Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Humor lost in musical adaptation

Image
Bring theater to the crowd and not the other way around. That was the goal of 9 Works Theatrical and Globe when they presented Green Day’s American Idiot at the Globe Iconic Store in June. The punk rock band’s hits indeed captured the attention of passers-by, while the unroofed amphitheater allowed them a peep at the show. This December, the two companies are teaming up again to bring A Christmas Carol to everyone, non-ticket holders included.

The two musicals are appealing in very distinct ways. The former has pop songs going for it. However thin its plot may be, American Idiot can hold an audience with its music alone. A Christmas Carol, on the other hand, is based on one of the most enduring change-of-heart tales by Charles Dickens.

We’re familiar with the story: Ebenezer Scrooge, an old-aged miserly man, who abhors Christmas — and somehow life as it is — is visited by three spirits, each showing him his past, present, and future. Witnessing the errors of his ways and their conseq…

Too sweet

Image
1.

There’s a scene in Annie where the orphan, Annie, billionaire Oliver Warbucks, and President Franklin Roosevelt and his cabinet sing Tomorrow at the White House; after which the powerful figures are revived with hope — something sorely missing before the young girl enters the room.

It’s difficult to be sold on that particular scene. Not because such serious characters have burst into song (hey, it’s a musical); but because they’ve gleefully burst into song, suddenly convinced that everything will be fine as the sun comes out tomorrow.

2.
Annie (with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin) is set in The Great Depression and revolves around a child’s unwavering search for her parents. One Christmas season, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks scouts for an orphan to spend the holidays with, and Annie — who has been living in an orphanage under the supervision of the always-shouting drunkard Miss Hannigan — is chosen by the billionaire’s secretary, Grace Farr…

Pretension is a virtue

Image
The spotlight shines on Sara Crewe, alone in her bed chanting in a foreign language. It’s not a familiar lullaby that’s coming out of her mouth, but something more intriguing. Before we could enjoy more of it, she’s interrupted by a young maid named Becky, who drops by to make sure that she’s okay and, while at it, get to know her better. Seconds later, men and women in traditional African clothing enter from all corners of the stage, singing and dancing to a festive tune — and we’re introduced to the world of a little princess.

Sara has been living in Africa, until her Timbuktu-bound father, Captain Crewe, has to send her to a London boarding school while he’s away. Because of Sara’s beauty, wealth — all the wonderful things going for her — the other girls at school, including headmistress Miss Minchin, aren’t very warm towards her. She’s however won friends with her personality, which she shapes by conforming to the ideals of a princess: kindness, grace, magnanimity.

To close its 7…

And Justice for all

My favorite responses to Justice's new album, Woman.

1. From Zedd, who convinced me to sit down with Cross.

Can't wait to check out the new JUSTICE album!!
"†" to this day is one of the best sounding and most musical albums ever.#etjusticepourtous — Zedd (@Zedd) November 20, 2016

2. 'The distortion was so overdriven yet it somehow was melodic.' Yes. Same. Let there be light did it for me.

#ETJUSTICEPOURTOUSpic.twitter.com/Wa0iOsQyk8 — đź’°KHAN IN TEXASđź’° (@ValentinoKhan) November 17, 2016

3. Did Skrillex intentionally say 'roll'?

#etjusticepourtouspic.twitter.com/SBvCSmZjMu — SKRILLEX (@Skrillex) November 18, 2016

4. An emotional thread. But yeah, here's music I can live in for years.

So thank you Justice for introducing me to the world i now call home #etjusticepourtous — WHAT SO NOT (@WhatSoNot) November 16, 2016

5. A most accurate description of Love SOS. My favorite in the album, and the universe.

This Justice track 'Love SOS' has to be heard …

Road to Justice

Image
10.Hard and filthy are two adjectives Justice fans often use to describe the French electronic music duo’s sound; and in the fandom’s lexicon, they only mean the highest of compliments. My first encounter with Justice didn’t evoke such words, though. Rather it was, Wow-whoa-what is this-oh my Lord! There are layers upon layers of distortion, yes; there are heart-stopping drum beats, yes; but there are also the most appealing rhythm and melodies; and nothing that I would ever associate with noise. Truth is I find their sound akin to classical music. If you gave Let there be light (“Cross”) a violin arrangement, or Canon (“Audio, Video, Disco”) a full orchestra version, they could sit beside your “Bach for Barbecue” favorites.

11. November 18 was duly marked on my calendar. It was the release date of Gaspard AugĂ©’s and Xavier de Rosnay’s third album, “Woman.” In September, Justice released the teaser single, Randy, which got me giddy with excitement. The mellow, melodious and radio-frien…

The failure of the first draft

Image
“I’m very dark,” Amy Ewing would say, and you kind of both agree and disagree. Amy punctuates every thought with either a smile or laughter. When we met, the US election results were coming in and while she never concealed her frustration, she quickly set the topic aside because we were supposed to discuss her books, not politics.

She is dark, yes, in a way that her stories have gloomy themes and her characters navigate frightful spaces. But during our short conversation, all I saw was color. Literally, at first. You can’t miss Amy in a crowd, that is, it’s hard to miss anyone with purple hair. “I had a really bad month two years ago, and I came out of it feeling like I survived it and needed to make a change,” she explained when I asked what’s the deal with it. She also has tattoos with bittersweet tales behind them, one of which involving the death of a dear friend.

Needless to say, Amy is no stranger to tragedy. In 2008 she was laid off. With so much time in her hands, she had to f…

You have one day of total freedom—no rules, no government, no consequences—what will you do?

Image
Harrison Gilbertson has the face and demeanor of a heartbreaker. He walks across the room with the gait of someone who just woke up, hair unkempt, not meeting anyone’s eyes. Everything changes, however, when he smiles. There is a sincerity about him that convinces you of how much he respects his craft and how little he cares about celebrity trimmings like fame and adulation.

The Australian actor is in the Philippines for a promotional tour of Fallen, the film adaptation of the Lauren Kate book of the same title. It tells the supernatural love story of Lucinda ‘Luce’ Price (Addison Timlin) and Daniel Grigori (Jeremy Irvine), who are both sent to Sword and Cross, a reform school in Savannah. Rounding up the list of major characters is Cameron ‘Cam’ Briel, which Harrison plays. Cam is a fallen angel who becomes Luce’s other love interest, or, as succinctly described by Harrison, “the boy who gets in the way.”

Inspired by his role, we wonder if Harrison has committed any delinquent act an…

Notes on journal-writing

Image
Sundays — mine — are meant for reading under the late afternoon sun, coffee in hand and all the other beautiful clichĂ©s I work hard to afford. Today I deviate from routine. Not that I planned it. You don’t schedule an itch.

At the cafĂ©, rather than taking a novel out of the bag, I took out a notebook and a pen. Dear A, fuck you. Nah, I’m better than that. (Nah, you don’t have the guts.) I said I would just draft the letter then move on with my reading.

Three hours later, I was still writing. With that time you’d think I’d fill out an entire notebook, but no, the finished product was a concise letter telling A that she hurt me, that her actions disgusted me — everything I wanted to say, how I wanted it said.

It was perfect. I was so satisfied that as soon as I reread it down to the last sentence and the final full stop, just to make sure the right words were chosen and arranged in the right order, I didn’t feel the need to send it anymore.

*

Porcelain is too expensive to break, not to men…

Notes on journal-writing (excluded fragments)

(I wrote something about journal-writing for this month's issue of GIST. The theme is fantasy—keeping the magic alive. These are some of the fragments I considered putting in the early drafts.)

*

Keeping a journal, along with exercising and eating healthy, always pops up on our New Year’s Resolutions. We know of its benefits, but we fail to follow through. A common complaint is, “What’s there to write?” And yet, we also say, as a blanket excuse for our failure to do the things we hope to do: “I don’t have time.” If you’re using up all 24 hours of your day, then you must have a pretty exciting life to write about.

*

“I can only write when I’m sad,” said M, a new writer friend, echoing many a writer wannabe. “Have you tried using your imagination?” I said. He wasn’t pleased.

“Let’s say sadness is a requisite for writing, then you shouldn’t have any problem at all. The world is full of it!” continued I, in my head.

“Inspiration is for amateurs.” —Chuck Close(?) Will check later.

*

Rerea…

Dazed and distracted

Morgan Matson has no qualms about admitting to petty crime in order to be where she is now: sipping Coke at a luxury hotel miles away from home, counting down the hours till she meets her adoring readers.

It’s a long weekend in the Philippines for The Unexpected Everything author — a book signing in Cebu, another in Makati, then an appearance at the Manila International Book Fair. And before all that, the press.

“I just graduated college and I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know where to start. I was in LA at the time and we had mailboxes with a shelf for bigger packages in our apartment building. One of my neighbors ordered a catalogue for extension classes at a university, and I just took it. A month later I was back in school,” a giggling Morgan tells GIST.

Through those classes, Morgan was able to build a portfolio, get teacher recommendations, and other requirements for graduate school. Most of all it allowed her to get into the writing groove. “It all started from stealing…

Last name

Image
This afternoon I had my copy of The unexpected everything signed by its author, Morgan Matson. I gave her my card so she won't misspell my name and, after reading it, she said, 'Oh your name is so beautiful'.

Before I could finish my 'Thank you', thinking she found Razel quite cute, she exclaimed, 'Even Estrella (she pronounced it Es-Tre-LA)—that means "star", right?'

No one has told me that before. Razel is quite an ice breaker, but Estrella (except for that time when our Physics teacher asked us on the first day of class, as a way of getting to know each other, the origin of our names) didn't really generate any excitement.

I always tell writer friends that I don't have a writer name. Something sonorous, something resonant. This blog was, for a long period, under the pseudonym Diwata Nakpil (good times). And I've been fantasizing about marrying someone with a last name that would, when attached to my first name, make that sound that…

Soaring language

Image
“The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I’ve known…” begins the narrator, coaxing the reader to draw in his mind’s eye a feathered creature, complete with beak and claws. By the end of the sentence, however, he’ll learn that the bird being spoken of is made of steel: “…and somehow mine to fly.”

With those few words, author Paula McLain right away sets the tone of Circling the Sun. The novel — her follow-up to her best-selling debut The Paris Wife — will have adventures, twists (whether in plot or thought); and conveyed by language that soars.

This same lyrical voice manifests itself when you speak with McLain. It’s the voice that’s able to admit, “I’m never ambitious” in a gentle yet unapologetic way. “No one in my family had ever been to college. And I grew up in foster homes, and no one in those families had been to college. So no one ever said to me, ‘You should be a doctor, an astronaut, the president of the United States,’” expounded the Cal…

1. Wearing sunglasses on rainy days

After a successful LASIK surgery in 2009, my ophthalmologist prescribed the usual: eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, do not marry the computer screen. And then the unusual: wear polarized lenses.

My idea was to (technically) go under the knife, so I could once and for all do away with glasses, which are a hindrance to an active lifestyle, not to mention expensive in the long-run. But before I could object, the good doctor reasoned: they (1) reduce glare and eyestrain; (2) improve eyesight; and (3) protect the eyes from the sun, dust, and other harmful elements, natural or otherwise.

Paranoid and obsessive about my brand-new vision, I bought the best sunnies my money could afford. Since then I couldn’t leave the house without sunglasses. They’ve become apparatuses of extreme importance (along with my watch and cellphone, and former prescription glasses) that I couldn’t be bothered to take them off even upon entering a mall or when the weather turns gloomy.

The other morning, on my way…

Why cosplay

It’s fun. Playing dress-up, pretending to be someone else and being admired for it is an inarguable source of joy. But when does someone cross the line between hobby and passion, between putting on a costume and becoming a character? What drives those whom we now call “cosplayers” to shell out P10,000 and spend hour after gruelling hour applying make-up to, say, be Two-Face for a day?

“I’ve been fond of video games and anime since grade school, so I felt like cosplay was the next step to being a fan,” explains writer and cosplayer Luie Magbanua. “I really got into it when I was in university and found a group of friends to cosplay with. What keeps me passionate about it is the love of the character that I want to emulate.” Cosplay, it seems, is the most blatant, flattering expression of allegiance to a pop culture treasure, and goes hand-in-hand with community formation — like how it is in Western superhero flicks, where individuals with superpower, in their perceived isolation, disco…

Hands-free

Image
When Brendon Urie said, 'If you heard about my band the very first time, it was probably from this song,' I thought they were going to play Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off, because that’s the song that introduced me to Panic! At The Disco (it was my ringtone at one point in time).

*

I kind of enjoyed Panic!'s set more, even though I mainly came for The 1975. My box was dancing silly when Panic! was playing. When The 1975 came out, most of them were glued to their phones.

*

Girl on our right was screaming all the lyrics to all Panic! songs. ALL.

*

Girl on our left only came to life when The 1975 took the stage. She had this one-dance-move-fits-all-songs going on. ALL.

*

My favorite surprise was You (which light play was poetry). Didn’t expect them to perform it. When I was just discovering the band, I'd leave their EPs on loop till I fell asleep. You's chorus—the repetition of those simple words, 'It takes a bit more', a…

Road to Justice

Image
1. The press release landed in my inbox May last year. “In 2007, Gaspard AugĂ© and Xavier de Rosnay — better known together as Justice — released the single, D.A.N.C.E., which infectious beats captured a multitude of music fans… On May 14, 2015 the Parisian dance production duo will drop by the Philippines to heat up the Valkyrie dance floor,” it read. Why have these infectious beats not captured this music fan yet? I asked myself. So I searched for the song, which turned out to be catchy as fu…advertised (all those nods to Michael Jackson adding to its charm). I saved D.A.N.C.E. to my music bank then moved on with life.

2. The trailer for DJ film, We Are Your Friends, starring Zach Efron, came out in the same summer. Included in the motion picture soundtrack was Justice’s remix of Simian’s Never Be Alone. Despite Efron’s good looks and my inclination towards EDM, other forms of distraction won my attention at the time. I neither saw the movie nor heard the OST.

3. YouTube recommended th…

Influences

Image
A trip to the bookstore during my high school years entailed a good stretch of time hunching over a shelf at the poetry section. Not because I enjoyed reading poems but because I didn’t know how to.

My long-standing love affair with poetry began as how love affairs often do: visually and with a dose of ignorance. That the lines didn’t reach the other end of the margin made me think of the poet as a rebel, defying the rules of writing we were taught to venerate. More so when I saw text arranged in unusual ways, whether syntactically or spatially on the page.

“Why cut a phrase in specific places?” I would ask myself. “How are these decisions made?” When William Carlos Williams declared, “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow,” why had he not plainly put it in a straight line but instead delivered it as such: “so much depends / upon // a red wheel / barrow”? And, while at it, where were the punctuation marks and what the hell were these things that were so dependent upon a red — not bl…

I love your work so, so much

After years of underlining bits of text I deem too beautiful to forget from whatever reading material I get my hands on, this particular year proves the utility of the practice.

The internet and the nature of my job increase the likelihood of me interacting with people whose works I admire. Visual artists, musicians, writers. Just last week, I probably had the biggest small exchange of my life.

I posted Alice Fulton's 'What I like' on my Twitter, and she thanked me — and even said my name [EXCLAMATION POINT]

@fishpeep Thanks for posting my poem, Razel! — Alice Fulton (@RiffSublime) June 23, 2016

So I had to say something in return, it was my chance to, not out of the blue, tell her what I've always wanted to tell her, how brilliant I think she is, but of course in a very dignified manner. And, but, all I came up with was:

@fishpeep Thanks so much. It's lovely to hear this at the start of the day. I hope to read your work, too. — Alice Fulton (@RiffSublime) June 24, 2…

Keep creating

There is a scene in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood where divorcĂ©e Olivia tells her college-bound son Mason that it is the worst day of her life. Asked why, she replies, “You know what I’m realizing? My life is just going to go. Like that. This series of milestones — getting married, having kids, getting divorced… getting my masters degree, finally getting the job I wanted, sending Samantha off to college, sending you off to college. You know what’s next? It’s my fucking funeral! Just go and leave my picture!” Confused, Mason tells her she’s jumping way ahead, to which she answers back with resignation: “I just thought there would be more.”

This scene hits a chord and resonates with me until now, for it highlights my suspicions about success — our definitions of it (an accumulation of goals being one) and if it, as we seem to believe, enables happiness. Because I’ve been there and heard the same confession from others: getting what you want and still feel lacking.

What I do know is when p…

'You're a man'

And of all the capitulations in his life, this was the one that seemed most like a victory. Never before had elation welled more powerfully inside him; never had beauty grown more purely out of truth; never in taking his wife had he tirumphed more completely over time and space. The past could dissolve at his will and so could the future; so could the walls of this house and the whole imprisioning wasteland beyond it, towns and trees. He had taken command of the universe because he was a man, and because the marvelous creature who opened and moved for him, tender and strong, was a woman.

—Richard Yates. Revolutionary Road. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2008.
I like stories where I can relate with all the characters. I am both Frank and April. I am even Maureen.

Gateway theater

Image
I.

On the car ride home, right after watching a stage production of Green Day’s American Idiot, I thought of cats — the musical: on the one hand lambasted for its nonsense, if non-existent plot and sheer silliness (cats dancing and singing and fighting for a place in The Heavyside what?); and on the other hand loved by many, including me, for the playful poetry set to catchy tunes that can put today’s Top 40 to shame. American Idiot is quite the same: it’s less of a musical; more of a musical event.

Where the two shows dissociate is in tone, setting, intention, and everything else. The former is built in a fantastical world where you’re invited to have fun, while the latter is anchored in real life, in the now, and asks that you take it seriously.

Right off the bat it makes a statement. News reels and advertising clips flash on TV screens. The cast open their mouths and express aversion: “Don’t wanna be an American idiot.” Then we’re acquainted with lead characters Johnny, Will, and T…

Built to last

Image
Everyone, at least on social media, seems to ask if everlasting love still exists. The question has become so repetitive that it no longer is a question but a dictum: Walang forever.

I think otherwise. Happiness doesn’t get a lot press, and if it does, it only tells the treacly portion of the story. What we fail to see in every well-lighted photograph of a couple locked in an embrace are the long fights they had just days before, the doubts in their head, and the arduous path they took to know and rediscover each other.

It’s a shame that our schools don’t teach us about making a relationship work — that it takes actual hard work, that love doesn’t simply fall on our laps and stay on fire just because we will it to. That’s why I’m going to stop here, because my knowledge on the matter is suspect. Instead allow me to send a salute to all the married and about-to-be-married couples out there by way of a playlist.

Here’s to those of you who dare commit to a lifetime with someone who was …

Thinking inside the black box

Image
It’s very exciting for artists to see an empty space,” said Ed Lacson Jr. after recounting the diverse, if not divergent productions that came to life at the barely one-year-old Power Mac Center Spotlight, where he serves as theater manager.

The 400-sqm. black box theater was built to complete Ayala Land’s hip lifestyle and entertainment district Circuit Makati and complement the 1,500-seater performing arts theater soon to rise within the development. “A black box is basically an empty space that any artist can use, whether for performing or visual arts. It’s a canvas that they can transform however they want to,” explained Lacson. “Its difference from a proscenium type of theater is the seating, which can be adjusted in whatever configuration you want.”

And like the blank page, the limits of which are defined by the writer, Power Mac Center Spotlight has been utilized by creative minds in various disciplines. Other than the expected plays and musicals, the venue has hosted talks, pr…