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Ricky Davao prepares to play his most challenging role

By Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:38:00 12/28/2007

Filed Under: Entertainment (general), Celebrities, Theatre

MANILA, Philippines?Ace stage-TV-film actor Ricky Davao?s recent performance in ?Insiang? at the CCP won plaudits from viewers and reviewers, who hailed it as one of the year?s best?if not the very best portrayal by a male thespian for 2007. It caps a long career of acting in some 80 outstanding stage productions.

Given such a distinguished and compelling body of work, it?s therefore surprising to hear Ricky describe his next theatrical outing, the title role in Prime Foundation?s staging of ?Padre Pio ng Pietrelcina? next month, as ?the most challenging in my career.?

Intensive rehearsals

As Ricky takes a break from his intensive rehearsals for the play on the life of the well-loved saint at producer Boots Anson Roa?s house, he explains his ?intriguing? statement:

?Padre Pio is a challenging character to portray on many levels: In the more ?human? dimension, he is larger than life, full of love for the many people he helps find their way back to God. Unlike some other ?holy? figures, he?s taong-tao, not afraid to express himself in a direct way, not at all ?politically correct? in his statements, because he wants to help people confront their true selves and see themselves as God sees them.

Complex character

?On the other hand?and this is what makes him a complex character?he?s also capable of absolute priestly obedience, no matter how difficult it is.

?In the play, this comes to the fore when his stigmata and other spiritual charisms disturb some church officials so much that they cut off most of his contact with the outside world.

?Since he loves people so much, this is a severe test of his vow of priestly obedience?but he makes the supreme sacrifice, at great cost to his personal happiness!

?Padre Pio?s character becomes even more complex when you confront his intense and immense spiritual dimension, his sanctity, and the fact that he is one of only a few hundred Catholics in the history of the Church who have been recipients of the stigmata, the holy wounds of Christ.

?It definitely isn?t easy to act out the key scenes in the play, in which he receives and suffers from the pain of his stigmata. As the actor playing him, I don?t feel the pain, but I have to internalize it?and then externalize it so the audience can experience and understand it, as well.

?It?s also challenging to depict Padre Pio?s other spiritual ?charisms? or powers, because he was exceptionally blessed by God in the spiritual area?probably because he needed to be especially ?powerful? to help so many people through the more than 50 years of his life as priest and stigmatist.

?Playing a character who ages more than 50 years onstage is another tough challenge for any actor. Aside from the physical changes brought about by age, you have to also go through mental and emotional adjustments that some other plays don?t require.

Evangelizing dimension

?But, all of these challenges, I don?t shy away from. Instead, I embrace them, because they motivate me to make full use of my abilities. And, it?s all good, because our play has an evangelizing dimension and will help many more people get to know and feel inspired by Padre Pio.

?Boots and the Prime Foundation are bent on doing this, because Pete Roa was a devotee of Padre Pio, whose spiritual example helped him a lot in his struggle with his many illnesses before his death earlier this year.?

?Padre Pio ng Pietrelcina? will have its first performance at Tiendesitas, Ortigas Center, on Jan. 16, 2008, Pete?s birthday. Other playdates are on Jan. 18, 19, 25 and 26.

Aside from Ricky, the play?s cast includes Boots Anson-Roa in very special roles, as well as some theater luminaries. Lighting design is by Martin Esteva. Call Josephine de Veyra at telefax no. 928-6816 or (925) 415-9224.

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