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BAKWIT BOYS' Vance Larena Goes Back To His Theater Roots

BAKWIT BOYS' Vance Larena Goes Back To His Theater RootsManila, Philippines--Fresh from his critically-acclaimed performance in the musical film "Bakwit Boys," actor Vance Larena plays the lead role in a musical adaptation of Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" (Kanser), featuring the music by Joed Balsamo and book by Jomar Fleras. Larena plays Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, commonly known as Ibarra, a Filipino-Spanish and the only descendant of the wealthy Spaniard Don Rafael Ibarra.

The original straight play version of this production of "Noli Me Tangere" (Kanser) was first staged by Gantimpala Theater Foundation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the '80s. Playing Ibarra, he points out that one of the important traits of the character is how he resonates with the youth, "Despite the many assumptions and generational biases on the youth (today's millennials), he is one among those who see how the youth can affect positive change."

Larena shares his first foray into the theater was "when I joined theater guilds during my elementary and high school days. One day, while lining up as an audience for a play, I was invited to join a theater group and free acting workshops. From then on, the rest, they say, is history."

His first biggest break was when he breathed into the role of Achilles in the 2008 run of Philippine Stagers Foundation's "Troy Avenue." "It was my first lead role, and I was recognized by the Aliw Awards."

He also shares some of his professional struggles. One of the which was when he joined the cast of Dulaang UP's "Orosman at Zafira" as the warrior Zelim, which was once portrayed by stage, TV, and film actor JM De Guzman.

He found that experience difficult because he was not trained as a dancer and everyone in the production was an amazing dancer. It was a challenge he faced and proved that he is not a slacker. "I had to keep up. We trained like cheerleaders. It was physically exhausting but fulfilling," he says.

BAKWIT BOYS' Vance Larena Goes Back To His Theater RootsIn theater, he would love to experience working with more local theater companies. He is not comfortable playing roles that celebrate crime and immorality, though.

When asked about the things he discovered and has come to appreciate about theater now that he has crossed over to mainstream entertainment, he was quick to say, "I appreciate the rawness of acting in theater. There are no second takes. One has to give one's best shot. Each show is also different from the other and I get to explore my character in an hour or two during the production time."

Larena is a walking testimony of what aspiring actors must take to heart: there is no easy road to success. He has gone through a lot of uphill struggles and even some detours before getting back on the track in his career. "Success is a mixture of hard work, non-stop learning, luck, and proper timing," he says. "Everything is a grand design that unfolds every second. You just have to trust the process."

Prior to "Bakwit Boys," he was cast in the film "Bar Boys," where he played support to the four male leads Rocco Nacino, Carlo Aquino, Enzo Pineda, and Kean Cipriano.

A former law school student, Larena also recently made his acting debut in the popular TV drama series "Ipaglaban Mo" on ABS CBN. In the episode titled "Dangal," he acted alongside Ryza Cenon, Sandino Martin, John Medina, Yayo Aguila, and Nonie Buencamino.

Further, he has been blessed to have an upcoming TV series with director FM Reyes. He is also filming a project titled "Open" with another director, Andoy Ranay.

"Noli Me Tangere" (Kanser), directed by Frannie Zamora, closes this weekend at SM Southmall Cinema 3.

For inquiries, call Gantimpala Theater Foundation at 63921 2513733.

Photos: Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Erickson Dela Cruz

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