stage. It took a contest for him to let the children perform on stage on their own. He was a nervous wreck backstage. There was my man-- helping one child get into a costume then moving on to fixing the make-up of another while giving last minute instructions to the stage manager. I could feel his body tense up when their group was being called on stage.
The children won third prize but they celebrated like they won first place. You see, it was the first time the kids joined a contest. There was no stopping my beloved thespian now. Tony’s death was like a wake-up call for him. He no longer wanted to waste his time on earth. He was on the go. Funny, how a tragedy can actually push one to act on dreams.
His modules were working and his customized production numbers were in demand even by corporate groups. The phone kept ringing asking for his training, his concepts-- his services. He stayed up late designing modules for team building workshops using theater games, self-awareness workshops using theater exercises and advance acting workshops for professionals.
Day in and day out he was writing scripts on socio-political and cultural issues. And his theater group focused on presenting socially relevant plays. It seemed theater had started to make changes in people’s lives--it had in ours. At least food was becoming abundant at home.
The Unpredictable Life
I don’t know how to explain this to you but--- there was something missing in this whole affair--a void that seemed to eat up my soul bit by bit. Don’t get me wrong I was happy for him but I just felt left out in all these changes. Yes, he’d bring me to all his shows and special tours outside the city. He’d even ask me to assist him in his workshop whenever I could. But there was just this ambivalence inside me.
I mean, it was Tony’s death that pushed him out of his comfort zone. It was the children who inspired him to design modules and development programs using theater. It was the children who moved him to write scripts and songs again. I could never do that. I could never give him his own-- children. I was just the person he came home to at night.
I tried talking to him about it in many different ways but it never came out right. I’d end up teasing him about his receding hairline and he’d tease me about my developing a 6-pack in the wrong places.
On the night, when I was determined to deal with it, he stopped me on the tracks because he needed me to critique the play he was directing. That was one role I did well and so I went along with him and figured we’d still get the chance to deal with things later that night.
I sat in the auditorium restless and anxious waiting for the curtains to rise. I almost applauded when the house lights finally went off and the music began. It was a familiar tune. When the curtains went up there was nothing but black lights turned on. And then out came the white gloves floating on stage forming different landscapes — mountains and valleys, waterfalls and rivers, the meadows and butterflies. And when the music started to reach its climax the formation of a huge sun exploded into a million birds transforming into words that spelled --- happy anniversary to my soul mate – then the music stopped and then a blackout. In 5 seconds bright lights flooded the stage revealing children holding a dozen roses each, forming the name Daniela. That’s my name. I never realized what was happening until my husband came on stage and read an open letter that my heart has memorized to the detail. It said…
To my soul mate Daniela,
No words could possibly describe the emotions that now stir this being you have gently molded with your compassion. Behold on stage the children you have given me. The possibilities now seem endless —boundaries have been broken- obstacles conquered – defying even principles that imprison souls and destroy man’s inherent nature to love and be loved.
Freedom as have never been felt – now explodes with passion – bursting radiance amidst a dark gloomy past. To thee I say –thy love has set free a soul aching for love beyond comprehension. My gratitude shall forever be expressed in every word, in every touch, in every sound that I make with thee.
The Journey Continues
Needless to say, I was ecstatic about theater from then on. I guess Miguel de Cervantes was right in saying that “facts are the enemy of truth.”
One lazy Sunday afternoon right after a phone call he became deliriously happy. He was finally given a lead part. He was to play King Mungkot in the King and I. The role went well with his receding hairline. He was like a child rehearsing lines every minute of the day -grabbing me to dance while singing “shall dance 1234”. It was his dream role he says. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with his choice. But then he told me of how this King stood by his principles to bring about positive changes to his country through non-violent means. He said this was one king who used his power to truly empower his people.
I couldn’t help but cry on opening night. He got a standing ovation. Everybody was congratulating me for having married one genius of an artist. Before he went on stage on the last night of performance he told me that of all the dreams that came true in his life, marrying me was the best dream that came to be. I kissed him and embraced him like I never did before. It was just so perfect—too perfect.
He never got up for the curtain call that night. He apparently had a heart attack after his death scene. What a professional huh? He finished the play before he died. That got me mad, real mad. How dare him, die on me like that. How dare him, leave me there like that. I was mad and became madder --- still. This explains your presence here tonight.
I quit my job and pursued my dream of having place where we could have plays every week. I thought it was impossible. But there you are and here I am. I know I’ve taken much of your time. Thank you for listening to me. I guess we can start the show now. Oh, and to answer my friend’s thought on theater…. No, theater is not simply entertainment. It is simply TRUTH expressed.