Future of Philippine theaterBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
My little Nicole is starting to sing. She’s getting quite the auspicious start via a solo in a school presentation.
As I was getting ready for a performance a few nights ago, I had Nicole on speakerphone and she was singing her program solo for me and her Ninang Menchu (Lauchengco) to hear. Her music teacher has been coaching her whole class very well. If that little test run over the phone is any indication, I’d say she’s ready.
When I got off the phone, I could feel bullet-size drops of sweat forming on the top of my head as I ruminated the possibilities of Nicole’s future. It’s something I do think about a lot.
I always get this question from the press, friends and my own mother: “Will you allow your daughter… to follow in your footsteps?”
A part of me wishes that her artistic talents lay in different paths from my own (she’s an amazing visual artist, having had her artwork exhibited a couple of times). Perhaps part of it is to avoid outside forces from making comparisons to what I’ve done with my career, or exerting pressure for her to achieve a high level of success.
I’ve watched the offspring of some of our beloved stars, kids who have entered show biz themselves. I wonder if they’ve done it out of a sense of obligation to continue their esteemed lineage. Or if, like their parents or grandparents, they felt a calling to this vocation, this very interesting life.
We’re all familiar with the Padillas, Concepcions, Eigenmanns, Magalonas, Quizons, Manzanos, Cruzes and other clans of actors, singers, musicians—stars of the present and of the future. Biz dynasties.
Do I want my little one to join the ranks? I don’t really know.
However, right now as her mom, my job is to tell her that she’s doing great with her solo number; tell her the truth when she asks if her pitch is on or off; gather her wardrobe, brush her hair, warm her up before rehearsal and performance; clap and cheer loudly when she’s finished her number, or just be a supportive mom, nothing more. Oh, and to take plenty of photos. Between Rob and me, she’ll be fully covered.
Who knows where this little solo will lead? Maybe more performances, or absolutely nowhere. She may decide immediately that she loves performing more than anything, or hate it from the get-go and decide to have nothing more to do with it.
Yes, indeed, who knows? All we can do right now is enjoy the moment for what it is—see my daughter along with her classmates get up on that stage to sing together and have a blast doing it. For those few minutes, they will all be superstars.
Not just a blurb
There are three musicals currently running in our fair metropolis: “Camp Rock,” OnStage Greenbelt 1, by Repertory Philippines, directed by Audie Gemora; Disney’s “Aladdin,” Meralco Theater, by Atlantis Productions, directed by Bobby Garcia and Chari Arespacochaga, and “The King and I,” Resorts World Manila, directed by Freddie Santos.
This isn’t merely a blurb to drive you to hopefully head to these shows for their entertainment value. I’m asking you to go because there are many young and fresh performers singing, dancing and working very hard.
The veteran performers you see onstage leading a cast in a play or a musical were once those kids. Many of us got our starts in the ensembles, whether it meant singing intricate harmonies in the background, or making one cross from stage right to left, leading a goat on a leash.
Many, many years later, we are the headliners or directors, or have formed and/or run theater companies.
The ensemble you see now is Philippine theater’s future. That girl in the back row dancing her feet off could, with more training and experience, be the lead in another show in a few years.
That guy in a featured dance number could himself be choreographing a younger version of himself down the line.
I’ve seen it happen. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo is one of the founders of Actors Actors Inc. and the current associate artistic director of Repertory Philippines. Audie Gemora is one of the forces behind Trumpets and Stages. Once the heirs apparent, they are now movers and shakers, amazing artists, ensuring the future.
To quote US First Lady Michelle Obama: “The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”
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