Thursday, May 14, 2015

Q&A: Carlo Vergara, playwright of ‘Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady'

First, what a catchy title.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is a one-act play and graphic novel by Carlo Vergara, him of Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah fame. Leading Lady is his first theater script intended for performance. It was part of 9th Virgin Labfest in 2013, and was restaged in August 2014.

The story revolves around Mely, a maid who works for a superhero team and her sister Viva. If that's not interesting enough for you, add a love story, a superhero fight, plus new and original songs to make for Leading Lady the musical extravaganza. Vergara joins forces with director Chris Martinez (Kimmy Dora is one of his masterpieces) and Vincent de Jesus, (who also did the music of Himala the Musical). Leading Lady will start its one-month run on Thursday, May 7.

We chat with Vergara about where the hell he gets his crazy good ideas and how he’s able to translate them into theater.

How did Leading Lady come about?
When the one-act play was restaged in 2014, the would-be producers were in the audience. They had been looking for material for their first major project. After the show, one of them (Pertee Brinas) contacted me and expressed interest in expanding the material into a full-length musical. When I met with Pertee (and his partners Ansis Sy and Claudia Fernandez) some time after, they asked me whom I would prefer to take on the direction and music. It was a no-brainer for me: Chris Martinez and Vince De Jesus were my top choices.

How long was it from approach to play time?
We first met around August, right after Labfest.

We can't get over the title!
I already had a title in mind, even though I didn't know exactly the details of the story. All I knew was, I wanted a story about a maid who works for a superhero team, and her sister. There's also a romantic angle, a superhero fight (of course), and this title. I let it sit in my head for about a year before writing it all out in four or so weeks.

What/who inspired Paano and its leading ladies? Were the sisters Mely and Viva based on real people?
Not so much specific people, but personalities we're generally familiar with. Right now, I think I'm still working with template characters. If you'll notice, Mely has some similarities to Ada (of Zaturnnah), while Viva is similar to Didi. Madre de Dios is similar to Queen Femina. It's just giving these template characters different functions in a story, with different backgrounds.

We read your interview with the Inquirer, and zeroed in on what you said: “it’s about finding and rooting yourself in where you want to be, or where you’re meant to be.” Vince also said, It’s being where you’re meant to be against proving your worth.’ So we’re asking: What’s going on, Carlo? Where is this coming from? 
Hahaha, I'd like to think that I've gotten a bit older. I'm already 44 (though I decided to stop aging at 30), and I'd like to think that my views of life and world have evolved or expanded even if just a teensy-weensy bit. The songs are primarily Vince's masterpieces. When I was writing the script, I would just indicate where a song will go and what that song is supposed to do, who's going to sing it, etc. Then Vince works his magic.

This isn’t your first time to write a script for theater, is it? Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is my first theater script intended for performance, though I have entered a playwriting contest in the mid-90s. It's actually easier writing a theater script, maybe because I won't be heavily involved in the execution. With a graphic novel, it's my show — I'm essentially the actors, the director, the production designer, etc. So there's a little more difficulty there.

Was it difficult to translate what’s in your mind to stage?
Not really, since I have been an actor before and I have seen some of the processes theatre people go through when putting up a show. So I take those into consideration when I write a play.

The songs the play will use — are they new, old? Who were you guys listening to? Do you have a favorite?
All songs are Vince's original compositions, and they're wonderful! Yes, I'm biased. There's lots of ear candy and LSS-worthy tunes here. My favorite? Hmmm... can I say all of them?

Is there a character here that you’re very fond of? Why is that?
I enjoyed writing Madre de Dios, the leader of the superhero team. In fact, I would love to play her role. Maybe it's because I like the dryness and irreverence of British comedy, and I wrote the character with a British accent in mind.

Did you base anyone on yourself?
I always put a part of myself in every character I create, because I need to write them truthfully.

What do you hope people leave the theater with?
During rehearsals, there would be times when I would laugh out loud, and times when I'd be shedding tears. If this musical gets the audience to do that, then I'd say that we've done our job. But overall, this musical is about finding one's place and taking advantage of second chances.

Can we expect more of these things from you in the future? Well, what can we expect from you in the future?
Oh, I don't know. There's so many options right now!

on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600

For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762) 

For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565)


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