Writing, theater and always the two shall meet

Randy holds up a copy of PQ Today.

By Maricar CP Hampton

The first Filipino — and first Asian — to win the Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, Randy Gener talks about doors opening to a wind gust of awards, honors and opportunities, including editing a newspaper in the Prague.

TF: How has it been for you since winning the Nathan Award in 2009?
RG: I was nominated for the Pamana ng Pilipino Award, and so I went to the Philippines in December 2010. And, I was offered to edit a publication for the Prague Quadrennial. I will be going to Prague in several days.

TF: What type publication is this?
RG: It is a daily newspaper that will be published during the 11 days of the Quadrennial from June 16 to 26. It’s an event in which countries from around the world come together to exhibit and to put up expositions about architecture and design and space that might be very academic.

TF: How do you feel about all these opportunities opening up?
RG: It’s very exciting. It’s an opportunity to work in an international environment — a world environment — because of the number of countries that are involved in it. It’s really exciting to talk about experiences and environments, talk about architecture and performance design in a way that is more pop culture. It’s a unique opportunity. I feel like an embedded writer or an embedded journalist.
The thing about working abroad is that they know there’s a kind of commitment there, that you’re interested in deepening the relationship as opposed to just being a cultural tourist or a parachute journalist, especially if it’s in a language that you don’t know.

TF: How much Czech do you know at this point?
RG: (laughs) I’m trying to understand phrases and words to get me by. It’s a little difficult to crash-course on it. In fact, we have been having Skype meetings, and I was explaining that I would really like to have some of the English text translated into Czech and some of the Czech articles be translated into English. I will be editing the English text and somebody will be doing the Czech part.

TF: How does your mom feel about your successes?
RG: I think she is very happy. She’s sad that I am away for a long time, but she has gotten used to that.

Randy enters Estonia.

Pamana awardee with President Benigno Aquino in Malacanang.

TF: How do you explain it? Do you feel blessed or is it all hard work?
RG: I think it’s a little bit of both. I do definitely have worked hard for it. I put myself forward. I present myself to the world and so I make that effort, especially in a field that I know, or an endeavor that I’d like to do.

TF: When did your interest in writing begin?
RG: Writing as an activity is something that has been in my blood. I have been doing it as far back as I know I always wanted to be a writer, whatever form it took whether it was essays, writing plays or stories. While a student in Sta. Ana, Manila, I would write news articles, poetry, short stories for my high school publication.

TF: What about your interest in theater? How did that develop?
RG: The interest in theater really started in Ateneo, where I was introduced to not just western classics but also Filipino adaptations of western classics under Rolando Tinio.

TF: Were your parents thrilled about you being a writer?
RG: My parents were not very happy at that time about my pursuing writing. So I followed my mom’s suggestion and took up computer information studies at the University of Nevada. After graduation, I went to New York hoping to find work at the New Yorker magazine, but landed instead at the New York Daily News, then interned at the Village Voice. Later I became senior editor of American Theatre Magazine.

TF: Was it easy breaking into a writing career in New York?
RG: I never gave up, even when doors were closing on me. I have learned to just continue doing what I do, I have learned to have faith in myself and faith in my writing as a form of artistic expression.

TF: Would you consider the Nathan Award your most meaningful award?
RG: This award meant the most to me because the prize for which I won are not strictly for reviews. They are mostly for essays, and in some cases they are feature articles. So to be given the prize for best dramatic criticism when in fact I have never seen each of these as pure dramatic criticism pieces is one reason.
Another lovely thing about the prize is it puts me in a group of people many of whom I have admired and respected over the years.

TF: Any advice to young writers?
RG: Writers blossom into different fields depending on what opportunity they have been given. We have chosen a difficult road. There will be obstacles and stumbling blocks but I want to say, ‘Have faith, wake up every morning and do something — even the smallest thing — to move your art forward.’

Randy Gener emigrated to the U.S. at age 17 to join his mother, a singer, in Nevada.

Maricar CP Hampton is a freelance journalist. She was awarded a 2010 New America Media fellowship on Ethnic Elders and Caregiving.


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