Paul Fleischman’s “Mind’s Eye” was one of the critically acclaimed plays presented during last December’s International Theater Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Even the normally acerbic F. Sionil José, National Artist for Literature, hailed it as “the triumph of the creative imagination over a grim reality.”
He added, “I recommend this play to devotees of the theater, our dedicated youth and old teachers, and hacks like myself.”
And now the good news is that “Mind’s Eye” will be restaged, this time at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, in Makati City, on Sept. 6-8. It is presented by C. Virata Advisory et al. with support from the Repertory Philippines Foundation (call TeamAsia 0917-7953874).
Jaime del Mundo directs.
The play is based on the novel by Fleischman, a well-known American author of children’s books. Lead actress-writer Joy Virata wrote the author for permission to stage the play version, and showed him videos.
“And he was so pleased with what we did,” she reported.
The play is about two wounded people, two women who are poles apart in age and temperament: Elva, an 88-year-old former teacher and lover of literature, especially poetry, and now going blind (played by Virata, who is not yet 80); and Courtney, a 16-year-old girl (Jenny Jamora, who is more than 16) paralyzed from the waist down.
As they interact, with dialogue both funny and affecting, they go on a journey to Italy using their imagination, visiting the great museums, art galleries and architectural monuments of that country.
“These two characters show so much compassion, human values,” Virata said during a recent press conference at Milky Way Café in Makati City. “What I like about it is the message of literature, reading, the arts, and how important that is in our lives.”
“My dad was really emotional, depressed when we opened the play,” Jamora said. “I think that last year gave me a lot of emotional experience. Actually it can be very tiring, but now it’s time to go back to zero, to be able to take what the character has, to find new things starting from zero.”
The other members of the cast are Caissa Borromeo, Red Concepcion and the iconic Naty Crame Rogers, who turned 90 last December.
The cook loved it
Virata said one of her “favorite reviews” was from the cook of “a very wealthy couple” who saw the show.
“Yes, their cook,” she confirmed. “They had an extra ticket so they brought their cook. And they were telling me how much she enjoyed the play and that she could follow it, knew what was happening and she would comment. She would laugh, and she would cry.”
Virata declared, “This play was given to me out of love by my husband and my daughter. I didn’t do it in Rep (Repertory Philippines) because I didn’t think it was something that the Rep audience would like. This one I just wanted to take a chance on …”
Del Mundo said that “we do this for love. It’s our love for the Filipino audience to get them thinking again, imagining again.”
Added Virata: “The Filipino audience? The Filipino, period—all of us need to be reminded that there’s something like the mind, that there is literature, and we need to read.”