Words by Margarita Buenaventura
Girls just wanna have fun. And as a theater actor playing the fiercest of the femmes, Rafa Siguion-Reyna is having a blast. For the past few weeks, Rafa has traded his t-shirts and jeans to play Mercedes the Magnificent, a drag queen performer in 9Works Theatrical’s production of La Cage aux Folles.
As Mercedes, Rafa is part of the cagelles of the titular nightclub, run by a gay couple in the south of France. The show is a spectacle in many ways, and Rafa plays his character like a tireless firecracker. He sings and dances in beaded dresses and ball gowns, but also manages to add some dimension to Mercedes’s gripes about being part of the chorus.
Just like his drag alter ego, there’s a lot more to the 23 year-old Rafa than meets the eye. And learning just what makes him a burgeoning star? Well, it’s pretty damn exciting. Taking a break from the glitz and glitter of La Cage, the budding thespian hangs out with B/BLOG to talk about learning, earning, and the physical pains of being a woman.
Hey, Rafa. What’s been keeping you busy?
Well actually, La Cage has been keeping me mostly busy these past few months just because the rehearsals have been quite tough. But occasionally, I tape a show on GMA called Vampire ang Daddy Ko.
Is this the one with Ryzza Mae?
Yes, yes. So, I’m a semi-reg character there. I just got word that I might be guesting on a new show on GMA and we start taping on Wednesday. We’ll also be shooting an indie film in March.
You’re doing so many different things, but which one of those do you really like? You’re doing theater, you’re doing TV, you’re also doing film…
I like all of them. I enjoy all of them. I think theater is good because it really trains you. You’re with people, performers, and actors who are seasoned and you just really learn a lot in theater. I always say that theater is where you learn and TV is where you earn.
You’re doing something very different for La Cage. As Mercedes, you’re in drag. What made you take on the role?
I just wanted to show something different. I’m just the chorus here. It’s a relatively small role. Well, in theater we say there are no small roles. But it was just important to me to be a part of it. Also, I wanted to show versatility because the last show I did, I was Kenickie (in Grease) and he was like, a badass and you know, a guy guy.
How’d you first get on with wearing a dress? And heels!
It’s hard. It’s hard! The hardest thing is just to get rid of the habits. Like vocally, just walking. Just habits. You have to be aware of your facial expressions. And physically, it was just hard because you always have to be on your hip.
Did that give you any insights into being a woman?
You know what made me realize while I was doing the show is that it’s really tough to be a woman. For a guy, if I had a long day, it’s just…you know. I’m standing in flat shoes, just wearing jeans and a shirt. You know when women say they’ve had a long day? It’s a long day, because there’s the mascara, and then there’s the bra, there’s stockings and heels. And it hurts! It hurts to put all those things on just to take them off at the end of the day.
La Cage was such a fun show. It was really light and lively, but I felt like it had meat to it, too. Did you feel like you had a responsibility to the LGBT community with this one?
Yeah, I think that’s what most of the pressure was from. I didn’t think I could do it. There were times when I was questioning myself, “Why did I do this?” I feel like there’s a big responsibility to the LGBT community because this story is really about identity and accepting oneself and being okay with oneself. There was that responsibility to serve that idea and make it clear.
Catch Rafa Siguion-Reyna as Mercedes in La Cage aux Folles at the RCBC Theater in Makati City. For tickets, call 586-7105 or 0917-5545560.