WHILE it has concluded its run, the Manila staging of Henry David Hwang’s M Butterfly isn’t ready to hang up the costumes, the intrigues, and the scandalous love story of Rene Gallimard and Song Liling, as its producer Jhett Tolentino announced that they will be taking the butterfly on tour next year through five cities in the Philippines.
“We will be following the tour route of the original M Butterfly Philippine tour,” Mr. Tolentino said at a press conference on Sept. 28 at the Seda hotel in Bonifacio Global City.
The tour will commence in January in Iloilo, with stops in Davao, Cebu, Dumaguete, and Baguio before returning to Manila in February for a 21-show run.
Tickets for the tour are expected to be available by “mid-October or early November,” said Mr. Tolentino.
Almost three decades ago, M Butterfly was staged in Manila featuring the then 18-year-old Raymond “R.S.” Francisco as Song Liling. A five city tour followed the play’s successful 1990 run.
Mr. Francisco reprised his role 28 years later with this production, commenting during the press conference that his Song Liling now is one “who has gone through so much in life.” He said this is the “perfect time for me [to play Song Liling].”
Mr. Tolentino told BusinessWorld that they are partnering with SM Cinema for the play’s venues during the tour.
“We’re just dealing with casting and availability,” he said before assuring the leads Mr. Francisco and Olivier Borten (who played Rene Gallimard) will remain the same.
The idea of going on tour, entered Mr. Tolentino’s mind after the first week of performances at the Maybank Theater in BGC.
“Then I met with SM right away and asked them if they want to be on board. They saw the show and they wanted to a part of the promotion of the arts in country, especially theater,” he said.
“The key element here is to reach out and I’m all about the audience development program in this country. I care for those who are not in Metro Manila, those who do not have access to theater,” he said, noting that as a youth growing up in Iloilo, he would often lament that shows in Manila were never brought to his hometown.
A Broadway producer, Mr. Tolentino has won several Tony Awards — for 2013’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Best Play), 2014’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Best Musical), and A Raisin in the Sun (Best Revival of a Play). He is also the first Filipino to win a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for The Color Purple.
M Butterfly’s author, Henry David Hwang, who came from the US to catch the productions last performances, said during the press conference that he was excited over the play going on tour and said he might catch the Cebu leg because he grabs at any chance to visit the city where he has relatives.
Mr. Hwang currently sits as the chairman of the American Theatre Wing, an organization “dedicated to supporting excellence and education in theater,” according to its website. The organization also created and sponsors the Tony Awards. As the chairman, Mr. Hwang told the press that he wants “to further the conversation on inclusivity.”
Aside from M Butterfly, Mr. Tolentino told BusinessWorld that there are four plays he is considering producing in the Philippines.
“I don’t want to preempt [anything] but I have about four I’m thinking of — two plays and two musicals,” he said before adding that of the four, two of his prospects are ones that he already produced on Broadway.
“[There’s] one play and one musical I produced on Broadway that’s near and dear to my heart [that I want to stage in Manila] and I’m very willing to do it. It just comes down to working with the right partner,” he said. — Zsarlene B. Chua