No doubt Robbie Guevara of 9 Works Theatrical has arrived. The smashing success of his recent venture “La Cage Aux Folles” has proved his unquestionable directorial prowess. He has received accolades for this. Deservedly so.
Truth be told and due to public clamor, the musical is having reruns weekends from the 15th of August till the 6th of September at the same venue, the Carlos P. Romulo Theatre (RCBC Plaza) with the same brilliant cast! For tickets: Ticketworld or call 5867105, 09175545560, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though Robbie’s a friend and a high school classmate, it was my first time to catch one of his shows. And boy he’s definitely won me over! I’ve been fortunate to gasp over grand productions on Broadway and the West End (even writing reviews about them in the Manila Times in the 90s), and Robbie’s “La Cage” is completely at par. Reviews on his version of the three time Tony Award winning musical are by now dime a dozen and it’s but apt to instead focus on the man behind the splendid musical.
- You were unquestionably one of the best speakers in our batch winning numerous elocution contests both within and outside the Ateneo, was this enviable talent instrumental in your choice of live theatre as a career? Looking back, I would have to say, “yes”. It wasn’t so much the competition that attracted me to join oratorical contests. I now realise it was the ability to speak in front of an audience, to hold their attention, and to elicit a reaction, that made me think I was capapble of doing something not everyone could.
- How did you jumpstart your foray into the theatre scene? I went to the Rep office one day to accompany two friends to buy tickets. On our way out, we were asked to read for a musical they were planning to produce, La Cage aux Folles. So, we read. I got in. The rest is, as they say, history.
- I recall you started out as a most effective actor in several of Repertory Philippines’ productions, have you likewise shown your thespic skills on foreign soil? Yes, I was part of the ensemble of Miss Saigon in the Asian and UK Tours, where I also covered, and played, the Engineer.
- What made you decide to shift gears from acting to directing? Age. Haha. I got “tired” of acting… Although I don’t think I’ll ever give it up completely. Directing (and producing) offer new challenges.
- 9 Works Theatrical is presently one of the pillars of Philippine live theatre and you are one of its founders, what is the reason behind its conception? When I came back from the UK, I realised that Theatre Arts was now being offered in Ateneo and other colleges. I had a chance to work with some of these students and asked myself, where will these people go after they graduate? We need more shows for them to be a part of… We need to produce. Three years later, I found a partner who could handle the one thing I knew I wasn’t strong in, the business side of a Production Company. 9 Works Theatrical was founded to help develop Manila’s theatre industry.
- I thoroughly enjoyed your version “La Cage” and I’m certain even the most jaded of heterosexuals would love it. For the benefit of the ignorant but curious, enumerate its universally redeeming qualities. I believe La Cage is a highly successful show (it’s the ONLY musical that’s won the Tony three times for Best Musical) because it shows that unconditional love between people, gay or straight, is pure love. Anyone can relate with that. Also, in our version, aside from the sincerity of the actors in playing their roles, we made sure the staging was tasteful, avoiding the thin line that could’ve made it overly kitsch.
- Aside from the exceptional acting, singing, and dancing genius of the whole cast, I was also mesmerized by the stunning costumes, who deserves credit for this? Mio Infante, 9 Works Theatrical’s Associate Artistic Director and resident Scenographer. He designed all of the costumes and managed the ones provided by the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines.
- It must have been daunting yet surely rewarding to assemble and direct the most talented thespians around, how was the whole experience? What was the most stressful moment? The most hilarious? We had never worked on a show this much in the past. Our rehearsal period was longer than normal — 3.5 months compared to the usual 2. Also, I don’t remember seeing an ensemble learn and rehearse choreography for a musical as much as we needed to in La Cage. Most stressful… Looking back I believe the most stressful part of rehearsals was when we couldn’t assemble the cast completely all the time due to sched conflicts. This was the first show I directed where that was a constant problem. I hated it. We always had to reshuffle scheds. In the end it worked out, sure, but it’s not something I would like repeated. Ever. Most hilarious: When some actors forget their lines or lyrics, and have to ad lib. It happens. And when it does, it’s one for the books!
- What keeps you busy in between productions? Working out. Haha. That’s where most of my time goes when I’m not rehearsing, which I wish I could just do more often.
- Who are your greatest influences? Honestly, no one. I like to make my own decisions when I work. Of course I look back and review what I learned from my past directors, and I often share them with my actors and crew. I’ve grown into my own as a director and I plan to grow some more by creating with my own mind. It helps that I don’t have the luxury to travel and watch shows abroad often, where one can simply be tempted to copy what was done there. I hate copying. It denies you your right to create.