by Jea Cawagas Cates
On December 10 over 170 Edmontonians gathered in Max’s Restaurant, West End for the fundraising open mic night dinner to support Emma the Musical. This musical will be premiered at the Myer Horotwitz Theatre, University of Alberta, on July 7th, 2018. Written by Chie Floresca and featuring original music composed by Erica Cawagas, the musicalis set in a rural town near Baguio City, Philippines during the Japanese occupation in WWII.
Chie Floresca is a writer for ABS-CBN television dramas in the Philippines. Her body of work includes Ipaglaban Mo, Pasion de Amor, A Beautiful Affair and Engkwentro which won in the 2009 Venice Film Festival. In 2004 she wrote and directed the musical Dula at Kwerdas staged at the Citadelin Edmonton.
Erica is an accomplished classical guitarist who has won gold medals in many competitionsand composed music for UNICEF and PEMSEA East Asian Congress. She is currentlyscoring a children’s television show for ABS-CBN Knowledge Channel.
Emma the Musical focuses on the character of an elementary school teacher – Emma, who must make difficult choices between the peaceful life that she struggles to live and the war that rages around her,between risking her personal safety to protect her community members or hiding in the shadows to safeguard her own fleeting security. The musical highlights the perseverance, faith, and resilience of the Filipino spirit,in peace or in war.While the lyrics and dialogue are in English, the musical features music and conversation reflecting Filipino values and influences, though the writers also emphasize the universality of the themes of complex human and social relationships even to present times and in other places.
Well-known Filipinos in the Edmonton community attended the fundraiser, including Josie Pallard, Project Director of the Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association;Noreen Berkes, Executive Director of Changing Together;Dr. Rebecca Benzon of Millwoods Cedars Family Dental Centre and owner of Max’s Restaurant;Roujea Cawagas, Music Director of Artist House Studio;and long-standing performing arts leaders in Alberta Ida Beltran-Lucila, the musical’s artistic director and Jojo Lucila, the musical’s choreographer.
Jojo Lucila choreographed for Philippine Ballet Theater and Hong Kong Ballet. In Canada, he was Artistic Director and founder of Chameleon Dance Edmonton, together with Ida Beltran-Lucila. He also taught and choreographed Edmonton Festival Ballet, Victoria School, and the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers and received a City of Edmonton Cultural Diversity in the Arts award.
Ida Beltran-Lucila was a Ballet Philippines principal dancer and Associate Artistic Director of Philippine Ballet Theater and President of the Association of Ballet Academies of the Philippines, among other positions. In Canada, she was Artistic Director of the Edmonton Festival Ballet, program Director of the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta and Founder and Executive Director of the Philippine Arts Council Alberta.
Selected by audition, the cast comprised of experienced Filipino-Edmonton singers, dancers,and first-time performers are Danielle Yu, Julius Ylagan, Gerald Penaco, Jimmy Buena, Jeanine Naboye, Raphael Tolentino, Micah Macatangay, Mark Laraya, Catherine Lelis, Riana Torrejon, Cassandra Baltazar, Hannah Adamson, Lauren Lizada, Marjorie Galido, Joshua Zoleta, Veronica Knodel, Jo-Ann Aguilar and Simonette Brigola.
After the Max’s buffet dinner, a video trailer was shown to raise awareness of the background and story of the musical. The cast entertained the guests with a selection of Filipino and English songs. Cristina De Guzman of the Edmonton Arts Council started the open mic with her inspiring words followed by a performance of the Philippine Choral group.
The musical is co-sponsored and/or supported by several associations, individuals, and businesses, including the Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association, Philippine Arts Council, Max’s Restaurant, Four Points by Sheraton, 3J’s Variety Store, retired Edmonton teacher Carolyn O’Brien, Social Photobooth, and Artist House Studio. Emma the Musical has recently been recognized for its artistic contribution to the city through a cultural diversity grant from the Edmonton Arts Council.
Guests enjoyed the fundraising event and left with much raised hopes and eager anticipation of watching the musical’s premier on July 7th at the Myer Horowitz Theatre. Follow Emma the Musical on Facebook at Instagram @mimayemmafor information on the musical and purchase of advance tickets. The Production Manager Roujea Cawagas and Co-Producer/Composer Erica Cawagas are happy to respond to queriesabout the musical at firstname.lastname@example.org.