5 nominations for ‘Magno Rubio’ in LA theater awardsBy Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES – “The Romance of Magno Rubio,” a revival of Lonnie Carter’s stage adaptation of Carlos Bulosan’s seminal short story at [Inside] the Ford in Hollywood last November, earned five nominations in the LA Weekly Theater Awards.
The play on a group of homesick Filipino migrant workers in 1930s California garnered nods for direction (Bernardo Bernardo), ensemble, lead male performance (Jon Jon Briones), choreography (Peter De Guzman) and fight choreography (Felix Roiles). The multiple nominations was a first in [Inside] the Ford’s history.
Executive producer Ted Benito of PAE Live!, which staged the play in alternating English and Tagalog performances for the first time, said, “Just to be nominated is a big deal because out of the hundreds of theater productions that open every year, ‘Romance’ was among only 54 productions that were nominated.”
The LA Weekly Theater Awards, which honors the best work in small stages, is on its 33rd year. Voted on by the publication’s theater critics, the awards will be presented in a Greek style bash on April 2 at the Avalon in Hollywood.
We asked some of the jubilant “Magno” nominees for their reactions:
Bernardo Bernardo: “I am overwhelmed and truly grateful. I am so happy that the story of the manongs received the recognition and respect it so richly deserves. Happily, kindred spirits conspired to make it a modest success. We share this additional honor, this acknowledgment of the history and spirit of what was once a voiceless and invisible minority. Thanks to the hard-working, emotionally-invested talents who made it a reality.”
The multitalented performer also quoted what he wrote after “Romance’s” successful Chicago run several years ago: “On board the SS United Snakes/On a manong’s journey like no other/We danced to echoes of distant voices/Broken by the sharp raps of deadly arnis sticks/As we sang of bunkhouse hopes and dreams/Stretching from a stooped, forgotten past/Alive, at last!”
Ted Benito: “PAE Live! and coproducers Ed Ramolete and Lorely Trinidad really wanted to put a worthwhile show that fulfilled the expectations of the Ford. We wanted to stay true to Lonnie’s sentiment and Bernardo’s translation; we wanted to relate the story of the manongs to a whole new generation of Filipinos and to remind everyone about the power of theater.
“Everything else – the sold out shows, good reviews, and now, these nominations – are all icing on the cake! They were completely unexpected! But, what it shows is that we, as Filipino-Americans in theater, can present viable, sophisticated, life-affirming productions that are of the same caliber, if not more unique, as other productions in LA. Out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of theater productions that opened in LA in 2011, to be nominated in five categories is truly an honor.”
Jon Jon Briones: “Our nominations say a lot about how we worked together as a group, as a family, really, which must have translated onstage. We were an ensemble of [mostly] Filipino actors, depicting a time in American history of our ancestors, that has gone largely unnoticed. We were able to bring that story to the public eye in two languages to reach as many people as we could.”
Eymard Cabling: “Portraying a story about Filipinos who lived and struggled was truly a blessing. There was an obligation to stay truthful to the material. Working with an ensemble that poured their hearts out every day made it a pleasure to come to work. We never expected the accolades that came our way. As storytellers, it was our job to impart to the audience a culture and heritage that not many people know about. The nominations were a humbling surprise.”
Frederick Edwards: “Excellent news! Well-deserved nominations.”
Gelo Francisco: “‘The Romance of Magno Rubio’ will always get attention when and wherever it may be produced. The story is timeless and knows no racial boundaries. That is why it will always be cited by critics as a sincere, honest-to-goodness story of the triumph of the human spirit. The nominations are an affirmation of the hard work, integrity, honesty and especially the humility of the people in the whole production. What we made actually made a difference and people (critics and audiences) noticed the love and care that everyone contributed. I lift up the people, specifically those who were nominated and proudly shout they are all Filipinos. To quote the play, ‘Round and brown, like prickly juicy piñas! Magno Rubio!’ ”
Jet Montelibano: “It is indeed an honor for a Filipino-American play to be nominated for such a prestigious award. My wish is that more people, both Filipinos and Americans, would come to realize that we are a talented race with a lot of beautiful stories to tell.”
Giovanni Ortega: “After all the persecution that our Pinoy brothers went through 55 years ago, this is just one testament that hard work pays off. Bulosan lives.”
Muni Zano: “The nominations did not come to me as a surprise for many valid reasons that can be attributed to serendipity. It was the fortunate assembly of a cohesive group of actors who shared the importance of discipline, hunger and sheer passion for the arts. The cohesiveness of the cast was largely due to the numerous selfless deeds for the good of the play and the company during the 10-week rehearsal and run period. They were all altruistic and beyond the ‘call of duty.’ There was one more thing that we never missed to do – we always prayed before curtain call, for ourselves, our families, friends, our country and the rest of humanity. Then we wished each other, ‘Break a leg!’”
Also in the ensemble were Antoine Diel, Erick Esteban and Elizabeth Rainey.
(E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)
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