Repertory Philippines celebrates its 50th anniversary in grand style on June 11 with a concert at The Theatre at Solaire called “Rep: 50 Years of Telling Stories.” It will be the story of a theater company told through a musical gala, featuring excerpts from plays and musicals it has produced, and actors who have, at one time or another, stood on its various stages, performing roles they originated or eventually did in their rise from chorus to lead.
Producing it are Rep’s current administrative and artistic heads. They have invited Rep regulars and veterans to come home to direct and/or act in the various suites that pay homage to its storytellers—the producers, the actors, the directors, the designers and the unsung heroes working behind the scenes.
The cast will consist of people who are among the finest performers the Philippines has today, and if only for that, the concert promises to be an epic event. I mean, putting it all together is already an epic event in itself. Just imagine the scope of the story that must be told: 50 years, 443 productions, 80 seasons, hundreds of performers and production and office personnel employed, thousands of audience members spanning five decades and about three generations.
More: at least nine professional theater companies born directly or indirectly from Rep, an undetermined number of actors making it (some making it really big) in theater, in the music industry, in the film and television industries, and in media—here and abroad! In other words, a theater industry practically built on the back of a dream dreamt by Zeneida Amador and a handful of friends.
The numbers by themselves are a testament to Rep’s achievements. But this milestone in the life of Rep is more than just numbers. It is about the dreams that gave birth to it, the people whose vision made it happen, the people behind it who made it work, built it up and kept it going through trials and troubled times.
And we—yes, I am a part of this team—are telling this story in the only way the people at Rep know how: on stage, through song and dance, with images, lights, sets and loads of talent.
Ginormous and vexing
It’s a production of ginormous—and vexing—proportions: how to condense 50 years and 443 productions into a 120-minute show. Think of all the shows and all the songs people want to hear, and plays that should be represented. What songs are “iconic” of Rep? What do people want to hear? What best conveys what we want to say?
And then there’s the cast— hundreds of Rep alumni who texted, messaged, e-mailed and called to say “Sali ako diyan” or “Count me in!” Then envision the casting and scheduling nightmare that goes with the sheer number of volunteers, many with day jobs, teleserye and myriad other commitments.
Add the responsibility of directing all these people in a show that has to tell a story and yet must entertain, delight, even dazzle. Then think of the directors at the helm of this massive endeavor—eight of the country’s best directors arguing concept, treatment and content: Bart Guingona, Jaime del Mundo, Miguel Faustmann, Audie Gemora, Menchu Lauchgenco-Yulo, Raymond Lauchengco, Michael Williams and Freddie Santos, with musical direction by the young Ejay Yatco.
See in your mind’s eye the producers and staff members who must make this all happen, raise the funds for it and coordinate all the various aspects of it. Production meetings are long and lively, the process is chaotic, and the atmosphere sometimes stressful.
Feeling of family
Through all this, there is a palpable feeling of family—because Repertory Philippines is one. It’s a family where people share memories, experiences, a common history. Nostalgia is rife and anecdotes of days gone by are repeated ad nauseam but still laughed at nonetheless.
We did, after all, grow up and learn together and, yes, fight; we walked away, worked for other theater companies elsewhere in the world, built lives totally separate from Rep, and even put up “rival” theater companies. Yet, when Rep calls, the “prodigals” answer the call.
Like all families that converge for special occasions and holidays, no matter the petty and maybe not so petty differences, Reppers come home. And like the Biblical prodigal son, we are welcomed with open arms, like we never left.
Come join us for this homecoming. Come and see why and how Repertory Philippines has lasted 50 years! Come celebrate with us! —CONTRIBUTED