John Aries lives alone in a studio type room in the Mandaluyong area. He begins his day usually having brunch in a fastfood restaurant, and at near noontime he takes a taxi, to CCP, or to Quezon City where the PETA building is. For the past 16 years his life revolved around theatre. Now, he is the most sought after stage manager on Philippine stage for his all consuming passion for his craft.
For the restaging of Rama, Hari, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, John Aries delves on the working scripts transcribing, listening and watching from the 1980’s video of the first Rama, Hari dance musical in the Philippines. John Aries’ job includes comparing the old script with Bienvenido Lumbera’s libretto and checking through music sheets of master composer Ryan Cayabyab.
John Aries calls for the rehearsal of the Rama,Hari a dance musical featuring Christian Bautista, Karylle and O.J.Mariano and danseur par excellence Jean Marc Cordero, to make sure that the timing is smooth according to the timeline.
Why does he rehearse the performers when it’s the director’s job, you ask, well, a stage manager makes sure that everything and everyone in the theatre works like a clock, a ticking , self oiling machine that never misses a beat. So he needs to be in sync with the performers, and the performers take the cue from him so that they in turn can work together with the technical side of the stage.
You see, without the technical side, the sounds, the lights, the costumes, the props, the stage is one boring place. It only comes alive if all the elements are there. Lights, sounds, magic!
Stage managers make it possible for the actors, singers and dancers to be more than what they can be on stage. The depths and dimensions of the stage can only be achieved by the technical workings of the stage crew managed by the stage manager. The director, to be able to focus on the performance of the actors, leave all these technical matters to the stage manager.
The stage manager’s brain is connected to all the wires of the act. Is the spotlight on Jen Marc Cordero while he sails across the stage? Is the lapel working perfectly and clearly when O.J. takes that high note? How about Karylle’s costume and make up?
The stage manager’s crew, the assistant stage manager, the costume mistress, lights and sounds men and props men are all well coordinated as to what they should do because everything happens fast in a performance.
And these are all happening backstage. Nobody sees them. They are like shadows lurking at the back, working as hard if not harder than the ones onstage but remaining unnamed and unappreciated. They are essentially part of the script but they cannot be noticed like the air that we breathe.
Timing is everything, and the stage manager, like a conductor, makes sure everybody is doing his part in the right place, at the right moment.
On stage, unlike in the real world, mistakes are not allowed, only improvisations.
Pretty much all around, the stage manager is a paradox, the glue that sticks everybody together in the theater and the oil that runs the place smooth as can be. The mother in the household, he keeps the house stabilised, and keeps to the side so that the spotlight again is on the stars.
John Aries was awarded by the Gawad Buhay!PHILSTAGE for Outstanding Sound Design for Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid Ng Disyembre . But he says the best part of being in the theatre is the camaraderie. He considers the theatre his family. He breathes, eats and thinks theatre. For the many works he did for the Philippine stage, he only wishes that more Filipinos can and will appreciate the Filipino artists and their crafts.
Philippine theatre which has evolved from the religious to the secular has been fighting for its place under the sun. Artists in the Philippines are like missionaries, they do their stuff out of love, out of passion. When we talk about passion the well is deep.
To many Filipino artists like John Aries, life is like the stage, where not every performance can be recorded nor filmed. It is what it is, evanescent and self fulfilling. Hopefully it will begin to have a place in people’s hearts where it can have a sweeter, more permanent home.
John Aries Alcayaga, one of the stalwarts of Philippine stage has worked with the best, Zenaida Amador (Repertory Philippines), Mario O’hara (PETA),Candice Adea (Ballet Philippines), Eugene Domingo(Bona) Alice Reyes (BP) to name a few.
Right now he’s working on simulta
neous projects. Aside from Rama, Hari, he’s also the stage manager of Katy! The Musical (PETA) and They’re Playing Our Song.
As always, he's being nominated for best stage sound for Bona at the Gawad Buhay. Goodluck,Aries, the best!