Gina Pareño took a week to decide if she would accept her first acting stint onstage. The movie and television actress has never been part of any theatrical production in her more than 40 years in showbusiness.
After reflecting on the merits of doing live theater, Gina accepted the role of Mary in the Asian premiere of Tanghalang Pilipino's American Hwangap. She and Mario O'Hara will topbill the Filipino version of this Asian-American play.
The play's director, Chris Millado, described how he and Nanding Josef, Tanghalang Filipino's Artistic Director, convinced the veteran actress to accept the role.
"Talagang kinumbinsi namin si Ms Gina na sumali dito sa cast. At one point, pinuntahan ni Nanding si Ms Gina sa isang screening ng kanyang film. We were surprised to find out na nabasa niya pala yung script. Takot na takot siya dahil akala niya na kailangan sa first rehearsal memoryado niya na yung lahat.
"Sabi ko, hindi ganoon. Sa theater, pwede natin unti-untiin yung mga eksena. Noong pumasok na siya sa rehearsal, doon niya natagpuan na pwede pala ganoon. Unti-unti pwede niyang matutunan ang lines. Hindi gaya sa pelikula at TV na kailangan memoryahin yung bawat section bago ka pumasok," Chris narrated.
Gina revealed that Jeffrey Jeturian, the director who megged her award-winning film Kubrador, advised her to accept the role.
"Sabi ko, ano ka ba? Bakit mo ako ilalagay doon. Sabi niya, 'kunin mo para iba.' Nandito na ako ngayon at gusto ko ang ginagawa ko."
The veteran actress described the satisfaction that she felt while preparing for the play.
"Sa ika-apat na rehearsal ko, doon ko naramadaman na masarap pala. Hindi ko ma-memorya yung mga lines ko noong unang rehearsals kasi nangangatog po ako noon. Ang gagaling nga mga kasama ko dito. Saka iba ang disiplina," an excited Gina told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during the play's lunch conference held recently at the Casino Español along TM Kalaw in Manila.
"May halong pangangatog. May halong fun. May halong excitement. Saka, I'm learning." Gina said.
"Nakakatuwa at inaalalayan ako ng mga kasama ko," said the veteran actress about her castmates including theater actress Liesl Batucan, Jeremy Domingo and Nicco Manalo.
American Hwangap is a described as a dysfunctional comedy that is set in a suburban Texas home. The family is shaken up the arrival of their long lost father, who has come home to celebrate his 'hwangap' or 60th birthday ritual that marks the completion of the zodiac cycle and signals the rebirth. The wife and children prepare for the 'hwangap' of the father who has been missing from the family for the past 15 years.
Tanghalang Pilipino is delighted to have the Asian premiere of the play written by Lloyd Suh. The play premiered last March 2009 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, California. It was followed by a New York premiere in May of the same year.
The play will have Bembol Roco and Celeste Legaspi in the English version of the play.
Playdates will be every Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Septembers beginning September 10 and on October 1, 2 and 3. It will be staged at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.