Saturday, October 19, 2013

JOURNEY TO LAND'S END | Who's Afraid of Jane Bowles?

PROVINCETOWN |  You've likely not heard of Jane Bowles, but she wrote a cock-eyed, mesmerizing play that was one of the signal achievements of postwar American drama. It's right up there with the classic works of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein, late Eugene O'Neill, Lillian Hellman, and Sam Shepard.

This post is about that unjustly neglected play: In the Summer House.

It's not that difficult to become a literary expert on Jane Bowles. She wrote one novel, one play (two if you include a six-page puppet play), and seven meticulously crafted short stories. Her total output was tiny. Yet what she did leave behind was beyond brilliant.

It's not that difficult either to be enamored with her biography. She lived an out-sized life, an unhappy one, if you believe the conventional wisdom, but it's the stuff dramas are made of. She was Jewish, homosexual, alcoholic, a communist, a cripple, the platonic wife of the gay writer and composer Paul Bowles (The Sheltering Sky), a cult figure, and a fascinating pole star in a literary coterie that included Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes and later such Beat Generation types as William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg.

Like Gertrude Stein (the formalist who altered the face of the American drama), Bowles had for years enjoyed an underground reputation among artists. When she died in 1973, the poet John Ashberry classified her in a New York Times obit as "a writer's writer's writer." It's the accursed designation that stuck, even though Ashberry did go further. He wrote, "It is to be hoped that she will be recognized for what she is: one of the finest modern writers of fiction in any language."

Her friend Tennessee Williams had long been hitting the drumbeat for Bowles. He called her "the most important writer of prose fiction in Modern American letters."

Bowles was so much more than a fiction writer raised to the third power. She was a maverick. On the strength of one full-length play, In the Summer House, she had set her own place in the pantheon of post-war American drama. She did it in her own highly individualistic way. This play, although rarely produced today, is so exquisite and so original that it has taken us (well, it is still taking us) a long time to catch up with its odd dazzle.

The idea of acknowledging In the Summer House as a singular work of postwar American theater is, in part, why I came to the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. As moderator, I joined the festival's curator David Kaplan in a post-performance discussion on Sunday, September 29. Kaplan devised this year's festival theme of "Williams and Women." His contribution? He himself staged Act Two of In the Summer House on the pool deck of the Boatslip, facing the Atlantic Ocean, on Friday Sept. 27 and on Sunday Sept. 29.

Why not stage the whole play? I journeyed to America's land's end to find out.

Me and David Kaplan
It was very much a workshop production. In our public conversation on the pool deck of the Boatslip, Kaplan said that for him, a question hangs over the Bowles's text. Tennessee Williams loved this play. Why?

Williams read the first act in 1940. He helped Bowles obtain a grant to get the second act written. He traveled in 1956 to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see the play performed. He gave it blurbs and consistent praise in interviews and in his Memoirs. Why?

Kaplan's answer was to stage an experiment. Viewing In the Summer House through the prism of Williams's sensibility, this workshop production tries to answer Kaplan's quizzical questions by picking up the play's story in Act 2 and then doubling back on a fragment of Act 1. To help him explore, the rabbinical director used actors from past festival productions of Orpheus Descending (TW Fest 2010 and 2011): Irene Glezos as Mrs. Eastman-Cuevas, Brenda Currin as Mrs. Constable and Beth Bartley as Ines.

What Kaplan has been doing is to lay bare (for himself and his actors) the narrative structures and character motivations of a text that he confesses seems inscrutable. That's because In the Summer House is full of idiosyncrasies.

Stylistically Jane Bowles resembles her own heroine, Miss Goering, in Two Serious Ladies. At one point in this strange, entrancing novel, a character complains to Miss Goering, "You can never sit down for more than five minutes without introducing something weird into the conversation. I certainly think you have made a study of it."

So does In the Summer House. It makes a screwball study of being wild and peculiar. Dramaturgically, it balances a refined, decorous naturalism with a modernist attentiveness to the incongruous or repressed inner life. In the Summer House does not work in the conventional sense. Its dialogue lures you to dig deeper into the characters' inner workings even as it refuses to yield anything further. It vibrates within that kinetic space.

It was not for nothing that Bowles had felt that perhaps Charlie Chaplin might have been the only director capable enough to stage her play. With its odd involutions and surprising turns, her sense of the dramatic relies a great deal on unresolved ambiguity in both character and action. What makes her play theatrical and highly original is that it challenges audiences to create a narrative logic that avoids reduction to common cliches.

Writer and playwright Jane Bowles (1917-1973)

In the Summer House is a play about mothers and daughters: about "serious ladies" who are frequently nervous or uncomfortable in their own skin, even when they are domineering. Bowles was 30 years old in 1947, the year she completed Act 1 of In the Summer House and published it in Harper's Bazaar. By then, she had been writing fiction for at least a decade. Her fictional narratives repeatedly returned to relationships between women. She was "an expert on strangeness," as the writer Janet Mason observes, adding:
Most of her stories, if not all, explore both the entanglements and estrangement inherent in the claustrophobia of intimacy. In the introduction, Truman Capote refers to this as "human apartness." 
Unlike Williams, who was himself a poet of human apartness, Bowles's focus was not always with her women characters's sexual lives. Invariably she explored women's conflicting experiences to bind themselves to and escape from one another -- to serve and to command.

In Summer House, there are three sets of mothers and daughters. Each pair struggles to maintain the emotional closeness between them and to separate from one another's clutches. Whereas in Williams's The Glass Menagerie the smothering mother comes across as a kind of sacred monster, in Bowles's Summer House, mothers take control and domineer, but the true power rests with their daughters.

Seeing Act 2 alone turns out to be quite a fascinating exercise for those of us who have seen the entire play with the scenes in their original order. It forced me to look at Act 2 anew and with fresher eyes. In the past critics have generally found the second act to be less successful than the first act. To prove their point, they point to the fact that Bowles had devised three endings for the play. (The published ending is the classic scenario in popular melodrama where the young woman runs out with the man.) During the original Broadway production in 1953, according to Bowles's biographer Millicent Dillon, "a psychiatrist was brought in to explain the motivation of the play."

The surprise in Kaplan's entertaining presentation is that Act 2 (with a little help from a piece of Act 1) stands on its melodramatic own. Staged around a pool at the Boatslip and making wonderful theater out of the yawning distance (both literal and psychological) between characters, Act 2 works as a great teaser. It whetted mine and the audiences' appetite to see more of the play.

Next year Kaplan will return to Provincetown. He will stage a site-specific production of In the Summer House. He said he will push forward with his idea of reversing those two Acts, although he did quickly add that he will give Bowles her due by offering some performances that preserve the original order.

"I owe it to her to do it the way she wrote it," Kaplan told me.

The prospect of participating in what promises to be an innovative new take of In the Summer House was the other great reason to go the annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. Bowles's unpredictable work has never received significant popular attention. Here was an opportunity to get involved in this unique festival's stronghold: its ardent mission of offering fresh new discoveries from the Williams canon.

Eight years since it was first established, the festival has rejuvenated Williams's later plays and his more experimental works, those commercially unsuccessful plays which the critics have consistently relegated to the dustbin of the work of a failed drug-addled alcoholic.

What this festival has done and is continuing to do in terms of revivifying the late, strange Williams works, perhaps it can do as well to Jane Bowles's strange, singular In the Summer House.  --rg

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WATCH THIS VIDEO | My conversation with director David Kaplan about Jane Bowles and her play "In the Summer House"

Me and David Kaplan at Provincetown's The Boatslip

PROVINCETOWN |  You've likely not heard of Jane Bowles, but she wrote a cock-eyed, mesmerizing play that was one of the signal achievements of postwar American drama.

I think it's right up there with the classic postwar works of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein, late Eugene O'Neill, Lillian Hellman, and Sam Shepard.

That unjustly neglected play is called In the Summer House.
In the Summer House (Act Two) 
by Jane Bowles
Directed by David Kaplan
Friday Sept. 27, 1:00 – 2:00
Sunday Sept. 29, 10:30 – 12:00 (with discussion moderated by Randy Gener)
The Boatslip (161 Commercial Street | $15) 
A Festival Workshop Production at Provincetown, MA 
A year after Mrs. Constable’s daughter Vivian died they both hang around the Lobster Bowl Restaurant. Did Vivian fall? Or was she pushed by Mrs. Eastman-Cuevas’s daughter, Molly. Adding to the melodrama set-up, another question hangs over the text: Tennessee Williams loved this play. Why? He read the first act in 1940, helped Bowles obtain a grant to get the second act written, traveled in 1956 to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see the play performed, gave it blurbs and consistent praise in interviews and in his Memoirs. Why? 
This workshop production from Festival curator David Kaplan, tries to answer those questions by picking up the story after Vivian’s death and doubling back to the scene on the cliff. With stars from Orpheus Descending (TW Fest 2010 and 2011): Irene Glezos as Mrs. Eastman-Cuevas, Brenda Currin as Mrs. Constable, Beth Bartley as Ines. 

The idea of acknowledging In the Summer House as a singular work of postwar American theater is, in part, why I came to the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.

Kaplan devised this year's festival theme of "Williams and Women." His contribution? He himself staged Act Two of In the Summer House on the pool deck of the Boatslip, facing the Atlantic Ocean, on Friday Sept. 27 and on Sunday Sept. 29.

Why not stage the whole play? I journeyed to America's land's end to find out.

Following the workshop performance on Sunday, September 29, Kaplan and I discussed the play’s many connections to Williams. More important: we explored Jane Bowles and her singular dramatic style.

Here is the video recording of our conversations:

Monday, October 14, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT | Finalist for 2013 Plaridel Award for Excellence in Filipino American Journalism

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. | "A Song for My Mother," a personal essay I published in The FilAm, has been named a Finalist for the 2013 Plaridel Awards for Excellence in Filipino American Journalism. In the category of Outstanding Editorial Essay.

The annual Plaridel Awards was established last year as the first-ever coast-to-coast competition among the Filipino publishers, recognizing excellence among journalists from Los Angeles, New York and of course the Bay Area. Submissions came from publishers.

Led by Esther Misa Chavez, Philippine American Press Club President and Vice President for Sales of, the Plaridel Awards is a project of the Philippine American Press Club, and The Plaridel Awards Committee.

The winners will be announced and receive their trophies on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at Lucky Chances Casino/Rene's Fine Dining in Colma, California at 6:30 PM.  Gala dinner and awards will be emceed by Joey Guila and Fresca Eriarte. Intermission by Mitch Franco. Dance Music by Willie Santa Maria's Standard Time Band. Dress Code: Cocktail Dress

For tickets, visit:

Who was Plaridel?
Over a century ago, Marcelo H. del Pilar, a Filipino journalist and publisher went into exile in Europe. His fearless commentaries against the oppressive Spanish rule made his exile inevitable. Through it all, his desire to be a journalist never waned and he continued his writing while abroad. He was unrelenting in his pursuit of truth, fairness, and the upliftment of his constituents. Plaridel was his nom de plume, the anagram of his surname, Del Pilar.

In him the Philippine American Press Club, U.S.A. (PAPC) has found a hero – a person to emulate and an inspiration to Filipino-American writers and publishers everywhere who continue in their journalistic aspirations and in service to their constituents in the new land they now call home. The Philippine American Press Club, U.S.A wishes to honor our hardworking press corps, and the media agencies they represent. They have made the vibrant Filipino American community well-informed, entertained and involved through the years.

The Plaridel Awards was named after del Pilar, whose nom de plume was Plaridel. This annual award will be given to Filipino American journalists who have proven through the years his/her dedication to the ideals of Filipino hero, nationalist, publisher and writer, Marcelo H. Del Pilar. Plaridel dedicated his life to the highest journalistic standards. His near-Quixotic drive for the well-being of his constituents never waned. And whether he was in his hometown in Pampanga or exiled in Hong Kong or faraway Spain, he was unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth, fairness in reporting, and in the upliftment of his countrymen.

Philippine American Press Club, USA
PAPC,USA was established in 1988 by former members of the National Press Club of the Philippines who had immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area and saw the need for a US based Filipino American media group. All fierce advocates for truth, fairness, and excellence in journalism, they realized the vital role of media education and advocacy for the fast-growing Filipino population. A quarter of a century later, PAPC continues the legacy of the founding members and has grown its membership to include influential Filipino American publishers with a reach well beyond North America.The group’s combined total monthly circulation in the US alone is over 2-million.

The goals of the Press Club are: (a) To preserve freedom of the press and the free flow and exchange of information in society; (b) To promote the professional advancement of Filipino American journalists and media practitioners; (b) To provide a forum for the discussion of issues of interest to its members and to initiate programs beneficial to its members and the community at large; (c) to promote cooperation and understanding among its members and the community.

PAPC is composed of members active in the media; which includes publishers, editors, reporters, correspondents and columnists of newspapers, magazines and the internet; broadcast media owners, managers, producers, directors, writers and production staff; advertising representatives of media organizations, public relations and communication professionals; and invited community leaders.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT | 2013 Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts goes to...

NEW YORK CITY |  I am honored to share that I was named a Finalist for the 2013 Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts, given annually by the Asian American Arts Alliance.

According to the Alliance's website, the Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts "recognizes and encourages Asian American individuals who are making a significant contribution to the arts by demonstrating a commitment to outstanding service, advocacy and/or leadership."

It continues: "Selections are based on demonstrated and exceptional service to or participation in the field, the impact of the work and the potential for future contributions."

The actual 2013 Wai Look Awardee is Gladys Chen of 2G Theater. Congratulations, Gladys!

The Wai Look Award will be presented at the alliance's 31st annual gala evening. The gala will take place Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 6:30pm at Tribeca Rooftop (2 Desbrosses St, NYC).

If you have the extra change to support the Asian American Arts Alliance, please come to the gala. You will meet visual artist and fashion designer Richard Tsao, as well as jazz musicians and 2013 MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Vijay Iyer. Cindy Hsu and Phil Nee are the emcees.

The gala is a celebration of outstanding Asian Americans in the arts and an opportunity for audiences and patrons to significantly raise the level of support for artistic talent within our community.

To purchase tickets for the gala, visit­

Past galas have attracted more than 1,000 artists, cultural and business leaders, philanthropists, elected officials, and community members. Honorees and presenters have included Margaret Cho, David Henry Hwang, Phillip Lim, Suketu Mehta, Mira Nair, SuChin Pak, Maulik Pancholy, Jeff Staple, BD Wong, and many others.

Wai Look Award
Established in 2011, the Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts is a tribute to the life and work of Wai Look, who served on the Asian American Arts Alliances board of directors from 1999 until her death in December 2010. She spent most of her career in the arts, as an administrator and in artist services, and devoted herself to helping others. Look also strongly believed in the importance of volunteering, which was reflected in her personal, as well as professional life. The award is given periodically to an Asian American who is making a significant contribution to the arts by demonstrating a commitment to outstanding service, advocacy and/or leadership.

Purpose and Criteria
The Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts is intended to recognize and encourage Asian American individuals working as an arts administrator, advocate, leader or equivalent whose active participation in or for the arts has made a considerable impact. The award aims to illustrate the potential of exemplary work in the field.

Past winners of the Wai Look Award are Christine Toy Johnson, actor, playwright and filmmaker (2012), and Deepa Purohit, co-founder of Rising Circle Theater Collective (2011).

About Wai Look (1969–2010)
Born in New York, Wai Look was one of five daughters in a Chinese American family. She grew up in Queens and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1991. Since that time, she held positions in management and development for the United Hospital Fund, the Arts & Business Council of New York, and the New York Pops. A longtime board member of a4, Ms. Look served on the executive committee as board secretary. She also served on the board of the Artists Community Federal Credit Union.

About the Asian American Arts Alliance
The Asian American Arts Alliance (a4) is dedicated to strengthening Asian American artists and arts/cultural groups in New York City through funding, promotion and community building. a4 helps support individual artists and arts organizations access and share resources online and in person. A4 builds community through programs that lead to peer-learning, collaboration, and professional development.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

FASHIONISTA ALERT | Treading the Ramp at a Fashion Show For a Good Cause

Me and Corazon Reyes, this year's Grand Marshall.
NEW YORK CITY |  Sarah Jessica Parker was not the only one who has sashayed down a runway for a charity ball gala in New York for a group called Friends in Deed.

This past September, another group also called Friends Indeed USA held its own charity ball, and it came right in time for Fashion Week in New York City. The event, which took place at World Astor Manor, showed off the Philippines’ rich fabrics and collections of four Manila couturiers: Edgar Madamba, Richard Papa, Edgar San Diego and Tony Cajucom.

Guess who was asked to tread the ramp modeling their stunning creations?

Madamba, Papa and San Diego are all active officers and members of the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines. For the past decade or so, they have been traveling extensively as a team doing shows for the international and Filipino communities in key cities like New York, St. Louis, Syracuse, New Jersey, Maryland, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Glendale, San Diego, and London (England). Their next stop after this New York show: Hawaii.

Corazon Reyes was the chair of the September 15th grand ball for Friends Indeed USA, the highlight of which was a parade of exquisitely designed collections by these Manila-based fashion couturiers. A nursing professional, Reyes is also this year's Grand Marshal for the Philippine American Friendship Committee during Philippine Independence Day and Friendship Parade. The grand ball was a strictly black-tie by-invitation-only event, with bow for the gents and formal long gowns for the women.

As for the fashion show itself, the women wore colorful ternos. And we, the men, wore contemporary variations of the Barong Tagalog. The producers of the show even held a couple of rehearsals for those of us who signed up to be models.

The Barong is an embroidered formal shirt, very lightweight and worn untucked (similar to a coat or dress shirt), over an undershirt. In lowland Christian Filipino culture, it is a common formal attire especially in weddings.

The term "Barong Tagalog" literally means "a Tagalog dress" in the Tagalog language; the word "Tagalog" refers to the ethnic group's traditional homeland in central and southern Luzon, and not their language. The Barong was popularized as formal wear by President Ramón Magsaysay, who wore it to most private and state functions, including his own Presidential Inauguration.

I hope you enjoy the photo album from our affair with high fashion. --rg

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PROFILES IN ACTIVISM | FANHS-NY Outstanding Artist Award goes to actor/singer Liz Casasola of Broadway Barkada

Liz Casasola: FANHS Outstanding Artist Awardee
The beautiful actor and singer Diane Phelan, who most recently reprised the role of Tuptim in THE KING & I at Sacramento Music Circus and played the role of Laurey in Rodgers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! at the Berkshire Theatre Group, has had a streak of successes this year. But she remembers a period when her career had gone fallow, and she was feeling down about her future. "Being a performer of ethnic heritage sometimes means there is less opportunity to perform," Phelan says.

Enter Liz Casasola, the New York actor, singer and producer who formed Broadway Barkada – a group of Filipino American artists who have performed on and off-Broadway and core member of Broadway Barkada.

"Liz has, on several opportunities, given me the chance to stretch myself as an artist as well as give Filipinos a voice by performing with Broadway Barkada," Phelan recalls. "The first time was particularly poignant for me because I was recovering from a long illness and was set to leave the business. I hadn't danced in a long time and didn't think I could continue. Liz encouraged me to participate in the dance concert; it gave me the confidence and strength to move forward. That very next month I was cast in a new show, and I know it was due to Liz's help."

Casasola is one of two artists whom the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)'s New York chapter will honor with an Outstanding Artist Award for their integration of Filipino American culture in their respective artistry. (The other Outstanding Artist Awardee is the comedian Air Tabigue.)

Every year, at the start of the Filipino American History month of October, FANHS presents an annual community award to several individuals who have demonstrated commitment to the preservation of Filipino American history and the promotion of the Filipino American community of the metropolitan New York area. This year's kick-off the event, co-hosted by the Philippine Consulate General, is called “Opening Ceremonies.”  It takes place at the Philippine Center in Manhattan (556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY), on Tuesday October 1 from 6:30-9:00 pm.

FANHS Metro NY chapter

Two of Casasola's cast mates from Pan Asian Repertory Theatre's 2009 production of Imelda: A New Musical sing her praises as well.

Actor/singer Brian Jose portrayed the part of Ninoy Aquino in the Pan Asian Rep musical opposite Casasola who played Corazon Aquino. Jose says, "There is no question in the Filipino performing arts community of New York that Liz is the glue that keeps us all connected. It's been a privilege to co-produce with her on Broadway Barkada productions and to see firsthand how her networking skills, passion for the arts, and her love of the Philippines have united the Filipino arts community and, in turn, have brought our culture and talent to the forefront of many New York stages."

Actor/singer Jaygee Macapugay has twice played the title role of Imelda Marcos: for Pan Asian Rep's musical and the Public Theater's hit immersive musical Here Lies Love. Macapugay can't help but underscore Casasola's role as a change agent.

" 'Everything you do must reflect your passion' -- if you've ever received an e-mail from Liz, you know that's how she signs off every message," Macapugay says. "Liz has adopted that philosophy in every aspect of her life, especially with Broadway Barkada. Liz has the gift of bringing people together.  Loving, conscientious, forward-thinking Filipino Americans who sincerely want to help bring about change in the community."

Often, rehearsals for Broadway Barkada shows take place at Casasola's home. "Our home," Jose says. "We are treated like family. We eat. We sing. We laugh and laugh and laugh. There is an instant comfort level that comes with knowing Liz. She puts you at ease, her words are genuine, and you feel like you've know each other for years. Her passion for the arts is palpable and inspires all of those it comes in contact with."

Like most artists avid for opportunity and not waiting for anyone else to hand it to them, Liz Casasola took charge of her own destiny. In the fall of 2009, she, Jose and Billy Bustamante formed Broadway Barkada, a group of New York-based Filipino actors, singers, and dancers who have professional credits in the performing arts.

Broadway Barkada

Macapugay says, "Liz told me once that the only qualification you need to be in the Barkada is to be real. My first memory with Liz and Broadway Barkada was as co-emcees for the 2010 benefit concert 'A Barkada Christmas,' where we raised $2,400 for the relief efforts in the Philippines, from the devastation of Typhoon Andoy.  The proceeds went to the PinoyMe Foundation, which micro-finances local business, and the San Juan Nepomuceno School, with the idea of helping the poor help themselves. Onstage or off, Liz has a passion for promoting the success of our people, whether at home or abroad. And that's just one of the reasons why Liz is one of my best friends."

I myself have been a recipient of Casasola's generosity of spirit. This past summer, for example, she went out of her way to reach out and ask if she could help me with a kapihan event I organized with the cast of Here Lies Love at Ugly Kitchen Restaurant in New York City. Together we co-hosted the afternoon, which included a meal and a discussion about the vexed legacy that Marcoses left behind.

What stays with me when I think of Liz Casasola are her achievements as a committed theater artist. In Pan Asian Rep's Imelda: A New Musical, she embodied the strength of spirit and the purity of the character of the role of Corazon Aquino. She was especially memorable in the show's 11 o'clock anthem, "Myself, My Heart," which lifted the show to inspiring heights.

She has also been an integral mover-and-shaker at Diverse City Theater where she produced a series of plays by women. She co-produced Lea Salonga's sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in 2005. She stood out in a Sondheim concert at Lincoln Center and in the Obie Award-winning production of DOGEATERS at The Public Theater. She can be heard on Grammy-nominated band, Boukman Eksperyans' album. She held a sold-out concert at NY's famed Crash Mansion. On television, she has appeared in "Saturday Night Live" and "Sex & the City."

Where did her passion for theater come from? Hailing from Berkeley, Casasola is an acting graduate of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City. She grew up watching musicals on TV. The definitive moment she knew she wanted to be in musical theater was when she played a 2-cassette tape given to her by a friend. It was the Miss Saigon soundtrack.

"I was completely blown away by the score, and particularly, the lead actress, Lea Salonga," Casasola recalled in an interview. "I was inspired by her voice and passion just from hearing the recording. My sister and I would play the soundtrack, and act out the scenes, even though we had never seen the show!"

Even then she was a versatile performer. Her sister played Kim, the lead actress, and she always portrayed Chris, the GI soldier. And she eventually did perform in MISS SAIGON.

Casasola's passion is connecting Filipinos to each other here in New York City. That makes her winning. Yet what makes her special is the reason she deserves to be celebrated this month by FANHS: her outstanding theatrical artistry.

Congratulations, Liz. -- rg

Me and Liz