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Ready or not

18 good reasons to dress up, leave your house, and brave the traffic in 2018

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By Alex Y. Vergara

From Don Quijote to Carmina Burana, Rama Hari to Ibong Adarna, Comedy of Tenors to The Lion King, Night Mother to Himala: Isang Musikal,  the year 2018 is shaping up to be another banner year in the local performance arts scene.

What’s more, people behind the staging of the highly anticipated Red Charity Gala, an annual fashion show for a cause, and the much awaited formal opening of the National Museum of Natural History in Manila have also set dates this coming year for their respective events.

The list below is far from complete. As the year progresses, expect more events, shows, and openings to fight for every available space in your digital as well as traditional planner. In the meantime, here are 18 reasons to be inspired and excited about in 2018.

  • National Artist for dance Alice Reyes

  • Richardson Yadao and Katherine Trofeo in Ballet Philippines’ 2012 staging of Rama Hari (Image by Jojo Mamangun)

  • Lisa Macuja-Elizalde (Image by G-nie Arambulo)

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : HIMALA isang musikal by The Sand Box Collective

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : Comedy of Tenors by REP

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : Arsenic and Old Lace by REP

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : Silent Sky by REP

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : Republic of Taste: The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine by Ige Ramos, a cookbook that pays tribute to author’s Maranao heritage

  • PHILIPPINE ART SCENE 2018 : MGA TUTUL A PALAPA (Palapa Stories): Recipes and Memories from Ranao

    Ballet Philippines (BP), the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) resident ballet company, ends its current season with the classic Don Quijote (Feb. 9 to 12). Taken from an episode of Miguel de Cervantes’ tale, the ballet follows the lofty adventures of Don Quixote in Barcelona. Here, he meets Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter whom he thinks is his ladylove Dulcinea. Kitri, in turn, is enamored by Basilio, the poor local barber whom her father doesn’t approve of. Mayhem ensues as the man from La Mancha unwittingly helps the two lovers have their happy ending. Music is by the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jeffrey Solares and guest artist Joseph Gatti.

    Through the 2018 CCP Summer Dance Workshop (May 1 to June 10), BP will also be offering one of the most comprehensive annual dance workshops in the country for serious dancers and beginners.

    BP opens its 49th season by bringing back the epic musical ballet Rama Hari (Sept. 7 to 9). Based on the Indian epic Ramayana, Rama, Hari is an original full-length modern dance production created by a powerhouse team of artists led by National Artist for Dance and BP’s artistic director Alice Reyes, as director and choreographer. National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera does the libretto, which is set to the music of veteran composer Ryan Cayabyab. The production will use the grand sets designed by the late National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal.

    From Oct. 5 to 7, BP presents Legacy: the Best of Ballet Philippines 1990-2000. The second in a series of restrospectives is composed of the company’s iconic pieces that defined a new generation of dance: Denissa Reyes’ Passages; Alden Lugnasin’s Swimming the Ilog Pasig; Effie Nañas’ Images; and Bam Damian’s Carmen. These works are considered to have pushed BP forward and have become the new classics of contemporary dance. BP will also be presenting works of its emerging choreographers, all mentored by Alice Reyes herself, in its Young Choreographers’ Showcase.

    Kids and adults will delight in Snow White (Nov. 30 to Dec 1), BP’s Christmas offering choreographed by Effie Nañas. Relive the enchanting story of a beautiful girl whose skin is as white as snow and lips as red as roses. Snow White is tormented by the wicked Witch-Queen, prompting her to live deep in the wilderness. In her darkest moments, she finds her brightest stars: seven dwarfs who become her friends, and her Prince Charming.

    Scheduled sometime in February, Ballet & Ballads with singer Christian Bautista is Ballet Manila’s (BM) Valentine offering. It also officially closes the company’s 22nd season. Apart from marking BM’s first collaboration with Bautista, the production will include the world premiere of two choreographies.

    Come July 2018, BM will also be doing a four-city performance tour of Ibong Adarna in Israel. The tour is part of the Israeli arts community’s invitation for BM to participate in the Karmiel Dance Festival. Instead of performing at the amphiteather, the festival’s traditional venue, BM will be performing in regular theaters. Stops will include Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

    Rudy de Dios’ Carmina Burana will open BM’s 23rd season in August. A dream project of De Dios, this will be the principal dancer’s first time to choreograph a full-length ballet. The music of Carl Orff inspired this ballet, which was based on a 12th century manuscript.

    To end its 50th season this February, the Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA) is producing a Filipino adaptation of Marsha Norman’s Putizer Prize-winning drama Night Mother. To be directed by Melvin Lee, who’s also known for his outstanding portrayal of Chelsea in PETA’s musical comedy Care Divas, the play, which runs from Feb. 2 to Mar. 18, has been adapted from English to Filipino by Ian Lomogo. It had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in December 1982, and its Broadway debut, directed by Tom Moore and starring Anne Pitoniak and Kathy Bates, in March 1983. A film version starring Anne Bancroft and Sissy Spacek was released in 1986. PETA’s adaptation will feature Eugene Domingo and Sherry Luna.

    After ending 2017 and its 50th season with a bang, thanks to its well-received adaptation of the classic and era-defining musical Hair, Repertory Philippines (REP) kicks off its new season with a monthly treat beginning with the hilarious, Paris-set Comedy of Tenors, Jan. 26 to Feb. 18. Directed by Miguel Faustmann, the comedy stars Jeremy Domingo, Noel Rayos, Issa Litton, and Loy Martinez, among others.

    A bunch of female astronomers take center stage at REP in Silent Sky, March 2 to 25. The play by Lauren Gundersen revolves around historical figure Henrietta Swan Leavitt, an astronomer at Harvard College Observatory in the 1900s. Despite the general disdain for working women during that era, she and her brilliant team made groundbreaking discoveries that helped shape modern astronomy. Directed by Joy Virata, the play stars Cathy Azanza, Caissa Borromeo, Naths Everette, and Sheila Francisco.

    REP’s opening season features the black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, April 6 to 29. Set in the 1930s, the play revolves around principal character Mortimer Brewster, as he goes off to visit his kooky family. Fun fact: for a time, the vintage work was popular among people of a certain age because it was turned into a film starring Cary Grant. REP’s adaptation will be directed by Jamie Wilson with a cast led by Joy Virata, Jay Valencia Glorioso, Nel Gomez, Barbara Jance, Jeremy Domingo, and Apollo Sheikh Abraham. By Sept. 15, REP returns with the REP Theater for Young Audiences show, Rapunzel, which will run until Jan. 27, 2019. Meanwhile, Solaire, which has established itself during the last three years as one of the most preferred venues by foreign productions for staging Broadway musicals such as Chicago, Saturday Night Fever, Sister Act, Wicked, West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain, and Les Mis, among others, will be the venue for The Lion King come March.

    When faith comes at a price, is it still worth fighting for? More than 35 years after the film and 15 years after the original musical premiered, The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical will stage its own version of Elsa’s story in Himala: Isang Musikal, an “immersive theatrical re-imagination” of scriptwriter Ricky Lee and the late director Ishmael Bernal’s cinematic masterpiece this February. Himala or “miracle” follows the story of a young woman named Elsa who becomes a savior in the eyes of a bucolic town longing to put an end to its suffering. With music and lyrics by Vincent De Jesus, musical arrangement by Jed Balsamo, and book by Ricky Lee, Himala broke barriers as one of the most celebrated film-to-stage adaptations in local theater history.

    Locally produced cookbooks written by Filipino writers are finding wide acceptance among Filipinos of late. What makes Mga Tutul a Palapa (Palapa Stories) Recipes and Memories from Ranao by Assad Baunto, Nash Tysmans, and Ica Fernandez is its focus on the seemingly exotic Maranao cuisine. Baunto pays tribute to his Maranao heritage, particularly its culinary traditions, which he imbibed through his grandmother. In eight recipes, he shares the flavors of his childhood home and recreates for his readers a taste of the Marawi City he once knew. Against the current backdrop of war that has besieged this city, this book warms the hearts and bellies of Maranaos and all home cooks alike who are keen to rebuild from the ashes of war, one meal at a time. Published by Gantala Press, the book will be launched sometime in January.

    Republic of Taste – The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine by Ige Ramos with foreword by Ambeth Ocampo relates how Cavite’s role in the country’s history has overshadowed its culinary traditions and practices. Its proximity to Manila has also proven to be a disadvantage, said Ramos, a homegrown Caviteño. Essentially, in traditional Cavite coastal cuisine, there was no distinction between food for the rich and food for the poor. What Caviteños have are pagkaing pambisita at pagkaing pambahay (food for guests and food for the home). During fiestas, the province’s bibingkoy, pancit pusit, tamales, bacalao, and quesillo were relegated to the background in favor of standard party fare such as kare-kare, mechado, morcon, and menudo, making guests ignorant of the true essence of what Caviteño food was all about. Through his book, which will be launched this March and published by IRDS, Ramos aims to reintroduce real Cavite cooking to the entire country.

    As foodie and The Manila Bulletin food columnist CJ Juntereal observed, “the first Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM) was Filipino food’s coming-out party to the world. Last year’s edition reinforced the fact that Filipino cuisine is not a flash in the pan.” The global gathering of celebrated and celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies continues, as MFM 2018 (April 19 to 21) opens in Manila. Now on its fourth year, MFM will have as guest chefs and speakers the likes of Curtis Duffy, Hajime Yoneda, Mingoo Kang, Aitor Jeronimo Orive, Matt Abergel, Diego Gallegos, and Roberto Ruiz, among others. This year’s gathering will revolve around the theme “Innovating Traditions.” Like in years past, MFM is jointly organized and supported by the Department of Tourism and Department of Agriculture.

    It will be full circle for fashion designer Rajo Laurel sometime in October at Shangri-La Fort. Kaye Tinga and Tessa Prieto Valdes have tapped Laurel as their featured talent in the much awaited annual Red Charity Gala. Laurel was the first featured talent 10 years ago in what was then envisioned as a one-of event. The Red Charity Gala became an annual tradition to raise funds primarily for the Red Cross, while featuring the works of a foremost designer, when Tinga and Valdes took over on its second year. It would be good to see how Laurel’s works have evolved during the last decade.

    Apart from a few selected guests last Oct. 29, which included a number of patrons and sponsors, the public has yet to see how people behind the National Museum of the Philippines have transformed the former Department of Tourism building in Manila, a neoclassical gem originally designed by Filipino architect Antonio Toledo, into the National Museum of Natural History. Well, the long wait is over. Ana Labrador, the National Museum’s assistant director, shared with The Manila Bulletin that the refurbished, repurposed, and reimagined building’s formal inauguration is set on May 18, which also happens to be International Museum Day. Expect National Museum director Jeremy Barns and his team to mount a memorable and fitting series of exhibits to go with the historic event.

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