THEATER FANS from outside Metro Manila now have a chance to see a story of love, deception, and power as M. Butterfly is set to tour six cities this year.
The revival of David Henry Hwang’s 1988 play M. Butterfly — which won awards for Best Play, Best Actor, and Best Director at the 2018 Aliw Awards — is set to go on a national tour to Iloilo, Dumaguete, Cebu, Davao, Manila, and Baguio from February to June.
Produced by Tony and Grammy winning producer Jhett Tolentino and Frontrow Entertainment, the M. Butterfly National Tour 2019 hopes to expose people from other parts of the country to a classic and relevant piece of theater.
“I personally want to push for the audience development in this country because it’s not just Metro Manila that we have to focus on…,” Mr. Tolentino said at a press conference on Feb. 4 in Quezon City. “So that’s why with Frontrow Entertainment and I, we teamed up. We had to take on this very demanding tour schedule that I personally worked on.”
RS Francisco, who will reprise his role as Song Liling, said that the shows will stay true to the 2018 Manila production. “I wanted to give the audience for this run the very same production that we did last year… And as much as possible we want to be as precise and as accurate and as authentic as last year’s production.”
The Tony award winning play which originally premiered on Broadway in 1988, follows René Gallimard, a member of the French embassy in China. He meets and falls in love with Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer whom he considers as the embodiment of a perfect woman. The story takes an unexpected twist when Gallimard discovers the truth about Song Liling.
The national tour kicks off in Iloilo where it will run from Feb. 14 to 17 at the SM City Iloilo Cinema 6; followed by Dumaguete, Feb. 28 to March 3, at Silliman University’s Luce Auditorium at; Cebu, from March 14 to 17, at the SM Seaside City Centerstage; Davao, March 28 to 31, at SM Lanang Premier Cinema 5, Manila, May 8 to 19, at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig; and Baguio, May 30 to June 2, at St. Louis University.
Mr. Francisco, who won the 2018 Aliw award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Song Liling, this time shares the role with Aira Igarta, a stage and film actor from UP Diliman’s Theater Arts program who had been a member of the play’s Kurogo ensemble last year.
Mr. Francisco told the press that Mr. Igarta, who has loved the character since his college days, told the team after his audition as an ensemble member that he also wanted to try out for Song Liling’s part.
To fulfill Mr. Igarta’s dream, Mssrs. Francisco and Tolentino decided let the young actor play the part in half of the national tour shows.
As a member of the LGBT community, Mr. Igarta said that he and his character share the same traits of bravery and passion. “I fight for our rights. Until now, oppressed pa rin talaga kaming mga LGBTQ (the LGBTQ community is still oppressed)… Pareho kaming lumalaban (Both he and his character fight) for our rights. ’Yung sinasabing (that) passion for performance and love for arts, pareho kami ni Song Liling (both Song Liling and I have),” he told BusinessWorld at the sidelines of the press conference.
“And pareho kaming maganda (and we are both beautiful),” he added jokingly.
The people behind the touring production also hope to reach a younger audience. “Magandang makita ‘to ng millennials para yung message ay hindi mag-fade (It would be nice for millenials to see the message of the show so that it would not fade). This is a classic story and classic never dies. ’Yung issues applicable pa rin nowadays (the issues in the story are still applicable),” Mr. Igarta said.
Mr. Francisco refered to the themes of expectation versus reality and fake news as elements that make the play relatable. “We are showing the expectation but hindi ’yun ang (it is not the) reality,” he told BusinessWorld. “This material was written in 1988 but it is [as] much apt now than it was [before]. Ngayon, mas makaka-relate ang mga bata kasi doon nila malalaman ang totoong (The young will be able to relate since they would know the real) essence ng fake news, and expectation versus reality.”
Also in the cast are French actor Olivier Borten who will play the role of Rene Gallimard, Jenine Desiderio as Gallimard’s wife Helga, Norm McLeod as French Ambassador Manuel Toulon, Lee O’Brian as Gallimard’s best friend Marc, Jasmin Salvo as the new opera singer. The Kurogo ensemble is played by Pheith Iena Ballug, Ullyses Basa, Sasa Cabalquinto, Franco Ferrer, and John Paul Ortenero.
The M. Butterfly National Tour 2019 will benefit 10 charitable institutions across the country.
Tickets for the performances in Iloilo, Davao, Cebu, and Baguio are available at SM Tickets at any SM Mall nationwide and on SMTickets.com. For the performances in Dumaguete, contact the Culture and Arts Council Office of Silliman University at (035) 422-4365, 0917-300-0346, or 0999-797-7825. For the Manila show, contact TicketWorld at (02) 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com. Ticket prices vary per city and will range between P500 to P2,000 plus taxes and fees. For further inquiries, contact Jhett Tolentino at (0906-576-6914). — Michelle Anne P. Soliman