Tony Perez’s riveting trilogy: Tanghalang Pilipino’s second offering for its 25th Theater Season

by Nickie Wang

If you have not experienced losing a family member, been intensely in love and got heartbroken or at least confronted by a life-changing situation at some point, then it would be difficult for you to understand the concept of emotional truth.

Tony Perez, a resident playwright of Tanghalang Pilipino and is considered as one of the most important artists in contemporary Philippine drama, talks about his retrospective play entitled Tatlong Tabing and how important is the age of a person to be credible in delivering and understanding emotional truth.

“It’s not surprising if the young actors find it so hard to perform a scene out of sequence. They are young to produce the kind of emotional truth that is necessary to perform my work because most of my works are based on emotional truth,” Perez starts.

The playwright, who starts writing plays at the age of 18, says that his works are intended for adult audience specifically 30 years old and above.

“Some writers write for high school and college students. It’s very sad that they have to do that. They do that because they need to sell tickets. I really don’t. All my books are not for teenagers,” he stresses.

According to the seasoned writer, it’s hard to produce emotional truth because there are actors who have never been married, never had sex or have been in a combat. Similarly, audience can only imagine a certain scenario but cannot have the full understanding of emotion that a character in a play feels as most young audiences have never experienced it nor never been in the same situation.

“My works are very complex and very adult and psychological. They are about relationship between men and women,” Perez says.

As a multi-awarded artist, Perez is one of the 100 Filipino recipients of the 1898-1998 Centennial Artists Award of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.   His other awards include the 13 Artists of the Philippines, four National Book Awards from Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board, and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from the Writers Union of the Philippines.

The prolific writer was featured in Asian Enigma: Psychic Detectives on National Geographic’s Discovery Channel, and in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Among his works performed abroad are Trip to The South Off-Broadway in New York and in Singapore; On The North Diversion Road in Melbourne, Australia, and in Singapore; and a dramatic reading of his short story Paskil, translated by Matthew Cunningham as The Poster from the French translation L’Annonce by Heloise Magannon, during the Documenta 12 Magazines Lectures bienalle in Documenta Halle, Kassel, Germany in 2007.

Most of the plays he has written deal with adult themes such as intense love, betrayal, separation, compassion, poverty, hunger, marriage, birth and death. His career as a creative writer now spans more than two decades and some of his literary works in Filipino have been translated into English and were performed abroad.

As part of its 25th Theater Season, Tanghalang Pilipino pays tribute to Tony Perez by featuring three of his most outstanding plays. Entitled Tatlong Tabing: Three Plays by Tony Perez, this trilogy traces the artistic development of Perez as a playwright.

The first number is titled Sierra Lakes. It is a tension-filled usap-usapan (dramatic conversation) that explores issues among four people caught in a complicated web of love and desire. It will be directed by Tess Jamias, an alumna of the TP actors company.

The second play is called Bombita, a black comedy which questions the blind obedience and subservience behavior of young rookies in the military. Funny, but almost in a pathetic way, it reveals the emotional and intellectual short-comings of our men in uniform. It will be directed by Dennis Marasigan, TP’s former artistic director.

The third showcase called Nobyembre, Noong Akala Ko’y Mahal Kita, is a case study of the absence of love in an average, middle-class male in contemporary Philippine society. It is part of the multi-awarded playwright’s thought-provoking trilogy about love, friendship and companionship, and their consequences in our lives. It will be directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio.

“Nobyembre…is one of the very complex series I wrote. I’m planning to write more and planning to come up with new festivals of plays. I would like to show all Filipinos that it is possible to choose theater and writing for theater as a career,” Perez affirms.

Tatlong Tabing: Three Plays by Tony Perez also showcases Tanghalang Pilipino’s very own Actors Company, which includes Jelson Bay, Riki Benedicto, Martha Comia, Regina De Vera, Gino Ramirez, Rayna Reyes, Jonathan Tadioan and Marco Viaña. Joining the cast are TP alumni including Mayen Estañero, Marjorie Lorico, Russell Legaspi and Dan Jarden de Guzman. The production also features guest performances of Anthony Falcon, Bodie Cruz, a mainstream actor and Acey Aguilar, an alumnus of the Philippine High School for the Arts.

The production will run from Sept. 30 to Oct. 23 at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute as the second offering of Tanghalang Pilipinos 25th Theater Season. As part of the celebration, an exhibit of Tony Perez’s paintings will be mounted during the entire run of the production.

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