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‘Butterfly’ spreads its wings, set for tour

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To those who weren’t able to watch the Manila re-staging of “M. Butterfly,” here’s good news: The Tony-winning play will go on provincial tour January 2019, as confirmed by producer Jhett Tolentino.

R.S. Francisco and Jhett Tolentino (Photo by Lester Ramos) /mb.com.ph

R.S. Francisco and Jhett Tolentino (Photo by Lester Ramos)

“M. Butterfly” is about Song Liling who tricks a French diplomat into falling in love with him by disguising as a Chinese opera diva.

Tolentino said they will have a total of 21 performances in five cities, including Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Dumaguete, and Baguio. Tickets will be on sale by early October or November.

Successful

“M. Butterfly,” written by David Henry Hwang, ran from Sept. 13 to 30 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City. As expected, it was successful, earning positive reviews from critics and audience alike.

“I think the key in making the show successful is being able to find the right partner. The Manila production team is the right partner,” Tolentino said. “From the start, we wanted the audience to have a Broadway feel in the Philippines and I guess, it is something that we achieved.”

Tolentino admitted “M. Butterfly” had technical problems in the first two shows.

“But we managed to pull it off. The next day, we addressed everything and the run became clean,” he said.

The play is already 30 years old and Hwang admitted he updated this year’s version to something more “altruistic.”

“There are actually two versions of the play. We added some tweaks here but we stayed faithful to classic material,” he explained, citing the addition of three characters and the inclusion of an opera singer.

Tolentino shared he was seated in the audience most of the time and he witnessed different reactions from them, especially during nude and intimate scenes.

“There are so many remarkable reactions. Some were screaming, some were conservative. But in all fairness, they hit all the reactions we wanted.”

Asked if Hwang is open to the idea of writing a story set in the Philippines, he simply smiled: “We will see.”

R.S. says

Francisco was only 18 when he first took on the role of Song Liling in Dulang UP’s staging of “M. Butterfly.” That paved the way for his professional career as theater actor.

David Henry HWang (mb.com.ph)

David Henry HWang

“That was 28 years ago. At that time, I just did it because I’m an actor, I simply read my line. So every time I got praises like ‘R.S. you’re so good!’ I’d say thank you sincerely and humbly,” he shared. “But deep inside, I said ‘Are you serious? I’m too young and I’m just pretending to be old for the role.

“I really didn’t believe myself back then. When we stopped running in 1992, I promised myself there will come a time that I will be age appropriate for Song Liling.”

According to the actor, his Song Liling 2018 is more “layered.” It also helped that he has already gone through a lot of life experiences.

“I’ve gone through so much, the ups and downs I’ve encountered. As a person, it hones you, it sharpens you. That’s why there are so many emotions I can put out now,” he said.

Francisco revealed he even underwent liposuction procedure to prepare for his role.

“As we all know, ‘M. Butterfly’ is rated R-18 because of the nude scenes. Eh I gained weight because I really love to eat. But I realize that Song Liling needs to be fit, like I don’t want to hear from the audience, ‘Is that Song Liling? She’s chubby huh!’” he said, laughing.

Can he forgive someone who is a deceiver like Song Liling, we asked.

“I, myself is no stranger to lies and I want to be forgiven, too. I can forgive but I don’t know if I can forget,” he said.

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