CHICAGO — “Game of Trolls: Revisited” is a musical about Hector, whose lack of attachment to any beliefs makes him the perfect candidate to work as a social media troll.
He spends his workdays posting misleading information to distort people’s perceptions of history. As the specters of the past come to haunt him, he begins to reconnect with his mother—an activist during martial law in the Philippines, who had to flee to the U.S. to escape danger.
It will be staged by Filipino American theater group CIRCA-Pintig. The material is based on a musical written by Liza Magtoto and originally staged in Manila by the theater company Philippine Educational Theater Association.
This English translation by Magtoto herself will be directed by Louie Pascasio with music by Demetrio Maguigad. Lani Montreal has written additional scenes and provided adaptation work on some scenes.
Twentysomething Filipino American James Macapagal has been cast to play Hector. “I’m a Chicago boy, born and bred!” he says.
This improv and sketch comedy actor’s recent theater credits include “Scenes for a Green World” for The Greenhouse Theater and “Murder Mystery Company” for American Immersion Theater.
Macapagal may not have experienced martial law firsthand, but he has a connection to it. It’s the reason his family is in the U.S.
“Martial Law is the catalyst for me being in America. I know about martial law through stories told by my parents. My parents ultimately decided to immigrate to America, like many other Filipinos, because of how bad things became toward the end of martial law in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Macapagal’s father immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 (three years before Ferdinand Marcos was deposed as a result of the People Power Revolution). His mother and older sister followed a year later.
Nevertheless, the play’s script has exposed him to a broader tapestry of personalities who were involved.
“I have learned so much about the specific heroes who fought, suffered, and died fighting the Marcos regime and martial law.
“Many of them are characters in ‘Game of Trolls: Revisited,’” he explains. “Learning about them made me want to research more about their stories. People like Sister Mariani, Dr. Bobby de la Paz, Eman Lacaba, Lorena Barros, Macli-ing Dulag and many others made incredible sacrifices for the Philippines.”
In addition to learning more about recent Philippine history, Macapagal says he also relishes the opportunity to work alongside other Filipino American theater makers.
“I am very inspired that there is such a uniquely Filipino story being told by a Filipino American theater company. We have such a talented cast and crew.
“Our director, Louie Pascasio, has been amazing and so willing to both direct and teach us about the background of the show.
“Every time I walk into rehearsal, I have to pinch myself because I’m in a room full of fellow Filipino and Asian artists. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often, so I’m very thankful to be a part of it!”
He feels that the musical is “important, especially in our times now, both in the Philippines and America, politically.”
He adds, “It’s a story that I don’t think many second or third generation Fil-Ams my age may know. Martial law was such a brutal, traumatic time. It’s hard to understand how much our families’lives were affected by it and how it still affects us.”
Macapagal hopes that the musical will motivate theatergoers to “dive in deep to their own histories and experiences with Martial Law. It’s a difficult subject, but it’s important to remember the sacrifices made. To research more about martial law and Philippine history and ask important questions.”
The production is supported by Presence St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, Asian Giving Circle, The Chicago Community Foundation, Resist and The Hana Center.
“Game of Trolls: Revisited” runs Nov 30-Dec 9, Klausner Auditorium, 1129 N. Oakley, Chicago. Visit CircaPintig.com.