Friday, September 11, 2015


Theodore S. Gonzalves introduces STAGE PRESENCE: Conversations with Filipino American Performing Artists edited by Theodore S. Gonzalves 
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2002)



Each of the participants in the volume has commented on edited versions of the manuscript and helped to determine the format of their presentation, either an interview or a first person narrative (or, in one case, a play). You’re welcome to read the volume in any chapter order you wish. Ric Trimillos’ typology organizes the voices in productive ways that go beyond the usual formats. You might want to read the chapters in terms of the geographic locations that are often associated with the artists. For example, if you consider Pearl Ubungen’s and Allan Manalo’s long careers in San Francisco, you may find some use in clustering their chapters with Kalanduyan’s and Panis’ (Kalanduyan is originally from the Philippines and currently resides in the Bay Area; Manalo is originally from California’s Central Coast but now resides in Manila). You could then group Baltazar and Jacinto’s chapters together because of the centrality of their Hawai‘i experiences. And even though both Hagedorn and Peña spent several years in California, they have garnered quite a lot of attention for their work while living and working in Manhattan.

Another reader might find it helpful to cluster the chapters in terms of performing arts disciplines like music, theater and dance. Of course, all of the artists included here have made and continue to use more than one “host” discipline in their work. For example, Hagedorn is more readily known as a literary artist. I think you might find it interesting that she is featured in this collection as a bandleader. Also, a performer such as Kalanduyan, most often recognized for playing “traditional” music, incorporates elaborate presentations of martial arts and dance in his ensemble’s repertoire. The artists in this volume remind us that even though we may play with and think about identities all the time, few of us live and work inside the confines of discrete academic categories.

A note on terminology: in this volume, Filipinos and Filipinas may refer to persons of Philippine heritage in or from the Philippines. The term Filipino Americans usually refers to persons of Philippine heritage in or from the United States. The terms Pinay, Pinoy, Pilipina, and Pilipino could refer to any of the above and are often used by the contributors to register a progressive political or cultural sensibility. I hope readers will notice the contingent aspect of how identities, references, and names continue to be worked out. All of the above terms function as a kind of shorthand, rather than strict definitions, for getting us to and through the stories. For example, I find problematic the idea of equating the term America with the United States, as well as treating the word Americans as a synonym for whites. It’s just my guess, but I’m sure there are probably at least a few in Latin America’s population of more than 550,000,000 that would also have something to say about that as well. And what do they prefer in the G.T.A.? O Canada! 


Theo Gonzalves is a scholar of comparative cultural studies, focusing on the experiences of Asian American / Filipino American communities. He has taught in the United States (California, Hawai'i, and Maryland), Spain, and the Philippines. In the field of performing arts, Theo served on the advisory board for Kumu Kahua Theatre in Honolulu and Bindlestiff Studio, a San Francisco performing arts venue; co-founded the artist-run recording label, Jeepney Dash Records; played keyboards for the Legendary Bobby Banduria; and toured extensively as the musical director for the theater troupe, tongue in A mood. Theo's musical work has been featured at concerts such as the Asian American Jazz Festival and performances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He has also written, produced, and performed several scores for independent film projects. Theo's scholarly and creative works have been supported by various awards including a Meet the Composer Award, a Visiting Artist and Scholar fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (declined), a senior Fulbright award, a Moeson fellowship at the Library of Congress, and a senior postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution. Theo is associate professor and a former chair of the Department of American Studiesat the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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