The Breakout Bunch, 2013 | Inquirer Lifestyle

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CLOCKWISE from left: Chimmi Kohchet-Chua (12) from Trumpets’ “The Bluebird of Happiness,” Arnell Ignacio (49) from Atlantis Productions’ “The Addams Family,” Aicelle Santos (28) from Spotlight Artists Centre’s “Katy,” Jojo Riguerra (32) from Bit by Bit Company’s “Maxie The Musicale,”Mikkie Bradshaw (23) from Atlantis Productions’ “Carrie,” Poppert Bernadas (26) from Green Wings EntertainmentNetwork’s “Lorenzo,” Teetin Villanueva (24) from Dulaang UP’s “Collection” and Jayvhot Galang (15) from “Maxie The Musicale.” (Villanueva, unfortunately, missed the roundtable chat when she got snarled in horrendous Christmas Friday traffic going to the INQUIRER office inMakati, and could only make it to the photo shoot afterwards.)

The Breakout Bunch, 2013

CLOCKWISE from left: Chimmi Kohchet-Chua (12) from Trumpets’ “The Bluebird of Happiness,” Arnell Ignacio (49) from Atlantis Productions’ “The Addams Family,” Aicelle Santos (28) from Spotlight Artists Centre’s “Katy,” Jojo Riguerra (32) from Bit by Bit Company’s “Maxie The Musicale,”Mikkie Bradshaw (23) from Atlantis Productions’ “Carrie,” Poppert Bernadas (26) from Green Wings Entertainment Network’s “Lorenzo,” Teetin Villanueva (24) from Dulaang UP’s “Collection” and Jayvhot Galang (15) from “Maxie The Musicale.” (Villanueva, unfortunately, missed the roundtable chat when she got snarled in horrendous Christmas Friday traffic going to the INQUIRER office inMakati, and could only make it to the photo shoot afterwards.) ALL PHOTOS BY YUKIE SARTO AND AMIEL MENDOZA USING THE NOKIA LUMIA 1020

AICELLE Santos: “May mga eksena ako with Tirso Cruz III or Dulce, tapos sasabihin ni direk Nestor [Torre], “Aicelle, nai-starstruck ka!”
The first Inquirer Lifestyle-Theater roundtable hosts eight actors–seven young first-time leads and one veteran on a stage comeback–whose standout performances this year made us bolt from our seats and cheer.

Every year serves up new names and fresh faces on Manila’s theater scene, and 2013 was no different. Out of some 65 productions big and small, from lavish musicals to muted dramas, and often in the company of the veterans and stalwarts of local theater, a small band of actors made their mark—because they were young newbies triumphing in their first lead roles, or perennial supporting performers finally seizing their own moment to shine and be recognized.

The advent of bright new talents—and being there to witness their rise—is always a thrilling moment. Last year, that old tingle was there when we saw the performances of Teetin Villanueva (24) in “Collection,” Aicelle Santos (28) in “Katy,” Poppert Bernadas (26) in “Lorenzo,” Mikkie Bradshaw (23) in “Carrie,” Chimmi Kohchet-Chua (12) in “The Bluebird of Happiness,” Jayvhot Galang (15) and Jojo Riguerra (32) in “Maxie The Musicale,” and—the biggest surprise—Arnell Ignacio (49) in “The Addams Family.”

Why Ignacio, first of all? Unknown to many, he has a background in musical theater—buried only by his eventual fame as a TV host-comic and all-around show biz personality. This year, after over two decades off the stage, he reclaimed his roots in “The Full Monty” and especially “The Addams Family,” and emerged a newfound musical-theater star.

Bernadas (a member of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers), Bradshaw, Villanueva and Riguerra, meanwhile, had appeared in plays and/or musicals, but  mostly in ensemble or supporting roles. In 2013 they got the chance to step up to the big-leagues spotlight, and proved how ripe they were for it.

Santos is a TV host and performer (a member of the singing trio La Diva), but “Katy” was her maiden theater stint. Ditto with Galang and Kohchet-Chua, two stage-debuting kids who hoofed, sang and acted with the poise and brio of pros in “Maxie The Musicale” and “The Bluebird of Happiness,” respectively.

In a first, Inquirer Lifestyle-Theater hosted these eight actors for a freewheeling roundtable chat about their onstage experiences. (Villanueva, unfortunately, got snarled in horrendous Christmas Friday traffic, and could only make it to the photo shoot afterwards; Kohchet-Chua came accompanied by her dad Cons).

Here, in an insightful, revealing, often hilarious and altogether memorable conversation, are the breakout stars of theater in 2013.

We can start with Arnell, since—not to rub it in, but you’re the most senior here. (Laughter) Not many people know you started with Repertory Philippines…

Ignacio: With Bibot Amador, yeah. Pumunta ako doon kasi nanundo ako ng syota. (Laughter) Kumuha ako ng music sheet tapos kumanta ako nang kumanta. Eto na siya nakapamewang sa akin. Sa isip ko, “Sino ba itong tomboy na ’to?” (Laughter) Umalis ako, went to their office. Nakapamewang na naman. ’Yon pala, everyone was nag-aantay na suntukin ako, kasi nanununtok siya talaga. Tinanong niya ako, “Are you part of this company?” Sabi ko, “I just passed by, so I decided to sing.” That time I was with the Madrigal Singers. Sabi ni Bibot, “Would you like to be part of Repertory?” Sabi ko, “Why not?” Hindi ko na-realize na ganoon pala ang mangyayari sa buhay ko noon. Ang daming gulpi. Binabato. (Laughter)

Ilang years ka sa Rep?

Ignacio: Mga tatlo lang, from ’87 or ’88 yata. Hindi ko na nabilang. Andami ko naging roles doon, usually with only one scene. Ginawa din akong vocal coach. Kung anong pagkakakitaan noon, pinasok ko. My first P10,000 I earned at Rep.

How does it feel now that you’re back in theater?

Ignacio: Hindi ko ma-describe ’yong saya ko. Parang ngayon ko lang naramdaman na may talent pala ako. (Laughter) Kapag binabasa ko ’yong mga sinusulat tungkol sa akin sa “Addams,” parang first time ko ma-recognize and I cannot help but be so thankful, be emotional. Kasi alam ko hindi ako binobola. Naiiyak nga ako kapag curtain call when you see people na pumapalakpak sa ’yo.

In theater kasi hindi mo pwedeng dayain. You cannot cheat your way out of a scene. Kunwari, nakalimutan mo, you cannot even ask help from fellow actors. So much hard work ang kailangan, and people reward you with appreciation. Lalo na when people stand up and you see their faces. It’s better than sex! (Laughter)

Poppert and Aicelle—you’re also quite seasoned performers in pop entertainment. How different is doing theater?

Santos: Very different. Ang Pinoy kasi kapag kinantahan mo, maski biritan mo, ganyan lang pumalakpak (slowly claps). Minsan hindi pa. Sa theater, na-experience ko ’yung overwhelming feeling na nakakaiyak siya kapag curtain call at standing ovation sila. Mararamdaman mo na you’re very much appreciated.

’Yung natawa na lang sila pagbato mo ng linya, “Uy, nakakatawa pala ako.” Masaya na ko doon! What more ’pag nag-standing ovation at pinapapalakpakan ka pa nila. Immediate ang response at ramdam mo na genuine talaga ’yung saya nila. Tapos paglabas mo babatiin ka nila. Or mata-tag ka sa mga comments.

Sa sarili ko, sabi ko, “Lord, I don’t know if I deserve these, itong mga reviews.” Without the help of direk Nestor [Torre], Ate Isay [Alvarez], Kuya Robert [Seña]—sila talaga ang naniwala na kaya ko. Baguhan lang ako. I know I can sing, pero umarte ka on stage and do the lead role? It’s really a big challenge, pero kahit papaano, nagawa ko.

Nasigawan ka rin? (Laughter)

Santos: Oo naman! One week before the opening pa. Pero sanay naman akong nasisigawan ng nanay ko sa bahay. (Laughter) Medyo immune na naman ako sa ganoon, so it’s good training.

ARNELL Ignacio: “I came from a generation na kung sino’ng pinakamalakas sumigaw, siya ang pinakamagaling.” (Laughter)

Ignacio: Nakaka-miss din ’yang nasisigawan.

Hindi na uso sigawan ngayon?

Ignacio: Hindi na. I came from a generation na kung sino’ng pinakamalakas sumigaw, siya ang pinakamagaling. (Laughter) Kaya nanibago ako ngayon because Bobby [Garcia] is so cool. Yet ’yong instructions niya napaka-powerful. Instead of sigaw, mahihiya ka sa kanya ’pag hindi mo siya napasaya sa ginawa mo. So you work doubly hard para ma-satisfy siya.

Bernadas: Ako naman, working with Sir Nonon [Padilla] sa “Lorenzo”—hinahayaan ka lang niyang gawin mo ’yong gusto mo. Nakikita niya ’yong kabuuan ng play, so sasabihin niya, too much na ’yan or kulang pa. After the rehearsal, I would ask him if OK ba… Noong first show ko, lumapit ang mga producers, na-bombard ako ng “Kaya mo ’yan!” Nakaka-pressure.

Ignacio: Nakaka-paranoid kasi. Laging tatanungin mo ang coactors mo sa rehearsals, “OK na ba?” Nakaka-praning, para kang adik. (Laughter)

Santos: May mga eksena ako with Tirso Cruz or Dulce, tapos sasabihin ni direk Nestor, “Aicelle, nai-starstruck ka kay Tirso Cruz III!” Sabi ko, “Opo e.” Nahihirapan ako sa eksena. Umiiyak siya sa harap ko at naa-amaze ako. Pero “Hindi pwede, kailangan mong umarte!”

Chimmi, how was your experience with “The Bluebird of Happiness?”

Kohchet-Chua: I absolutely loved it. I was part of Trumpets when I was younger, around 5 or 6. I did summer workshops and we staged shows afterwards. Direk Audie [Gemora] then moved me to My Talent, so I focused on stage performing, singing, but not acting. This was my first full production, so at first I was very afraid. I didn’t think I would be able to do a lead role. I was pretty nervous. I changed the lines of the song once and my coactor Anton [Posadas] was looking at me. He also changed his lines because of me! We were laughing that day. And working with director Jaime [del Mundo] was very nice. He’s a good mentor.

Who influenced you to try theater?

Kohchet-Chua: My dad actually wanted me to do sports. My mom said I’d always been dancing and singing and wanted me to try out summer workshops.

Galang: Wala po talaga akong alam sa theater. Before ako nag-“Maxie,” ang alam ko lang po si Beyoncé. Sumali po ako sa TV5, 13 ako noon. Nag-amateur singing contest po ako.  Noong pinuntahan ako sa bahay ng producer, kinuwento ni Sir Darwin [Mariano] ’yung story ng “Maxie.” Hindi ko po talaga siya alam; indie film po kasi. (Laughter)

Sabi niya si Maxie na-in love sa isang pulis. Sabi ko, “Ang sarap naman po niyan.” So inimbitahan ako mag-audition, tapos tinawagan nila ako after. Sabi nila, “Congratulations, Jayvhot, you are Maxie!” Sabi ko po, “Sino po ’yung pulis?” (Laughter)

Nung sa rehearsal na, may mga Beyoncé moves sa choreography ni Sir Dex [Dexter Santos] na nakakalimutan namin—grabe po. Ang hirap po pala mag-theater na wala ka sa focus. Sabi nila, kailangan innocent, kailangan wala kang alam at 12 years old ka lang. Sa rehearsals, tinanggal po ’yung mga mannerisms ko. ’Yung mga (does hand and shoulder gestures) habang kumakanta. Sabi ko po, ang hirap!

Mahirap because?

Galang: Ang hirap po kasing maging…

Innocent?

CHIMMI Kohchet-Chua: “‘Bluebird’ was my first full production, so at first I was very afraid and nervous.”

Galang: Yes! (Laughter) Lagi ko po kasing kasama mga kaibigan kong bakla. Meron pa pong mga mas bata sa akin na mas malandi pa sa akin. (Laughter)

Riguerra: Mahirap daw kasing magpaka-sweet dahil sa totoong buhay, ikaw ay…

Galang: Maldita! Sabi nila, “Ang taray mo bakla, napanood ko ’yong ‘Maxie.’ Cinemalaya ’yan. E ’di ba may kissing scene diyan? Ang swerte mo!” Sabi ko, “Oh my God, anong gagawin ko, kailangan ko maging inosente!” Nakita nila si Kuya Victor noon, sabi nila, “Sana ako na lang nag-Maxie.”

How did your parents react when they first saw the kissing scene you were very excited about? (Laughter)

Galang: Sabi ng mama ko, “Maldita ka!” Pero nung napanood na niya ang musical, napaiyak daw siya nung namatay na ’yong tatay ko. ’Yung kapatid ko naman pong 12 years old, inggit na inggit. Beterano po kasi ’yon sa beaucon [beauty contest], 11 po siya nag-start.

Nag-beaucon ka rin?

Galang: Last year po. Nananalo naman, depende po sa wig na gamit. (Laughter)

Jojo, you did plays before with Gantimpala, right?

Riguerra: Yes, una kong pasok sa Gantimpala in “Kanser,” mang-aawit ako. Ginawa akong understudy ni Allan Paule. Doon na nag-start. Nag-start ako sa Gantimpala 2008, hindi naman nag-mintis every year—“Kanser,” grownup Basilio sa “El Filibusterismo,” tapos “A Life in the Slums” ni Rolando Tinio…

Paano mo nakuha ang role ni Kuya Victor?

Riguerra: Nasa TV taping ako noon, tumatawag si Sir Darwin. Hindi ko pinapansin cell phone ko. Kinabukasan ko na siya na-text. Sabi nila, “We’re still looking for an actor for ‘Maxie.’ Alam mo ba ’yong ‘Maxie’?” Sabi ko, ito po ba ’yong ‘Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros’ na indie film?” Sabi nila, “Yes, we’re inviting you to a special screening.”

Pero hindi ko siya napanood—until this Monday lang! So ’yong mga sinasabi ni Jayvhot na kissing scene, wala akong idea na wala sa film. (Laughter) Nadaya mo ako doon a! Pero tama naman pala na hindi ko muna siya pinanood kasi iba talaga ang atakeng ginawa namin ni Jayvhot.

Nung nagpunta ako sa audition sa UP Diliman, ang audition song ko ’yung kanta ni Elias sa Gantimpala. ’Yung English song, wala akong naka-prepare. So kumanta ako, “I can show you the world…” But fini-feed lang sa ’kin ang line. Nandoon din si Jayvhot, pinag-reading kami. After a few days, tinawagan kami kasi nakita raw na may chemistry kami.

Paano ninyo tinimpla ang performances ninyo, since delicate ang subject matter?

JAYVHOT Galang: “Iba po ’yung discipline sa theater… Iba po ’yung may two shows ka, tapos ’di puwedeng magkaiba ’yung energy mo. Kasi P1,200 ang ticket. (Laughter) ’Yun ’yung sinasabi sa akin ni direk [Dexter Santos].”
Riguerra: Sensitive nga ang subject, so inisip talaga namin kung paano mai-present ng walang malisya.

Galang: Hirap na hirap po ako nung time na ’yon. (Laughs)

Riguerra: Nag-work naman ‘yung ginawa ni Jayvhot na magpaka-sweet. Nung una po talaga, hindi ko alam kung paano ko siya aalagaan sa eksena kasi nga sensitive ’yung mismong story. Na-fall in love ang bata sa pulis—papaano namin gagawin na hindi magkakaroon ng malisya ’yung mga eksena?

Ang ginawa ko, every rehearsal, dahan-dahan akong nakikipag-close kay Jayvhot, hanggang eventually at ease na siya sa akin. Tuwing may mga guestings kami ’pag umaga or sa mga events para mag-promote ng “Maxie,” tatawag ako sa kanya, “Maxie, sunduin na lang kita sa Kalentong para sabay na tayo. Sabay ka na sa akin.” Sinasabay ko siya para nakakapag-bonding kami, nakakapagkwentuhan. Mukhang nag-work naman. OK ba? (to Jayvhot)

Galang: (Pa-sweet, speechless) (Laughter)

Chimmi and Jayvhot, what about school when you had rehearsals?

Kohchet-Chua: I got excused on some days.

Galang: Nung nag-technical rehearsals na, lumagpas na po ako sa absences. Sabi ko, “Ma’am, papanoorin ko na lang kayo, unlimited.” Tsaka every day po ako nagpapadala ng cake, pinapasok na po ulit ako. (Laughter) Pero nung may nagreklamo, hindi na po ako pinapasok. Magho-home study na lang po muna ako.

How do you handle bad reviews or feedback—especially since, ’di ba sa theater, every night is a different night, and it can happen na merong shows where the energy is low and the performances are off?

Riguerra: Totoo, nararamdaman din namin ’yon. So sasabihan namin sa isa’t isa, “Guys, kulang ng energy.”

POPPERT Bernadas: “Ang peg kasi ni Mr. C [sa ‘Lorenzo’] parang ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ Sobrang hirap nga.”
Bernadas: I learned from Sir Nestor na hindi mo talaga mapi-please lahat. Na-realize ko kasi na mabilis akong ma-apektuhan ng coactors. Ang sinabi lang ni Sir Nes, laging makinig sa director. If satisfied ang director, OK ka na. And of course, ’yong audience mo, kapag pinalakpakan ka.

Ignacio: Sa teatro kasi, kahit ikaw ang bida, the show is not about you. Hindi valid ’yung, pwede bang ulitin natin? Kasi ang dami mong papaguring tao. Halimbawa, ’yung mga dinagdag nilang kanta sa “The Addams Family” iba sa inaral ko! So second day of rehearsals, gusto ko na mag-quit. Hindi ko kaya ’to! Ang hirap-hirap ng kantang “Trapped” na ni wala man lang inulit na salita. (Laughter)

Nag-hire na lang ako ng pianist. After rehearsals, mag-e-ensayo kami ulit sa bahay. Out of my own pocket. Dahil ikaw lang talaga ang magiging nakakahiya. Pupunta ka sa rehearsals tapos magkakamali ka, nothing can be so punishing. Tapos kahit walang sinasabi, hindi ka kagagalitan, pero alam mo sa sarili mo na ikaw ang nagpaka-amateur. Sa “Addams” pa naman, isang tanong sa ’kin, dalawang pages sagot ko. (Laughter)

Santos: Sa “Rak of Aegis” buyers’ preview recently, may eksena sina Isay Alvarez and Robert Seña, so tumayo agad ’yung eksena nila. Sabi ko, “Poppert, kailangan nating mag-rehearse nang maigi,” kasi nakakahiya talaga! So doble-kayod lang. I know I need to improve my acting pa. Alam kong darating ’yung panahon na I can’t use anymore the excuse that I’m new.

Riguerra: No matter how much you rehearse, aasa ka rin sa coactors mo na, tulungan tayo ha. Sa set ng “Maxie,” nahulog ako one time from third to second level tapos naka-hang ako sa hagdan for ilang seconds nung riot scene ng pulis and squatters. Pagpasok pa lang ng mga pulis, nagkamali ako ng step kasi nakababa ang visor namin at naiba vision ko. Nadulas ako—but the show must go on. Ibinalik ko ’yung helmet, back in character, pero “Ang sakit ng katawan ko!”

Nakatulong din ’yung helmet kasi hindi nila nakitang duguan ako. Pagkatapos ng eksenang ’yon, rush agad ang stage manager at staff sa ’kin backstage: “Kuya Jo, OK ka lang ba? Wala tayong alternate na Victor!” (Laughter)

Mikkie had a different experience doing “Carrie” when she got sick right after the opening. How did that go?

Bradshaw: Oh, I was so grateful that K-La Rivera was there. We had put so much in the show, and opening night was such an amazing night. I thought it could only get better. Then the next day happened. I woke up excited to go back to work. Then I started coughing and there was blood all over my bed.

Ignacio: Carrie talaga! (Laughter)

Bradshaw: We went to the hospital and found out I had TB, and I couldn’t do the show because I’d put the company at risk. It was devastating. My whole life was about waiting for this big role. Then, that moment. Really, it’s done?

But I’m so thankful we got K-La on board. I was able to build the character from the ground up, but K-La had five days to build her own character. She was stressing out. I was stressing out for her. We’d Skype about characterizations.

Before, Bobby and I were able to sit down and pick through the brain of Carrie. K-La had to focus on lines, blocking and everyone else had to work extra hard. Everyone was there from morning till midnight, until K-La did it. Thank God she did splendid work. But I was able to get back on the last weekend and did my part two more times.

Then you went into an ensemble part for “Addams” after having played lead…

JOJO Riguerra: “Sa set ng ‘Maxie,’ nadulas ako—but the show must go on. Pagkatapos ng eksena, sabi sa ’kin backstage: ‘Kuya Jo, OK ka lang ba?Wala
tayong alternate na Victor!’” (Laughter)

Bradshaw: I am a theater actor by career, and I am just starting now and I am open to experiences. Whatever role they give me, I’m ready because it’s a learning experience.

Does that hold true for everyone else here?

Kohchet-Chua: I want to be the bad guy!

Bernadas: Sa “Magsimula Ka” dati, gusto ko na ring mag-back out. Then nag-audition ako sa “Katy.” Wala raw maibibigay na lead role sa ’kin, sabi ni Sir Nestor. Sabi ko kahit ano lang dahil gusto ko magka-experience… Doon ko nakita na marami kang matututunan sa ensemble.

Bradshaw: I’ve been in the ensemble a lot. “Carrie” was my first big role. I thought being lead was harder, but ensemble could also be a tough time. You know, the ensemble gets bullied by the director. Ensemble is the one that gets picked at—“You guys are not tight enough!” And we are 10 people. (Laughter)

Ignacio: Or sent home for bad behavior!

What constitutes bad behavior?

Bradshaw: When the director and everyone are stressed out, the ensemble is always the punching bag. (Laughter)

Riguerra: Sa “Maxie” nga meron pang, “You’re fired.” (Laughter) It was something about Facebook na may iba palang show na ginawa, pero iba ang ipinaalam.

Ano’ng mga preshow rituals ninyo, if any?

Bradshaw: Well, one thing talaga, I don’t like to be rushed. I’m one of the first people to start makeup, because I do not like to be rushed na, first chime na, uh oh, my God, “eyeliner!” So I arrive two to three hours earlier than call time. And then right before the show, a little prayer and a little bit of getting into character.

But right before I go on, I like to listen to what I call epic music. Not from the show, something that gets me pumped up like “Firework” by Katy Perry. By the time I’m onstage, I’m really pumped up for the show. My other cast mates don’t understand it because everyone else is vocalizing and I’m like (pumping).

Ignacio: Si Jamie Wilson, so funny, ayaw niya ng mani…

Bradshaw: Yes, si Jamie, he has about three bags full of Flat Tops every show!

Ignacio: Ako, ’yung pinakamagandang execution ng role, tinatandaan ko na ang pattern. With “Addams,” same shoes, same socks. I would wash them pag-uwi, ’yun din gagamitin ko next show kahit wasak-wasak na.

And I had five copies of the “Addams” script scattered everywhere. Sa bedroom, sala. Minsan nagpapagawa ako  ng electrical ng sasakyan ko. ’Pag wala na kaming mapag-usapan, sasabihin ko dun sa kausap ko, ’yung linya ko. (Laughter)

Santos: Pag-start ng chime, start na akong tumakbo, run around backstage. I had to be young, kasi I’m playing Katy who’s 14-15, but I’m 28. So tatakbo ako nang masayang-masaya in pigtails bago ako pumasok ng eksena. Then three minutes before, I’ll say my prayers, and ’yun na.

Bernadas: Ako tumatakbo din sa “Lorenzo.” Kasi sobrang hirap nung mga songs sa show, kailangan pagpawisan muna talaga. Then ’yung first scene ko pinatay ni Lorenzo ’yung Kastila, so dapat mataas na ang energy agad. It so happened na varsity ako nung college—badminton—so kahit papaano, nalampasan ko naman.

Isa sa mga ikinakatakot ko din ’yung singing. Ang peg kasi ni Mr. C [Ryan Cayabyab] parang “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Sobrang hirap nga. At si Sir Nonon kasi, ’pag once na may nakita siyang, o kaya mo pala ’yan, o eto kaya mo pa ’to? Tataas nang tataas. (Laughter)

Ignacio: Ang pinakamahirap talaga sa akin is ’yung matanggap na mag-asawa kami ni Eula [Valdes] e. Lalo na ’yung hahawakan ko ’yung boobs niya. Sa rehearsals, kitang-kita daw na ayoko hawakan. (Laughter) ’Yun ang pinakamatagal naming inensayo, ’yung kapiraso na ’yun.

Galang: Ako, third chime na, nag-aayos pa po ako ng hair ko. Nagsusuot pa lang ako ng costume. Ay ayan na, hanggang sa mag-flag ceremony na. Tapos ayun po, tumatakbo po ako sa backstage. Ay kulang ’yung makeup ko, lipstick, eyeliner. Minsan ako na magme-makeup sa sarili ko.

Riguerra: Before “Maxie,” usual na ginagawa ko nagpapatunog ng leeg. Pero sa “Maxie,” hindi na ’yun ’yung ritual ko. Band-Aid na. Every time before the show, kukuha ako nung transparent at antiseptic Band-Aid tapos ika-cut ko. Instead of Leukoplast, ’yun ’yung ilalagay ko pang-tape sa mic. Feeling ko hanggang sa mga susunod, ’yun na gagawin ko, Band-Aid na.

Kohchet-Chua: I just stay in my room, chill there, while Anton’s panicking even with the first chime. When the show’s about to start, Anton and I would sing the songs backstage to pump ourselves up. At home, my brother kept on telling me, “Achi, nakakainis na e. Even when sleeping you’re singing. Every day na lang. Daddy!” Gumaganun na siya. (Laughter)

How else did you prepare for your roles?

Bradshaw: In “Carrie,” my real-life best friend plays my mortal enemy in the show, and many in the cast are very close to me. But Carrie’s an outcast, she’s no one’s friend. So literally the entire rehearsal period and tech week, I never talked to anyone. I completely distanced myself from all of them.

Method!

Bradshaw: Actually I realized after “Carrie,” method actor pala ako! I remember even Bobby telling me at the start of rehearsals, “You know you can’t be friends with Jill.” Si Jill played Chris, the bad girl in the show. And she’s my best friend. So we made the decision together before rehearsals started, “OK, bye.” I had to completely omit any rapport that I had with her and the rest. We finally said hello again after we opened.

Kohchet-Chua: In “Bluebird,” before everything started, I was actually supposed to be partnered with Guido [Gatmaytan], and Anton with Alessa [Zialcita]. But then, Alessa was shorter than Anton, and Anton and I were about the same height—though he’s had a growth spurt—so we became partners… The four of us got very close, and we stayed in character even during breaks. We actually bonded through that. We’ve stayed friends even after.

Paano ang separation anxiety after the last show?

Ignacio: Para kang namatayan o nahiwalayan ng lover na hindi mo na alam kung nasaan siya. Hindi siya madali. When I was Harold in “The Full Monty,” ang tagal rin.

 

Teka, how did you get into the nudity in “The Full Monty”?

Ignacio: That was the easy part. (Laughter) Nakakatawa si Mark Bautista, ayaw niya talagang maghubad. Sabi ko, “Mark, ang pangit talaga kung hindi tayo maghuhubad. Tungkol doon ’yong show e: paghuhubad ng mga panget.” Pero kahit magtanggal ng T-shirt ayaw nun.

Sabi ko, “Mark, iba ang theater people, hindi sila nagkakamali. They never make mistakes.” Sabi niya, “Totoo?” “Oo, perfect lagi ’yan.” Second day, nagkamali! (Laughter) Bumukas ’yong ilaw sa finale!

Bradshaw: I saw that show, we really got the full monty! (Laughter)

Ignacio: That happened twice. (Laughter) Lahat umilaw. Kitang-kita mo talaga.

What was the audience reaction?

Ignacio: Masaya! They thought it was really part of the show. (Laughter) Merong matandang naka-wheelchair na tuwang-tuwa. Sabi niya, “Maganda siya.” Tuwang-tuwa ang mga lola.

E si Jayvhot—first theater experience mo, meron bang separation anxiety? After ng show, na-miss mo ba silang lahat?

Riguerra: Last weekend pa lang, ’yung last scene, umiiyak na ’yan. Sabi ko, “Jayvhot, ’wag kang umiyak, nahahawa kami. Focus ka muna, may Saturday, Sunday shows pa tayo.”

Galang: Mami-miss ko kasi ’yung set. (Laughter)

Magti-theater ka pa ulit ngayong na-try mo na siya?

Galang: Opo. Kasi iba po ’yung discipline sa theater… Iba po ’yung may two shows ka, tapos ’di puwedeng magkaiba  ’yung energy mo. Kasi P1,200 ang ticket. (Laughter) ’Yun ’yung sinasabi sa akin ni direk.

How would you feel if you didn’t get the part that you think you deserved?

Bradshaw: That’s hard. In my case, I’ve not been getting the part for my whole life. (Laughter) I’ve been trying to do this my entire life and I only got a lead role this year. I’ve been auditioning, going to workshops and doing school plays since I was 8 years old. I’m 23 now. I moved to Manila when I was 16, and I auditioned for Atlantis, for “Hairspray.” I didn’t get in.

From that point on, it was rejection for years and years. But I never stopped trying. I think it was two years ago that I auditioned for Atlantis again. For some reason, they couldn’t seem to remember me, ever. (Laughter). In fact, Bobby asked me, why didn’t you audition for us before? “Direk, I’ve been auditioning for you for like six years!”

The right place and the right time then.

Bradshaw: Yes. Inevitably, you’re gonna beat yourself up for not getting the part, especially when you’re called back for a part and then you don’t get it pa rin. But it’s really the right time, place and role for you—what really suits you and what they think you’re capable of doing.

Riguerra: I’ve been rejected twice—’yung first time nag-audition ako for the second run of “ZsaZsa Zaturnah” as Dodong. Naghahanap sila ng alternate for Arnold [Reyes]. ’Di ako nakuha, but may na-open na isang project, ’yung unang-una kong play, “Ambon, Ulan, Baha” by Frank Rivera.

’Yung second, for “Katy,” I auditioned for the role ni Gian [Magdangal], and ’di ko rin nakuha. But then, like “Maxie,” thankful ako kasi nagtiwala naman ’yung director and producer. I think there’s really a time for everything.

Kohchet-Chua: I was asked to audition for “Bluebird.” Tito Audie had been asking me for many years to audition for plays, but my parents never said yes because they wanted me to focus muna on school.

(To Kohchet-Chua’s dad Cons): Now that she did very well in “Bluebird,” would you allow her to do more theater?

Kohchet-Chua’s dad: We’re very open actually. She’s been performing since she was 2 and a half years old in preschool. And it was really a revelation to us. She dances so well, she sings so well. In school, she’s been winning all the singing contests, storytelling contests, declamation contests. When we put her in a workshop and saw that she excelled, OK lang, go. Just do it during summers.

She’s not an ordinary student either, academically. She graduated valedictorian of her class. She’s always top of the class. And we push her for that because we know she has talent for it. So we’re open, but it’s just that there’s a big tradeoff talaga. She said it lightly kanina on how her schooling was affected by “Bluebird.” She just brushed it off, but it was quite hell for us. I had to fix the schedule with the school.

She studies in St. Jude and St. Jude is known for academics. It’s pukpukan talaga. May classes on Saturday, which is always a problem because Saturday rehearsals are always early. And we have Chinese subjects also.

I had to coach her, tutor her every single moment; pull her out of the class every day, bring her home, make her sleep for an hour. We’d study quickly, then it’s time to go for rehearsal. Then we’d come home really, really late. So sabi ko lang sa kanya, your grades cannot suffer.

Kohchet-Chua: It did.

Kohchet-Chua’s dad: But, of course, it did. I did tell her naman that we were ready for it.

But are you happy with how things have turned out with “Bluebird”?

Kohchet-Chua’s dad: We’re very happy. It’s a very good experience. It really widened her horizons. I think it helps in her development into an adult later on. So ang sabi ko lang, let’s continue; if there are opportunities, let’s go ahead.

Unlike other people, like Mikkie—talagang you go after roles that you want—kami medyo at this time, not the same. If there are roles that come in and more or less maaayos namin ’yung schedule sa school, no problem. We’re open to it.

Bernadas: Sa akin, ’pag ’di ka nakuha hindi talaga para sa ’yo yung role e. May iba silang nakikita sa ’yo, and hindi ka lang fit. Hindi ibig sabihin na hindi ka magaling, may mas ideal lang talaga dun na tao.

Santos: Actually, may gut feel ka na. Like, ang boses ko kasi hindi siya pang-classical or musical singing. So minsan ’pag mag-o-audition ako—hindi naman ’to bagay sa akin but I’ll do it anyway. Nagbabaka-sakali ba. Talagang go lang nang go. You never know. Tama sinabi ni Poppert na if hindi ka na-cast, it doesn’t mean you’re not good, you’re  just not fit for the role.

Theater doesn’t pay much, so what’s the reward for you? Why do you do it? The economics is brutal. You rehearse for three months and play for three weekends. What keeps you in it?

Kohchet-Chua: You see people happy, that they appreciate what you do. You like to see them actually like what you do and what you love.

Bradshaw: There’s something in the magic of the process—being able to see it from Day 1 and how it’s nothing, but by the time you open, it has evolved into something that … it’s magical really. It’s such an amazing feeling to see a company pull together.

It’s also hard. Everything needs to be so precise. Everyone has to be on their toes constantly. But all these tiny little details, when they come together and create something so beautiful—it’s an amazing thing to be part of, regardless of the financial status you find yourself in. It’s all worth it.

Riguerra: Ako, when I was in college, bored na bored ako every time na may required stage play. Pero nung nag-theater na ’ko, dito ko na-feel ang sincerity nung audience. Nung first-ever play ko, ’yung “Ambon, Ulan, Baha,” hindi ko alam na ganun magiging reaction ng mga tao kasi first time ko e. Nung curtain call na, naramdaman ko na, uy, parang magugustuhan ko ’to, at kailangan ko pang i-develop para maibigay ko talaga sa mga tao kung ano ’yung dapat sa palakpak nila.

From there, naging passion na siya. Kailangan ko ma-master ang craft na ’to. Every time na aakyat ako onstage, dapat may maibigay akong something sa mga tao na tatatak sa kanila. I don’t think of money at this time, kasi alam naman natin…

Ignacio: Kaya nga ako nagbibisikleta na lang tuwing rehearsals… (Laughter) Pero ’yung art form kasi napaka-pure e, so kagaya ko, ang dami-dami ko nang pinagdaanan. Parang lahat ng dinaanan ko, parang itinawid ko lang e. Pinuri ako sa galing ko magtawid. I ended up doing the pretending so well.

Imagine, my first interview with Korina Sanchez and Kris Aquino, nag-English ako. Sabi nila, “oh, English.” (Laughter) I became so good at pretending that I was stupid! And people would tell you you’re good, but who are these people who tell you you’re good? Mga manghihingi ng pang-Christmas! (Laughter)

E may background naman ako sa theater, and I thought I could do this. Here, I felt the much-needed respect. Ang sarap-sarap nung ’pag binasa mo ’yung script—ang hirap nito ha—tapos magagawa mo… Walang dalang daya dito e. Kaya kahit ’yung bayad sa ’yo… iipunin mo na lang para magmukhang malaki. (Laughter)

Riguerra: Para maramdaman mo, sa last show na lang! (Laughter)

Galang: Hindi ko din po pinapansin ’yung TF [talent fee] kasi lugi din po ako. (Laughter) Kaya nagmo-motor na lang po kami papunta sa rehearsals. Iniisip ko na lang ’yung matututunan ko po, tsaka ’yung ikakagaling ko. Exposure na rin po.

Santos: With theater kasi, it has done a lot for me. Una, disiplina, ’yung puso inilalagay mo sa bawat sinasabi mo, sa kantang inaawit mo, the actions you do. For the longest time, I knew I could sing, pero when theater came, sabi ko, kaya ko pa pala to push myself further, to act. At ang pinakagusto ko sa lahat is ’yung samahan. You become family kasi e. Walang inggitan or crab mentality, kasi nagtutulungan kayo sa show.

’Yung separation anxiety, totoo talaga ’yun kasi talagang nagiging pamilya kayo. You always want to see each other and work with more people in theater.

Dito ko din naintindihan ’yung word na “passion.” With singing, feeling ko you have this time to wait, put on makeup, an hour to sing. Theater has months of rehearsals, tapos hindi rin natin maipagkakaila na hindi ganoon kalaki ang kita. (Laughter) So you learn to love what you do. And that’s why I’m doing it again. Kung passion, sige passion muna tayo!

Bernadas: The fact that I’m here and na-recognize ’yung work ko sa “Lorenzo,” ang sarap sa pakiramdam e. Tipong, wow! Ito lang ’yung binabayad sa ’min pero sa sobrang ganda nung material, sa sobrang sarap sa theater—marami kang kaibigang nami-meet, mga katrabaho mo de-kalibre at ang gagaling—ano pang hihingin mo?

Ignacio: Pera na lang! (Laughter) It should really be supported. ’Yung attitude lang ng mga tao rito—people just go there to work and work very well. ’Yun ang umpisa nun. And ang iisipin mo lagi ’yung result.

Dito collective ang effort. Nararamdaman mo kayong lahat nagtra-trabaho. Hindi ka star. You’re a worker. You have to go and give your best. ’Yun lang—’yung ganung paniniwala. Kaya nga ito dapat ’yung binabayaran ng malaki e! (Laughter) It’s paradise working in the theater.

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