A sigh and a lie twine in 'M Butterfly'

Theater actor R.S. Francisco is going all-out for the Manila re-staging of Tony-winning play about a Chinese opera singer, in guise of a woman, tricks a French diplomat into falling in love with him.

‘Happiness is so rare that our mind can turn somersaults to protect it’ – René Gallimard, Act 2 Scene 6 ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ (Photo by Jun de Leon) /mb.com.ph ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ (Photo by Jun de Leon)

At a press conference, R.S. revealed the photos included in the exhibit “Chrysalis,” which is part of the promotions for “M. Butterfly.”

The “Chrysalis” is a convergence among seven notable photographers. It features three limited edition prints of each Master Photographer’s interpretation of the play’s lead character Song Liling.

The photographers are Jun de Leon, Wgys Tysman, Patrick Uy, Raymond Isaac, BJ Pascual, Manny Librodo, and Mandy Navasero.

R.S. shared the seven lens men rendered their services for free.

Asked how he came up with the idea, R.S. explained “When we were planning the re-staging of ‘M. Butterfly,’ I wanted to have a billboard. However, I was having a hard time choosing who will take my photo for the poster and the billboard, so I told the producers, ‘Why not get them all?’”

R.S. said they gave the photographers 99 percent artistic freedom. The most challenging for him to do was the “Rhapsody In Blue” photo because it was shot under water.

There will be a silent auction for the photos. Deadline is on Sept. 29, 12 noon.

Due to popular demand, six additional play dates were added for “M. Butterfly” in order to accommodate more audiences. For the schedule, go to “M. Butterfly’s” Facebook account.

“M. Butterfly” runs from Sept. 13 to 30 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City.

Updated play

R.S. was only 18 when he first took on the role of Song Liling in Dulaang UP’s staging of “M. Butterfly.” Looking back, he said that paved the way for his professional career as theater actor.

“That’s the first play I did as a professional thespian. It’s like my ‘pambato’ and I don’t want to fail now that I’m doing the role again,” he said.

A play by David Henry Hwang, “M. Butterfly” is about Rene Gallimard, a member of the French embassy in China who considers himself to be quite poor with women. He meets and falls in love with Chinese opera singer Song Liling, who, unknown to René, is a man who performs on stage as a woman. Together they embark on a complicated and tumultuous relationship that lasted two decades.

The play celebrates its 30th year and that makes the re-staging of “M. Butterfly” in Manila more exciting.
According to R.S., “M. Butterfly 2018” will be totally different from the one in 1990. For one, his essay of Song Liling is more “emotionally layered.”

They assured that they stayed faithful to the source material though there were minor additions such as three characters and the inclusion of an opera singer.

“There will also be nude scenes,” R.S. said, adding that the play is rated R-18.

He compared his first take on the character years ago to that in the new “M. Butterfly.”

“At the time, I was just 18. I didn’t have much life experience, so I had to really dig up and try to think I’m 40.

‘Sweet Deception’ (Photo by Manny Librodo) /mb.com.ph ‘Sweet Deception’ (Photo by Manny Librodo)

“This time, my Song Liling is more age appropriate for me to do. With all that I’ve gone through – the heartbreaks, the hardship –I can put them all into the character. I feel I can do better justice to her now than I did then,” he said.

Producer Jhett added the production this year will be more “altruistic.”

“It’s like ‘M. Butterfly 1990s version 2.0.’ That means, this is the same show but updated,” he explained.

We asked R.S. why he thinks “M. Butterfly” remains appealing even after 30 years.

“I guess it’s the magic that happens within the show. ‘M. Butterfly is about perception. Sometimes people blur the truth when they don’t want to hear or see what’s really going on. For me, that’s the nice part especially now there’s a lot of fake news going around,” he shared.

The complete cast are as follows: R.S. (Song Liling), Olivier Borten (Rene Gallimard), Norm Mc Leod (Toulon), Lee O’ Brian (Marc), Rebecca Chuaunsu (Comrade Chin), Pinky Amador (Helga), Maya Encila (Renee/Pin Up Girl).

The members of the ensemble playing the role of Kurogo are as follows: John Paul Ortenero, Pheith Lena Ballug, Kay Megan Kierulf, Aira Jay Igrta, Ulysses Basa, and Rica Nepomuceno.

Directed by Kanakan Balintagos (erstwhile Auraeus Solito), the re-staging of “M. Butterfly” will be 100% non-profit. Net proceeds from each performance will go to one particular charitable institution or organization geared towards education and the arts.