Friday, May 25, 2018

UP Dance Season Opener: Documenting Dance

Jamie Wilson Defies Labels

Jamie Wilson seems to make a habit of redefining himself in each chapter of his life. When people thought he was done acting, he reappeared. When people thought he was good, he became even better. When people thought he was at his very peak, he decided to shake things up by taking dual roles on stage and off stage as an actor and technical director. In a serendipitous twist of fate, he again surprised everyone by taking on the director's hat for  "Arsenic and Old Lace", a niche market play for Repertory Philippines. His evolution as an artist is truly inspiring because when one defies permanent labels in such a bold way, it means there is growth. His growth seems to be in full speed capacity and you can't help but question what vitamin helps him zoom away to the very top of the theatre food chain.

Wilson has acquired many glowing superlatives about his artistry through the years but as I write this piece, I refer to my own experiences with him. I have worked with him several times and each of those times, I was reminded to respect the craft. Wilson as a technical director, has time and time again stressed the importance of work ethics. He is very vocal about demanding respect for the material that we are performing, respect for the crew who are supporting us, respect for the tasks we are given. More importantly he demands discipline and humility on stage and off stage. In short he is very strict, like strict strict, like hide-your-phone-or-else strict, Ms. Trunchbull strict. I never really thought much about it because coming from the ballet world, discipline is a daily requirement. However, one day I came across an article about him that completely explained his very defined perspective about how theatre should be. He told the story of how he almost let acting slip through his fingers because he couldn't see the magnitude of the art. He only saw himself complying with a task (that he could do blindfolded).  Once he told me that he recognizes that everyone he's ever worked with has influenced him in some way. Designers, directors, actors, crew all have been  a teacher one way or another. Perhaps with the near loss, he realized the how art is a communal experience and not an individual journey. He realized what it meant to be part of the bigger picture. He realized that there is a responsibility that comes with the satisfaction you gain from the spotlight. I honestly believe that this was his turning point, a realization that made him focus more on what he could contribute. He  echoes PT Barnum, "The noblest art is that of making people happy". Perhaps with his near loss of the art, he found clarity in what his role in the industry could be. This renewed focus is such a blessing because I've seen him deliver only his very best in all the roles he has chosen to do. The theater community has so far been very grateful to see him at his peak.

Most recently he debuted as a director for Repertory Philippines. The story behind his new role as director is quite charming. He recommended  the Arsenic story during the Repertory Arts Council meetings and not only was it accepted, he was easily appointed as the storyteller. The play had mixed reviews but for me, it was a revelation. All my personal impressions were solidified by how the story played out. It was the little details that made the play mirror Jamie Wilson. Perhaps not many would catch the little things right away but it stayed with me. When the curtains open you see a decorated house with a sweet girly touch. But I noticed the walls had framed photos. The photos were theater greats who sadly have already passed away. To name a few, faces of Oliver Usison, Richard Cunanan, Bibot Amador were smiling at the audience. To me this spelled the words tribute. Again I could feel that in his own little way Wilson was determined to give respect to that stage, to the community and specific people who  have in one way or another allowed him to be the artist that he is. His cast choice was bold. I mean who chooses directors in multiples to be cast members?! How do you really tell several established directors how to do their job? It was bold but it was also genius. It reminded me that directors are at the core actors too and what better way to tell a story by allowing great minds to collaborate under his tenacious leadership. It reminded me that in art, humility and openness in collaboration is key. His treatment of the play was also sensitive to the material. The story line was very limiting but he didn't force anything commercial and remained committed to the text being the source of humor. While I admit not everyone will be able to understand the humor given the outdated references, I see the choice as reverence to the intellectualized black comedy. Any undue alteration would be cheapening. In a nutshell, his play reflected his values as an artist. He has gratitude, he has reverence, he has humility and he has boldness. Most importantly he understands the ins and outs of the industry and is willing to do the work just to contribute. Armed with a good head on his shoulders and a list of very important values, I really do believe he will continue to defy labels and will permanently be an evolving artist. The journey to me is inspiring and I just can't wait to see what's next.

Director Joy Virata 

Director Jeremy Domingo 

Director Joy Virata

Director Robbie Guevarra 

Here's a salute to Jamie Wilson