Panel Discussion | Credits, Cast & Crew | Synopsis | About the Playwright

October is Filipino American Heritage Month, read more>>


October 24-27 2012, 8 pm
October 27-28 2012, 2 pm

Studio 88 Theatre
Center for Performing Arts

Panel Discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM in Studio 88

"Stories grow from trees": Filipino-American Stories of Culture, Identity, Economics, and the Post-Colonial Body

Dr. Bobby Gempesaw (Provost, Miami University)
Dr. Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix (Chair, Department of Theatre)
Dr. Paul Jackson, (Professor, Department of Theatre)

Professor Brian Roley (Department of English)
Nicolyn Woodcock (Grad Student, Department of English)
Ronica Jhena Arntzen (Grad Student, Director of "Flipzoids")
Dr. Pam Monteleone (Guest from University of North Florida)

Director: Ronica Jhena Arntzen
Advised by Dr. Paul K. Jackson

Scenic Design: Amara Checcio
Advised by Gion Defrancesco

Costume Design: Meggan Peters

Lighting Design: Robert Stimmel
Advised by Russ Blain

Sound Design: Russ Blain

Vangie: Brittani Yawn
Aying: Gabi Camacho
Redford: Bobby Vlasic

Production Staff:
Stage Manager: Abby Cady

Deck Crew: Trent Marion, Kirsten Pokelsek

Wardrobe Crew: Karly Danos, Megan Haynes, Melina Hazzard        

Light Board Operator: Lydia Schultz

Sound Board Operator: Sam Farina

About the play:

Set on a beach in Southern California, Flipzoids is the story of three Filipino immigrants searching for connection and belonging.  Redford arrived in America from the Philippines as a child and spends his time in public restrooms in search of a connection to fill a void in his identity.  Rather than finding it with strangers in restrooms, he finds that connection in Aying, an older Filipina who shows him how to connect with his culture. Aying’s daughter Vangie is a nurse who diligently works to put the dictionary to memory, desperately trying to immerse herself in American culture, to “melt into the pot, into the soup,” in an attempt to forget about her past in the Philippines. This puts her in direct conflict with Aying, who refuses to relinquish any of the culture and tradition of their homeland.  Aying is a story teller, imparting bits of wisdom through her folk tales, and is the link between Vangie and Redford and their shared cultural memory.  Together, these three struggle to discover what it is that makes one Filipino, American, and Filipino-American.

The Playwright on the Play:

“The character of Aying is a reasonable facsimile of my great grandmother, a woman who took public buses, drew a chalk line around her seat, and promptly stuck a safety pin into anyone who violated her space. Vangie is a patchwork of observances, mostly from  having attended a number of Filipino gatherings in Irvine, California, where a rosary group met every Friday night to pay homage to the Virgin and where, in between a litany of Hail Mary’s, the members extolled the merits of Jazzercise. Redford is my sister and brother and a legion of second and third generation kids who questioned their hyphenated tags and who launched into heated arguments over what was more politically correct; Filipino or Pilipino. All these characters are refracted self-images. When I decided to write, I reached for what was then closest.”

– Ralph B. Peña (from Tokens? Edited by Alvin Eng)

About the Playwright

“By appropriating our stories and putting them on stage in some way, we validate what we are as Americans. This is who we are and it’s OK to be who we are, we can be who we are in this country and still be part of America. We don’t have to be white. We don’t have to re-invent ourselves to be white. We don’t have to compromise to be Americans. We don’t have to forget that we are Filipinos. We don’t have to hide our cultural uniqueness/eccentricities. We blend in. There’s room for everybody. That’s the point”

– Ralph B. Peña

Ten years after his birth in 1963, Ralph B. Peña moved to the United States, but promptly returned to the Philippines to complete high school. While he was away, the country became immersed in a tumultuous political air as Ferdinand Marcos’ regime consistently over-powered the country. With the declaration of martial law, the Filipino people began to rise against it. Upon his return, Peña began to get involved with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), and while he trained as an actor at the University of the Philippines, he found himself immersed in the middle of the People’s Revolution. Peña and his classmates took to the streets, protesting against the oppressive Marcos regime. As Peña’s street theatre began to gain notoriety, his father implored him to finish school in the States due to the fear of the dangers for those opposing Marcos. Peña continued to study and practice theatre at the University of California at Los Angeles, and soon found himself in New York in 1991. After a chance run-in with colleagues from the Philippines and bemoaning the lack of work for Asian-American actors, Peña began talks of starting a theatre company again, a theatre that would focus on Filipino theatre. The Ma-Yi Theatre Ensemble was formed, named after what pre-colonial Chinese traders called the Philippines, meaning “Islands of Gold.”

The company began with familiar material, using translated Filipino plays to present to their New York audience. However, plays dealing with issues from their homeland proved unappealing to Filipino-American audiences, who had difficulty relating. What Ma-Yi needed were plays dealing with issues relatable to Fil-Am audiences. Facing difficulties in finding those plays, Peña’s solution was to write them himself. It was his 1996 work Flipzoids that really propelled the company (and Peña himself) into the forefront of Asian American theatre. The play went on to receive an Obie Award in 1997 for Ms. Ching Valdes-Aran’s portrayal of Aying, travel to Manila to perform for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and have performances in various places around the country.

Today, Peña is still the artistic director for Ma-Yi, which has now opened its doors to all Asian-American theatre. Apart from Ma-Yi Theater Company, his work has been seen at Long Wharf Theater, Kumu Kahua, Northwest Asian American Theater, ASIA Theater, San Diego Asian American Rep, La Mama ETC, Philadelphia Shakespeare, Victory Gardens, Laguna Playhouse, Fox Theater, NYSF/Public Theater, the Odeon Theater in Romania, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and The Ensemble Studio Theater.

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