May 5, 2008

On the eve of Zari's birthday...

A few days ago I got a text from Zari: "Happy birthday to me." Thinking it was Zari-ese for, "you forgot it's my birthday!" I immediately replied with a greeting. And then she replied: "Sa Monday pa, excited lang ako." I was in the middle of running the opening ceremonies of that CPAs' convention at the Baguio Convention Center. That morning started out slow - arrived at 8am to get a headstart on the many things we still needed to do before the house opens at noon.

Focus lights.

Sound check.

Finishing touches on the set design.

Polish opening dance number.

Finalize backstage traffic.

One last runthrough of the sequence.

By 8:30AM I've had two cups of instant coffee, on top of the two mugs of our home brew earlier. I needed it, I had to stay up all night to finish editing that 9-minute video for the opening dance number. At 9:00AM MV arrived with his LCD projector, the one we're gonna use for the center screen (there are two other on either side of the stage). Idol's supposed to bring the extra two projectors, and he arrived half an hour later. Still no lights and sound crew in sight.

I start clipping the papier mache foliage in the back, moving the papier mache tree trunks here and there and the dancers started showing up one by one. It's almost 11:00AM, do you know where your crew is? No. Nah, I did, but I wasn't sure. I fire off text messages one after another: none meritted a reply. F. arrived at, though earlier than most, a wrong time, since I was ready to explode. I regret not having the ability to be pleasant that instant, the memory of the last time I wasn't in a holy mood was still fresh.

The sound guy is taking forever setting up six microphones on individual mic stands on stage. And the lights guy is running around like a headless chicken. I don't have a copy of the script, not even the sequence guide. I call for a company call.

The gyst of what I said is: If everybody else is preparing for the same show I'm preparing for, then that show should be ready in an hour, and I'm wondering why everyone seems to be taking their time and at the rateThey go back to their respective areas of responsibility with a bit more sense of urgency they're going, they're not gonna make it in time for my show. this time.

The rest of the staff arrives: I got my script, my sequence guide. I'm happy. These days, it takes so little to make me happy.

The client comes up to me and asks if we could take down the two extra sheets of greenery we hung at the back the night before... I looked and saw that he had a point, and said yes. He goes up on stage and starts taking it down, A. asks me if I knew about what the client's doing, I said yes, I did.

Finally, the set's ready, but focusing the lights took a while. As soon as I'm done focusing a set of lights and move on to the next, a spot light or two would go off for unknown reasons. They said it's the white lady that lives at the Convention Center (the one that was caught by a camera phone the previous night). I didn't know whether to climb up the ladder to check on the bulbs myself or to do a ritual to appease the soul of the lady. But after going back and forth the two light towers, we finally focused all the lights. And the set looked good - it looked so much better than how I saw it in my head when I put it down on paper. For how the set turned out, the staff's blood, sweat and tears weren't in vain. Let it be said, I appreciate it very much.

The next we knew, we had to open the house already. And the rest of the afternoon was like a blur: an opening production number, a prayer, a march, opening remarks, welcome remarks, the symbolic key to the city brought in by a guy on horseback, another dance number, and blackout.

There were mush less people the next day: a certified public accountants' national convention should be a walk in the park, though it took a while to get the walk-in-the-park rhythm going, we got it on the second day.

J. didn't have to be there, but was there anyway to take photos and double as impromptu deputy stage manager. E. and D. assisted backstage. JC showed up and did a great job hosting the evening's program (with two song numbers that brought the house down, to E.V.'s virtuosity on the guitar).

As the thousands started leaving the theater when the house lights went on, I scanned the slowly emptying theater: on that same stage I've performed a monologue in Ilokano, directed the first musical I wrote, staged a Broadway hit, directed a beauty pageant, and planned to do a production later this year: Serapio in-the-round. That would have to be put on hold for a long while. The walk in the park was really exhausting, it would take some time to recover from it. And I will.

Aren't we supposed to go out with a bang? Zari asked me on the eve of her birthday - we were at a friend's son's birthday eating menudo and candied tamarind and chocolate cake.

Nah, I said, a period would do.

Today is Zari's birthday. Happy birthday, Zari! May this day be the beginning of something great for you (as I'm sure it will be).

*photos by Jojo Lamaria

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