05 September 2009

Kinaray-a in an American play

A play, entitled Ruby, Tragically Rotund, by Boni B. Alvarez, produced by Playwrights’ Arena in association with the Latino Theater Company, is currently showing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. In an interview by Ruben V. Nepales, the playwright says:

"I have flashback scenes in Ruby which are written in Kinaray-a, a Visayan dialect [should be language - IRC]. It’s my parents’ language. I feel that, compared to Tagalog, Kinaray-a is a more musical language. In these flashbacks, I wanted a very hopeful and romantic mood, so I decided to write them in Kinaray-a.

Ruby is a very Filipino play because it is infused with Pinoy culture — my experience of it, specifically. Ruby has a Filipino family, but she also has a blossoming relationship with her African-American boyfriend that could lead to a family of her own. At the same time, she has a very diverse group of friends whom she also considers family.

"While Ruby is very Filipino, it’s also very American — not just Filipino-American, but how we fit into the entire American landscape, not only as an individual group, but also in how we live with other groups."

The play was previously mounted at the Scene Dock Theatre at the University of Southern California School of Theatre. It received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Theater has long been multilingual. In fact, having more than one language in the text of a play tends to be the rule now rather than the exception among the leading theatre groups in the world. I will be in the US in a couple of months, too late to catch the LA production. If anyone has seen the play and has comments about it, I would be very grateful.

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