Chasing a dream
CHASING TOFF - CHASING TOFF By Christopher de Venecia () - August 25, 2006 - 12:00am
In between 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows I was doing for Aladdin Jr., I met up with a couple of friends who are slated to appear in Trumpets’ revival of its hit musical, Joseph the Dreamer. One had been a longer acquaintance, spurred by our very first encounter in the Rizal Mini Theater in my royal Alma Mater. He was doing Sweet Charity then. Quite the charmer, his is a voice that is unrivaled by most young actors in theater today. I can only dream of possessing the same powerful vibrato. The other is a talented young thing who I first met in one of many Blue Rep workshops for Hope for the Flowers. Exuding an aura described by common friend Kakki Teodoro as "regal and very much Audrey Hepburn," I caught sight of her again in the auditions for The Sound of Music. It was there where I got my first taste of Maita’s awesome sweet-sounding voice. I also learned that she had been doing Sinta for Ateneo’s Dulaang Sibol for eight consecutive years now, so I may have just caught her playing the title role back in my burdensome high school days. These are two individuals brimming with passion and heart, two up-and-coming actors who contribute to the future of Philippine theater, two people I am fortunate enough to consider as friends. On a late Saturday afternoon, set once again in the tranquil environs of Via Mare where transpired a not-so-distant rendezvous with Nikki Gil, I engaged upon an afternoon of good conversation and hearty laughter with the tuneful twosome, Jepoy Ramos and Maita Ponce.

PHILIPPINE STAR: Describe your humble beginnings in theater.

MAITA PONCE:
I started doing theater at age nine, attending six consecutive Summer Workshops with Rep. But my professional start was in Great White Way 3. I also did Sinta with Dulaang Sibol where I got to work with the legendary Mr. Pagsi. Eventually, I became part of Blue Rep where I appeared in productions like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Merrily We Roll Along.

JEPOY RAMOS:
After seeing my idol Carol Banawa in Little Mermaid, I decided to attend a Trumpets’ Playshop under Chari Arespacochaga to learn how to act and sing onstage. Then, I auditioned for Blue Rep where I did Bye, Bye Birdie and many other productions after that. Eventually, both Maita and I auditioned for Little Mermaid and were fortunate enough to be part of the cast.

Speaking of auditions, how was the process of auditioning for Joseph the Dreamer?

Jepoy:
Well, first you’re divided into several groups of 10 where a choreographer teaches you a certain dance. Then they teach you the song Praise His Name and ask you to groove to that specific music. You are then given another song to learn in approximately 10 minutes.

Maita:
Since they needed a really small cast, they chose people who they were familiar with already in terms of talent and work etiquette. Auditions were actually by invitation only, or were kept low-profile and circulated via text or e-mail.

How is college theater different from professional theater?

Maita:
Well, it’s definitely a lot more complicated than what I thought. In terms of the production side of things, it was just as important to have a good sturdy crew operating all the sets, etc., as having the performers do their thing onstage.

Jepoy:
Professional theater is definitely more fast-paced and you always have to keep up with the level of your fellow actors. In Joseph, we only had three weeks to rehearse, five days a week as compared to longer rehearsals for college theater. And here, you’re really on your own. You do your own warm-ups and vocalization.

How can you describe "growth" as an actor?

Jepoy:
Every time I join a production, I tell myself that I have to do my best and make up for all those years that I didn’t do theater. I’m like a sponge, basically, and I really observe my fellow actors – the way they warmed up, vocalized and handled other aspects of the craft.

Maita:
I think it comes with experience. Like, in delivering a song for example, you can’t really do it justice unless you’ve experienced something similar to its context. Mr. Pagsi said something about "capturing the spirit of the lines" and exacting depth and emotion in its delivery.

What was the turning point for you as an actor?

Jepoy:
I think it’s when I did Merrily We Roll Along for Blue Rep. There’s a line there that goes, "Dreams don’t die so keep an eye on your dreams, ‘cause before you know where you are, there you are." So I tell myself all the time that whatever I’m doing, I’ll just follow my heart, keep working, and hopefully inspire others in the process.

Maita:
Well, aside from Merrily, it’s probably when I got the role of Sinta. It was a simple play but it required depth and so much emotion. And even if it was just a school production, Mr. Pagsi demanded just as much from his actors. His training was actually very similar to Tito Freddy’s.

Way back when, how did you balance school and being part of a professional production?

Maita:
When you’re really passionate about something, like theater for example, you’ll really make time for it and make it work. In the process, you also learn to be more disciplined.

Jepoy:
Like what she said, it’s really about passion. No matter how busy you are, you’ll find a way to do it so long as you love doing it. And when you don’t have the luxury of time like the rest of your peers, you really just have to jump at every opportunity to do school work and not beat around the bush.

So, tell us a bit more about Joseph the Dreamer.

Jepoy:
Well, Joseph the Dreamer is the story of the 11th son of Jacob and his telling journey of self-discovery. In this version, they changed the allegro of Cam Floria’s popular cantata and made it more modern, à la Sister Act to allow more dancing, gymnastics and modern movement.

Maita:
The main conflict of the play is basically in the character of Joseph, on whether or not he’ll have forgiveness for his brothers for everything they had done to him.

In what way are you like Joseph?

Jepoy:
Well, like him, I’m very optimistic in a sense that I trust that God will always be there for me in times when no one else can – always guiding me towards the right path.

Maita:
Like Joseph, I continuously praise and trust in the Lord even if I’m thrown difficulties and disappointments in life.

To what lengths will you go to pursue a dream?

Jepoy:
I will definitely pray more and abide in the Word so that I will be able to see clearly what God has in store for me. Once it’s clear, I’ll work towards it no matter what.

Maita:
"When God closes a door, he opens a window," or even when the front door closes, you can always go through the back door.

Do you see yourself doing theater for the rest of your life?

Maita:
When I handled a Playshop class for Trumpets’ last summer, Tita Shiela told me to go for what I really, really love and ask God for enlightenment over what I should do. After that, everything will turn out for the best. At that moment, I decided that I’d do whatever it takes to continue doing theater.

Jepoy:
Likewise. But I see myself more on the production side of things. Like in the next 10 years, I’d love to be able to produce shows or be stage manager for several productions. I’d also love to be like Audie Gemora and head my very own theater company someday.
* * *
Catch Joseph’s timeless story of faith and hope in Trumpets’ production of Joseph the Dreamer. Directed by Freddy Santos, the musical will be also feature Franco Laurel and Alvin de la Pena alternating to play the title role of Joseph. The musical will be staged at SM Megamall Cinema 4 on Sept. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 at 3 p.m. And Sept. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30 at 7 p.m. For ticket inquiries, contact Trumpets at 635-4478 or 636-2842. Tickets are priced at P350 and P250.
* * *
Catch your breath and let me know what you think at chasingtoff@yahoo.com

BLUE REP DULAANG SIBOL JEPOY JOSEPH LITTLE MERMAID MAITA MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG MR. PAGSI REALLY THEATER
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