BWW Interview: Bibeth Orteza Talks Joining the Company of SILENT SKY
Manila, Philippines--Though acting on stage is nothing new to writer-director Bibeth Orteza, she considers her stint in this year's restaging of Lauren Gunderson's play "Silent Sky" still difficult. For her, it is always tough when one does her best.
In "Silent Sky," she returns to the stage and takes over the role of Annie Cannon, who was originally played by Sheila Francisco.
The one thing that persuaded her to do the role: "The reality that even after two women Presidents in the country, we [women] are still pretty much second-class citizens."
An alumna of the University of the Philippines (UP), Bibeth is known to be a non-conformist; thus, she resonates with the character of Annie Cannon.
Being a suffragist, she identifies with Cannon's persona, "I'm an activist. I ran for school elections as early Grade 5, then Grade 6.
"Also, in high school, I was the President of the Hi-Y Supreme Student Council of Manila. In college, at UP, I was the councilor of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council. I was also part of ConComSA (Consultative Committee on Student Affairs, the interim student council during the Martial Law)..."
In the early 1900s, Leavitt was among the Harvard College Observatory's "human computers" or women hired to painstakingly analyze and catalog every observable star in the heavens. She and Cannon, together with Williamina Fleming, were in the company of the first women to blaze a trail for themselves in the heavily male-dominated science of astronomy.
"I don't think it's because Annie is selfish, but because she herself had gone through the same eye of the needle to become one of the two heads of their department as human computers. She didn't want to encourage Henrietta only to have her disappointed in the end."
Theater is not new to Bibeth
In college, Bibeth was a founding member and later on the chairman of the UP Repertory Company.
In their family, there were seven of them and their money situation was always tight back then. "As much as I wanted to join PETA [Philippine Educational Theater Association], I couldn't afford to go to school then travel to the Rajah Sulayman Theatre in Intramuros where PETA was based. Neither could I go to Makati to audition for REP [Repertory Philippines]. It was a great thing that the theater scene at UP was pretty active.
"As a sophomore, I auditioned for the UP Mobile Theater and was taken in as a scholar. At UP Rep, I did, well, mostly off-beat character roles--a prostitute, a gypsy."
Oh, by the way, she is the type who does not choose roles to play. "I guess whatever comes my way. If I feel it suits me. If I sense that my director has faith in what I can do.
"Musicals are out. I can't sing or dance to save my own skin, although I am proud to have directed most of 'Aawitan Kita sa Makati,' a monthly musical where I also wrote the script, staged at the University of Makati as an operetta of sorts, where kundiman and OPM were strung together to tell a story."
"Passion is the only way we can get to where we want to be. Passion pushes us to try and try again," she said.
Bibeth's last stage production prior to "Silent Sky' was "Boeing Boeing" in Singapore. "My acting stint in Singapore was my first international exposure (I'm not counting the activist plays I did in New York from 1983-1986.). It was my first time to work with non-Filipinos. Everyone was good to me, from my director Pam Oei to my fellow actors and everyone in production."
Back in Manila, as the only new addition to the cast of "Silent Sky," it seems she is also getting the same warm reception from the show's original company.
"Silent Sky" plays its last weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, February 9 to 10, 2019. Get tickets (P1,000-P2,000) from TicketWorld.com.ph.
Photo: Boboy Ramiro, John Fernandez