Meet “the bad boy of Philippine theater,” at least according to his detractors.
Vincent “Vince” M. Tañada is a member of the politically prominent Tañada clan. The late great Lorenzo Tañada, who led demonstrations against the Marcos dictatorship, was a granduncle.
Being a Tañada, Vince was persuaded by his parents to become a lawyer. He took up law at San Beda University and passed the bar. But after that, he was allowed to follow his dream—to become a star in the exciting world of Philippine theater.
With his partners Hans Christian Lim and Jeffrey Ambrosio, he founded the Philippine Stagers Foundation and became producer, director, lead actor (he acts, sings and dances), writer and marketing man at the company.
Now on its 15th season, Stagers, with conservatory-trained Pipo Cifra as resident composer, has mounted a slew of historical and sociopolitical musicals, presented first in Manila and then in many cities across the land.
These include “Ako si Ninoy,” “Cory of Edsa,” “Bonifacio: Isang Sarsuwela,” “Katips: Ang Bagong Katipunan” (which exposed martial law abuses), “#Popepular” (with Tañada as a Tagalog-speaking, dancing Pope Francis), and “Filipinas: 1941,” a tale of World War II.
The Stagers’ summer workshops are free. Through the years, Tañada and his colleagues have been able to train and develop a core of young actors and actresses who emote, sing and dance very well. They are treated as employees and given monthly salaries.
One of them, Kerwin Larena, was interested in law, so Tañada obtained for him a scholarship at San Beda. Later, however, Larena gravitated toward show biz, and he is now a mainstay on TV’s “It’s Showtime,” “Nang Ngumiti ang Langit.”
His show biz name is Vance Larena, an apparent tribute to his mentor.
Stagers’ musicals are aimed at the student market and are staged at SM Cinemas in Metro Manila, and then in schools all over the country.
Tañada’s aggressive tactics have turned off some people in theater circles and social media.
He is narcissistic, they say. He is not a legitimate member of the legitimate stage. Why is he the leading performer all the time? Give others a chance. He runs a business empire. He cannot take criticism. Everything seems to be for the greater glory of Vince Tañada. He engages in unfair marketing practices during his out-of-town performances.
“Binubugaw daw namin ang mga artista (they say we are prostituting the actors),” observes young actor Johnrey Rivas, who is also into marketing. “Rivalry in marketing is intense. We performed all over Mindanao and I can attest that nothing like this happened.”
Tañada joins the fray: “Who is to say who is legitimate? As long as we are serving the art, we are legitimate. It’s so easy for me to market my product. I shell out a lot of money. I have several alternates (in acting), and I have directed a lot of shows in which I was not the bida (hero). I always defend not just myself but my group, on Facebook and social-print media.”
Tañada and the Stagers have their fair share of admirers and awards, including Aliw awards and a Palanca for full-length play. But there are as many who gaze askance at his driven nature.
As columnist Solita Monsod would say, “What about you, reader, what do you think?” You can form your own opinion and, if you are so inclined, watch the Stagers musical “Sindak 1941,” a takeoff on the earlier “Filipinas 1941,” a story about the traumatic Japanese Occupation (with humorous asides which send the students screaming), and two brothers in conflict. Choreography by Carlon Josol Matobato, with music by Cifra. —CONTRIBUTED
“Sindak 1941” runs on certain days and on weekends at SM North Edsa. It will move to SM Fairview in September, North Luzon and Bicol in October to December and, finally, to the Visayas and Mindanao in
January to March 2020. Tel. 0917-1645078 or 0956-6690335.