Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Play in the City - The Monstress at A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre

The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre bw by roland luistro, on Flickr
Thanks again to my good friend Dinah, I was able to see yet another very good play at A.C.T. The play is called The Monstress and it is two short stories about Filipino-American life in San Francisco. It was beautifully written and well acted.

A bonus is seeing the newly restored The Strand Theatre on Market St. Good job A.C.T.!

Mijo, Dinah and I had a date on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I remember Dinah emailing me and asking me if I would be interested in seeing a play about Filipino-American life in California. I read her description in the email and I was hooked to it right away. I said 'yes' to her. I thought Mijo would love it too so I brough him along. Just so you know, we absolutely enjoyed the play.
The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre

The Strand Theatre is in the city's Civic Center area and has just been newly renovated by the American Conservatory Theatre.  I've not been around a lot recently in that area of the city so it was nice to be there on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It felt like I was a tourist walking around that part of the city.
The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre Market St The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre vicinity

I don't know what The Strand Theatre used to look like so I cannot compare it to the newly renovated  one. The lobby feels welcoming. It is airy, lots of natural lighting and urban. It is not big but it felt like it is huge.
The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre lobby

The lobby has a cafe, a wall of Thank You's and an electronic screen that randomly displays announcements and pictures.
The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre screen The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre Cafe 
  The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre Wall of Thanks

The Monstress has two short stories. The first Act is about San Francisco's I-Hotel or International Hotel. All I know is that the I-Hotel used to be where seasonal laborers, especially Filipinos, came to reside during the 1920s and 1930s. It eventually became the home of many Filipinos because of the low monthly rent. The controversy in the 1970s about the I-hotel and the eviction of lots of low income Filipinos living at the hotel was before my time but I learned about it for the first time because of the play. 

The first story showcased events in that era that revolved around two Filipinos, Vicente and Fortunado, who became friends. The second story is about a Manila B-movie producer and his B-movie actress slash girlfriend who were offered to do a project in San Francisco Bay Area.
The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre intermission The Monstress - A.C.T.'s The Strand Theatre stage

 The plays were adapted from the short stories by Lysley Tenorio and written by Philip Kan Gotanda and Sean San José.  The casts performed beautifully and it was heartfelt.  We  enjoyed the performances of Ogie Zulueta, Jomar Tagatac, Kelsey Venter, Sean San Jose, Melody Butiu, Rinabeth Apostol, and Nick Gabriel.

As a Filipino American, I can fully relate to the story. As someone who came here for work in the I.T. industry in the late 90s, the story made me feel blessed because my beginnings here in the States seemed easier compared to my fellow Filipinos during the 1920s, 1930s or even the 70s. Thanks to them, I am enjoying more freedom and equality I and other Filipinos have now. They've paved the road for me and other Filipino Americans of my generation and younger.


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