Fil-Am ballroom dancers at the heart of new play
NEW YORK — Linda Faigao-Hall’s new play about Filipino American ballroom dancers in Queens, New York, “Dance Me!,” will have a staged reading this December by Ensemble Studio Theater (EST).
The play is about a man and his daughter who have opposing views on what to do with the financially troubled dance studio left behind by his deceased father.
The play was inspired by Faigao-Hall’s exposure to the ballroom dancing culture in Manila, which she became aware of when she visited after many years of living in the US.
Directing the staged reading is Joe Barros whose recent credits include assistant direction for the Broadway revival of the musical “Gigi,” starring Vanessa Hudgens.
Faigao-Hall has been a member of EST since 2006. Recent stagings of her work include “The A-Word” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and San Luis Obispo, California; and “The Female Heart,” by University of the Philippines Playwright’s Theatre in Manila; both last year.
Faigao-Hall is one of the pioneering Filipino American women playwrights, together with Jeannie Barroga, whose works started being staged in the ’80s. Faigao-Hall’s works have been produced across the US.
When asked how she became involved in playwriting, she mentioned that her father Cornelio Faigao was a fiction writer, poet and journalist in Cebu City. “It seems there was no choice. It’s in my blood. I was exposed to literature in English and Pilipino when I was growing up,” she said. “I grew up appreciating Jose Garcia Villa and Charles Dickens.”
She immigrated to the US in the early ’70s and ignored theater agents who claimed they could never sell plays about Filipinos. In a talk she gave at the 2015 Cebu Literary Festival, she said, “I foolishly proceeded to write my first play. It wasn’t even a musical, it had no dancing girls, and nobody sang.”
That play, “State Without Grace,” about an immigrant Filipina who carries a secret when she visits her strict, conservative grandmother in Manila, was premiered by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in New York in 1984, then staged by Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco the following year, directed by Dom Magwili. “It was the beginning of a foolhardy career as a Filipino playwright,” she said.
Faigao-Hall continues to write plays. Some of her works were premiered by Filipino American-founded theater companies Ma-Yi Theater Company in the ’90s and Diverse City Theater in the ’00s.
She released an anthology of her works, “The Female Heart and Other Plays,” in 2013.
Faigao-Hall subsidizes the Terence G. Hall Memorial Award, in honor of her late husband, open to members of Ensemble Studio Theatre for a travel grant to Dublin, Ireland for research or study.
In 2012, she added and has been subsidizing the acting and playwriting component of the Cornelio Faigao Memorial Annual Writer’s Workshop in Cebu, a fiction and poetry workshop that has been in existence since 1983.
Another one of her plays, “Dying in Boulder,” is scheduled for a full staging at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club for its 2018-19 season.
“Dance Me!” staged reading, 7pm, Dec. 19 at Ensemble Studio Theater, 545 West 52nd St., New York, New York. Visit Ensemblestudiotheatre.org.
READ previous coverage about Linda Faigao-Hall: