PhilStager follows his dreams

Amadís Ma. Guerrero - The Philippine Star
PhilStager follows his dreams
Johnrey Rivas as a hot model and as Captain America

MANILA, Philippines – The venue was Tondo High School and the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF) performers led by director-leading man Vince Tañada were staging the musical Ako si Ninoy. After the show, a slender 12-year-old student named Johnrey Rivas approached Vince and nervously informed him that “Sir, gusto ko po maging artista.”

“He had a beautiful singing voice,” recalled the mentor. “Pero di pumasa.” The problem was that 700 youths had auditioned for the next PSF show, although only 10 were needed. Johnrey was not among the Top 10, but this did not daunt him for he decided to be an usher for the group, just to expose himself first-hand to the world of professional theater.

First, however, he had to think about his college studies. Johnrey enrolled at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Santa Mesa, Manila, taking up AB Mass Communications, Major in Broadcasting (for another dream was to be a news anchor). “I love history, Filipino, English,” he said when asked about his favorite subjects. “Arts talaga ako, I really love performing.”

During the first audition, the young talent had sung Habang May Buhay. Now, after several years, he again auditioned for the recital of Bonifacio Isang Sarsuwela, this time singing Isang Pangarap. His voice was recorded. He not only passed the audition, he even landed in the lead role of the Bonifacio musical during the workshop presentation.

“It’s really an interesting story,” observed Vince. “After several years of being an usher, he was ready to become a Stager.”

Vince Tañada and Johnrey in an emotional scene from the musical Katips

In the wartime musical Filipinas 1941, Johnrey played a young boy, Pancho, and in Pope-pular, he was Mark Lory Clemencio, the tragic policeman killed in the Mindanao massacre. In the anti-martial law play Katips, he was a torture victim (in the process revealing his hunky body).

In motivating his actor, Vince the director tells him to study the role, research, study the life of the man you are portraying: “You become the character you are portraying, you are no longer Johnrey.”

He has, incidentally, other skills. He can mix drinks like a professional bartender and is a “relentless” marketing assistant of PSF: “As a booking officer, he is porseguido, never say die. He books all our shows.”

The long-running Katips now goes to key cities in Mindanao on Feb.1 to 20: Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Surigao, GenSan, Butuan and being negotiated, Gingoog. Johnrey will reprise his role as the tortured activist.

As a triple threat (actor-singer-dancer), like all the PSF performers, Johnrey, now 19, aims high. “My dream is to be a Broadway star, in the way Lea Salonga is,” he shares.

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