Saint Mary’s faculty member’s work featured in the Strand Theatre

two of lySLEY tENORIO’S  short stores are featured in the Strand Theatre as play adaptations. (Courtesy of American Conservatory Theatre)

Jordan Ramee – Collegian

Nothing exists but the darkness and the beginnings of a soulful 50s melody bouncing off the walls. As a spotlight snaps to life, the small theater has become an even smaller hotel room, the home of two elderly Filipino gentlemen. Thus begins the opening scene of Monstressa two act play performed this past Sunday at the American Conservatory Theaters (ACT) Strand Theater in San Francisco.

The plays two acts are based off of two short stories of Lysley Tenorios book, “Monstress.” Now a Creative Writing professor at Saint Marys College of California, Tenorio was able to get Monstress published back on January 31, 2012. The book was subsequently used as the summer reading book for the incoming class of 2016 at Saint Marys to prepare the new students for analyzing and discussing texts in Seminar.

The play came about when Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of ACT and a fan of Tenorios “Monstress,” reached out to artists and offered them the opportunity to adapt one of Tenorios stories for the stage. Of those she reached out to, two eagerly responded. Philip Kan Gotanda wanted to adopt Save the I-Hoteland Sean San José wanted to adopt Monstress.

In regards to why he chose Save the I-Hotel,Gotanda said, I immediately responded to these two older Filipino American gentlemen. I grew up in Stockton in the 50s and 60s with many Filipino Americans as neighbors.

For Monstress,José said, I was taken by the whole collection, but that first piece really imprinted itself on me. Its emblematic of what the collection does: its a beautiful mixture of the personal, the fantastic, the cultural, and the politicalbut its really told through the eyes of the personal.

Both acts honor the original material very well. They incorporate the same characters and plot lines but slightly shift the where and the when so as to include scenes that Tenorio couldnt fit in his book or make the material more relatable to a San Franciscan audience.

Act I, Remember the I-Hotel,based off of Save the I-Hotel,recounts the story of two Filipino men who came to the United States in hopes of finding work and a better way of life, only to suffer devastating consequences when they each pursue romance.

Act II, Presentingthe Monstress,based off of the title story Monstress,follows a husband and wife from the Philippines who create bad monster movies before they are swept up in the lifestyle of a disgraced filmmaker from Northern California.

In regards to the changes, Tenorio said, I was fine with it. Maybe I should be a little more adamant about certain things [laughter], but I thought it was for the purpose of storytelling, and for creating a cohesiveness for the whole show.

Monstresswill continue to be performed at The Strand Theater for the next several weeks. Tenorio himself will be attending the performance on October 3.

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