The frigid rehearsal space at Theater Row studios. Wearing sweaters in torrid summer heat. Nights after rehearsal, hookers and pimps all over 42nd Street. 41st Street, stage door, where homeless people and all sorts of characters hang out. Some nights Victor, Ching and I would go out “for one drink” and wind up staying up till 3 AM. Me worrying that I’ll be a zombie at work the next morning. And Victor and Ching telling me, Get used to it, this is what theater people do. (The first night we do this, I have to call in sick the next day.)
Francisco sends me his music after being up all night finishing the composition and recording it at Jim’s studio. And it’s exactly the music I had in mind. He tells me he added lines from a poem of mine which are murmured throughout the piece, to evoke the sound of someone praying the rosary. I haven’t told him that in the course of numerous revisions I have woven the rosary into the story (the mother tells his son about the month of the holy rosary, which triggers her nostalgia for happier times). I guess F and I were on the same wavelength? What a wonderful coincidence.
It’s the worst heat wave in years, New York is scorching, and my sister and brother-in-law have flown all the way from LA just to be there on opening night. Their hotel is just a couple of blocks from Theater Row and just a hop from Times Square. But they are unable to do much because this heat is a killer. I pick them up at the hotel and walk to the theater in desert-degree sun, and who should we see at the lobby but Gina and Ken, who showed up at the last minute and are still on the wait list. Noel and Bing also show up. All of us later troop to Pam Real Thai where we are given a private room (because there is no more room on the main floor, that’s all). General assessment of opening night, with some very candid comments, from my family and friends, which I must share with Michael and the cast tomorrow.
At the opening night reception, this parchment gifted to me by Ching:
Until one is committed,
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
There is one elementary truth
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
Raising in one's favor all manner of material assistance,
Which no one could have dreamed
Would have come their way.
Whatever you can do.
Or dream you can do,
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.
Some nights would stink and we’d all be sullen and I would be depressed and ornery and looking only for a drink. And then there are good nights, and one good night in particular, on a Wednesday, and we are all blissful and stay up till midnight drinking frozen margaritas at Zuni, and Tiffany’s family is in town and we find out that all of them – Ching, Alexis, and even guest Nicky -- are all from the same province and related. Except me, the only Manila boy. But wait: Tiffany's mom says her family used to run a laundry service in my neighborhood back in the 60's--which turns out to be just a block away from my family's home. OMG.
Talkback with the UP Medical Association. Some interesting insights (comparing the family’s predicament to Nick Joaquin’s Larawan, whether Filipino and American audiences reacted differently). One lady commented that the play was “disturbing and offensive.”
Alexis’s fan club – groupies following us to dinner after the show, gushing over him and his character Edgar, and Alexis telling them Edgar was my creation, and they should talk to me.
Tiffany bringing in the best finds from the flea market on 39th. And me envious, so one Sunday afternoon I stop by the market – and find two gorgeous leather-and-chrome chairs from the sixties, which I have to lug back to the theater in time for that evening’s performance.
Our sustenance: Pork buns from the $5 Chinese buffet on 34th. West Bank Cafe burgers (outrageously expensive, but to die for). Theater Row Diner BLT. Cashews and dried mangoes (Alexis' Philippine dried mangoes are the best). Tiffany's mom's awesome poppyseed bread. Alexis' Palestinian baklava. Adobo, lumpia and pancit from Grill 21, c/o Victor. Key lime pie and leche flan (c/o Cindy, or Mrs. Camins: see below). Fresh market apple cider donuts. The "sorriest excuse for vegetable lo mein" (according to director Michael Sexton). Lots of wine, lots of frozen margaritas, lots of beer, lots of sangria.
I like sitting in the control room. I am not nervous or anxious at all, and I like watching the audience reactions from way up high, from God’s point of view. It’s like being detached from the world, yet seeing it from a wider perspective, being connected but untouched, involved but safely distanced. Not to mention that it’s quite possibly the best seat in the house.
Someone tells Victor after seeing the play that the story closely resembled hers. In fact, she was constantly abused by her brother when they were growing up, and even today when she makes love to her husband and the sex feels good, she remembers her brother doing the same thing. And what’s even more uncanny, there were three children in the family, including another brother. And that for years they struggled to keep (and lost) their family home. Resurrection, she told Victor, is my story. And I am always astounded that somehow, my writing is able to connect to someone I don’t know in a way more profound that I can ever imagine, or even intend.
Closing night: quite a good performance, and a rousing curtain call. I am amazed at how far the cast has taken the play and added so much depth and so many nuances to their characters. And how comfortable everyone has become in their roles. And how vibrant and intense the story has become.