Celebrating women in Filipino American theater
For Women’s History Month (March) and Women’s Day (March 8), it’s worth celebrating the impact of women in Filipino American theater.
The roster of achievers in theater includesTony Award winners Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Lena Hall (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”); there have been Obie Award winners Ching Valdes Aran (“Flipzoids”) and Mia Katigbak (“Awake and Sing!”).
Writer Jessica Hagedorn adapted her own award-winning novel Dogeatersinto a play.
As early as the 1940s, there were already Fil-Am and Filipino actresses on Broadway. Barbara Luna was in “South Pacific,” Neile Adams was in “Kismet,” and Cely Carillo and Maureen Tiongco were both in “Flower Drum Song.”
These achievements and milestones are noted in the book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History.Critic and librettist Carlene Bonnivier has praised this publication written by Walter Ang as a “Brilliant compendium…very informative…a real pleasure to read.”
Inspiration from trailblazers
The book is a wonderful idea for a gift. The women trailblazers listed in it serve as inspiration for dedication to craft, taking on leadership roles, creating one’s own opportunities and making a difference.
Spanning from the 1900s to the 2010s, the book lists women theater makers such as directors, playwrights, stage managers, actresses and teachers.
It also lists women who have founded or led playwright groups and theater companies.
In the 1970s, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez founded Philippine Educational Theatre Arts League (New York), Ermena Vinluan was artistic director of Sining Bayan (Berkeley, California) and Maria Batayola was a founding member of Northwest Asian American Theatre (Seattle).
In the ‘80s, Jeannie Barroga founded Playwright Forum (Palo Alto, California), Mia Katigbak cofounded National Asian American Theater Company (New York) and Luz de Leon facilitated the establishment of Teatro ng Tanan (San Francisco).
In the 1990s, Angela Mascarenas founded CIRCA-Pintig (Chicago) and Ana Valdes-Lim founded Hawaii Alliance for Philippine Performing Arts (Honolulu). In Washington, DC, Sara Joaquin founded Bahaghari Productions and Reme Grefalda headed QBd Ink.
In the 2000s and 2010s, in New York, Rehana Mirza cofounded Desipina & Co., Maha Chehlaoui founded Nibras Arab American Theater and Jesca Prudencio founded People Of Interest. In the West Coast, Jennifer Chang cofounded Chalk Repertory Theatre (Los Angeles), Ruth Palileo cofounded Current Theatrics (Las Vegas) and Thelma de Castro founded San Diego Playwrights (San Diego).
Women have been—and continue to be—an integral part of Filipino American theater history. Get to know more about their contributions in the book Barangay to Broadway: Filipino American Theater History, available at Amazon.com.