Staged readings go online

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THE people behind C.A.S.T. (L-R): Sarah Facuri, Nelsito Gomez, Jill Peña, Mako Alonso, Wanggo Gallaga, Reb Atadero, Maronne Cruz — HTTP://THEATERFANSMANILA.COM/

C.A.S.T., a theater group that specialized in staged readings, will present a livestream reading of an abridged version of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on April 18, 4 p.m.

C.A.S.T. (Company of Actors in Streamlined Theatre) has presented staged readings — a form of theater done without sets of full costumes, with actors reading from scripts and done with minimal stage movements — annually at the Pineapple Lab in Makati City, since they launched in May 2018. The group presents four plays, one play a week, for four consecutive weeks. The group is composed of actors Nelsito Gomez, Reb Atadero, Jill Peña, Mako Alonso, Maronne Cruz, Sarah Facuri, and writer Wanggo Gallaga.

The members’ experience with staged readings inspired them to focus on presenting their own shows in the format. The Cultural Center of the Philippines’ annual Virgin Labfest — a theater festival for new one-act plays — regularly presents a series of staged readings alongside the fully staged material. The Christian theater company Trumpets also has its 4faith series of staged readings.

“We were greatly inspired by the aforementioned groups, as well as our desire to share pieces that speak to us as a collective, and to present them in a way that is accessible not only monetarily but also imaginatively,” actor, director, and co-founder of C.A.S.T. Nelsito Gomez told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

“The staged reading format is a wonderful shared exercise for the actor and audience. It’s quite engaging when props, set, and lights are stripped away, and what you get is a streamlined experience of the play. Whatever we leave blank, the audience fills out in their mind’s eye,” he added.

Last week, the Open House fundraising campaign, which aims to raise funds for workers in the performing arts who have been displaced by the ongoing enhanced community quarantine, auctioned off one male and one female role for the Shakespeare play livestream reading this weekend.

“This project really belongs to a dear friend, [actor and director] Jenny Jamora. She is one the people handling the fundraising events for Open House. She came up with the auction idea, which I instantly supported,” Mr. Gomez wrote.

The two highest bidders were selected to take part in the performance. The guest female will be playing the lead role of Viola, while the guest male will be playing Viola’s brother, Sebastian.

The rest of the participating cast members are Cathy Azanza-Dy, Mako Alonso, Maronne Cruz, Brian Sy, Nelsito Gomez, Jill Peña, Tarek El Tayech, Dean Daniel Rosen, Reb Atadero, and Wanggo Gallaga.

“The actors we invited are our ‘ever reliables,’ or as we fondly call them, ‘CAST-mates.’ We’ve worked with them in our past seasons, and [they] are more than capable of handling Shakespeare,” Mr. Gomez wrote.

As of April 12, the Open House fundraising campaign has distributed P238,000 to support 119 displaced workers in the performing arts industry.

As theatrical performances have adapted to the pandemic by streaming shows online, Mr. Gomez noted that the live experience is the theater’s end goal.

“I believe it (a virtual setup) is a solution for the current situation we’re all in now. But it’s not the end goal. The end goal should always be encouraging people to experience theater with other people, live,” Mr. Gomez wrote.

“The whole reason for theater is the live exchange between actor and audience. No kind of technology can ever replace the human empathy one feels at a theater. Not only the empathy you get from the story, but the empathy you give towards the people you’re experiencing the story with,” he added.

Aside from the livestream reading, C.A.S.T. is currently working on recording plays to be released soon on Spotify.

Meanwhile, C.A.S.T.’s staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, about four women’s lives during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, an off-season performance which was to have been presented in March at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati, has been postponed. The group had earlier presented the play in January 2019 at the Pineapple Lab.

To stream Twelfth Night, visit or — Michelle Anne P. Soliman