Gantimpala Theater opens its 35th season with Florante at Laura, the poem of Francisco Balagtas, made into a play by Bonifacio Ilagan, under the direction Roeder Camañag, who promises to highlight the beauty and lyricism of Balagtas’ Tagalog poetry in this production.
Giving life to the characters of Balagtas’ literary masterwork are Yutaka Yamakawa and Al Gatmaitan, (alternately portraying Florante), Vera Capiral (Laura), Arkin Da Silva (Adoldo), CJ Mangahis (Flerida) and Leo Ponseca (Aladin).
The trio of Yamakawa, Capiral and Da Silva are members of the Gantimpala Theater’s Actors Company.
“Florante is a soldier, son and lover,” Yutaka says of his role. “He loves Albania, his family, Duke Briseo and Reyna Floresca and of course, the love of his life, Laura. Everything he does is dictated by passion.
“Doing the role anew, I know I will do it better,” says the actor. “Giving more than one-hundred-percent of myself, my emotions, I am playing for truth here, you know, I want the audiences to understand and have a better appreciation of Balagtas’ literary masterpiece.”
Bringing in the romance factor is Vera Capiral, who essays the role of Laura. “She is young, innocent, and the love she has for Florante is deeper, the feelings intense and I think more advance for her age.”
“Even if the characters never actually kiss, audiences will really feel the tenderness and romance that the couple shares,” Capiral adds. “To make it all realistic, all I need is look at Yutaka or Al with a lot of love, I should not fake it, since the feelings are coming from my heart.”
Al Gatmaitan, a Florante first timer admits, “It’s a different feeling to be part of this play, there is a certain high knowing I am working or a company who has committed itself to produce and promote Filipino classics, this a privilege and honor.”
“The process involved in creating this, in bringing to life Balagtas’ literary opus is very strict,” the other Florante reveals. “The words are in old Tagalog, and you just can’t recite it per se, there is a whole rhythm and cadence to delivering it. As the lead, there are so many pages of texts to memorize and take all of it in my mind and in heart since the texts are all that you have.”
“My director, Roeder told me that being in this production, as an actor, I will be like being reborn, and I think it’s all true. Doing is emotionally, intellectually and physically daunting, it’s a challenge that I think all Filipino actors must take, and my hope is that I pass it with flying colors,” Gatmaitan states.
The nemesis in this magnum opus is Adolfo, with Arkin Da Silva, portraying the wicked character described in the poem as “sukab” and “ganid.”
“Doing the villain role is more exciting,” declares Da Silva. “It’s not every day one gets a plum role like this. This time, there will be more subtlety in terms of showing my dark side. Adolfo’s rottenness is hidden, this consumes, pushes him to be wrathful, and all these negative energies leads him to lunacy.”
Two of the most relevant characters in Florante at Laura are Aladin at Flerida, the Moor couple with Leo Ponseca and CJ Mangahis, respectively, playing the roles.
Mangahis quips, “She is brave woman and does not give up the fight easily, especially in the matters of the heart.”
“I’m starting from zero, that is why I think I bring certain freshness to the role,” CJ tells. “I am trying my best to find a connection with Flerida so that I can execute her with dignity and truthfulness. Her character made me realize that if you are truly in love with someone, you have to fight for it.”
Ponseca, the Moor prince disowned by his father, believes, “I think my character is the personification of true love, a love that is more mature, forgiving and embracing.”
“Because of Florante at Laura, it made me value more Philippine literature. It made me more curious to read more Filipino works. What truly is fascinating is realizing that Filipinos, as exemplified by Balagtas, are great writers, they write from their hearts and open the eyes of people who cannot and refuse to see.”
Other characters coming to life on stage are Alfred Urieta (Makata), Jose Jeffrey Camañag (Haring Linceo), Billy Parjan (Duke Briseo), Pamela Hundana (Reyna Floresca), Benjie Cayetano (Sultan Ali-Adab), Paul Albert Garcia (Menandro), Ronald Concepcion (Antenor), Michael King Urieta (Batang Florante), Masanori Mentuda (Batang Adolfo), Julius Empredo (Miramolin), Dan Jarden de Guzman (Osmalik).
Assisting Camañag to realize his version of Florante at Laura are Andy Villareal (Liighting Designer), Joey de Guzman (Set Designer), Jose Jeffrey Camañag (Costumes Designer), Ian de Leon (Choreographer), Toni Muñoz (Music Designer), Meyo de Jesus (Video Designer), Del Cayetano (Production Manager) and Lani Tapia (Stage Manager).
Performances are scheduled on the following dates: July 29, (7pm), Concert at the Park Open Auditorium, Luneta, Manila; August 3, 4 & 5, (9am/12pm/3pm), AFP Theater, Quezon City; August 10, 11 & 12 (9am/12nn/3pm), Star City, Star City Compound, Pasay City; August 17, 18 & 19, (11am/2pm) at the SM Southmall Cinema 3, Las Piñas City.
This production of Florante at Laura is fully supported by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) and Everbilena.
For tickets, booking information, please call Tel. No. 998-5622.