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  • By Bruce Lloyd

Rent director Urquico on Guam theater and local actors

It’s not simple to stage any kind of musical theater anywhere, but right now it’s happening on the stage at Tumon Bay’s SandCastle. And World Theatre Productions is doing it with the help of local and national arts organizations and private sector sponsors

The Guam version of the popular play and later movie opened Nov. 28 and will have performances at the SandCastle on Dec. 1-2, in observance of World AIDS Day. A special concert for World Aids Day will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 8 to 11 p.m. A portion of proceeds from the concert will be donated to Typhoon Yutu relief efforts.Tickets are available at select 76/Circle K stations and Java Hut.

Rent recalls the days of the HIV/AIDS plague in New York’s East Village, telling the tale of characteristically broke young artists trying to survive and create a life for themselves.

RENT Guam is directed by accomplished Filipino actor, Jojo Urquico. It’s truly an international production. Urquico has been based in Germany for many years. Joining him are veteran visiting actors, Filipina Ima Castro and, from Hungary, István Csiszár. Cebuana, Phils. singer and actress, E.G. Arganza joins the cast as Mimi.

But there’s plenty of Guam talent involved: Stephen John Ramirez plays Mark; Krystal Paco and Ysa Mercado as Maureen Johnson, Marianna Hernandez as Joanne Jefferson, Travis Aguon as Angel, Raymond Mathews as Tom Collins, veteran performer and recording artist, J. Martin Castro as Benjamin Coffin III, Fantaysha Rioja and Tyler Matanane also as Mimi.

Urquico says there are plenty of challenges:

“The musical theater industry has been on Guam for so many years, but there is no proper theater to speak of. There’s Southern High, but nobody can use it as I speak. When we say proper theater, we mean a theater that can house at least 800 people, with backstage dressing rooms. There’s talent on Guam as there are talents everywhere in the world. At the end of the day, it boils down to commitment and dedication. That is the secret and that’s one of the problems here on Guam. Here we don’t have a lot of actors who are just doing theater. Most of them are doing something else.”

Like working a non-theatrical job.

Last year’s successful production of Les Miserables pointed the way Urquico says. “The goal is to put up one big production a year and to bring in international guest artists. That would be a platform for the local artists to work side-by-side with theater workers from all over the world allowing them to learn the work, the work ethics to prepare for a production like this.”

But integrating local non-professional actors into this isn’t simple: “I would always tell my actors like, ‘do your homework and then when you get to the rehearsal, you’re ready to go on stage.” How did the current cast do with their homework? “Some. We’re getting there. It’s really hard to teach old dogs new tricks. They’ve already learned a lot of bad habits plus, I think it is very easy to be complacent on the island. Since we have a small number of actors and most of them would always get the lead parts. It’s a danger, because if we don’t do self-inventory… It’s so easy to be carried away with the applause we get every night from the audience and we would think, ‘we’ve already arrived and we’re OK here. We don’t need to learn and there’s no need to work any harder as actors.”

And Urquico says talent’s not enough. Dedication and quick wits are needed as well. “There are a lot of actors who perform just for themselves. They perform to make themselves look good. And that’s masturbation on the stage. Satisfying themselves, not the audience or your co-actors.”


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