Book on Fil-Am theater history just released
The book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History, which details the history of Filipino American theater groups and artists, is now available.
It has information on Tony Award winners such as Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”), Lena Hall (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”), Clint Ramos (“Eclipsed”) and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q,” “Book of Mormon”).
Written by Walter Ang, the book also includes interviews with Fil-Am theater makers such as directors, playwrights, set and costume designers, and actors.
Currently on Broadway, Ali Ewoldt is in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Arielle Jacobs and Don Darryl Rivera are in “Disney’s Aladdin.” Robert Brill designed the sets of “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” Robert Lopez composed and wrote songs for “Disney’s Frozen.” Lea Salonga just finished her stint in “Once on This Island” with costumes designed by Clint Ramos.
There are Fil-Am actors in touring productions: Jose Llana and Joan Almedilla just finished “The King and I,” Isa Briones in “Hamilton,” N’Jameh Camara in “The Color Purple,” Lissa deGuzman and Jay Paranada in “Disney’s Aladdin” and Emily Bautista and Christine Bunuan with visiting Filipino actor Red Concepcion in “Miss Saigon.”
Through the decades
“Fun fact: Filipino Americans have been performing on Broadway since the late 1940s. Barbara Luna was in ‘South Pacific,’ Neile Adams was in ‘Kismet’ and Patrick Adiarte was in ‘The King and I,'” says Ang, an INQUIRER.net correspondentand contributing writerto Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Theater Section. The book includes some of his previously published articles and has new interviews and additional research.
“And as early as the 1930s, there was already a Fil-Am theater group. Baltazar Flor immigrated from the Philippines and founded the Filipino Catholic Club Drama Guild in Seattle and staged his own plays written in English,” he says.
The book has information on other groups and individuals that have comprised Filipino American theater throughout the decades.
The “barangay” in the title is a Filipino term used to designate neighborhoods. “In pre-colonial times, it meant ‘settlements.’ It symbolizes the Philippines and the term ‘Broadway’ symbolizes the USA and theater. Both terms represent all the different kinds of Filipino American theater communities listed in the book,” he says.
The book begins with the performers of the 1900s and 1910s, moves on to the immigrant community productions of the 1920s and 1930s, then lists the first few Fil-Am performers on Broadway in the 1950s.
It then details seminal Filipino American theater groups in California such as Ating Tao and Sining Bayan and in New York City such as Philippine Educational Theatre Arts League, as well as profiles Fil-Am artists who either founded or were early members of the pioneering Asian American theater companies of the 1960s and 1970s like Northwest Asian American Theatre (Seattle), Pan Asian Repertory Theatre (New York), and East West Players (Los Angeles).
It also mentions the unique Fil-Am performance tradition Pilipino Cultural Night or PCN, annual variety shows staged in campuses featuring skits and dances.
The book continues with the establishing of trailblazing Filipino American theater companies in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Ma-Yi Theater in New York (which eventually broadened its focus to an Asian American theater company), CIRCA-Pintig in Chicago, Sining KilUSAn in Seattle, QBd Ink in Washington, DC and Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco; and goes on to follow the emerging groups and leaders of the 2000s and 2010s.
“Hopefully the book will be useful to Filipino Americans,” says Ang. “Whether they be casual theatergoers, passionate theater fans, new or seasoned theater makers seeking information about the paths carved by their fellow artists, or parents and educators looking for resources to help younger generations become more aware of the rich heritage and artistic work that has been and continues to be created by Filipino Americans.”