Julian Roxas and Martin Buen will be playing the roles of Prinsipe at Pulubi, respectively, for Gantimpala Theater’s version of The Prince and the Pauper.
Roxas will play the role of Prinsipe Edward Tudor, the son of King Henry VIII; while Buen will play Tom Canty, a pauper (beggar) who is living with his abusive father.
Gantimpala Theater, now on its 36th season, will be adapting the classic Mark Twain story as a Filipino children’s musical with a lot of singing and dancing—a talent both Roxas and Buen possess.
You may have seen Julian Roxas in TV5’s Bagets, where he played a kontrabida. He has also done TV commercials. Currently a Viva talent who had a cameo role in the movie No Other Woman, Roxas is also a Muay Thai fighter, boxer, TRX certified trainer and a recent Political Science graduate from the De La Salle University.
Martin Buen has done TV, film and digital commercials. He has a bit role in the Cinemalaya 2013 entry Sana Dati, which stars Paulo Avelino and Lovi Poe. He also performed as a dancer for Eat Bulaga’s opening segment and was tapped for mall shows of Bench’s product launches.
Why would they want to go to theater then?
Roxas: “Viva called me and asked if I’m interested to do theater...I accept everything they give me because I love to act. I play different roles in my life not just on camera or in the play. As I live, I play different roles.
"I have a lot of experiences in my life and I believe when I act or perform on stage or TV, I get to use my sense memory. I get to relive all those experiences that I have and it’s fun…it becomes more easy...”
Buen: “Naghahanap po ako ng oportunidad. Nag-fall lahat ng pieces sa tamang lugar…kakatapos lang ng contract ko sa modeling agency. I wanted more than TV commercials or extra-extra sa TV...[I thought] how about I learn theatre kasi pag nag workshop ka, di mo naman maibibigay lahat kasi it’s a workshop and it’s a closed environment. But if you do theatre, matututo ka by and by your performance...”
Fortunately, Roxas and Buen look uncannily similar, which is a definite advantage since their characters require them to switch roles.
How did Buen know about Gantimpala’s need for someone to play a pulubi (beggar)?
Buen: “Nalaman ko lang siya sa Blogspot Casting Calls Manila, medyo hesitant pa ako. I went to Gantimpala Theater Foundation. Umuulan pa nun ng sobrang lakas…I went there parang hanggang 5pm lang [ang audition time] pero dumating ako 4:45 pm na. Meron pang aaraling sayaw and after that audition na nga.
"So lahat silang director andun sa panel. My audition piece was 'Iduyan Mo' by Basil Valdez.
"[They asked that] I say something about [my] acting experience..They made me read a line I think it was from Ibong Adarna. Then [they told me] to wait for the callback and then they called me back.”
In Roxas’ case, with his athleticism and background of martial arts, wouldn’t he be interested to do an action film?
Roxas: “It’s really what I want to do talaga…Sobra nanghihinayang nga ako kasi at the time I was getting my breaks, parang nalaos na action. Right now they’re bringing them up again with the movie of Piolo Pascual and Gerald Anderson [Erik Matti’s OTJ or On The Job]. I knew the director. He was the director for my Nestea commercial and I was like `Sayang dapat na cast mo ko’ and he said, ‘Kaya nga eh, I didn’t meet you by then.’
"Action gusto ko talaga.. I’m really fit. I’m also a trainer. `Yung look ko pang bad boy…I know how to fight so that’s what I want to incorporate here sa Philippine movies… The fight scenes here, `di maganda, di ba? What if you get actors who know how to grapple, who know how to take down, kick, punch the right way…I can even be the one to direct the fight scenes.”
But he maintains that drama is also his interest.
“I want to do drama and action…I have a lot of sad experiences in my life...When I was very young I always saw my parents fighting, they separated...When I read a line I put it agad in my sense memory, within 5 seconds, I can cry.”
Being both new to theater, how did they feel about starring in a Gantimpala production?
Roxas: “I’m very, very happy. They treat me like a family. I’m new to theatre. When I came in they were so welcoming. They’re trying to help me with everything. Because of them, I’m able to memorize my lines. We help each other out. It’s really good.”
Buen: “I was really happy. The mere fact na nagka-call back ako. Buti na lang I went to the audition. When they said I’ll be 'Pulubi’ I was really happy...but hesitant...”
What is Buen hesitant about?
Buen: “First rehearsal day andami kong inhibitions. Kasi unang-una, nai-intimidate ako sa ibang kasama ko dahil seasoned na sila. Ang gagaling [nila] unang salang pa lang so di ko mailabas. I did a private workshop with a veteran actress. Not with Gantimpala. [I discovered] the problem is my inhibitions are keeping me para mailabas yung galing ko sa pag-arte…Yung bigay na tips ni Direk [nakatulong]: 'Aralin mo mabuti, immerse yourself in the character, huwag kang mahihiya kasi magsu-suffer yung performance mo. Isipin mo lagi, ano mahihiya ka...o ilalabas mo lahat?’”
Being first-timers, how are they dealing with the discipline that theater demands?
Roxas: “..The discipline [required] as an athlete is just like in theatre. You come to the play, you make sure you have notes on your script. You make sure all your notes are highlighted so it sticks to your brain and get to memorize it kaagad. When you go home, you should be able to read your script so you don’t give your director a hard time.”
Buen: “Tama si Direk Joel Lamangan, [Gantimpala Theater’s new artistic director] with Gantimpala, you really learn discipline as an actor...and then ikaw mismo tuturuan mo sarili mo na di lang pala pag-throw ng linya [ang importante]. Pati characterization at galaw kailangan mo aralin at ibigay as an actor.”
Buen also talks about the difficulties of being a theater newbie.
Buen: “Bago lang po ako, it’s really a struggle. Sabi ng director, feel na feel ko yung struggle [during the rehearsals]...He told me it’s not more on line-throwing. It’s studying the character itself and react sa history niya. So kung pulubi si Tom Canty, ilang taon na siya? So bakit siya ganun? Bakit ganun na lang pangarap niya yumaman? Those are the things I have to immerse myself into.”
LESSONS LEARNED. Julian Roxas cites the valuable lessons he learned being in a Gantimpala theater production.
Roxas: “My best learning—you’re not alone. You always have to have someone with you. If you’re doing things alone and you’re practicing this sort of technique, how can you say you can master this? You have to be mentored by someone who's experienced. You can’t be a know-it-all. I’m only 21 and I have a lot to learn. These people who are teaching me, they’ve experienced a lot more in this world and that’s where I get the mentoring.”
Meanwhile, Martin Buen—who once worked as a college instructor, high school and pre-school teacher, call center officer as well as a Philippine Airlines flight attendant—is now decidedly pursuing acting with the aim to better his craft despite his parent’s initial reservations. He also admits he has yet to reveal to his family that he bagged the lead role as Pulubi.
Buen: "Di ko pa naman sinasabi sa kanila..our mothers and fathers want something stable..yung mga arts laging sinasabi pang-mayaman lang yan…I have to sit down one dinner and tell them this is what I want to do, I hope you can support me.”
He added: “I told them may presscon ngayon, sabi nila sana magtuloy-tuloy na...[I realized] Okay, supportive naman pala sila, sana noon ko pa nagawa.”
In the long run, Buen sees himself as a serious actor bent on honing his craft.
Buen: “Gusto ko maging character actor. Mas gusto ko yun kesa maging bida, [may] ka-loveteam o superstar. Mas importante sa akin na magaling ako umarte kesa maging sikat lang.”
Set in England, The Prince and the Pauper is a classic American novel written by Mark Twain. Ang Prinsipe at ang Pulubi will tour provinces to bring the production to kids and kids-at-heart. Under the direction of Gean Allain de Leon with book and libretto by the late Beth Nacion Puyot, performances will be held at Angeles City, Pampanga (August 8-10); Bren Guiao, Pampanga (August 14-16); Olongapo City, Zambales (August 28-29); San Fernando, Pampanga (September 14-15); and Dagupan, Pangasinan (October 4-5); Performances in Manila are scheduled to take place at Star Theater, Star City (January 17-18, 2014) and SM Southmall (January 23-24, 2014).
For tickets and bookings, call Tel. No. 998-5622 or Tel. No. 872-0261 or visit www.facebook.com/gantimpala.