Don’t be you’re nothing but a second rate trying hard copycat” goes the message on a T-shirt, posted on Twitter as Cherie Gil’s profile photo.
The veteran actress’ infamous line from the 1985 movie “Bituing Walang Ningning” seems like a (modified) statement of sorts for her pedigree—a descendant of the Eigenmann acting clan—and a body of work that spans three decades.
Gil has portrayed many villainesses and tenacious characters on TV, the silver screen and in theater. She has recently branched out into producing via My Own Mann Productions, her company which coproduced a Sineng Pambansa Masters Edition entry last year.
At age 50, Gil takes a crack at producing a one-woman play, Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton’s “Full Gallop,” about fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland. At a recent press con at The Peninsula Hotel’s Salon de Ning, she certainly looked the part in top-to-toe Rajo Laurel and statement accessories.
“Maybe after you [portray Vreeland onstage] nobody else would dare play the role,” one press member told Gil.
“Well, that’s the reason why I do such plays,” she jested.
It would take a very brave actress to portray Vreeland because the woman was a character, from her unique—colorful, some would say—manner of speech, to her homely features, unlike those of typical fashion celebrities.
In a biography by Eleanor Dwight, excerpts of which were published in New York Magazine, Vreeland, former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, is described as a woman of reinvention, tastemaker and, in light of her success at the Costume Institute, an institution.
Vreeland was a woman of delectable quotes and Dwight’s bio shares plenty of it.
On handling her finances: “I was going through money like one goes through … a bottle of scotch, I suppose, if you’re an alcoholic.”
On buying a red evening dress a few months after her husband’s death: “I don’t want to remind anyone that I’m in mourning. That’s my business.”
So, imagine Vreeland at age 70, fresh off a four-month European vacation after being fired from Vogue. She sets her sights on rebooting her career and, hoping to get some help, invites moneyed friends to an impromptu dinner at her Park Avenue digs. That is the setting for “Full Gallop.”
Volatile but extraordinary
“What a gift to portray such women, speak their words which I hope to imbibe and … share with other women,” said Gil, who was also seen onstage as another icon, the volatile but extraordinary American-Greek soprano Maria Callas.
“They’re so much wiser … I want to portray women of strength because aging doesn’t seem to stop them from moving forward and doing what they need to continue to do,” Gil explained.
Among the things Vreeland has been given credit for is identifying the difference between stylist and designer, both essential in the careers of today’s celebrities. Even Gil has had to seek help from such experts.
“In the [show-biz] industry, I could not have done it on my own, being styled and created to have this image, without the friends I have had in the fashion and beauty industries,” said the actress. “I thought, what a perfect time to honor them and give homage.”
To help fulfill that goal is the “Full Gallop” creative team: director Bart Guingona; Joey Mendoza, set design; John Batalla, lighting design; Ruben Nazareth, hair and makeup; and fashion designer Rajo Laurel, who lifts from his recent Vreeland-inspired Holiday Collection to create a different look for Gil on each show.
Gil’s friend Giselle Tongi will have a special participation.
“Full Gallop,” Guingona said, will appeal not just to fashion enthusiasts.
“It’s a layered play about the philosophy behind fashion, about a life that is lived during the most turbulent years of the 20th century,” he explained.
“Most of all, it’s really about resilience.”
In local show biz, what better example than Gil, a woman whose image has always celebrated strength in womanhood, from rebel daughter (“Problem Child,” “Oro, Plata, Mata”) to classy villain (“Bituing Walang Ningning” et al.) to some of the fiercest female roles on the contemporary stage (Sr. Aloysius in “Doubt,” Callas in “Master Class,” Liliane La Fleur in “Nine,” and now Vreeland in “Full Gallop”).
“Full Gallop” runs March 14-23 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave. cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati. It is presented by My Own Mann Productions Inc. and Actor’s Actors Inc. Copresenters are Inquirer Lifestyle, Look Magazine and The Peninsula Manila.
March 14 gala night tickets are at P1,000-P3,000, inclusive of cocktails by Antonio’s Tagaytay. Part of the proceeds will go to Virlanie Foundation’s home-building project for those affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Tickets for regular shows are at P600-P1,500.
Call 2150788 or 0917-5378313. Purchase tickets via Ticketworld, tel. 8919999, or ticketworld.com.ph.