Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eating with Puppets

Eating with Lola began as an obituary.

After the death of my Lola Pacing last year, I took it upon myself, as her granddaughter, to write her obituary. Typical of most children of migrant Filipinos, I had only seen my Lola four times when I had the chance to visit Manila and in those fleeting moments, she still was a mystery.

So when I began putting pen to paper, I decided to actually ask questions about her remarkable life.

The play was borne out of the fantasy of being given the chance to actually be my Lola's grandchild. Be in the room with her. Be beside her and nurse her. No geographical challenges. A simple origami fold between Toronto and Manila, the turning back of time and there I was by her bedside listening to her voice.

I then began stitching together the story of Lola, who, over the course of her very last meal on earth, recounts her life's experience making food. And while this is unfolding, her granddaughter, Grace, is given the challenge of feeding her something the finicky Lola actually wants to eat.

It became a final lullaby to the living. It became a meal for the dead.

It was magical making the play come to fruition -- but even magic demands its own fare share of sweat.

I remember typing the words "The End" on my first draft, thinking I could then stage it. Not so. I realized that it was a glorious failure. I had to stage it then write down the culmination of my improvisations. This took several months.

Then, thanks to the fu-GEN Potluck Festival, I was mentored by Ann Powell of the Puppetmongers. Her solution? Forget the script. Start with storyboards and then commit the staging, words and the ever-growing props list, to paper.

I never got around to story boarding. But improvising the scenes allowed the story to come alive through the puppet, not despite the puppet.

I performed the play at the Potluck Festival to many teary eyes. It was so satisfying to perform it confidently with all of the tools Ann had given me.

I can't wait to perform it again.

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