Audie Gemora has got a lot on his plate.
The theater actor/producer is directing Tanghalang Pilipino's restaging of Noli Me Tangere, which premiered August 5 and will run until August 27.
At the same time, he is producing Peter Pan, slated to open on September 29 with Good Vibes teen heartthrob Sam Concepcion in the lead role.
Audie will alsoreprise the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music which will be staged at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre at the Resorts World.
At a small press conference last August 9 at Finio restaurant on Tomas Morato, Quezon City, Audie talked theater with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal).
"Tuloy tuloy pa rin ang theater even though it doesn't earn a great deal of money. That's why we have to do other things like events and artist management—dun kami nabubuhay. But of love and passion, bumabalik pa rin sa teyatro.
"If I could just make a living from theater, I'll probably just do theater," he says.
Audie reveals he would like to direct more projects.
"I realized I'm a producer," he says. "Madalas pag producer ako, I hire a director. I give in to them. Nakakapag-direct lang ako pag hina-hire ako ng ibang companies. Sa sarili kong company I don't get to direct."
Audie won best director in the 2010 Gawad Buhay, the Philstage Awards for the performing arts. His production, Equus, controversial for its explicit nude scene, tied with Tatlong Maria for outstanding play honors.
"It's not naman the number [of shows one directs]," he explains.
"It's the kind of reaction you get from each work that you do. And saka yung pinaka-satisfying sa akin—yung tanggap ka ng colleagues mo. So I'm happy."
WORKING WITH A YOUNGER GENERATION. In terms of experience and recognition, Audie says theater has been good to him.
"I guess [I've come] full circle. Pag naging satisfied ka as a performer, you reach a point in your life when you need to give back. It's [also] about preparing for the next generation of artists."
While he is president of STAGES (talent management) and heads Trumpets (theater company), Audie also functions as TV5's talent center chief.
"Everything na ginagawa ko ngayon is related to talent development. So parang dun ako nalulugar," he says.
He enjoys working with young actors.
"It's okay with me because you're planting, sowing seeds," he says.
He observes that a lot of young people join theater because they love it. But when they find higher-paying jobs, they leave.
"Sooner or later they're gonna have to learn to make a living and aalis sila ng teyatro. Yung mga medyo mas matanda na, aalis na sila. Maghahanap-buhay.
"[Pero] kahit sa'n man sila mapunta, babalik-balikan nila yung theater because [they] love it."
DEFOCUSED YOUNG ACTORS. "Nung kapanahunan namin... in the '80s, theater lang ang ginagawa ng karamihan ng mga bata.
"Now, there are so many options. Everybody wants to be a VJ host or model going to showbiz, or going to singing.
"Ang daming distractions. Minsan masyadong maraming options ang kabataan. Hindi sila maka-focus," Audie says.
This worries the senior actors in theater. Who will take over when they leave?
"I mean, they call me King of Philippine Musical Theater and Menchu Lauchengco's called the Queen... Who's gonna replace us? There are very few who'll do," he observes.
"We always wonder... Does it mean that the [younger] generation is less talented? And after talking about it, we realized: 'No, it's not that they're less talented, they're just defocused.'
"Yes they're talented, yes they're good, yes they're interested, but they have so many other things to do."
Audie stresses: "Hindi nabibigyan ng karapat dapat na attention, focus and dedication [ang theater]."
He shares how he has to deal with tight schedules of the actors who alternately play Crisostomo Ibarra in Noli Me Tangere.
"Let's say si Mark Bautista, saka si Gian Magdangal nasa showbiz na yan. Si Gian nagsimula sa theater, pumasok sa showbiz. Si Mark naman came by way of a reality singing contest pero ngayon, pumapasok sa teatro kasi gusto niyang mag-grow as an artist at marami na siyang naririnig sa mga fellow celebrities who go into theater which is parang nag-grow sila artistically.
"Hindi nakapag-open si Mark dahil nag-raket sa Australia di ba? Gian had to open."
Audie says he understands Mark's situation.
"You can't make a living out of theater. [You do it] out of passion and love for it."
"I wish they could dedicate themselves to theater but it's not possible. We have to make do."
Theater veterans like Bojie Pascua and Gary Lim also had television projects that conflicted with their schedules for Noli.
Audie reports he finally had a complete cast only on opening night.
THEATER TRAINING. The best training for acting is still in theater, Audie says.
"May disiplina sa teatro that is not found in showbiz. I should know because I'm training showbiz kids now."
One problem is, the script is given to an actor on the shooting day itself or, at the earliest, the night before.
"Anong homework magagawa mo diyan? How can you learn your part? How can you prepare for your character? How can you get the emotions properly?
"Karamihan ng mga TV actors have no choice. Babangko na lang sila ng mga kung anong acting technique... pag nakuha yung technique, 'Ah, ito kailangan ko, ito na lang gagamitin ko.'
"So it's almost mechanical... hindi siya authentic."
Audie compares showbiz training with theater training.
"Kung [sa] teyatro ka, you have two months to rehearse everyday until maging organic yung proseso. Everything you do on the stage becomes real. You're uninterrupted. You're there beginning, middle, end. Happy ka sa umpisa, inapi ka sa gitna, iiyak ka sa bandang huli.
"Pero sa TV, puwedeng i-shoot mo na yung iyak [kahit] di mo pa alam kung saan ka nanggaling. It's so difficult. It's not a good place to train people."
Audie's talents in TV5 undergo a different experience. He says he asks his kids to watch ballet and recalls how he once forced them to attend a Japanese Film Festival.
It's all about "expanding their mind," he says.
"Being artista is not just about popularity. You also have to grow as an artist. You have to be educated. You have to know what good artistry is, what good theater is.
"Because if they're just gonna think about their little showbiz career, you know naman in showbiz now, very few people make it.
"So I always tell my kids, kung hindi man kayo swertehin and become big stars, at the very least, when you train under me, you will learn more. You will become a better person by the time you get out of here."