UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
Finally, a space with the potential to be anything you want it to be
From an insider's perspective, how is Philippine theater doing now?
Bart Guingona (BG): When I joined, you didn't have enough of a scene to be employed the entire year unless you were with a repertory company. I was lucky enough to have had that kind of employment, where if you weren't acting, you're working in the crew, the production side, or in marketing. If you're good enough, you can actually count on being employed every month in the theater. How much potential is there? BG: Oh, there's a lot. This is a mega city of 18 million people. And if you are looking at a theater that seats 300 people, that's really a drop in the bucket. It's a matter of convincing your “intenders” and the “indifferents” to open their eyes.
Toff de Venecia (TdV): I agree. Since I come from a proclivity that leaned towards a young, hipster lifestyle, I wanted to create a theater that appealed to that demographic. It's a little bit challenging because these are the ones that are still in college, or off college with a starting salary—how do you make tickets affordable to them? And how do you create experiences they would embrace and call their own? With the newer generation, if it's something traditional or they've already seen before, they're not gonna want to give it a chance. Kris, what did you see in these parts and in the surrounding areas? Kristopher McDowell (KM): The quality of work that I've seen here is outstanding. I think that has something to do with the fact that there is a tremendous openness in the Philippines to international work.
Do you guys think the local market is growing steadily?
BG: You know, one thing you realize the older you get, it's really just a niche market. It's always there. I think we are reaching more of the market. All you gotta do is understand who you want to talk to, how you want to talk to them, and how you want to reach them. The Power Mac Center Spotlight is coming up in Circuit Makati. Will this have an impact on local theater? BG: Absolutely! It's the perfect venue for The NormalHeart, as a matter of fact. It needs the intimacy, it needs that kind of experimental feel. And I don't have a set; it's just a bunch of people in a space.
TdV: I think that Power Mac Center Spotlight theater couldn't have come at a better time, especially now that art is expanding in terms of forms and content. Our local artists can learn from the international acts coming here, and they can learn from us.
KM: I think because of its location, it will have accessibility to not only reach locals, but also expats who are living here. I think they have to think very carefully about the type of international work that's coming in. Bart already mentioned what he wants to do with the Power Mac Center Spotlight. Toff, Kris, what are your plans? TdV: More festivals. I think that's the perfect space. I'm looking forward to all these Power Mac Center Spotlight type of endeavors.
KM: I'm looking forward to seeing how the three venues (a large venue, the Power Mac Center Spotlight, and an outdoor venue) can be used together thematically, so that the whole place becomes a destination that keeps people coming back for consecutive nights. That's what I hope to see.
BG: Well, you know, these guys are actually very nice, because they're visionary. Me, I'm just selfish. I just want a venue for the stuff I wanna do. (laughs) And most of the stuff I wanna do are those that are in your face. Visceral theater like that is so exciting. I just want a venue.
KM: And that's what I do. If the artist can't be selfish, then the work isn't. That shows the power of your work is strong. I think that has to be supported, and this also has to be supported on a grand scale by the venues.
Toff de Venecia, Bart Guingona, and Kris McDowell