After an absence of five years from the theater, Roselyn Perez has returned with a bang.
She achieved the rare feat of a double nomination for Female Featured Performance in a Play in the recent Philstage Gawad Buhay, for her roles in Actor’s Actors Inc. and The Necessary Theatre’s “The Normal Heart” and Red Turnip’s “33 Variations.” She won for “The Normal Heart.”
“The last time I was on stage was in 2010, and, seriously, I was starting to believe that I would only be doing readings for the rest of my life,” she said in her acceptance speech.
The awards are a yearly event that honors the achievements of Philstage member companies, among them Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater, Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Peta, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, Trumpets, Stages, Actor’s Actors Inc., 9 Works Theatrical, Philippine Opera Company, Resorts World Manila’s Full House Theater Company and Red Turnip Theater.
That unforgettable tingle
Perez’s love for the theater began when she was in prep school in Assumption and she was asked to be part of a play.
“My costume was a pair of pajamas, and I insisted on wearing a pair of black Arab princess shoes—those bejeweled, pointy shoes that curl upwards. God knows why,” she says in an e-mail. “And then, I remember when I said my first line, ‘There’s only one penny!’ I felt this tingling in my spine. I cannot forget that.”
She went on to become a professional actor, appearing in productions by leading theater companies and directors such as Trumpets’ “Irena’s Vow,” directed by Jaime del Mundo; New Voice Company’s “The Vagina Monologues,” directed by Monique Wilson; Repertory Philippines’ “Equus,” directed by Audie Gemora; and “On Golden Pond,” directed by Zeneida Amador, among many others. She has also appeared in films and TV, and done radio work.
Then from 2011 to 2014, she did a lot of readings, but no stage work was forthcoming. During that gap, “I was trying to keep the fire alive, but at the same time I was gaining a distance from the theater that I think I really needed,” she said.
She recalled having curious dreams whenever she slept. “I had one where I was in a huge, empty, circular theater. I was alone and walking along the periphery, in circles, backstage and the audience area, but never setting foot on stage.”
Happy and grateful
That lull finally ended when she got the parts in “The Normal Heart” and “33 Variations” last year, both of which earned her praise from critics and audiences, and eventually Gawad Buhay honors.
“I was extremely happy and grateful that night,” she said. “I loved that we won Best Ensemble for ‘The Normal Heart,’ too! I thought [Peta’s] ‘Arbol de Fuego’ was going to win it.”
“However, part of me was also relieved it was over,” she added. “My generation of theater actors grew up without awards and social media, so I am not used to all the attention. It feels great to have won a Gawad, it really does. Having said that, I can’t wait to get back to work.”
That will happen none too soon, as she is set to reprise her role in the rerun of “The Normal Heart”—the Larry Kramer play set during the onset of the AIDS crisis in 1980s America—on June 3-5. Her character Emma Brookner, a doctor who pioneered HIV research and fought for help for the gay community that was being ravaged by the disease, was played by Julia Roberts in the film version of the play.
The Manila production is directed by Bart Guingona (who also plays the main character Ned Weeks) and also stars Topper Fabregas, Richard Cunanan, Red Concepcion, TJ Trinidad, Nor Domingo and Jef Flores. The rerun is produced by Peta.
“The Normal Heart” runs June 3 (8 p.m.), June 4 (3 p.m., 8 p.m.) and June 5 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) at Peta Theater Center, No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. Call 0927-3917379 or 7256244 local 23; visit ticketworld.com.ph.