When Joseph Matheu was born, no one knew he was going to become a brother to twin Francis just two minutes later. “The doctor didn’t know because during our mom’s check-ups, he would hear only one heartbeat,” says Joseph.
Their mother was a biology teacher and their father was a chef. “Growing up, our toys were microscopes,” says Francis. In college, both took up hotel and restaurant management.
However, following in the footsteps of either parent wasn’t meant to be.
Joseph is now a theater and live events lighting designer, with credits such as Triumphant Peoples Evangelistic Theatre Society’s (Trumpets) “The Little Mermaid,” Gantimpala Theater’s “Kanser” and Ballet Philippines’ “Romeo and Juliet.” He’s also been television show “Eat Bulaga’s” resident lighting director since 2007.
Francis is an actor and choreographer. He was cast as Basilio in Gantimpla Theater’s “El Filibusterismo” last year and has done choreography for Repertory Philippines’ “I Love You Because” and 9 Works Theatrical’s “The Wedding Singer.”
Stepping on stage
While he may have come after Joseph, it was Francis who pursued theater first.
“Theater beckoned when I was a college student. I saw a restaging of the Trumpets musical ‘First Name.’ The summer after that show, Trumpets opened its very first Playshop summer acting workshop, and I told our mom that I wanted to attend. I’ve never stopped doing theater since,” he says.
Joseph soon followed the same path and started out as an actor. “When I saw Francis in his very first professional play in the ensemble of Manila Metropolitan Theater Guild’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ I realized I wanted to do what he was doing,” he says.
Both were cast in the original production of Trumpets’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” where Joseph played a wolf and Francis played a unicorn. “We were once cast together in a touring production of Trumpets’ ‘Pamilya Maleta’ where Joseph played the father and I played his son!” says Francis, laughing.
“That was the production where I started noticing the lighting design,” says Joseph. “I turned to look towards the control booth and it was Trumpets artistic director Audie Gemora I saw controlling the lights. He encouraged me to pursue lighting design; he was very instrumental in my becoming a lighting designer.”
Joseph trained in lighting design at the Cultural Center of the Philippines under Jun Gomez and at Sinag Arts under Shoko Matsumoto. “I’ve been juggling acting and lighting since then,” he says.
Francis, on the other hand, took up a master’s degree in theater arts at University of the Philippines and attended formal dance classes for two years.
“In the beginning, I just wanted to learn the basics so that I wouldn’t fall behind during dance rehearsals for shows, but dance has become a passion. Whenever I direct for workshops, I always end up doing the choreography as well,” he says.
Francis has also done an acting workshop with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and even a kabuki movement workshop. He’s facilitated acting workshops for Trumpets and Philippines Opera Company, among others.
When they’re not busy with shows, the twins occasionally provide off-stage entertainment to the theater community whenever one twin is mistaken for the other. But most of the time, they’re offering entertainment to the public with the productions they mount.
“We have been producing plays since 2005, mostly full-length plays and musicals for different clients, mostly educational institutions,” says Joseph.
The duo provides production support and equipment to their clients. “Most clients require a full production so we hire professionals like set designers, stage managers, sound technicians and the like to complete our team.”
Leveraging their experience, the brothers founded Twin Bill Theater last year with Francis as artistic director and Joseph as associate artistic director.
“Staging our own shows is one of our goals and we will get there, most definitely,” Francis says. Meanwhile, the pair believes in training, equipping and involving people in the performing arts. “That’s why we conduct workshops and seminars.”
Under Twin Bill Theater’s theater training series, Joseph will conduct a lighting design workshop (May 13-June 1), while Francis will teach a basic acting workshop (May 7-June 2).
“Topics for the lighting design workshop will cover functions, qualities and properties of light, basic electrical knowledge, and safety. Participants will also be taught how to prepare for production meetings, basic lighting layout, and using lighting control panels, among others,” says Joseph.
He will share his knowledge based on his own experiences in stage lighting, photography, cinematography, production management and technical direction.
The pair has plans of eventually including fencing as part of their workshop series. “I took fencing classes in college and was able to compete locally. It’s actually one of the things an actor must know. Francis learned it, too.”
Enrollment is ongoing for Twin Bill Theater’s Basic Acting Workshop (starts May 7) and Lighting Design Workshop (May 13), to be held at Dance Forum Space, 36-E West Ave., Quezon City. Contact [email protected], 09173928002 or 09274604652.