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First day of school

By: - Columnist
/ 03:08 AM October 13, 2016

That’s certainly what it felt like this fine Monday morning as I got all my stuff ready for our first day of rehearsals for Atlantis Theatrical’s newest musical production, “Fun Home.” I prepared two binders (one for my score, the other for my script), a highlighter pen (all the better to see my lines with, my dear), sharpened pencils, plus an eraser and sharpener, and a fully charged phone to record music while learning. Sure, we all might have copies of the cast recording to refer to, but we’re trying as much as possible to learn the show as written, and addressing discrepancies as we come across them.

Rehearsals take place in Makati at 11 a.m. most days of the week, which means a road trip of about an hour and a half from Alabang. On my way, I was texting with our director, Bobby Garcia, who was also caught in traffic.

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Thankfully, everyone in the cast arrived on time. Only the adults rehearsed on Day One; the kids will be rehearsing their music on Day Two.

For our first day, our personnel were as follows: Alison (Cris Villonco-Valderrama), Medium Alison (Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante), Joan (Yanah Laurel), Roy and others (Laurence Mossman), and yours truly (Helen Bechdel). Eric Kunze, our Bruce Bechdel, is currently on a plane to Manila and will start rehearsals on Day Three.

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For this production we have six children: Small Alison (Katie Bradshaw and Andee Achacoso), Christian (Daniel Drilon and Ronan Liam Crisologo) and John (Noel Comia Jr. and Albert Daniel Silos). Man Man Angsico is our vocal coach; Ceejay Javier, musical director; and Jamie Wilson, assistant director. Oz Go is our costume designer; Kevin Heard, sound designer; Faust Peneyra, set designer; and Adam Honoré, lighting designer.

At the start of the morning, Bobby spoke to us to tell us how exciting it was to be the first international production of “Fun Home,” and how the show’s creators, composer Jeanine Tesori and book writer and lyricist Lisa Kron, were active participants in our own process.

Bobby regularly e-mails and video conferences with both of them about whatever questions have come up in his mind. Without a doubt, as we continue with rehearsals, there will be more of them.

One by one, we went through the music, going through each measure with a fine-toothed comb. Man Man would teach vocal parts to each actor one by one, making sure that what we were singing matched the printed page. However, as with most rehearsal processes, things will change.

We open “Fun Home” on Nov. 10. How exciting!

Can we bring the kids?

This morning, while I was still in traffic, Bobby asked me to post a parental advisory online, worded as follows:

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“‘Fun Home’ is recommended for ages 13 and up. Parental supervision is encouraged. Children under the age of 7 are not permitted in the theater.”

After our experience with “God of Carnage,” posting this was necessary. The show is based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home,” in which she outlines what it was like growing up with this family and its unique brand of dysfunction; coming out as a lesbian while in her freshman year in college; and discovering that her father was actually gay and having affairs with other men while married.

There will be adult situations portrayed onstage (only by the adults). There will be some profanity. There might be a few things said or done that might make some people feel uncomfortable, hence our advisory. Everyone involved in the production feels that this is too powerful a piece not to be staged here in Manila.

Despite the specifically homosexual themes surrounding Alison and Bruce, everyone will find someone or something to relate to: the martyr of a wife in Helen who, despite her husband’s indiscretions, does all she can to keep her marriage together; the kids who, because of their father’s strange behavior, try their hardest to keep him happy; the father who sneaks around, lying to his wife and kids, being defensive about his “other life”; and Alison, now a grownup, struggling still to understand through her memories and her art, how and why her father committed suicide.

There are shared secrets, things never said out loud, and covert looks that only a sibling would understand.

Sounds like the life of a typical family.

“Fun Home” opens Nov. 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Follow facebook.com/ATEGasia or call 650-5144 for more details.

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TAGS: Entertainment, Fun Home, Lea Salonga, play, rehearsals, stage
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