Story last updated at 4/11/2012 - 11:36 am
The United States is a bit like a casserole. We're all in the same dish, but we have diverse backgrounds: a can of green beans, leg of a hog, dirt-encrusted tuber. Unification is important for a cohesive country, but understanding one's sense of self, mentally or spiritually, as well as historically, is critical in order to understand one's roll in the baking pan.
Flordelino Lagundino is an American-born Filipino who makes a concerted effort to encourage the exploration of one's identity through theater. More specifically, Lagundino enjoys participating in theatrical productions that communicate with the audience.
"A big part of what I'm interested in is the relationship between the performer and the audience. The communication of ideas, whether they are for joy and entertainment, or a deep philosophical idea that you want to create a dialogue about," he said.
Lagundino first came to Juneau in 2005 to act in "The Long Season," a play performed at Perseverance Theatre. "The Long Season," a musical by Chay Yew and Fabian Obispo, was about Filipino cannery workers in Ketchikan. Lagundino had just completed an acting graduate program at the University of Texas in Austin, and he was back in his hometown of Washington, DC. He knew the then artistic director at Perseverance, PJ Paparelli, and asked Paparelli about participating in the Juneau performance of "The Long Season" as he was familiar with the play. Paparelli subsequently asked Lagundino to direct "Voyage," an interview-based play about Filipinos in Alaska written by Juneau resident Merry Ellefson.
Lagundino stayed in Juneau, working with Perseverance Theatre for five years. He then accepted a 10-month fellowship at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, followed by a three-month directing fellowship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. His wife, who he met while in Texas, then started a theater management graduate program at the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Conn. She has one more year before she completes the program.
"That's my home base and I travel whereever I get hired as a freelance artist in the capacity of director, actor, photographer," said Lagundino.
Freelancing is what brings Lagundino back to Juneau this spring. He's working on two projects. One is with Juneau resident Ishmael Hope, a native Alaskan and established storyteller, on Hope's recently completed play "The Defender of Alaska Native Country." Lagundino is helping Hope workshop his play. To workshop a play, Lagundino explained, means, "We're hearing it out loud and seeing whether or not scenes work, whether or not they belong in the show, seeing whether or not the dramaturgy - the facts in the show - (it's a historical play), are correct."
His second project is directing "Flipzoids," a play about three Filipino immigrants who explore their heritage and personal identity.
"I'm very interested in representations of people on stage. I've found, generally, there can be a lack of minority voices in playwrights and actors and I think it's important for everyone to see themselves reflected on stage," said Lagundino.
The play was written by Ralph Peña, who is currently the artistic director at Ma-Yi Theatre Company, an Asian-American theater in New York City. Flipzoids was first performed 20 years ago, and again in Ma-Yi's 2010-2011 season. Lagundino attended one of the recent performances.
"I thought, 'Oh, this play still resonates.' I'd been interested in doing this for a while. Within any immigrant community, especially the Filipino community, there's this question: Where's home?"
Lagundino contacted Peña and received permission to perform the play in Juneau. Two of the three actors in the play, Ricci Adan and Junior Davidson, are local actors. The third actor, Marisa Marquez, is visiting from New York City for the play. They are all Filipino.
"Flipzoids" is co-produced by Generator Theatre Company, founded by Lagundino, and Juneau's Filipino Community, Inc. The play chronicles the struggles of three Filipino Americans to understand their sense of self, their heritage and their identities as Americans. Redford, the character played by Davidson, immigrated to the United States as a young boy.
"He's never really felt like he's fully belonged here," explained Lagundino.
Redford develops a relationship with Aying, an older Filipino American woman played by Adan. When Redford meets Aying, "he feels a connection to something he hasn't felt before. A connection to his past, to his homeland," said Lagundino. Aying has a 30-something-year-old daughter, Vangie, played by Marquez.
"Vangie has come to the U.S. working hard," explained Lagundino, "she's a new immigrant."
Vangie becomes frustrated with her mother's constant banter about her "homeland," as Vangie's focus is to Americanize herself in order to combat the bigotry and discrimination she encounters in her workplace, as a nurse.
The play is "about the whole struggle, what is real, what is home," said Lagundino. "What's fascinating is you get to know the characters well. You get to see their journeys and what they're struggling with."
The play will be performed April 12 through April 29 at McPhetres Hall. Tickets are available at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, Hearthside Books and online at www.jahc.org or www.generatortheater.org.
"Freelancing is tough," said Lagundino. "It's not easy at all. I gotta run right now to go to El Sombrero to work. It's very difficult to just do theater."
This fall, Lagundino will begin his second masters degree, this one in directing, at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
"You can never have too many graduate degrees," Lagundino said.
Amanda Compton is staff writer at the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.