By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – After a successful benefit gala to mark the 28th year of the MaYi Theater Company, Edwin Josue, a member of the gala benefit committee, noted that the company “will develop more Asian American playwrights and actors who will be known and will immerse in the mainstream theater and film industry.”
Josue, a Fil-Am real estate businessman and partner Jerry Sibal, have been in full support of Filipino artists to shine in the world stage here.
At the posh 360 Tribeca on April 11, 2017, some 300 artists and advocates celebrated 28th anniversary of MaYi’s continuous incubation of the performing arts which was started by Filipino artists in 1989, including Chito Jao Garces, the founding artistic director, and Ralph Pena, currently Producing Artistic Director.
MaYi was the old name given by Chinese traders to the islands it engaged in barter with prior to the Spanish colonialization of the Philippines. The founders thought it was appropriate to call the theater its precolonial identity.
The well-heeled attended the spring fundraiser who shelled out support from $100 to as much as $25,000, plus an auction. Socialite Minnie Osmena and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, and stars like Christine Allado of London’s West End Hamilton graced the affair. Broadway Barkada, an organization of Filipino actors on Broadway, provided a sumptuous entertainment of Broadway greats and Joel Kim Booster did a stand-up comedy. Organized by MaYi executive ditector Jorge Ortoll, the affair was truly something to remember by.
On its 28th, MaYi honored three artists for its exemplary contribution to the arts on the Big Apple as stage. Ballerina Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish was given the Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award and spouses Lolita Valderrama and Frank Savage were recognized for their Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and Education.
Roxas-Dobrish was born in Manila and joined the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Ohad Naharin, and Joyce Trisler Dance Company. She was the principal dancer for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1984-1997, the first Filipina to land in that position.
In her acceptance speech, she acknowledged her grandmother for the inspiration and encouragement that made her go for her dreams.
In 2014, Roxas-Dobrish went through a hip surgery that may have caused a set-back from her dance career. Thankfully, it had done otherwise and to this day, she continues to teach and re-stage ballets for the Ailey legacy.
Lolita Valderrama-Savage, for her part, acknowledged MaYi for recognizing her works of art which had been on exhibit in Europe, Asia, and the US. She had a one-woman exhibit at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi Museum in Florence in 2013.
She and her husband Frank had been relentless artist and supporter in raising culture awareness and tolerance and education.
Mr. Savage said that America is blessed to have artists all over the world. “This is something we have to sustain.”
MaYi has indeed come a long way since 1998 when it reached out to other Asian playwrights in the East Coast to respond to the growing need of articulating the voices of Pan Asian-American experiences.
Today, Ma-Yi has produced critically acclaimed productions of new works by Michi Barall, Linda Faigao-Hall, Jessica Hagedorn, Chris Millado, Qui Nguyen, Han Ong, Ralph B. Peña, Sung Rno, Lloyd Suh, and Alice Tuan, among others. The work is anthologized in “Savage Stage,” a collection of plays developed and produced by Ma-Yi Theater.
For the Philippine production, Ralph Pena had directed Alamat (Legend) in 2016 and in 2014, Carlos Celdran did a one-man show of Livin’ La Vida Imelda, a political satire of the Marcoses.
MaYi’s works have received awards and citations since then. It has won 10 OBIE Awards, a Drama Desk nomination for Best Play, numerous Henry Hewes Design Award nominations, and in May 2010, a special Drama Desk award for “more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theater.
For its 29th season, major productions are: KPOP (or Korean Pop), a musical theater that combines full-blown multi-media extravaganza by Jason Kim, Helen Park, and Max Vernon, under the directorship of Teddy Bergman and Diana Oh’s performance concert ‘my lingerie play’ which tackles the politics of feminine body and bravely looks at how women define themselves.
(Featured photo is Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish)