It was in 2007, while having their regular coffee fix, when theater veteran Robbie Guevara first asked and challenged his friend Santi Santamaria on how he could make the fellow seated beside them watch the musical that was currently playing at the theater. That conversation led to both of them wanting to stage The Wedding Singer: The Musical. Santi was holding a corporate executive then with years of marketing and sales experience behind him while his wife Anna was an avid theater practitioner. The duo had pitched the show to other companies, to no avail, prior to establishing what eventually became 9 Works Theatrical – one of today’s premier theater companies in Manila, committed to delivering only the best plays and musicals – either originally written or from both Broadway and the West End.
Admittedly, between the members of the then-fledgling theater company, it was a climb to muster the resources to mount Robbie and Santi’s dream show. But with the license for The Wedding Singer granted soon after applying for it, a unique opportunity to stage Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For a New World was in the horizon.
The show became 9 Works Theatrical’s maiden voyage into the professional theater scene, followed by the phenomenal RENT, one of the company’s biggest and most successful shows to date. This led to two re-stagings of the hit musical at the RCBC Theater and Rockwell Cinema. Soon after, Robbie and Santi as well as one of the country’s top scenographers Mio Infante, Jonjon Martin and other partners, mounted The Wedding Singer at the Meralco Theater.
The duo’s dream continued on through many critically-acclaimed shows that followed since: Sweet Charity, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, They’re Playing Our Song, Grease, The Last Five Years, La Cage aux Folles, 50 Shades! The Musical Parody, and tick, tick…BOOM! And in 2016, 9 Works Theatrical inked an exciting, new partnership with Globe Live, which enabled the company to mount sold-out, high caliber productions like American Idiot, A Christmas Carol, Disney’s Newsies, and Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!, featuring the songs of Apo Hiking Society – the company’s first foray into original work. 9 Works Theatrical has grown leaps and bounds since then, amassing loyal audiences, a diverse repertoire of shows, and accolades from critics and award-giving bodies.
In 2014, Toff de Venecia, who served as Marketing and PR Director for 9 Works Theatrical, approached the group about wanting to produce unique performative experiences that were cutting-edge and reminiscent of arts festivals here and abroad, and Off-Off-Broadway. It would cater primarily to millennial audiences, as inspired by his work in other fields, his fancies, and travels abroad. With 9 Works Theatrical’s company manager Anna Santamaria onboard, and eventually, designer Maine Manalansan and theater actress Sab Jose, The Sandbox Collective was born – a proud sister company and affiliate of 9 Works Theatrical.
The Sandbox Collective’s pursuit for new, groundbreaking theatrical work gave rise to Dani Girl, a musical about a 9 year-old girl and her battle with cancer. This was soon followed by the four-day multi-arts festival The Imaginarium, in partnership with PETA Theater where works from across all genres were presented, including the Sandbox-produced The Boy in the Bathroom, The Pillowman, The Glass Menagerie, and Red Exorcism featuring the Korea-based SEOP Dance Company.
It wasn’t until 2015 however when The Sandbox Collective came into its own with the box office hit, No Filter – a monologue series penned by Manila’s top lifestyle writers that revealed the triumphs and heartbreaks of what it means to be a millennial. It was a production that yielded a rerun, No Filter 2.0 and a literary version under Summit Books, which is available in bookstores nationwide.
After a temporary hiatus, the company returned in 2018 with the critically acclaimed Himala: Isang Musikal by Ricky Lee and Vincent de Jesus, proving to be its biggest and most critically acclaimed version yet. It was also through Himala that The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical inked a partnership in co-producing experiences that would start conversations with audiences as the companies envisioned. This was soon followed by Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, which performed to critical acclaim.
Through highs and lows for both companies, passion has served as both their currency and fuel to produce work that would contribute to a sustainable environment for the local theater scene – where artists can thrive and audiences can leave inspired. It is then apt that 2019 kicks off with two explosive shows during Arts Month – the return of Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! and another Duncan Macmillan masterpiece, Every Brilliant Thing, which sheds light on the topic of mental health. Both shows are performing at the Maybank Theater in Bonifacio Global City.
In celebration of 9 Works Theatrical’s milestone tenth year and The Sandbox Collective’s fifth year in the industry, the two sister companies collaborate on a one-of-a-kind special promo as a thank you to their loyal patrons.
Looking back and moving forward, the “10/5 = 25” ultimately means 10 years and 5 years for 9 Works Theatrical and The Sandbox Collective, respectively, and 25 memorable shows collectively performed in front of their live audiences – 25 shows where audiences laughed, cried, fell in love, questioned, started conversations, and hopefully developed a curiosity, commitment, and passion for supporting Philippine theater.
For this, the first 25 ticket-buyers who will purchase back-to-back tickets to Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! and Every Brilliant Thing for the February 2, February 9 and February 10 performances will receive a special commemorative t-shirt or tote bag, souvenir programs to both shows, and dinner at Maybank Theater. One purchased ticket can be for an afternoon matinee performance, and the other for an evening performance on the same day – marking a full and exciting day at the theater in celebration of 9 Works Theatrical and The Sandbox Collective’s tenth and fifth year.
Tickets would have to be purchased at least one day in advance for necessary arrangements to be made.
For inquiries on the 10/5 = 25 promo, please call 9 Works Theatrical at 586-7105, 0917-5545560 or The Sandbox Collective at 0956-2004909. Promo is valid for the first 25 customers and while supplies last.