I Don’t Know What’s Best for Them…

“Mother knows best.”

I’ll be very honest with you. I’m a mom to a 14 and 7-year-old and nope, I don’t always know what’s best for my kids. Hang on, momma. Hear me out.

I used to believe that I had to be in control of everything because….“Mom knows best.” Man, I was such a control freak. Everything had to be according to my plan because I believed that God put me in charge of molding my kids. I had set expectations for the kids and it was either my way or the highway. I was uptight. I was a nagger. My kids cried all the time. We fought a lot. It was ugly. I knew my husband thought that I was always too much (and too noisy). Man, it was really ugly.

I mean, we had happy and fun moments. I showered my kids with love as much as I let loose my thunderous nags on them. I thought it was a good balance. Looking back, I was wrong in so many ways. I was a full-time homeschool mom and we have definitely made a lot of good memories as a family but I also can’t deny that I was working hard to control my kids so other people would think I was doing a good job at being a parent. It was about me. It was about pleasing other people. My kids’ happiness wasn’t the top priority. I needed to make sure that this homeschooling thing worked so others wouldn’t have a chance to say: “I told you so…(homeschooling was a bad idea)” 

My son and I were constantly fighting. Our relationship was strained. He was no longer bubbly, funny and full of life. He wasn’t reading the way I wanted him to read. He wasn’t writing the way I wanted him to write. In fact, he didn’t enjoy writing at all. He wasn’t as engrossed in studying as I expected him to be. He wasn’t like the other poster-homeschool kids I saw. He had no passion for anything. No fire. Nothing. It was frustrating. I felt like a complete failure. He was 12. I was acting like I was 12.

Our turning point happened when I decided to let go, specifically in homeschooling.

A movie called Captain Fantastic made me realize so much about my parenting and homeschooling style. The movie is about a homeschooling/unschooling family and their ways were pretty radical…and I loved it. I wanted it. I had my son watch the movie too and asked him if he wanted us to let go and unschool. He said yes and that was it.

The next day we kept our thick books and I emailed our homeschool provider about dropping out. He was in the middle of sixth grade. It would have been our very first graduation as homeschoolers. It could have been something we could have shown the world — “Look guys! We did it! He graduated with other homeschoolers! We’re legit!”  BUT the graduation ceremony wasn’t something that appealed to him anyway. So that was that.

I told him that from them on, he could do whatever he wanted. We’ll support him in whatever he wants to learn. I had set him free so he could discover what he really wants to learn and get into. No need to worry about grades, tests, quizzes, etc. No pressure from anyone. He was free.

It was a season of letting go. It was scary in some ways but I remember thinking that the worst that could happen was us losing one academic year. If that year of letting go brought us healing and if it allowed him to discover something he’s passionate about, if it ignites a flame in him – then that year of unschooling would be well worth it.

Before unschooling, my son hated it when I asked him to draw anything for homeschool. He’d always get frustrated. He often cried when his drawing never turned out the way he had hoped it would. My heart sank when I slowly started to see that he wasn’t an artist. He wasn’t into music much either. Nope. Not an artist, I thought. Oh well.

I honestly believed that my son would end up being some sort of scientist. I even had a hashtag for all my posts about him – #raisingascientist. The plan was to send him to a science high school because he was fascinated with science during his early years so we got him all these science kits and he spent a summer at a science museum. I thought we had it all figured it out for him. Duh.

When we unschooled and when he had control over whatever he could study, he started spending time learning how to draw. He spent hours and hours and hours drawing. He had found a way to find lessons on youtube. There were no more tears. Just pure determination to get better at it. Eventually, I walked in on him as he was learning anatomy from an app and a website (which he also found on his own). When I asked why he was studying it, he said he wanted his drawings to look accurate, so he knew he needed to learn anatomy.

He still doesn’t read as much but I learned that he listens to a lot of audiobooks and he watches documentaries on youtube. I know a lot of adults who aren’t readers and they’re doing great. They find other ways to feed their mind, and that’s exactly what my son has figured out (on his own).

He has also put in a lot of time and effort into writing. He is currently working on a graphic novel. He’d decline going out sometimes because of the deadlines he has set for himself. I think he has more discipline in writing that I do.

He also got into cosplaying and he found a way to make his own costumes and masks out of whatever he could find here at home. Recently, he has taken interest in sculpting. His work is pretty impressive. I can’t do the things he does.

He figured out how to play the guitar and he practices diligently. We are continuously amazed by the music he listens to. He’s into a lot of rock, a lot of 80’s and 90’s but most recently, he’s been listening to jazz. Just the other day he finally bought his first-ever guitar and I don’t think there’s been a day that he hasn’t played it.

I am so glad I let go and let him discover and figure out everything I just told you about. I am so relieved that I stopped controlling him when I did. I would never have encouraged him to get into the arts – coz I thought it frustrated him. I already said “Oh, he isn’t an artist. Oh well.” Boy was I wrong!

I’m glad I didn’t force him or encourage him to work towards going to a science high school and eventually take up a science-related course. If I had pushed for what I thought would be best for him — he wouldn’t be the person he is now.

Looking back, my son somehow knew what was best for him. He just needed the time and space to figure it out. He needed us to trust him and support him. He had it in him because God had put it in him. Knowing that made it much easier to let go. I didn’t have to be in control because God’s got his back for sure.

But what about academics you may ask? I’ll be honest. He talks about a lot of things, academic and non-academic, which I don’t know about. He enjoys learning in unconventional ways and that’s what’s gonna see him through, I believe. If he wants or needs to know something, he always finds a way to learn about it. He has learned to be pretty resourceful. I am so happy to say that he is self-directed as early as now. (An important life skill, if you ask me!)

Does he know everything a 14-year-old should know? Well, should he? I really question the importance of making sure that he knows what every textbook-raised kid his age knows. I don’t think that’s what life is about. I don’t think that’s our priority, really.

I think the more important questions to ask are: Is he passionate about anything? Absolutely. Is he a good person and does he treat others right? Is he kind? Does he have manners? Does he respect the people around him? I believe he is and he does. When I asked him about this the other night he said he believes he is the person that he is because of the environment he grew up in. He said he was constantly with his family and that made a huge difference. He said we supported him and we were firm about manners and teaching him what’s right and wrong and that’s what keeps him in check. I wanted to cry when he was explaining it. Is he happy? He said he is and it really looks like it. Is he independent and does he know enough life skills to survive on his own? We’re getting there. He’s pretty independent. He knows how to figure stuff out and he’s good with budgeting his money and he’s interested in learning how to invest his money wisely. He’s pretty low maintenance, so yeah, I know he’ll survive without us.

What about going to university and getting a stable job? If he wants to do that one day, there are ways to get into university even if you’re unschooled. If he doesn’t want to go to university, that’s okay too. (That doesn’t translate to him living with us and not working and just relying on us for everything.)

If he doesn’t go to university, then he can spend time working on whatever skill he wants to master so he can start working or doing something he really loves and earn from it at the same time. I’d rather that he be sure of what he’ll go to university for and really make the most of it instead of him going to university just for the sake of getting a degree to make the people around him happy.

My kids aren’t my trophies. They aren’t my property. I don’t have the right to control their every move or decision. It isn’t healthy for them, nor is it healthy for me. How can I constantly know what’s best for them when I am still getting to know them — as they get to know themselves.

All I’m sure of is I will pray for them and support them in whatever they want to get into. I don’t think I’ll ever have the heart to say “You won’t earn from that job or career. There’s no money there.” I think that line is so unfair to the person who is dreaming. I always wanted to be a teacher and a writer but people told me there was no money in being a teacher or a writer. I am the happiest I’ve ever been because I’m in the world of alternative education (through Abot Tala) and I still get writing gigs! Hooray! My husband is a musician. People will often say that there is no money in being a full-time musician too. But my husband has never worked any other job. We’re alive and we live well. We live a simple life and we are happy.  We’re doing what we love to do and that makes a world of difference.

Our kids know that they can talk to us about anything. They can seek our advice and guidance, but ultimately, the goal is to give them the space they need to make their own decisions as early as now. I have to continuously remind myself that they need time and space to make mistakes, lots and lots of them. That’s how they’ll learn. That’s how we learned.

We don’t do everything for them even if we can because we have been encouraging them to be independent. One day when they’re ready, they can fly away from our crazy little nest and discover the world. It’s their life, their journey. We don’t give them everything they want. We want to give them that opportunity to want something so bad that they’re willing to work for it and save up for it. We want them to taste satisfaction when they finally buy or get something they’ve always wanted because of their diligence and hard work.

I am grateful that we get front row seats as we watch them get up and fall, over and over. They too get front row seats to watch our journey as adults who are still trying to figure things out. We are all learning from each other and that’s what’s important. Aha! There! That’s one thing I know that’s best for all of us! 🙂

I am grateful that he gets the support he needs not just from his family, but also from mentors and friends he has chosen at Abot Tala, the Self-Directed Learning Center for Teens he currently goes to. We still unschool, but now it’s with fellow unschoolers and homeschoolers.

Oh and my son is finally back to being his funny self. I often tease him about being a stand-up comedian one day. I said he has lots of material — thanks to the crazy, nagging mom I was when he was growing up! Ayayay! Oh well. We shall see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundays will never be the same…

Two Sundays ago, we lost our mom. It was sudden and totally unexpected even if she’s been in and out of the hospital the past few years. It has been challenging to deal with the fact that she is no longer in her room, as always. It feels weird that her seat at the dining table is now usually vacant. Sundays will never be the same…. *sigh* Sundays… will never be the same.

In the beginning

Mom moved in with our little family around this time two years ago. Right after surviving a mild heart attack and after we found out that she had stage 1 kidney cancer, the family decided that it would be best if she stayed with me, my husband and two kids. They seemed to think that it was the most logical set-up; I’d be able to take care of mom because I had taken a break from work and I homeschool the kids. In all honesty though, I thought we were the most unlikely family to be given such responsibility. I was scared but we prepared our small home for mom anyway.

Before mom moved in, we were such a rock-and-roll family. We were carefree, we took off whenever we wanted to, we stayed up late, we were loud, crazy and we were always with friends. It was always about having fun whether it was through camping or going to gigs. I remember worrying about losing our freedom. We wouldn’t be able to leave the house, just the 4 of us, because no one would be home with mom. It would’ve been a different story if mom was still as strong as she was ten years ago, but she wasn’t. I had to set our family’s expectations that life wouldn’t be the same. We would have to make lots of sacrifices and compromises. It was tough to accept but we all knew it was the right thing to do. It would be worth it for sure.

Life was never the same

This was the last time we brought her to the mall, right before Christmas.

Life definitely wasn’t the same when mom moved in. We didn’t lose our freedom like I had feared. Instead of just 4 crazy people living in our home, there were 5. I had forgotten how much fun mom was. Having mom around, enjoying whatever we could with her, was our new normal. It wasn’t always easy, especially when mom lost most of her vision, but somehow, we made it work. We were able to convince her that a wheelchair would allow her to be a bit more mobile, because then she wouldn’t have to be scared to walk around because all she had to do was sit and trust us.

Mom never had to go through chemo or any cancer treatment. The doctors just told her to switch to a healthier lifestyle and she’ll outlive the cancer. Throughout the two years, her tumor didn’t get any bigger. Since her diet was healthier, comprised mostly of vegetables, her blood sugar levels went back to normal and her doctor confirmed that she no longer needed her maintenance meds for diabetes. Those were two big victories worth celebrating but her hypertension was still troubling, even if she took her meds regularly.

Mom had two more hospital stays and a few runs to the E.R. throughout the two years she was with us, mostly because of her hypertension and her heart problem. She’d always be able to recover though and come out a champ. She was happy about it but at the same time she kept saying that her time was almost up and she can’t wait to go to Heaven and rest.

She was okay the past few months. There were barely any more mentions of how she felt she was gonna die soon. She would often bring up though that she found it hard to remember stuff. She said she felt her brain was blank and she couldn’t access certain memories. My sister and I suspected that it was early signs of dementia. Other than that and her recurring UTI (which truly bothered her), she really seemed fine.

Until two Sundays ago.

Sunday mornings will never be the same.

She was fine the day before. I mean, she seemed fine. She didn’t complain about any headaches or feeling dizzy. She was lively and enjoyed all the food she ate that day. Our Saturday was just like any other quiet Saturday. She didn’t fall or slip or hit her head anywhere. She was fine.

She seemed fine Saturday night when I tucked her in, put drops in her eyes and placed her water bottle next to her. She seemed fine when I stroked her forehead and hair, kissed her forehead and said “Goodnight, mom. I love you.” – just like I would every night the past few weeks…simply because there was a small voice in my head telling me to do it because I didn’t know if it would be the last.

However, Sunday morning when I went into her room to wake her up a little past 9am, she was not fine. She was far from fine. I was far from fine. I was in shock to see my mom, unconscious, unable to wake up even if I was screaming the loudest screams of my life. She had slightly dry blood which dripped from her nose down to her mouth and right shoulder. Her tongue was out yet she was still breathing. I checked. I checked multiple times. I was able to find her pulse. She was alive for sure.

My husband rushed to get help from the security guards in our community and I ran to get help from the soldier who lives next door. If there was bleeding, I knew we couldn’t just lift her without care. Thank goodness for those who knew how to carry her (while on her mattress) and into our small car.

I held her as we were on our way to the hospital which was around 3 minutes away from our home, begging mom to wake up. She was breathing. She was alive but seemed to be in such deep sleep.

As we got to the emergency room, I yelled for the nurses to hurry. Time was ticking. Each second was vital. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t believe what had just happened the past 20 minutes. It felt like a scene from a movie. It was all so surreal.

As the doctors and nurses were taking care of mom, I had to tell them that mom requested for a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) should anything happen to her. Two years ago, a doctor told us to make certain decisions while we were in a right state of mind, not when we’re in an emotional situation. The way the doctor explained it was if one is in the hospital, if you don’t sign a DNR form, they will do everything to revive you and even put tubes in you when needed. However, if you request for a DNR, the medical team would know what can and can’t be done to you (at least that’s how it is here in the Philippines). Throughout the past two years mom and I would talk about it. She was 100% certain that she did not want to be revived. Her words were, “Pag umalis na ako, wag niyo na ako pabalikin.” (If I leave, don’t call me back).

Every time we were at the ER and whenever she stayed in the hospital, whether for something minor or major, I’d always ask for the DNR form. I used to sign that form every single day. But two Sundays ago, when I asked for the DNR form, I didn’t know what to do with it. For the first time I had to consult with my older sister who was in Canada. That DNR form just got real. It was a tough decision but we both knew that we had to give mom what she wanted. I eventually gained enough courage to sign that DNR form.

One by one family started to arrive. It still seemed so surreal. The E.R. doctor who saw her CT scan said that her scan showed definite signs of dementia. Moreover, mom was bleeding and unconscious because she had brain stem hemorrhage. It didn’t look good at all. The brain stem controls the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body, and it also controls basic body functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, consciousness (info from medicinenet.com). If mom ever survived, she would be in a vegetative state, something she would absolutely hate.

At first the E.R. doctors said that mom needed to be in the ICU. But after a while, the cardiologist who saw mom’s scan told us that there’s a huge chance that mom would pass away within the day. He was the first doctor to clear us to get a private room instead of a bed in the ICU. The neurologist confirmed this too. She said it would be better for mom and everyone if mom was in a private room with us when she passes.

A little after 4pm, we finally got clearance to transfer to the room. Most of my siblings and other family members, at least those who were in Manila, were finally in the hospital. The nurses had just transferred mom from the E.R. bed to her room bed and they were just fixing all her IV contraptions when my aunt and sister in-law noticed that mom took her last breath. We didn’t have your typical movie scene where we saw a flat line because mom was transferred from the E.R. to the room without a cardiac monitor, which apparently was a no-no. When they said mom didn’t seem to be breathing, I remember putting my ear to her chest. I could no longer hear her heart beat. I couldn’t find a pulse. Nor could my niece or the nurses. Mom was no longer breathing. They tried one cycle of CPR because it was something my brothers wanted and I totally understood why, but I remember yelling to let her go. That’s what mom wanted. She said not to call her back and just let her go because she was tired. She needed to rest. It was time to rest.

Up until her final breath it seemed like she still thought of the comfort of her family. It felt like she made sure we had our own room where we could cry and be with her when her time was up.

We all got to spend a little more time with mom even after she passed. I was able to stroke her arm, hug her and kiss her. It seemed as though she was just sleeping. Before I left the room, I tucked her in one last time, stroked her forehead and hair, kissed her forehead and said, “Goodnight, mom. I love you.” – just like I did every night.

Coming home that night was the worst. As soon as we entered our unit, I saw her empty bed right away. At that point it hit me…it hit all of us that life at home would never be the same. It was back to just the 4 of us.

Life after mom

Our morning routine has felt so incomplete because I no longer have to make breakfast for mom. It feels like I’m forgetting to do my weekly errand which was to buy and refill her meds and diaper supply. The kids no longer have conversations (and quarrels) about who would help mom get from her bed to the dining table for lunch. I just have to mind my own plate now. I no longer have to strategically put food on mom’s plate and guide her hand to where each food item was on her plate. Her usual chair at night when watching her favorite telenovela while eating her toast and coffee has been empty. It’s crazy. Even going to the grocery has been tough. Everywhere I look I see something I used to buy for her.

We’re still getting used to not having her around during breakfast…

I miss mom terribly. I feel like I see her everywhere I look but then she slowly disappears. I know she is finally happy, healthy and free of pain in Heaven. I know nothing could compare to where she is right now. Nothing would be better. I know she is in a better place. I know it was time to rest. I know it was time to go home. I know that God was being a good Father to mom when He brought her home. I know all of that and my brain understands it…but my heart hasn’t caught up yet.

There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed because of the pain and because I know it would be another day without mom. It’s weird because she was pretty quiet here at home but now it feels so different without her. There are days when I’d think that she’s just in her room, sleeping while I’m out in the living room working. But then I walk by her room and I’d be zapped back to reality that mom is no longer with us.

Pizza nights will never be the same…

One day my heart will catch up. One day it won’t be as painful. One day I’ll get used to our new normal. For now, it is a season to mourn. I’m taking it one day at a time. There are days when I feel horrible, but lately I’ve been choosing to think of gratitude. I am grateful that two years ago our family took on our biggest adventure yet because we have learned so much. We are still a rock-and-roll family but I’m sure we’ve got a lot more heart and spunk. Mom has taught us not to take the people we love for granted. Mom has taught us that there is honor and blessing in taking care of your parents.

Losing mom has been painful but there is peace. There has always been peace. My kids have seen and experienced selfless love in its purest form. My daughter, who was extremely close to mom, still breaks down, as I do. But we tell each other that it’s okay. It’s a time to mourn. We keep telling each other that we will be okay. My son misses her too, of course, but he said at least she is no longer sick in Heaven.

My heart melts every time I think of how much they made her laugh…

Mom would always ask if I would be okay when she’s no longer around. I’d always say I’d be fine and she didn’t need to worry about me. So now, I don’t really have a choice but to be okay…or at least try to be okay each day. I promised her and now I have to keep my word.

Sundays will never be the same. I think I’ll always remember mom, especially on Sundays. I’m sure there will be a day when instead of remembering how she looked like when I found her two Sundays ago, I’d remember happy memories of her. Instead of feeling the pain of losing her, I’d be okay…just as I promised her.

I desperately miss her but I know that she is happy in Heaven now. She is with dad and they are together forever. Somehow I am grateful that God pulled the plug (literally, `coz hello, brain stem) when He did because at least mom no longer had to experience life with full blown dementia. She definitely wouldn’t have liked it. That’s what my brain keeps telling me. My heart isn’t there yet but one day, my heart will catch up.

 

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera Asian Tour Cast

Get to know the Asian tour cast of the THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the world’s most popular musical today. Presented in Manila by PLDT Smart, the musical premieres at The Theatre at Solaire for a limited season from February 20,2019 and tickets are now on sale through Ticketworld.com.ph.

The Phantom – Jonathan Roxmouth

Jonathan Roxmouth

Theatre includes: The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (Broadway World Award Best Actor in a Musical), Billy Flynn in Chicago, Che in Evita, Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Broadway World Award Best Supporting Actor in a Musical)Danny in Grease (International Tour), Tony in West Side Story (Artscape, Cape Town / Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg), Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg / Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town), Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, Munkustrap in Cats, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (Teatro, Johannesburg / Artscape, Cape Town), Lun Tha in The King and I (Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg), and Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story and Teen Angel in Grease (Barnyard Theatre).

Jonathan’s grandfather taught him how to conduct to the cassette of the original London Cast Album of The Phantom of the Opera and this music has been in his family all his life.

Social Media:
I: @jroxmouth
T: @JonathanRox
W: jonathanroxmouth.com

Christine Daae – Meghan Picerno

Meghan Picerno

Training: The Manhattan School of Music Conservatory, New York City.

Theatre and opera includes: Christine in Love Never Dies (US Premiere & 1st National Tour), Cunegonde in Candide (New York City Opera/Gran Teatre del Liceu), Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Marie in La Fille Du Régiment, La Fée in Cendrillon, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, The Dreyfus Affair (Ensemble of the Romantic Century), Musicals in Mufti: From Berlin to Broadway (York Theatre Company), Maria in West Side Story, Amalia in She Loves Me, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and Johanna in Sweeney Todd (Off-Broadway).

Concerts include: Royal Albert Hall, San Francisco Symphony, Theatro Municipal de São Paolo, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, David Geffen Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Birdland, Appel Room.

Competitions include: Plácido Domingo’s Operalia International Vocal Competition (London’s Royal Opera House).

Meghan extends so much love and gratitude to her family, creatives, fairy godmothers, wonderful team, Uzan International Artists, Tara Rubin Casting, and Hal Prince for introducing her to the wonderful world of musical theatre! Special thanks and love to Andrew and all at RUG- so proud to be a part of the phamily!

Social Media:
I: @meghanpicerno
W: http://www.meghanpicerno.com

Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny – Matt Leisy

Matt Leisy

Training: Northwestern University and The Barrow Group, NY.

Theatre includes: Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street Theatre, New York), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Broadway First National Tour), Ragtime, The 39 Steps, Witness for the Prosecution (Bristol Riverside Theatre), The Fantasticks (Off-Broadway), Ken in Red (Clarence Brown Theatre), Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest (Arizona Theatre Company), Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Scripps in The History Boys (Repertory Theatre of St Louis/Arden Theatre – Barrymore Award Nominee), Carousel (Lincoln Center), and Ghostlight (Signature Theatre).

Television and Film includes: The Blacklist (NBC/Universal Pictures), and Live from Lincoln Center (PBS).

Matt is a British-American actor and singer. He is thrilled to follow in the footsteps of so many friends, and artists he has looked up to, who have appeared in this iconic Broadway hit.

Social Media:
I: @mattleisy
T: @mattleisy
F: mattleisy

Monsieur Firmin – James Borthwick

James Borthwick

Training: James studied Speech and Drama at Natal University, Pietermaritzburg before joining the Performing Arts Council of the Free State in 1974.

Theatre includes: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Singin’ In The Rain (International Tour), Max von Mayerling in Sunset Boulevard (Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town), Juan Peron in Evita (Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town/Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg – Naledi and Fleur du Cap Awards for Best Performance in a Musical), Molokov in Chess (Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town/ Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg – Naledi nominee for Best Supporting Actor), Astrov in Uncle Vanya (Baxter Theatre – Fleur du Cap Award for Best Supporting Actor), The Sound of Music (Artscape, Cape Town/Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg), The Caretaker (The Windybrow Theatre, Johannesburg – DALRO nominee for Best Actor), What The Butler Saw, Hapgood, The Grapes of Wrath (Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg), and Amadeus (Playhouse Theatre, Durban – Natal Vita Best Actor Award).

Film includes: Old Wive’s Tale (Avanti Best Actor Award), Skollie, Panic Mechanic, Sweet and Short, and Hansie.

Television includes: Hotel (SAFTA Award – Best Actor in a TV Comedy Series), Rhythm City, Hapgood, and Scoop Schoombie.

Monsieur André – Curt Olds

Curt Olds

Training: New England Conservatory

Theatre credits:  Riverdance (Broadway), Three Penny Opera (Lucille Lortel), Guys & Dolls (Carnegie Hall), Candide (NYCO-Pangloss U/S), Cats (Hamburg), An American in Paris (original workshop). Regional: Harold in Music Man, Higgins in My Fair Lady, Nathan Detroit in Guys & Dolls, Pangloss/Voltaire in Candide, Will in Oklahoma!9 to 5Show Boat. Opera: Magic Flute, Don PasqualeMerry Widow, PiratesMikado.

Concert: Cincinnati Pops and over forty other international orchestras.

As Director: Barbiere di Siviglia, Joseph, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Cats, and My Fair Lady.

Curt is thrilled to join this cast of Phantom. A proud Montana native he would like to thank Vanessa and Kristen at UIA, Danny at Hudson Artists, Tara Rubin Casting and his sister Karen.

Social Media
www.curtolds.com

Carlotta Guidicelle – Beverley Chiat

Beverly Chiat

Training:  Beverley attended the UCT Opera School, South African College Of Music (Performer’s Diploma In Opera – recipient of The Leonard Hall Memorial Prize and the UCT Scholarship) and Royal Northern College Of Music, UK. (Postgraduate Diploma In Professional Performance – recipient of The Peter Moores Scholarship). Singing teacher:  Sarita Stern

Theatre includes: Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Mama in Evita (International Tours), Gilda in Rigoletto (Pretoria/Cape Town Opera Spier Summer Festival), Adele in Die Fledermaus (Johannesburg/ Bloemfontein), Serpetta in La Finta Giardiniera, Lucy in The Telephone, Rapunzel in Into The Woods  (Cape Town), Valencienne in The Merry Widow (Cape Town), Jano in Janacek (Manchester), Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann (Cape Town Opera House), Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera (Cape Town Opera House), Frasquita in Carmen (Cape Town Opera Spier Summer Festival), Micaela in Carmen (Mozambique), Carmina Burana (Bahrain, UAE), Donna Anna in abbreviated Don Giovanni (Greyton Festival, Western Cape), Konstanze in abbreviated Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (Mossel Bay Music Festival/Evita se Peron, Darling Western Cape), Mabel in Pirates of Penzance (Johannesburg).

Oratoria and concert work:  Beverley has performed as a soloist for numerous works by Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Orff, Rossini, Mahler, Faure and Liszt among others in South Africa and abroad.

Beverley has led liturgical singing of services at the Progressive Synagogue in Green Point, Cape Town as well as running a private singing studio teaching the Bel Canto classical technique. She has BA and Honours degrees in Psychology attained as a mature student and enjoys hiking, reading, meditation and connecting with friends and family.

Social Media
F: Beverley Chiat – Soprano

Madame Giry – Melina Kalomas

Training: Carnegie Mellon School of Drama (BFA Acting and Musical Theatre)

Theatre includes: Les Miserables, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, Camelot (US Tours), Little Edie – alternate in Grey Gardens (The Ahmanson, Los Angeles), Franca Naccarelli in The Light In The Piazza (South Coast Repertory),  Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights (Berkeley Rep/Kansas City Rep), Zhivago (LaJolla Playhouse), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Musical Theatre West), Beauty and the Beast (3D Theatricals), and A Man of No Importance (Lillian Theatre).

Television includes: As The World Turns (CBS), and Grimm (NBC).

Social Media:
I: @melinakalomas

Ubaldo Piangi – Thabiso Masemene

Thabiso Masemene

Training: Thabiso attended Thswane University of Technology (Voval Art – Performance), and has undertaken Performance Acting on Screen: Training Course for Film and Television presented by Music Star Recording and Voice Over training presented by Dana Prophet.

Theatre includes: Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera, Evita (International Tour),  Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Renuccio in Gianna Schicchi, Arturo in Lucia Di Lammermoor, Beppe in Ipagliacci, Don Basilio in Le Nozza di Figaro, Tata in Out of Time (South African State Theatre), Obajah in Elijah, Ntsikana (UNISA), Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Ramiro in La Cenerentola (Breytenbach Theatre), Mozart Requiem (Wits), Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore (Joburg Theatre), and Messiah (Playhouse Theatre).

Meg Giry – Kiruna-Lind Devar

Kiruna-Lind Devar

Training: The National School of Arts, Johannesburg, South Africa, matriculating as Top Dance Learner. Kiruna danced for The Johannesburg Youth Ballet and has training in Ballet (Cecchetti), Spanish, Contemporary, Jazz and Afro-fusion.

Theatre includes:  Charity Hope Valentine in Sweet Charity!, Janice Honeyman’s Sleeping Beauty, Simply Broadway, Mary Martin in My Favourite Things, Snow White in Janice Honeyman’s Snow White (Joburg Theatre), Bidvest on Broadway (Sandton Convention Centre), Pauline in Saturday Night Fever (Pretoria State Theatre – Naledi nominee for Best Actress in a Musical), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Evita (National and International Tour), and Bird in Tom Coash’s Stepping Into Fire (RedFest).

Television Credits: Baheya in Roer Jou Voete (SABC 3).

Kiruna is passionate about people, story-telling, music and family.

Social Media
I: @KirunaLindD
T: @KirunaLindD
F: Kiruna-Lind Devar

Don Atillio / Policeman – Sebastian Zokoza

Training: Cape Town Opera Choral training programme.

Theatre includes: Balthazar in Amala and The Night Visitors (Cape Town Opera), Zarastro in Impempe Yomlingo (West End/Paris Opera House), Simon in The Mysteries (West End), Don Attilio in The Phantom of the Opera (Asia Tour), Jim and Crown in Porgy And Bess (Sweden) and Sam in Calling Us Home (Johannesburg/Cape Town).

 

 

Auctioneer / Lefevre / Firechief – Mike Huff

Mike Huff

Training: Mike graduated with ‘M’ Level Music at the Rhodesian College of Music before gaining a Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of Cape Town.

Theatre includes: Wilbur in Hairspray (Lyric Theatre, South Africa – Naledi Award for Best Supporting Actor), Harold in The Full Monty (Artscape, Cape Town/Johannesburg Theatre), Herr Schulz in Cabaret, Florenz Ziegfeld in Funny Girl (The Fugard Theatre), Higgins in My Fair Lady, Gaston in Gigi (The State Theatre), Vernon in They’re Playing Our Song, Cosmo in Singin’ In The Rain, Big Bopper in The Buddy Holly Story, (South African National Tour), The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors ( The Andre Huguenet), Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music (International Tour), The Rocky Horror Show (Lesotho/Johannesburg Theatre), Captain Andy in Showboat (Nurnberg, Oslo), Cornelius Hackle in Hello Dolly (His Majesty’s Theatre/The Sand Du Plessis Theatre), The Dybbuk, Kafka Dances (The Market Theatre), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Grahamstown Festival) and She Stoops to Conquer (The Playhouse).

Film includes: District 9, The Endgame, The Fall and The Trail.

Television includes: Leonardo (BBC) and Hard Copy (SABC).

Mike is married and lives in Johannesburg with his two children, two cats and two dogs.

Monsieur Reyer / Jeweller – Joseph DePietro

Training: Joseph graduated from Ithaca College with a BFA in Musical Theatre.

Theatre includes: Matthew in Altar Boyz, Woof in Hair (Arizona Broadway Theatre), Ragtime (Ogunquit Playhouse), James Keller in The Miracle Worker, Rutledge in 1776, Jack in Into The Woods (Ocean State Theatre Company), Henrik Egerman in A Little Night Music (The Barnstormers Theatre), and Gypsy (The Hangar Theatre).

Joseph is living his dream travelling this amazing part of the world while performing in this iconic show. Huge thanks to Seth, Lindsay, and this remarkable team for this experience. So much love to the greatest family and friends in the world. For the Core4, always.

Bidder / Fireman / Monk – Eric Anthony Lopez

Eric Anthony Lopez

Theatre includes: GRAMMY Award Nominated Broadway’s Inspirational Voices (New Victory Theatre), Crazy For You (25th Anniversary/Lincoln Center), Terrence McNally’s Master Class (Chicago Revival), Puccini’s Tosca & Bizet’s Carmen (New Wimbledon/West End), Elijah (Sydney Opera House), Dido and Aeneas (Birmingham Opera Company – International Opera Award Nominee), Broadway’s Christmas Wonderland (Toyko Orb) and The Jackie Mason Musical (Off-Broadway, NY)

Television includes: American Idol (Finalist – Season 14).

Eric’s debut studio album 21 & Counting, featuring a duet with TONY nominee and notable Christine Daaé Rebecca Luker is available on iTunes. Eric would like to thank Hal Prince, Ms. Kristen Blodgette, Really Useful and everyone on team Andrew Lloyd Webber. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity & SAG/AFTRA.

Social Media
I: @eric.anthony.lopez
W: www.ericanthonylopez.com

Lion Man / Fireman – Luke Grooms

Luke Grooms

Training: Luke has a BA in Music from Emory and Henry College, and a Masters in Voice from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Young artist programs include Sarasota Opera, Glimmerglass Opéra, Chautauqua Opéra, Des Moines Metro Opéra, Opéra North.

Theatre includes:  Dwight/God in Jerry Springer:  The Opera (The New Group), Bishop of Basingstoke in Jekyll and Hyde (International Tour), Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera (US National Tour), Dwight/God in Jerry Springer: The Opera (Carnegie Hall), Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid (Arkansas Rep), Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd (Hawaii Opéra Theatre), Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (Red Mountain Theatre Company), Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Ramiro in La Cenerentola (Skylight Music Theatre), Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd (Fulton Theatre), The Gambler (The Metropolitan Opera), Elvino in La Sonnambula (Opera Orchestra of New York),  Cyril Fonsdale in Going Hollywood (Reading), Senator Biden in Anita and Clarence (Cell Theatre), Fred/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate (Natchez Music Festival), Edgardo in Lucia di Lamermoor (New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera), Duca in Rigoletto (St. Petersburgh Opera), Roderigo in Otello (Rossini) (Opera in the Heights) and Nemorino in The Elixir of Love (Mississippi Opera).

Luke is featured on several recordings with Albany Records and Navona Records, and enjoys cooking, movies, and shopping!

Social media
I: @lukegrooms1
W: http://www.lukegrooms1

Soldier / Passarino – Ian Jon Bourg

Ian Job Bourg

Theatre includes: Monsieur Firmin in The Phantom of the Opera in Concert (Seoul, South Korea), Gus, Growltiger and Bustopher Jones in Cats (South Korea/Taiwan), Sir Danvers in Jekyll & Hyde (South Korea), Auctioneer and Lefevre in The Phantom of the Opera (International Tour), Phantom The Las Vegas Spectacular (Las Vegas, USA), Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (German Tour), The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (Germany), Graf Von Krolock in Tanz Der Vampir (Stuttgart, Germany), The Phantom and Monsieur Andre in The Phantom of the Opera (US National Tours), Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Milwaukee, USA) and Freddy in My Fair Lady (Omaha, USA).

In a long, productive association with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Ian is one of a handful of performers who have had the privilege of portraying The Phantom for nearly 3 million people in more than 3000 performances in 8 productions, in over 30 theatres throughout the USA, Germany, and Asia. In addition, he is considered to be the only actor to have been principal Phantom in 5 distinct international productions. When not performing Ian teaches voice and acting at various schools as well as his own studio.

Soldier / Hairdresser / Marksman – Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis

Training: Michael has a BFA in Acting and a Musical Theatre Certificate from Northwestern University.

Theatre includes: Phantom Alternate in Love Never Dies, Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera  (US National Tour), Morena in Secret of My Success, Harry Bright in Mamma Mia (Paramount Theater), Pierce Bentley in Museum of Broken Relationships (AMTP), Unspeakable (Broadway Playhouse), Marquise de Lafayette  in La Revolution Francaise (AMTP/FWD Theater), Tony in West Side Story (Walnut Street Theater), John in The New Picasso (New World Stages), Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Tony in West Side Story (European Tour), Jack in 60’s Project (Goodspeed Opera House), Manfred in The Last Bridge (George Street Playhouse), Frederic in Pirates of Penzance (Arizona Theater Company) and Ren in Footloose (Lyric Theater of Oklahoma).

Monsieur Bouquet / Inkeeper – Rouel Beukes

Rouel Beukes

Training: Rouel trained as a singer and actor at the Hochshule fur Musik in Munich, Germany and at the Franco Ferarris Institute in Milan, Italy. He also trained as a teacher at the Goudstad Teachers College in Joannesburg, South Africa.

Theatre includes: Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Colline in La Boheme, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor (State Theatre, Pretoria/Zand du Plessis Theatre, Bloemfontein),General de la Rey in Ons vir Jou, Daland in The Flying Dutchman (State Theatre, Pretoria/Artscape, Cape Town), Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (South African Tour), Dr Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, Dr. Grenville in La Traviata, Orest in Elektra, Mephistopheles in Faust, Timur in Turandot, Cascada in The Merry Widow (State Theatre, Pretoria), Zaggariah in Nabucco (State Theatre,Pretoria/Zand du Plessis Theatre, Bloemfontein/Artscape, Cape Town), Zuniga and Toreador in Carmen (State Theatre,Pretoria/South African Television), Don Alfonso in Cosi fan Tutte (State Theatre, Pretoria/Johannesburg City Theatre/Artscape, Cape Town) and Joseph Bouquet, Mr, Firmin and Don Attilio in The Phantom of the Opera (International Tours).

Film incudes; Liefling the Movie, Sew the Winter to my skin, Algiers 1& 2, A Small town called Descend, Of no Report, Pretville, and Riemvasmaak.

Television includes: Bluebeards Castle, Carmen, 7e Laan, Isidingo, Villa Rosa, Getroud met Rugby, Kasteel, The Cherry Orchard, and Die voortreflike familie Smit.

Rouel has done more than 2000 performances of The Phantom of the Opera up to date, is married to his wife Eureke for 40 years and have two children and two grandchildren. He loves swimming, bowls, fishing, nature and travelling and is also a South African national tour guide.

Wardrobe Mistress / Confidante – Jennifer West

Jennifer West

Training: Jennifer started vocal training at the age of thirteen with the Eaon Group in Cape Town, South Africa before studying at Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida, majoring in Voice and Music Therapy and travelling extensively in the USA as a soloist with the Edward Waters College Choir.

Theatre includes: The Phantom Of The Opera (International Tours 2003-2007 and 2011-2016), Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, Lauretta in Gianni Schicci, Nymph in Camelot, Yum-Yum in Mikado, Boy in Tosca, Serena in Porgy and Bess, and soloist in The Messiah (Artscape, Cape Town. Jennifer performed in all operas, musicals, concerts, oratorios and operettas produced by Artscape for stage television and community from 1982 to 1996.

Television includes: Backstage, Newshounds, Meerlanders and Zer.

Jennifer also writes and produces children’s plays and is a private vocal coach.

Madame Firmin / Spanish Lady – Robin Botha

Robin Botha

Training: Robin graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor’s degree in Music and a Performance Diploma in Opera.

Theatre includes: Christine Daae in The Phantom Of The Opera (Artscape, Cape Town/Montecasino Teatro, Johannesburg – Fleur Du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical), Magnolia in Showboat (International Tour), Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Second Lady in Zauberflöte, Alice Ford in Falstaff (The Baxter Theatre), Fiordiligi in  Cosi Fan Tutte (South African tour), Nabucco, The Pearl Fishers, La Traviata, Carmen (Artscape, Cape Town), and The Woman in In Opstanding (South African State Theatre – South African Theatre Magazine Nomination for Best Actress in an Opera/Musical).

Robin is a chocolate and shoe addict and performs Shakespeare with a local theatre company in her spare time. She co-owns an electronic music production studio.

Alternate Christine Daae / Princess / Mirror Bride – Clara Verdier

Clara Verdier

Training: Clara trained at LAMDA on the Classical Acting Programme and at the Escola de Artes Superior Célia Helena on the Theatre Arts Bachelor Programme. Her voice coaches include Amélia Gumes, Andreia Vitfer, Walter Chamun and Raul Roman.

Theatre includes: Cosette in Les Misérables (Mexico City – Los Metro Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress), Cosette in Les Misérables, Jennifer in Witches of Eastwick, Spring Awakening, Louisa in The Sound of Music (São Paulo), Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore (Rio de Janeiro), and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro).

Film includes: The Devil Lives Here (FilmQuest nominee for Best Supporting Actress).

Social Media
I: @clara.verdier
T: @clara_verdier
F: Clara Verdier

Wild Woman / Spanish Lady – Janelle Visagie

Janelle Visagie

Training: Janelle was part of the Cape Town Opera Young Artist Program before gaining an LTCL in Classical Performance from Trinity Guildhall School of Music, London.

Theatre includes: Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music (International Tour – Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical and Naledi nomination for Best Actress in a Musical), Elle in La Voix Humaine (Youngblood Art Gallery, Cape Town), Magnolia in Showboat (Malmö Opera/Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris), Angelica in Suor Angelica, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Maddalena in Rigoletto and Zweite Dame in Zauberflöte (Cape Town Opera).

Television includes: Rigoletto Verdi (SABC 2)

Awards: 2017 WoordTROfee for Best Classical Performance and 2018 Fiesta Award for Best Classical Performance    .

Growing up on a farm on the West Coast of South Africa, Janelle always had big dreams of performing all around the world and she is immensely proud and excited to be joining the Phantom of the Opera family to continue living her dream.

Wild Woman / Spanish Lady – Jana Ellsworth

Jana Ellsworth

Training: Jana studied at Texas Tech University.

Theatre includes: Madame Wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast (Theatre Under The Stars), Fricka in Das Barbecü (Houston Grand Opera), Doatsy Mae in Best Little Whorehouse, Brünhilde Das Barbecü (Art Park Players), A Christmas Story (Pearl Theater), Lalume in Kismet (Amarillo Opera), Vi Shaw in Footloose, Widow Corney in Oliver! (Stageworks, Houston), Paulette in Legally Blonde!, Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables (Fort Bend Theater), The Witch in Into The Woods (Texas Tech Theater), Jekyll  Hyde (Casa Manana), Musetta in La Boheme (San Diego Opera Ensemble), and Ciboletta in Night In Venice (San Diego Comic Opera). Jana was a Finalist in the Metropolian Opera National Council Awards Southwest Region.

Jana has two children, Brennan and Ashlynn, and two dogs, Dolly and Cosmo.

Attendant / Page – Deborah Caddy

Deborah Caddy

Training: Deborah was a Single Studies student at the Elder Conservatorium.

Theatre includes: My Fair Lady directed by Julie Andrews (Sydney Opera House/Melbourne/Brisbane), The Phantom of the Opera (International Tours 2005-2007 and 2012-2016/Australia and New Zealand Tour 2007-2009), The Magic Flute (Masonic Hall, Adelaide), Akhnaten, Satyagraha (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide), Flora in La Traviata, Frasquita in Carmen, Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music, Sister Catherine in Dead Man Walking (Adelaide Festival Theatre) and Elle in La Voix Humaine (SOSA Studio).

Deborah wrote and performed a cabaret show of Rogers and Hart songs entitled Have You Met Miss Jones? In the Adelaide Cabaret Fringe.

Social Media
F: DeborahCaddysinger

Slave Master / Shepherd  – Saverio Pescucci

Saverio Pescucci

Training: La Scala Ballet School, Milan

Theatre includes: The Phantom of the Opera (Broadway).

Dance companies that Saverio has worked with include Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dresden Semperoper Ballet, the Finnish National Ballet and Teatro Alla Scala.

After making his Broadway debut in The Phantom of the Opera in September 2017, Saverio is thrilled to join the cast of the international tour. He would like to thank Denny, Kristen, Joelle and his wonderful family for helping him make his dream come true.

Social Media
I: @sape91

Soldier / Flunky  / Dance Captain – Jesse Klick

Jesse Klick

Training: Jesse graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA in Musical Theatre in 2017.

Theatre includes: Eddie in Mamma Mia, Newsies (Pioneer Theatre, Utah), The Beautiful Game (also as Choreographer), Valentine in You Never Can Tell, Eddie Birdlace in Dogfight (Babcock Theatre, Utah), Luke in Steel Pier (Marriott Center for Dance – also as Assistant Choreographer), and Rum Tum Tugger in Cats (Studio 115).

Film and television includes: Hollow, Two and My Friend.

Jesse is a vegan, watches Friends on a loop, reads in his spare time and loves the rain.

Social Media
I: @jesseklick

Choir de Ballet – Ayaka Kamei

Ayaka Kamei

Training: Ayaka graduated from the Northern Ballet School in 2009  and has a BFA in Dance from SUNY Purchase, graduating in 2015.

Theatre as a dancer includes: Madama Butterfly, Turandot, The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflöte, Mefistofele, Rusalka, Aida, Don Giovanni, Les Contes D’Hoffmann (The Metropolitan Opera) and work with MorDance, Ayalis in Motion and AZOTH Dance Theatre.

Television includes: Turnadot and Die Zauberflöte (PBS).

Ayaka sends much love to Vinny, family and friends and is thrilled to join the Phantom family!

Social Media
I: @akdance.ny
W: http://www.ayakakamei.com

Choir de Ballet – Rachel Thalman

Rachel Thalman

Training: Rachel attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School and is a graduate of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s graduate program.

Theatre includes: Oklahoma! (STAGES St. Louis), Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Lady of the Camellias, Peter Pan, The Nutcracker (Cincinnati Ballet), Swan Lake, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker (Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre).

Rachel was a model and dancer for Desigual in New York Fashion Week.

She sends special thanks to her Mom and Dad, her family, Lakey Wolff & Co. and teachers past and present.

Social Media
I: rachelthalman

Choir de Ballet – Claire Van Bever

Claire Van Bever

Training: Claire trained at the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase, Oregon Ballet Theatre and The Rock School for Dance Education. She has worked with choreographers Jillian Pena, Stephanie Batten-Bland, Prue Lang and Alice Gosti.

Theatre includes: The Silver River (Lincoln Hall), Romeo and Juliet, Kirk Peterson’s Eyes That Gently Touch, Afternoon of a Faun, Rite of Spring, Princess in Firebird, Patrick Corbin’s Caress (American Repertory Ballet) and Serenade (Purchase Dance Company).

Claire send thanks to Mom for opening the door, thanks to Dad for always being there and thanks to Ellie for everything else.

Choir de Ballet – Skye Weiss

Skye Weiss

Training: Skye trained at the Ann Broder School of Ballet, Cape Junior Ballet, Waterfront Theatre School and Cape Academy of Performing Arts.

Theatre includes: A Thousand Shepherds (Artscape Opera/Grahamstown Arts Festival/KKNK Oudtshoorn Festival), Interplay, Katrina, Guys and Dolls, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia (Artscape Theatre), Ellipses, Jilted, Chasing Shadows (Artscape Theatre/Grahamstown Festival) and The King and I (Artcape Opera).

Television and commericals include: Coca-Cola, Wrigleys and Safe.

 Awards: Third place for Ballet in the TDA Rep Competition (Artscape Theatre) and a bursary for SAIBC training.

At the age of six Skye had set her sights on becoming a ballet dancer and travelling the world. She enjoys reading and drinking coffee while having good conversations with friends. She has travelled to many countries and is very excited to embark on this extraordinary adventure.

Social Media
I: @its_just_skye_
F: Skye Weiss

Choir de Ballet – Järvi Raudsepp

Jarvi Raudsepp

Training: Järvi trained with Nadia Veselova Tencer at the Academy of Ballet and Jazz in Toronto.

Theatre includes: work with the Estonian National Ballet, Orlando Ballet under Fernando Bujones, Festival Ballet Providence and Ontario Ballet Theatre.

Television and film includes: American Girl: Isabelle Dances into the Spolight, Reign, Falling Water, and Titans. 

Järvi is Estonian Canadian, originally from Toronto, and was accepted into the Estonian National Ballet at the age of seventeen. She sends endless love to her spouse Alejandro and to all her family and friends. Love you and miss you always, Mamma.

Social Media:
I: @birdofthelake

Choir de Ballet – Hillary Reiter

Training: Hillary is a BFA Graduate of SUNY Purchase Dance Conservatory.

Theatre includes: Bebcita in West Side Story, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and Annie (also Dance Captain and Assistant Choreographer) (US National Tour).

Hillary is thrilled to be a part of this incredible production and would like to thank the creative team! Love to her Mom, Dad, Mark and her supportive family!

Social Media
I: @hillaryreiter

Swing / Resident Choreographer – Jee Hyun Noh

Jee Jee Noh

Training: Jee-Hyun trained at Sunhwa Art School, West Street School and London Studio Centre.

Theatre includes: Carousel (National Theatre, UK), The Phantom of the Opera (West End), Meg in The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast (Seoul, Korea – also Dance Captain), Cats (Big Top, Korea – also Dance Captain), Meg in The Phantom of the Opera (Asia Tour – also Dance Captain), Cats (Asia Tour – also Associate Choreographer), Chicago, The Producers, Cats, Billy Elliot (Seoul – also Resident Choreographer), Sally Brown in Charlie Brown (Seoul), Werther, RENT, Hairspray (Seoul – also Choreographer) and Wife in Contact: Act 2 (Did You Move?). She has danced with Wiener Ballet Theater, London City Ballet, the English National Ballet, Ballet Ireland and Seoul Ballet Theatre.

Television and Film as Choreographer includes: Yuna Kim concert Fest On Ice, Insooni concert, and Son Yeonjae Rhythmic Gymnast Gala Show.

Swing – Lungelwa Mdekazi

Lungelwa Mdekazi

Training: Lungelwa has a Performer’s Diploma in Opera and a Bachelor of Music Honours degree in Performance.

Theatre includes: Mother in Calling Us Home (Artscape, Cape Town), Miriam’s Mother in King Kong The Musical (Fugard Theatre), Drummer in African Angels (Holland and Germany Tour), Hansel in Hansel and Gretel (Cape Town Opera), Abbess in Suor Angelica (Johannesburg) and Phantom of the Opera (Asia Tour).

Lungelwa is a mother, opera singer, drummer, adjudicator, actor and dancer.

 

Swing – Megan Ort

Megan Ort

Theatre includes: Cats (Broadway), Evita (US Tour), Reza in Once (Theatre Raleigh), Jane in The Yellow Wallpaper  (FringeNYC), Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man, Annie Get Your Gun (The Glimmerglass Festival – Young Artist 2011, 2012), Jellylorum in Cats (Royal Carribean), Soul Doctor (Lyceum Theatre), Alexa (Inwood Art Works), and Sweeney Todd (Piper Theatre Company).

Megan extends endless gratitude to Caitlin, Mom, Dad, HD, GG and The Hybrid Agency.

Social MediaI:
@megan.ort
W: http://www.meganort.com

Swing – Oliver Druce

Oliver Druce

Theatre includes: The Old Maid and the Thief, Die Lustige Witwe, The Fairy Queen, Mozart Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th (Stellenbosch University), and Die Fledermaus (Artscape Theatre, Cape Town).

Oliver started studying music after his partner suggested the path for him to follow and he hasn’t looked back since.  The world of music is one he adores and that he could not live without.

 

 

 

Swing – Alexander Mendoza

Alexander Mendoza

Training: Azusa Pacific University and The Boston Conservatory

Theatre includes: Sister Act, Mamma Mia (US Tour), The Beast in Beauty And The Beast (Zach Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and 3D Theatricals), Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid (Performance Riverside), Henry in Next To Normal, Georg in Spring Awakening (McCoy/Rigby Entertainment), Shrek in Shrek and Freddy in My Fair Lady (Peach State Summer Theatre).

Alex is honoured to be in the show that changed his life. He would like to thank the Phantom creative team and producers, his family, Aaron, Dominick, Lindsay at Tara Rubin Casting, Ashley and Mark at KMR, and most importantly God. Glory to Him. Joshua 1:9. This is for you Nana!

Social Media
I: @alexander.mendoza1

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Releases Full Cast List

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the world’s most popular musical today announced the remaining cast members for the long-awaited Asian tour. Presented in Manila by PLDT Smart, the musical premieres at The Theatre at Solaire for a limited season from February 20,2019 and tickets are now on sale through Ticketworld.com.ph.

Following his successful stints as Che in Evita and Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, theatre star Jonathan Roxmouth returns to play the title role of “The Phantom”. Joining the tour as the beautiful young soprano “Christine” is Meghan Picerno and rounding up the principal cast is Matt Leisy, who will be playing the role of “Raoul”.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will also be starring James Borthwick, Curt Olds, Beverley Chiat, Melina Kalomas, Thabiso Masemene, Kiruna-Lind Devar, Sebastian Zokoza, Mike Huff, Joseph DePietro, Eric Anthony Lopez, Luke Grooms, Ian Jon Bourg, Michael Gillis, Rouel Beukes, Jennifer West, Robin Botha, Clara Verdier, Janelle Visagie, Jana Ellsworth, Deborah Caddy, Saverio Pescucci, Jesse Klick, Ayaka Kamei, Rachel Thalman, Claire Van Bever, Skye Weiss, Järvi Raudsepp, Hillary Reiter, JeeHyun Noh, Lungelwa Mdekazi, Megan Ort, Oliver Druce, and Alexander Mendoza.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster has won over 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys on Broadway and four Olivier Awards in the West End. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the longest running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder “Cats”. On January 1, 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on January 24, the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

“Broadway’s biggest hit!” Daily news, USA

PHANTOM is undoubtedly a musical masterpiece. We are very excited to be able to bring the show back to Manila for its many faithful fans, as well as for those who have never had the chance to see this legendary show,” said James Cundall, the Chief Executive Officer of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and producers of the Asian tour of the production, which also visits Singapore and Tel Aviv. More tour dates to be announced soon!

“If you see only one show, make sure it is this one!” The Daily Mirror, UK

With 130 cast, crew and orchestra members, jaw-dropping scenery, breathtaking special effects and more than 230 costumes by the late international designer late Maria Björnson, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA contains some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous and stirring music, including The Phantom of the Opera, Think of Me and Music of the Night.  The original cast recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best-selling cast recording of all time.

Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA tells the tale of a disfigured musical genius known only as the Phantom who haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House. Mesmerised by the talent and beauty of a young soprano, Christine, the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her. Unaware of Christine’s love for Raoul, the Phantom’s obsession sets the scene for a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End on October 9, 1986, starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine. It is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is brought to Manila by Concertus Manila and produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions. Presented by PLDT Smart. With thanks to Novuhair, Diamond Hotel Manila and OOCL. Media partners CNN Philippines, Tiger 22, The Philippine Star, and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

TICKETING AND SHOW INFORMATION

SEASON: From 20 February
BOOKINGS: ticketworld.com.ph // 891-9999

ABOUT THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the longest running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder “Cats”. This coincided with the Broadway and the US national touring company celebrating an unprecedented 20,000 performances in the United States. On 1 January 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on 24 January the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has won over 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys on Broadway and four Olivier Awards in the West End. It won the ‘Magic Radio Audience Award’, voted by the public, in the 2016 Laurence Olivier Awards. It is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company Limited.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the first stage production to reach worldwide grosses of $6 billion. Revenues far surpass the world’s highest-grossing film “Avatar” (at $2.8 billion), as well as such other blockbusters as “Titanic”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars”. Worldwide, over 140 million people have seen THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 37 countries and 172 cities in 16 languages.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is currently showing in London, New York, Budapest, and on tour in the US.

www.thephantomoftheopera.com

www.andrewlloydwebber.com

www.reallyuseful.com

***

FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES:
Anna Yulo (PR and Marketing Executive | Concertus Manila)
anna@concertusmanila.com – Tel: +63 2 403 8678

ABOUT LUNCHBOX THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS

Headed by James Cundall, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions is one of Australasia’s leading producers of live entertainment, and over the last two decades has created a reputation for bringing top quality international productions to audiences across five continents.

Since 1993, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions has brought a wide array of live entertainment to Australasia, including musicals (The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Cats, We Will Rock You, The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon); spectaculars (Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria, Riverdance); boutique shows (Stomp, Potted Potter, Slava’s Snowshow, Blue Man Group); musical concerts (ABBA Mania, Thriller Live, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Bootleg Beatles); international artists (Elaine Paige, Bryn Terfel, David Helfgott); children’s shows (Barney the Dinosaur, Louis Pearl the Amazing Bubble Man) as well as The Imperial Ice Stars productions of The Sleeping Beauty on Ice, Swan Lake on Ice, Cinderella on Ice and The Nutcracker on Ice to name just a few. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions is based in the UK with companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, The Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

ABOUT CONCERTUS

Founded in 2004, Concertus Manila is one of the leading promoters of live entertainment in the Philippines.

The company focuses on providing high-calibre shows that elevate the entertainment scene year after year.

They are a full-service concert and event production company with a reputation for excellence, creativity and passion, they have presented numerous concerts, musical and theatrical events as well as corporate events.

Concertus Manila partners with foreign producers and treats Filipinos to world-class musicals and shows like CATS, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, STOMP, Chicago, Singin’ In The Rain, Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Disney’s The Lion King.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Announces Principal Cast

JONATHAN ROXMOUTH TO PLAY ‘THE PHANTOM’ FOR THE ASIAN TOUR

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the world’s most popular musical today announced the three principal cast members for the long-awaited Asian tour. Presented in Manila by PLDT Smart, the musical premieres at The Theatre at Solaire for a limited season from February 20,2019 and tickets are now on sale through Ticketworld.com.ph.

Jonathan Roxmouth

Following his successful stints as Che in Evita and Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, theatre star Jonathan Roxmouth returns to play the title role of “The Phantom”. Joining the tour as the beautiful young soprano “Christine” is Meghan Picerno and rounding up the principal cast is Matt Leisy, who will be playing the role of “Raoul”.

Jonathan Roxmouth’s theatre credits include Tony in West Side Story, Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg / Theatre on the Bay, Cape Town), Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, Munkustrap in Cats, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (Teatro, Johannesburg / Artscape, Cape Town), Lun Tha in The King and I (Joburg Theatre, Johannesburg), and Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story and Teen Angel in Grease (Barnyard Theatre). Jonathan is currently touring the world as Billy Flynn in the International Tour of CHICAGO THE MUSICAL.

Meghan Picerno

Meghan Picerno played the highly-coveted role of Christine for the US Premiere & 1st National Tour of Love Never Dies. Theatre credits include Cunegonde in Candide (New York City Opera/Gran Teatre del Liceu), Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Marie in La Fille Du Régiment, La Fée in Cendrillon, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, The Dreyfus Affair (Ensemble of the Romantic Century), Musicals in Mufti: From Berlin to Broadway (York Theatre Company), Maria in West Side Story, Amalia in She Loves Me, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and Johanna in Sweeney Todd (Off-Broadway).

 

Matt Leisy

Matt Leisy was recently seen onstage as Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street Theatre, New York), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Broadway First National Tour), Ragtime, The 39 Steps, Witness for the Prosecution (Bristol Riverside Theatre), The Fantasticks (Off-Broadway), Ken in Red (Clarence Brown Theatre), Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest (Arizona Theatre Company), Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Scripps in The History Boys (Repertory Theatre of St Louis/Arden Theatre – Barrymore Award Nominee), Carousel (Lincoln Center), and Ghostlight (Signature Theatre).

 “God’s Gift To Musical Theatre!” The Times, UK

The Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster has won over 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys on Broadway and four Olivier Awards in the West End. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the longest running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder “Cats”. On January 1, 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on January 24, the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

“Broadway’s biggest hit!” Daily news, USA

PHANTOM is undoubtedly a musical masterpiece. We are very excited to be able to bring the show back to Manila for its many faithful fans, as well as for those who have never had the chance to see this legendary show,” said James Cundall, the Chief Executive Officer of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and producers of the Asian tour of the production, which also visits Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

“If you see only one show, make sure it is this one!” The Daily Mirror, UK

With 130 cast, crew and orchestra members, jaw-dropping scenery, breathtaking special effects and more than 230 costumes by the late international designer late Maria Björnson, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA contains some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous and stirring music, including The Phantom of the Opera, Think of Me and Music of the Night.  The original cast recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best-selling cast recording of all time.

Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA tells the tale of a disfigured musical genius known only as the Phantom who haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House. Mesmerised by the talent and beauty of a young soprano, Christine, the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her. Unaware of Christine’s love for Raoul, the Phantom’s obsession sets the scene for a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End on October 9, 1986, starred Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine. It is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is brought to Manila by Concertus Manila and produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions. Presented by PLDT Smart. With thanks to Novuhair, Diamond Hotel Manila and OOCL. Media partners CNN Philippines, Tiger 22, The Philippine Star, and Philippine Daily Inquirer.


TICKETING AND SHOW INFORMATION

SEASON: From 20 February
BOOKINGS: ticketworld.com.ph // 891-9999


ABOUT THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the longest running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder “Cats”. This coincided with the Broadway and the US national touring company celebrating an unprecedented 20,000 performances in the United States. On 1 January 2018 it celebrated its 13,000th performance and later that month on 24 January the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 30 years on Broadway.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has won over 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tonys on Broadway and four Olivier Awards in the West End. It won the ‘Magic Radio Audience Award’, voted by the public, in the 2016 Laurence Olivier Awards. It is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company Limited.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA became the first stage production to reach worldwide grosses of $6 billion. Revenues far surpass the world’s highest-grossing film “Avatar” (at $2.8 billion), as well as such other blockbusters as “Titanic”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars”. Worldwide, over 140 million people have seen THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 37 countries and 172 cities in 16 languages.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is currently showing in London, New York, Budapest, and on tour in the US.

www.thephantomoftheopera.com

www.andrewlloydwebber.com

www.reallyuseful.com

***

FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES:
Anna Yulo (PR and Marketing Executive | Concertus Manila)
anna@concertusmanila.com – Tel: +63 2 403 8678

ABOUT LUNCHBOX THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS
Headed by James Cundall, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions is one of Australasia’s leading producers of live entertainment, and over the last two decades has created a reputation for bringing top quality international productions to audiences across five continents.

Since 1993, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions has brought a wide array of live entertainment to Australasia, including musicals (The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Cats, We Will Rock You, The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon); spectaculars (Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria, Riverdance); boutique shows (Stomp, Potted Potter, Slava’s Snowshow, Blue Man Group); musical concerts (ABBA Mania, Thriller Live, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Bootleg Beatles); international artists (Elaine Paige, Bryn Terfel, David Helfgott); children’s shows (Barney the Dinosaur, Louis Pearl the Amazing Bubble Man) as well as The Imperial Ice Stars productions of The Sleeping Beauty on Ice, Swan Lake on Ice, Cinderella on Ice and The Nutcracker on Ice to name just a few. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions is based in the UK with companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, The Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

ABOUT CONCERTUS
Founded in 2004, Concertus Manila is one of the leading promoters of live entertainment in the Philippines.

The company focuses on providing high-calibre shows that elevate the entertainment scene year after year.

They are a full-service concert and event production company with a reputation for excellence, creativity and passion, they have presented numerous concerts, musical and theatrical events as well as corporate events.

Concertus Manila partners with foreign producers and treats Filipinos to world-class musicals and shows like CATS, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, STOMP, Chicago, Singin’ In The Rain, Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, West Side Story, The Sound of Music and Disney’s The Lion King.

Of Abot Tala, Trust and Taking Risks

We’ve spent many late nights these past two weeks working on our very first round table discussion/orientation materials. It’s for families who want to know more about Abot Tala, the Self-Directed Learning center we’re putting up here in Metro Manila.

Yesterday was the big day and it was interesting to see different reactions as I presented Abot Tala. The families asked really great questions and even after the event, it made me think about what we’re truly about. The concept and model are crystal clear to me, but today it hit me – we don’t present Abot Tala to convince parents to send their teens to us. Rather, we’re simply telling people who we are and what we offer. If they like what they hear because it resonates with them so well, then fantastic, it could be a potential fit! If not, then it isn’t.

The search for the first 30 teens to join us has now turned into something totally different in my head. It’s turned into some sort of compatibility quest to wait on our pioneering families to hear about us and find us. It’s exciting, really, because I have no doubt in my head that those first 30 teens and their families think outside the box. For sure they are big thinkers and risk takers.

Here’s why.

Abot Tala is patterned after the North Star Model which has been around in the States for more than 20 years. It was designed for teens who aren’t thriving in the traditional system for whatever reason. It uses homeschooling as a tool to opt out of the school system and Ken Danford, along with his co-founder, put up a physical center where teens could go to on a regular basis and learn whatever they wanted to learn from peers and mentors — because they want to and not because someone else told them to do so. The members (teens) have a voice in what they believe they need to learn (based on their interests and passion). Members get to design their own education and Abot Tala (using the North Star model) helps them do that – hence the term, Self-Directed.

So how does this work exactly? Let me give you a sneak peek into the process. It starts off with a family meeting with the teen and his/her parent/s. During that initial meeting, we find out what the teen’s current situation is, education-wise. Is he/she in school and how is it there? Are they homeschoolers? Why are they considering Abot Tala? What are they passionate about? What do they think they want to learn? What problems do they want to solve? What skill sets do they want to learn or improve on? Generally, it’s really about getting to know the teen and his/her family. At that point, I believe, the relationship starts. The teen or member, as we would call them, could give us a long list of things they want to learn and it’s up to us to find the right mentor to conduct classes based on their interests or set-up on one-on-one trainings, a tutorial or even an internship program. It could also go the opposite way where the teens says they’re not really into anything and they don’t really care about the problems of the world. They could say they’ve never really thought about it yet and honestly, they’re lost. Both situations can be expected and both situations are absolutely why Abot Tala is gonna be a game-changer in education here in  the Philippines.

What school would take you in asking you all those questions and be okay with whatever answer you give them (even if you give them nothing?). That’s the thing, Abot Tala is not a school. We don’t give grades, report cards, certificates nor is there graduation. We can throw them a graduation party if they want one or the teens can design or come up with certificates for completing something and we can always print it out for them – but that’s not the point of Abot Tala.

We don’t want teens to study and work hard because they just want to pass a subject and get high grades. We want them to work hard and  learn because they are interested and because they genuinely want to learn. The dream is to have a community of teens who are gathered in the common room talking about social issues or our country’s history – not because they’re studying for a test or because it’s a requirement but because they are genuinely interested in the Philippines and they want to find ways to contribute to make it a better country. I dream of a teen working on a book draft and turning it in with hopes that his book will actually get feedback so he could keep on improving it, until it is ready for publishing. No grades, just lots of helpful feedback and guidance from a mentor who knows what he/she is talking about. What if we measure a teen’s success not by a numerical value but by the process he/she has gone through to achieve the goal he set for himself. Wait, what if we don’t measure it at all and let the natural course of events happen? We don’t get numerical grades for all the things we do in the real world, right? Anyway, it’s a dream, I know, but it’s not an impossible dream.

Anyway, after that first meeting, if the family decides that Abot Tala is the right fit for them, then we move on to registering them as members and assigning them to a full-time mentor who’ll meet with the member for about an hour once a week, every week throughout his/her stay at Abot Tala. During those meetings the mentor will ask what the member has been up to, both at Abot Tala and outside the center. What movie has he seen lately? What book is he currently reading? Is it any good? Would he recommend it to others? Is there anything new he wants to learn? How’s that tutorial in French coming along? Is he almost done with that essay he was writing last week? How’s everyone treating him at the center? What classes is he taking up that week and does he have any appointments set at the center that week?

 

Yes, there are classes – both traditional and non-traditional classes, which of course are taught in ways that interest and excite not just the members but also the mentors. We can go from Chemistry in the Kitchen to 20 Movies You Need To See Before You Turn 20 to an album listening class as well as a class on how not to go broke (a.k.a. Accounting, but we’re not calling it that).  Are these classes required? How does the member know his schedule for the week or the month or what class he needs to take? See that’s what makes Abot Tala and the North Star model different – nothing is required, everything is voluntary, most especially the classes. We’ll be releasing a schedule of classes every month, based on the interests of the members, as well as the availability of mentors, guest mentors and facilitators. Once that schedule is up, along with the course details, the member is then free to choose any class he wants. It can be as little or as many as he can handle. The mentors are then given the guarantee that the members they get in their class signed up for it because they want to, therefore, they’re a bunch of eager beavers.

There may be that freedom the teens so long for to self-direct their education, but as Benjamin Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

If they sign up for a class, they have the responsibility to show up for class on time and turn in whatever their mentors ask of them, on time.

What if they don’t want to go to any class and they just want to be at the center and study on their own or with a group of peers? Will we be breathing down their necks? Nope. They have the freedom to study whatever they want to learn, however they want to learn, wherever they want to learn – except if they’ve signed up for a class or if they asked for a tutorial or mentorship session set-up for them. They have to honor their commitments and show up.

So how does one keep track of what they have learned? Well, the mentor helps build a portfolio for the member through an online program which was created for the Liberated Learners Network which we are part of. Everything he’s done at the center will be recorded and all that will be shared with the member’s parents during family meetings we will regularly set-up. From there, the parent would have a way to grade his teen’s work – IF that teen is with a homeschool provider.

Jargon alert: Homeschool providers help out homeschoolers by keeping record of their grades which parents submit either every quarter or at the end of the year. Homeschool providers are affiliated with a Dep Ed accredited brick and mortar school which usually issues the report card to the family once they are ready to enter the school system, be it senior high, university or any level for that matter.

There’s another route Abot Tala members can take – the indie unregistered homeschooler route. This is truly the no-grades, no-required subjects route. They are as free as they want to be, up until they want to enter the school system. If they see down the line that they want to go to senior high or university, then they’d have to take the Philippine Education Placement Test or the PEP Test which will be taken at the Department of Education. We have a program in place that runs for three months (right before the test) to help members prepare for the test. Once they pass, they get a piece of paper from Dep Ed that says they passed and believe it or not, universities honor it (except UP, I believe). I personally know someone who took the test and is in Ateneo right now. No records of grades whatsoever. She just needed to pass the PEP test and the university’s entrance exam. So yes, it is 100% possible.

What about the things they don’t learn at the center because they were totally self-directed? What if they totally avoided all the maths and sciences and language courses and everything they need to know to survive university? What if they did absolutely nothing but hang out at the center and play games all year round?

First off, we’re already assuming that teens won’t do what they need to do if they aren’t told what to learn and when to learn it. I think that’s the mentality we’ve all had because it’s what we experienced. From preschool to college, we’re so used to someone telling us what to do, when to do it and even how to do it. Twenty years of that, every single day during the school year and possibly even during summer break. And then all of a sudden, when we graduate from college, we’re expected to make all sorts of big decisions for ourselves. When we enter the workforce, the shock is real that no one is telling them us what to do. Unless of course, that whole system continues in the workforce, right? But who likes being told what to do? We assume that teens are a bunch of oversized kids who are not capable of making decisions for themselves. We assume they don’t want to be better people. We assume they will avoid the hard stuff because all they want to do is hangout and play with friends.

But what if we took a risk and actually trusted them? What if it works out? What if they make better decisions for themselves – better than we could ever had for them? Yes, we always say parents know best – but you know what, what if we don’t? What if we really don’t know what makes them happy and what makes them feel fulfilled? What if they do and they’re just scared to tell us? What if we allow them to fail and make wrong decisions specially during this season of their life where it’s absolutely okay for them to fail and make mistakes? What if we treat their teen years as their experimental-getting-to-know-thyself-give-me-space-allow-me-to-make-mistakes-and-I’ll-learn-from-my-mistakes season? Their career doesn’t depend on it, they don’t have a family to feed, and yes, remember, they are all under 20. They have the whole world ahead of them, right? I think it’s a cultural thing that we expect everyone to be done with college by 20 or 21 and if you enter university a bit older than everyone, you get made fun of. Why is it like that here? Who said that that was the only natural way to go through life, right?

I was just watching a video interviewing the cast of Crazy Rich Asians. Majority of the cast went to university and they took up a course (totally not related to their craft) just because their Asian parents told them to. Once they were done with medicine or law or whatever degree, they were finally free to explore comedy or acting. I wonder how different their lives as well as their craft would have been if they were allowed to pursue what they were really passionate about when they were way younger, right? They could have started working on their 10,000 hours of mastery as early as the teen years, unfortunately it seems like everyone is busy complying and doing what they need to do to “pass.” To be honest, we’re really giving them a head start in life, are we?

Abot Tala isn’t for everyone. The school system isn’t for everyone. Homeschool isn’t for everyone. That’s the beauty of all of this. There are so many different options now and it’s just a matter of finding the right fit your child.  If you think Abot Tala is the right fit for you and you can trust the model which gives your teen the freedom to make decisions about his or her own education, and well, his or her life, with your guidance and the mentor’s, then we’d love for you to get in touch with us. You can send us an email, abottala.ph@gmail.com or call us at 09152864494. We are Abot Tala on facebook and Instagram. We don’t have a physical center just yet but we’re actively looking for the right space. (If you know anyone who can help us out, please let us know) We’re hoping for the center to be in Taguig or Makati.

If you could redesign school, how would it look like for you?

 

 

 

Of Dreams Coming True and Turning 37

I have a story to share. It’s the kind that has given people goosebumps. It’s made some people cry and it has definitely encouraged so many to start dreaming and believing again.

I had a dream so big and so seemingly impossible. It felt like I was reaching for the stars. A voice inside me said nothing is impossible. At the same time, another voice said I was crazy for even thinking that my dream could be a reality.

Today is my 37th birthday and I am celebrating it by getting this site up and running. I needed a place to document all the wonderful, amazing events that have been happening in my life…so tadaaa! Welcome to my playground on the internet. It is definitely a dream come true, but this isn’t the dream that has made people cry out of pure awe and joy. (So read on.) *wink*

Truly, the Lord has blessed me with my heart’s desires and more. I am overwhelmed and grateful beyond words. Today I choose to celebrate all the dreams that have been coming true, one after another. Today I celebrate all the challenges I have had to go through in life to be who I am today. I want to encourage you to keep on dreaming for whatever will fill you up with joy and if you’ve stopped – start dreaming again.

Around December 2017, I came across videos and articles of alternative forms of education in the States.  I remember watching video after video about centers that offer the best of both worlds – personalized education and a community that celebrates individuality and meets up regularly.

I’ve been a homeschooling mom since 2011. My eldest was about to turn 13 when I started digging into these videos and articles. I knew he was entering a season where he needed to be around other teens more often but we both agreed that a brick and mortar school wasn’t the wisest choice if community was all we were after. I remember thinking to myself, “There must be another option out there and if there isn’t any – what if…what if WE put something up?!”

The idea kept me up at night. I’d tell my husband about that vision and I’d be giddy, excited and scared all at the same time. I told friends about this dream to put up a center where teens had a voice in what they truly wanted to learn and what they wanted to spend their time on.  Some brushed it off while others told me exactly what I needed to know to move this dream forward. What topped the list was – drumroll please – funds, and lots of it. I remember standing on the second floor of The Forum in BGC overlooking the Maybank Performing Arts Theater when my friend told me –

“You need to look for someone who believes in this vision, has lots of funds for it and is willing to invest.”

Sure. Easy. Gulp. Now where in the world is that person?

By February I stopped figuring out how this dream could become a reality. My mom started getting sick around that time and taking care of her became my priority. My heart sank at the thought of letting go of my dream but at that point, it just seemed impossible. I had so much on my plate anyway – my mom, my family, homeschool and the need to move into a new home (how that happened is another miraculous story I need to share soon!).

Until one evening in May…. I came across this post on Facebook looking for part-time or full-time mentors for a Self-Directed Learning Center here in Manila. The post definitely sounded like the centers I was researching about from December to February. I sent a message right away to the person who posted the ad. I had to find out if this is what I thought it was. If I couldn’t put up my own center, I definitely wanted to help out whoever was doing it. That same night I was able to introduce myself and exchange messages with Joei Villarama, the founder of Abot Tala Self-Directed Learning Collaborative for Teens. We had set a meeting that same week so I could learn more about it and we could somehow figure out how I could help.

As I sat down for our lunch meeting, I remember hearing that small voice again telling me to share my heart and my vision. So I did and I remember being so passionate about what I was talking about. I could feel my heart beating so fast. I was giddy. I was so excited. Joei was smiling the whole time. The she told me something so mind blowing.

She said to her it seems like I wrote a poem or a story on a piece of paper sometime December. I was working on it til February and eventually dropped that piece of paper that same month. She happened to pass by and she found that piece of paper (also in February), picked it up and decided to work on it even more, because she too loves the idea. She researched about it and did everything she possibly could to make that poem or story come to life. She even took her family worldschooling and traveled across North America to visit different centers that offer alternative education. (Read about it here)

As she was listening to my story she realized that the piece of paper belongs to me. So she said, “I’m returning that piece of paper to you with funds you need to build it. Make it happen.” She said I should be the executive director of Abot Tala. What?! I was absolutely stunned. I wasn’t sure if I heard her right either. It was nothing but surreal. She barely knew me but she trusted me right away. It was a crazy, beautiful moment. So you’d think I said yes, right? Wrong.

Right after my meeting with Joei, I went straight to a pre-planned meeting with my life mentors, Ron and Joyce Titular. Ron was my boss for a few years and he knew me very well. Even before I could tell them how scary the offer was, he said — “Don’t be scared.”

However, days later, I started to feel fear creep in. I doubted myself. I told Joei that her center would fail if she got me as her executive director. I’m sure I came up with so many reasons why I wasn’t the right person for the job. I wanted to be part of it, but I was scared. I didn’t want her to return that piece of paper to me. Finders keepers!

I became Jonah, you know, the guy in the Bible who was running away from his mission. He eventually got eaten up by a whale (or some other big fish). At one point I told Joei I’d think about it, then soon after I told her I couldn’t do it. I was definitely Jonah and I got eaten up whole by my fear!

I remember thinking that my heart screamed that it was exactly what I wanted to do but the opportunity came at the wrong time. Accepting the mission would mean changing our family’s lifestyle which was already so convenient. I’d have to leave my comfort zone of being a homeschool momma who worked only a few hours a week teaching other homeschoolers and doing all sorts of random freelance jobs. I won’t bore you with all the other excuses I came up with in my head. They all seem so trivial now that I think about it.

But you know what, Joei kept me in the loop. She’d still call me often to ask my opinion about certain things and I remember being so happy every time she called because I was still somehow part of it. Honestly, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that she trusted me enough.

Little did I know, God was just preparing my heart that whole time. He was also preparing my family for this big leap we were all about to take. Every night before I went to bed, my head would be filled with thoughts about Abot Tala. Slowly, I felt the fear just melt away and it was replaced with incredible peace especially when I did anything to help out Joei.

Dinner with like-minded people on the night Ken arrived in Manila

In July, the founder and Executive Director of North Star Self- Directed Learning Center for Teens in Massachusetts (our model for the Abot Tala center) spent over a week here in Manila. It was such a rich, learning experience and it really helped me make an informed decision (because somehow, the offer was back on the table). My husband had finished reading the book, The Teacher Liberation, which talks about how setting up a center like this works, before I even did.  He was totally impressed with this self-directed learning model for a teen center.  So much so, they invited him to be part of the board of Abot Tala. He too got to spend time with Ken and Joei and it was then that he saw me in my element.

By the time we got home from our meeting, he told me that there was no point in running away. He said this is what I am meant to do. Yes, there definitely will be changes but we just have to do what we can to make things work. We knew we were ready to take the leap – as a family. He reminded me to trust that if this is really meant to be, things will continue to fall into place. I was giddy and excited and my yes meter was at 90%.

Then this message came in from a former student who is now a good friend after she spent her gap year with me as my co-teacher.

It was just the confirmation I needed. This is definitely what I am meant to do in this season of my life. The next day, I took Ken to the airport and I got to pick his brain one last time (in person, at least). By the time we got to Terminal 1, my yes meter was at 100% and it wasn’t budging. I’m glad I was able to tell him in person that I was finally ready for this life-changing mission, not just for me but for so many. I knew that this time around, I was no longer scared. I no longer believed that the center would fail if they made me executive director. I was done running away. My heart was so ready and so were the hearts of those closest to me. That day I officially left my comfort zone and moved into my courage zone. I haven’t left since and it’s been such an amazing ride. To this day, all the puzzle pieces just keep falling into place. It’s turning out to be such a beautiful picture, guys.

So here I am. 37 years old and aside from being a wife, mom and daughter, I finally figured out what my mission in life is. I’ve graciously been placed in a position to help create a center where teens are free to learn whatever they want to learn; a place where they are free to make mistakes as they discover what they really want to do, at least in this season of their life. I am so excited to sit down and listen to teens as they share their hearts’ desires and dreams, both big and small, the same way I did when I met Joei for lunch that day.  The heart of Abot Tala is believing in people’s dreams and it’s about helping in any way we can to make those dreams a reality. I am honored to be one of those people who’ll be able to say “you can do this” the same way Joei did when she tirelessly reminded me to remember this:

Joei sent me this right after I told her that I was finally saying yes! There is so much power in telling people you believe in them. I constantly have this picture in my mind whenever I’m faced with anything challenging. Thank you for believing in me, Joei.

Thank you to everyone who continue to believe in me. It’s what keeps me going. Trust that I will forever pay it forward. Life is beautiful. God is good. Happy Birthday to me.

 

*This wasn’t meant to be a plug for Abot Tala. It’s just that this is the biggest dream that has turned into a reality, at least for this season of my life. However, if you are curious, you may also check out our FB page: Abot Tala.  *wink*