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Fil-Am’s prize-winning dramedy on millennials of color to open in LA

/ 12:38 AM May 24, 2018

Playwright Nathan Ramos. STHANLEE MIRADOR.

LOS ANGELES — Nathan Ramos’ dramedy about the struggles of millennials of color, “As We Babble On,” will have its world premiere by East West Players (EWP).

The play won first place in EWP’s “2042: See Change” national playwriting competition in 2015.

Other Filipino Americans involved in the production include director Alison De La Cruz and actress Jiavani Linayao.

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In the play, awkward graphic novelist Benji’s career is stalling while those of his half-sister Laura and their friend Sheila (played by Linayao) are blossoming. They all soon grapple with the moral implications of their actions.

The play “explores the pursuit of success and its costs—and whether boxed wine and soda is an appropriate sangria recipe after the age of 24.”

“It is sharp, funny, and asks thought-provoking questions about identity, artistry, and culture in our current economic climate,” says EWP artistic director Snehal Desai.

From left: Actors Sachin Bhatt, Jaime Schwarz and Will Choi, who are in the cast of “As We Babble On,” with Nathan Ramos and the dramedy’s director Alison De La Cruz during EWP’s 2018 Visionary Award ceremony. STHANLEE MIRADOR.

“It’s a world premiere of a bold, new voice that explores all facets of identity, from race, sexual orientation to class. It stood out as the winner of our playwriting competition.”

All Asian characters

The “2042: See Change” playwriting competition formed part of EWP’s ongoing efforts to build support mechanisms for equity, diversity and inclusion in American theater in preparation for 2042. That’s the year, according to the US Census, when people of color are projected to become the majority of the population.

Since winning the competition, “As We Babble On” has gone through a developmental workshop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and staged readings in Los Angeles by Artists at Play (with dramaturgy by Fil-Am playwright Michael Golamco) and at the Renberg Theatre through the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“The play has really had quite a transformation since its first inception,” says Ramos. “It now features an all-Asian cast, looking at the full diaspora of Asian peoples—Asian, South Asian, and hapa, in this case, half white, half black.”

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“Sitting in the East West Players house and seeing all the stories and voices that came before me, I really wanted to nurture the play into speaking what it meant to be an Asian American millennial. I really am excited to see that reflected on stage.”

Unlocking inspiration

Ramos was born in Cleveland, Ohio to a Korean mother and a Filipino father.

He had studied acting at Ohio University and has performed in New York and regionally. His frustrations with limited and inconsequential or negative-stereotype acting roles—in addition to the many other issues that life throws in one’s way—spurred him to write “As We Babble On.”

At auditions or casting calls, he would receive inane comments like “You’re too Asian” or “You’re not Asian enough,” which began to affect his self-worth.

He then recalled Filipino Canadian musician and composer Romeo Candido’s advice to him to not wait around for somone else to write the roles he wanted. Ramos had been an actor in Candido’s musical “Prison Dancer” (inspired by the viral videos of the dancing inmates of a maximum-security prison in Cebu) which ran in New York in 2012.

So then, Ramos channeled his angst into crafting the play.

Learning from each other

Interestingly enough, writing the play and winning EWP’s competition created a shift in Ramos’ artistic trajectory. New opportunities soon came to him and he now also writes for the video (television and online) and film industries, including as a script doctor for Hollywood films that he cannot divulge the titles of.

Filipino American Jiavani Linayao is in the cast of “As We Babble On.” CONTRIBUTED

He was most recently head writer, music director and a creative producer for the first season of Disney’s “Club Mickey Mouse” and its 2017 holiday special episode. “It’s a reboot of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club.’ It actually has many Filipino American Mouseketeers,” he says. (Namely Jenna Alvarez, Gabe de Guzman, and Leanne Tessa Langston.)

For now, he is relishing his time working with the team of “As We Babble On” to bring his story to life on the stage.

He appreciates the diversity of the cast’s individual backgrounds and experiences. “Comedians, improvisers, TV and film actors, and stage actors all coming together and learning from each other’s processes.”

“It’s been really great. Sitting in with actors speaking the words I have written has really been a special experience.”

“As We Babble On” closes EWP’s 52nd season and is presented in partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and with support from the S. Mark Taper Foundation.

“As We Babble On,” previews begin May 31, runs June 6–24 at David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. Visit Eastwestplayers.org.

READ about the Filipino American members of Club Mickey Mouse here.

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TAGS: "2042: See Change", “As We Babble On”, Alison De La Cruz, East West Players (EWP), Fil-Am prizewinning play, Jiavani Linayao, Nathan Ramos, playwriting, playwriting competition, stage production, Walter Ang
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