It is a blank page that predates a blank stage. It is the tapping of keys to violate the blankness with the dark strikes of ink. It is the good-bye that moves forward, a good-bye predicated on ephemerality. The stage expands restricted not by time, not by space but by mind. Is it a choice, a conscious choice or a subliminal thought to dance across its width?
My play is over and I’m finding it hard to begin anew. Sweeping the theatre floors, watching actors shed off their costumes, into their street clothes, hailing cabs or jeepneys or the neon of their own cars, I see the urgency manifesting boldly. The lights are rigged out, the crew given food, all that is left are bags and bags of props and trash and unused items and laptops used for the sound board and souvenir programs that weren’t sold.
It is over and I don’t know whether to be happy or not. An extension or a rerun – it would not be the same. Neither would a video or the countless untaggable pictures. I am hit head-on by a surge – that only hours ago, I was trembling to my boots, wondering if my actors would forget their lines, wondering if some props were left out, or if lights cues weren’t made or that something really horrible will happen. But it didn’t. It was a fine show. It was a great show, something worth remembering, something people will talk about for years. The moment the lights faded out and the music breezed in, I exhaled the tension. I knew I would do good. I knew they would do good. I knew we all would do good.
I stand back and watch as the audience eats them up. Line after line, hit! Cue after cue, hit! I see it in their eyes, it is not a mechnical memorization, no, it is deeper, as if the line were a seed taking root somewhere inside them, bearing fruit with how they speak and physicalize. Afterwards, they call me up the stage – at first, I don’t want to. I just want to stand back and clap at them, holding back a single tear by blinking and laughing. I am happy, I am sad. I want them to clap to savor the moment, it may have been my words, but it is our production. Seeing them onstage, hearing my words, I have nothing else to want. Nothing more.
And then it’s over, just like that. I cannot process loss, at the very least, it makes me realize I am still human and not a sociopathic entity given body. It was my all – it was all our all – and now, it’s over. I keep telling myself that the next production will be detached, that I would not feel anymore. But I end up vomiting myself – a better image, though, is chopping off a valve off my heart, pouring it onto the blank page/stage (at this point, the latter is stronger) watching it grow during rehearsals, climax during the show and eventually wither after the curtain call. Now I know what a parent feels seeing her child move on. Being ephemeral is what makes theatre brilliant above all. But it is also what hurts as hell.
If love doesn’t last, if sex doesn’t last, if theatre doesn’t last, what do we get out of it?
“May love, sir, may pag-ibig. Lahat ng ginagawa, dapat may pag-ibig. Kahit pag-ligo lang, iligo mo nang buong puso. Pag-sipilyo rin, isipilyo mo na parang walang bukas. Sex pa kaya? Pero sa trabahong ‘to, pansamantalang pag-ibig. Pagkabihis ko, naihubad ko na ang pag-ibig na ‘yun.” (MAGKANO, 2011)
“There is love, sir, there is love. Everything worth doing needs to be done with love. When you’re taking a bath, take a bath with all your heart. When you’re brushing your teeth, brush as if there’s no tomorrow. What about sex? But in this line of work, love is fleeting. When I get dressed, I have stripped off whatever love there was.” (Magkano, trans.)
THIS IS THE TAROT CHALLENGE, a 78-day writing challenge where everyday I pick out a random card from my tarot deck and write something about, against, inspired by, based on the card by the day’s end. The works can range from poetry to fiction to drama. When the card is from the major arcana, the title of the work should be the card name. When the card is from the minor arcana, the title can be different but the card drawn should be revealed at the end.
This is also dedicated to MAGKANO 2012, part of the production MWAH: Malay, Walay, Halay. This goes to my director, Fitz Bitana, my two actors, Kem Ubaldo and Dean San Diego and everyone who was part of the production and everyone who saw the production.