Why do actors act?
- Joy G. Virata () - October 17, 2005 - 12:00am
Why do actors act? Why do dancers dance? Why do painters paint? Why do writers write? Recently, in the space of one week, I had separate occasions to consider these questions and reflect on the answers.

First, a young boy, a graduate student at the University of Asia and the Pacific, interviewed me in connection with a paper he had to submit on the Philippine theater industry – probably an oxymoron to the great majority of decision makers in this country. I gave him facts and figures pertaining to Repertory Philippines and as much information as I could about other companies as well – the latter of course being unsubstantiated by statistics. Mostly I told him who started them and why they did so. He then asked me the final question. "If theater is such an unstable profession, why do people go into it?" Why indeed. The simple answer is that they just have to: they get bitten by the acting bug, it’s in their blood, it’s in their genes – whatever. Actually almost every Filipino is a would-be performer. Some go for it, for some it remains an impossible dream.

However, for the producers, for the people who create and must sustain theater companies, it goes much deeper. Rep was an impossible dream for its founder the late Zeneida Amador who dreamt of an industry that would give actors and other theater workers a chance to earn a living at what they loved and to make legitimate theater an alternative form of entertainment for the community. New Voice Company was founded by Monique Wilson and deals with women’s issues. Musicat was founded by Celeste Legaspi to encourage the creation of original Filipino musicals. Actors Actors Inc. was founded by Bart Guingona as a venue for actors who wanted to concentrate on more intellectual material. The list goes on – each company with its impossible dream – or vision if you will – and, whether the general public believes it or not, they are visions that seek to improve the quality of life in our country.

Then I went to a dance concert of Douglas Nierras’ Powerdance. The theme was "Why Dance, Powerdance? Why Not Coconut?" The message was clear. Douglas was expressing the frustration felt by everyone involved in the arts – the lack of support for legitimate theater. To a half-filled theater, this small group of spectacularly talented and magnificently trained dancers gave a breathtaking performance that should have been seen by the whole world or at least by the 10 percent of Manilans – Filipinos and expats – who can afford the price of a P1,000 ticket. A recent market survey showed that only 1/10 of one percent of this Manila market potential for legitimate theater ever sets foot in a theater – attributed to the lack of publicity and the propensity for DVDs, movies, television and bar hopping of that segment of society. Powerdance’s souvenir program contained each of the dancers’ reasons for devoting his or her life to dancing – none having to do with measurable return.

By chance the guest speaker at a literature reading group of which I am a member was artist Juvenal Sanso. He talked about the choices one has to make in becoming an artist and related his own struggle after the devastation of World War II and the sacrifices he and his parents had to make. Why did he do it? Because he had the talent and he knew he had to use it to create work capable of generating feeling in those fortunate enough to view it – as all great artwork does.

At that same literature group, we discussed an autobiography of Pulitzer Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez – his poverty, his rebellion against his parents’ wishes, the difficulties of living in Colombia at that time and his long and difficult climb to unexpected success – told with humor and honesty. The book was titled Living To Tell The Tale. He too wanted to do nothing else but write.

Just when I thought I had come to the end of my artistic experiences for the week, I came across a paper, published by writer F. Sionil Jose in this newspaper, about the influence of Miguel de Cervantes’ immortal novel Don Quixote on his writing career – drawing parallels between the life of this fictional hero and his own experiences. I hope Mr. Jose will not mind if I quote him because I view facility with words the same way as I view a beautiful painting and I can no way express as well as he did the way literature can affect our personal lives. He wrote: "I came to admire that old man, his longevity lay not in his fantasies, but that he embraced passionately those fantasies, recognized the larger truths beyond his imaginings – the vast hypocrisies of society, the leviathan, against which the lance of the knight is always blunted."

Where would our world be without the Zeneida Amadors, the Douglas Nierrases, the Juvenal Sansos, the Gabriel Garcia Marquezes, the F. Sionil Joses and the Miguel de Cervanteses?

The answer would probably be: sitting in front of their TV sets (as I admit to doing when I’m tired of thinking), clicking their remotes, flitting from one channel to another, choosing from a mindless sit-com to an even more mindless action film – both foreign and local, to CNN reports on devastation and conflict around the world, to watching some of our leaders sometimes making fools of themselves, to one copycat amateur singing contest or another, to one copycat, really silly, "reality" program or another – with occasional respite provided by the sports channels or a really good movie. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing – if the death of unused brain cells is of no national concern.

From Nov. 11 to Dec. 11 Repertory Philippines will stage the Broadway musical adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la ManchaMan Of La Mancha. This was the late Zeneida Amador’s final contribution to her impossible dream for it was she who made the choice before she died. Few realize the cost and difficulty of staging a musical of this scale – complete with a live 18-piece orchestra – especially within the continuing whirling storm of economic and political crisis. But as Don Quixote’s dream lived on with the help of Aldonza and Sancho Panza, and Miguel de Cervantes’ dream lives on with the people who read his novel, so Amador’s dream lives on with the help of her loyal partner Baby Barredo and the actors and musicians who sacrifice their futures for their dreams. Will more people spend two hours of their leisure time for a different, life-enriching kind of entertainment – or is this an impossible dream?
* * *
Man of La Mancha opens on Nov. 11 at Rep’s Globe Theater at Onstage in Greenbelt I at 8 p.m. with shows on Nov. 12, Dec.2 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 13, 27 and December 11 at 3:30 p.m. There will be a special show for subscribers and sponsors on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. with cocktails at 7 p.m. College of the Holy Spirit sponsors the Gala Night on Nov. 11. Man of La Mancha is a production of Repertory Philippines Foundation Inc. and the Manila Symphony Orchestra in cooperation with the City of Makati and The Ayala Cinemas, Globe Telecom and Avon. Special showings for fundraising or community or corporate activities and group sales are available. Call 887-0710 for information.

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