The Ma-Yi Theater Company

Manila Bulletin, March 11, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Ma-Yi Theater Company


THEATER aficionados will surely recall the one-act play "The Romance of Magno Rubio" which was written by Lonnie Carter who based it on a story of immigrant worker-writer Carlos Bulosan. The play was staged two years ago at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater basement by the Ma-Yi Theater Company which traveled all the way from New York.

"The Romance of Magno Rubio" is about a Filipino migrant farm worker who answers the advertisement of the American Clarabelle, actually a manipulative woman who, through her exchange of letters with Magno, keeps asking him for money for her supposedly poor relatives. In the end, Magno is duped and betrayed by Clarabelle.

The play received glowing reviews from Manila critics as it did from critics in New York. It made such an impact that it got seven OBIE awards, with playwright Lonnie Carter, director Loy Arcenas, actors Arthur Acuna, Ron Domingo, Jojo Gonzalez, Ramon de Ocampo and Orlando Pabotoy and lyricist Ralph B. Pena each receiving an OBIE.

The Ma-Yi Theater Company has sustained the high quality of its production so consistently that it has rated high praise from the theater critics of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Variety magazine and Time Out (New York), among others.

At this point one might ask: How did the Ma-Yi Theater Company get its name? Jorge Ortoll, former player of Repertory Philippines, now executive director of Ma-Yi who came here for a brief visit explains: "Ma-Yi is the term used by ancient Chinese traders to refer to a group of islands that is now known as the Philippines. A document written, sometime around 1318 and titled Wen Shiann Tung Kuo (A General Investigation of the Chinese Cultural Sources), contains a stray reference to the Philippines that dates back to 982 A.D.

"The text reads: There were traders of the country of Ma-Yi carrying merchandise to the coast of Canton in the seventh year of Tai-ping-shingkuo. Another pre-Spanish source is the Tao-chih-lio (Description of the Barbarians of the Isles) by WangTa-yuan, dated 1349 AD, with the following reference to Ma-Yi; The people boil seawater to make salt and fement (molasses) to make liquor. …

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