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One of my most favorite blogs on local theater has finally drawn down its curtains. It’s final post bravely extemporized the need to enhance our theater industry in terms of talent, and the need to look through the eyes of its audience.

I can’t blame you, Jay. I for one had once given up this passion. 

I still hope, however, that unlike me, you’d still hold that pen and continue to write your thoughts on our local arts. 

You will be missed. 

And for you, dear readers, I have posted here Jay’s final words:


For almost a year, I tried my best to reach out to the Philippine theater companies to bridge that wide gap between them and the public. The theater, may it be an opera, a musical or a straight play, is beautiful –it breathes emotions, fosters imagination among its audience and hones talents among its artists.

But sometimes, it’s not just about having one talent. It’s about how you maintain that talent while honing new ones.  That’s the problem of our local theater companies.

More than a year ago, the international production of CATS the musical was brought to the Philippines. To the dismay of some veteran actors, producers and owners of local theater companies, the show was well-received by the audience despite its steep ticket prices and, to be honest, a shallow plot. A veteran actor even questioned why was it brought here when they can actually stage the show themselves. You see, CATS is a demanding material. It requires artists who have extreme talents in both singing and dancing. And not just plain dancing, but ballet and jazz. We do not have that kind of artists, if we do, we have very limited supply.  We have great singers and great dancers, alright, but we lack good singers who can dance very well, and vice versa. We lack that discipline. We live in a country where some theater companies are already happy that one can sing no matter how terrible he/she dances or even acts, or one can act no matter how terrible the voice is. Take Nyoy Volante for Legally Blonde, or Erik Santos for The Little Mermaid, or Job Bautista for Rent, or Rachel Alejandro for Xanadu.

Sometimes, local theater companies sacrifice the production value just so they can earn. I cannot blame them for this because afterall this is still a business, but if you’ll think about it, why did people go to Singapore to watch the Lion King? Why are you planning to see Wicked in Singapore? Why did people spend so much to buy the ticket for the international production of Mamma Mia? Not because they have known actors. They do not have Rachel Ann Go or Nikki Gil or Karylle. But because they invest on the production value, they know that when you do not compromise production value, money will eventually come in. In the Philippines, it’s the other way around, instead of educating the people on how good the production is, some local theater companies award lead roles to local celebrities despite their lack of theater discipline. I applaud celebrities who can easily adapt to the live theater set-up but we do not have enough OJ Mariano or Nikki Gil to sustain that.

To add to that, why do we always see the same faces on stage? Is it because potential actors might not bring in the revenue or are we too scared to give these potential actors the spotlight knowing that they can easily steal the spotlight from your “nourished” actors? Take the case of Caisa Borromeo who was originally the understudy of Karylle for The Light in the Piazza had it been shown this year.  Caisa has better (and I mean, BETTER) vocal quality and a wider vocal range than Karylle but why was she just casted as an understudy and not even as an alternate? We lack leading men and women in our theater. Time will come Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo will retire. Who do we have next? Definitely not Rachel Alejandro nor Karylle. Who are the current leading men of Philippine theater, aside from Audie Gemora? Gian Magdangal, Felix Rivera and Gian Magdangal and Felix Rivera. We need more, don’t you think? At some point, people will get tired of seeing Felix despite his incredible talent just because they see him all year round, in all Atlantis productions. Just a tip for these actors, striking while the iron is hot is a double-edged sword –you’ll get easily recognized but once you cross the boundaries, you’ll lose your magic. (And eventually will lose projects because you’re no longer bankable).

About a year ago, I had a heated argument with someone who visited my blog (who I believe is from one of the local theater companies). He/she told me that “the theater” will never listen to someone young and inexperienced like me. The truth is, “the theater” should listen not just to me but to anyone from their audience. You get your revenue from the audience and I am one of them. Don’t just listen to someone from the inside, they will tell you what you want to hear from them. And when that happens, learning stops. Improvement stops. You’ll be complacent. Please do not be complacent. We are behind from the other countries. Very far behind, actually. If you think dressing King Triton like a drag queen will help the industry to propel, I suggest you think again. It’s not just a matter of taste, but artistry and aesthetics. The theater is not your playground. Your audience is not your puppet. Learn from them, do this for them.

As final words, Theaterrific is closing its doors for now. I hope there will come a time that you see beyond these words that I wrote in this blog –whether good or bad or terrible reviews. It’s painful, it really is. I had high hopes for the Philippine theater. How about you? Why are you doing this for the theater? Find your own reasons. You might be able to use them to help your industry to move forward. It’s now all up to you.

-reposted from



Tags : artsphilippine theatertheater
Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

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