Carmen ‘Baby’ Barredo, grand dame of PH theater; 80 | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Carmen “Baby” Barredo

Carmen “Baby” Barredo, known as the “Grand Dame of Philippine Theater,” has taken her final curtain call. The cofounder of Repertory Philippines (REP) died on Sunday at the age of 80.

In a Facebook post, Barredo’s daughter, Charlie, said: “It is with great sadness that Etienne and I announce the passing of our dearest Mama, beloved Tita Baby to so many of you all. She died peacefully at 7:37 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital in Taguig from multiorgan failure brought about by sepsis. I was by her side and her family and [theater] children were with her in spirit and song.”

Barredo’s career as a performer, and, more importantly, as a mentor, stretched across the entire length of modern Philippine theater. She was only 5 when she played her first role as the angel Gabriel in a school Christmas play. “I felt at home in theater. I enjoyed entertaining people, I never experienced stage fright.”

A graduate of St. Scholastica’s College Manila, she also studied under an impressive roster of teachers, including Fides Asencio, National Artists Lucrecia Kasilag and Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana before decamping to the United States. There, she took up voice at Indiana University, and Drama at the American Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in New York.

REP cofounder

Upon her return, Barredo founded REP with Zenaida “Bibot” Amador, Leo Martinez, Tony Mercado and Monina Allarey Mercado in 1967 with a production of “Miss Julie.”

Over the past 50 years, REP has produced over 500 shows, ranging from Shakespeare and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” to its trademark musicals such as “Evita” and “The Sound of Music.” Amador and Barredo worked closely to shape REP into what it is today.

Barredo’s training and talent enabled her to handle a revue of roles both musical and nonmusical and she passed this on to her wards, soon teaching several generations of stage actors, among them Lea Salonga, Cocoy Laurel, Junix Inocian, Monique Wilson, Pinky Amador, Miguel Faustmann, Joy Virata, Bart Guingona, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Audie Gemora, Freddie Santos, Rem Zamora, Bernardo Bernardo and Cris Villonco.

“The Repertory actors and actresses are my children,” she said. “I am proud of them. Tears fell from my eyes when I saw ‘Miss Saigon’ in London.”

Tita Baby’s legacy

Not only would many of these actors—to whom she was always “Tita Baby” or “Nanay”—go on to star on Broadway, the West End and international touring companies, they would also further spur the continued growth of Philippine theater by establishing their own theater companies, such as Gemora’s Triumphant People’s Evangelistic Theater Society (Trumpets) in 1990, Guingona’s Actor’s Actors, Inc. in 1990 and Wilson’s New Voice Company in 1994.

Carmen “Baby” Barredo

REP also provided a crucial starting point for would-be actors with its workshops for aspiring child thespians. It helped professionalize stage craft and organization.

Barredo remained deeply involved in REP productions over the last five decades. When asked about acting even at an older age, she replied: “Acting has no age limit. You can still go on stage and still perform.”

Artistic director emeritus

After the death of Amador in 2008, REP named Barredo its chair-for-life and artistic director emeritus. She last participated in a REP production by directing the comedy “Father’s Day” in 2019.

In a Facebook post, REP called Barredo “a consummate artist—a compleat actress, sublime singer, brilliant director, and theatrical creative genius.”

“Known for her unrelenting passion and discipline, artistic excellence, boldness, and abounding love, Tita Baby’s legacy lives on in every REP artist and audience member whose love and passion for theater she has powerfully and indelibly set alight,” it said.

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