LITTLE does the public know that celebrity talk show host and comedian John Lapus is also a director.

Now, Lapus returns to his theater and Thomasian roots in order to contribute to Teatro Tomasino’s 30th anniversary. He directs “Twosome,” a twin-bill production featuring Welcome to Intelstar and Wanted: Chaperon.

IntelStar is a contemporary drama by Chris Martinez about young people who work in the financially rewarding but rote-and-rut world of call centers.
Wanted: Chaperon is written by National Artist for Literature Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero and translated into Tagalog by Jose Villa Panganiban, the founder of the Varsitarian. It is a domestic comedy on how parents try to ensure the moral welfare of their teenage children growing into adulthood.

To some extent, Lapus grew up into adulthood through the Teatro Tomasino (Teatro).

Enthralled by a yellow pamphlet which shortlisted the University-wide organizations, Lapus, who was a freshman HRM student back in 1989, immediately signed up for Teatro.

“I knew then that I was actually looking for something about acting,” he said.

Upon joining, Lapus was exposed to the rigors of acting. He got his lead role two years later in Magkaibang Klase in 1991; he was by then a junior who bagged the role after auditioning for the part against other seniors. The play tackles sexual differences between a straight and a gay.

In the same year, he was among the supporting cast in Lihis, a play about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.

Lapus became Teatro secretary during his senior year. He went room to room to promote the production while doing paper work and rushing coordination. Due to his appearances on and off the stage, he became a popular campus figure.

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“Modesty aside, I was already a campus personality at that time. They already knew I was a member of Teatro,” he recalled.

But Lapus said the popularity he earned was nothing to the stage training and experience he got from Teatro.

“It was here in Teatro where I honed my skills as an artist,” he said.

It was also in Teatro where Lapus earned his spurs as a director. Interogasyon, a comedy about a student activist during martial law, marked his directorial debut in 1991.

He said he turned to directing because he was afraid his older batchmates in Teatro were not taking him seriously. But given the rare chance to direct, he seemed to have arrived finally. He was in his junior year in college and only a few were given the opportunity to direct.

“I was very proud of my accomplishments,” he added.

The world is his stage

Graduating in 1993, Lapus was recommended by his seniors at Teatro–Wenn Deramas, Don Cuaresma, Rozy Liquigan, Noel Nugit, Eric Salud, and Eagle Riggs, who had all by then carved their own niches on television–to ABS-CBN. It was on ABS-CBN where Lapus became known as a comic actor.

Lapus has also essayed comic roles on film. More recently, he has become the main host of Showbiz Central, the celebrity news program.

Even with the glamour and financial rewards that show business has brought him, Lapus said his first love is theater.

“I don’t mind growing old in theater because this is where I started,” Lapus said. Whereas television and the movies with their numerous shoots can polish and perfect a performance, acting in front of a live audience where there are no retakes gives him a high.

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“I can see the audience’s immediate response, unlike in television. As an artist, it feels good to see them appreciate your efforts,” he said.

Even after graduating from UST, Lapus has continued to perform for Teatro plays such as Greenberg, In Karakter, and Dina Salangit.

He has also acted in productions by the Metropolitan Theater Foundation and Dulaang UP.

Curtains up

Among the five Teatro plays he has directed so far, Sabado sa Sam’s, about Pinoy Generation X, is his favorite. Not only did he direct it, he also played the part of the “waitress” by the name of Sweet. The nickname has become Lapus’s own and friends now call him Sweet.

Also playing a part in the production was a fellow Teatro member by the name of Piolo Pascual.

“I believe the students were able to relate to the production,” he said.

In 2002, when Teatro marked its 25th year, Lapus directed Last Order sa Penguin, a sequel to Sam’s, in which the original characters have reached their thirties and are undergoing mid-life crises. The production is now onsidered the guild’s longest-running and perhaps most successful. It has even been shown at the Ateneo de Manila University.

After Penguin, Lapus took a respite from theater. “I concentrated on TV. I had to fix my professional life,” he said.

But the call of theater and directing was too irresistible.

“I returned to celebrate with Teatro. I felt that it is my obligation to do something for our own guild,” said Lapus, who serves as Teatro’s professional adviser. “I owe a lot to Teatro, then and now,”

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As opposed to the first time he directed 15 years ago, Lapus said he has a better command of the craft now.

“I am more confident and I know what I’m doing,” he said.

Twosome: Welcome to Intelstar and Wanted: Chaperon went on stage last December 11, 12, and 13 at the Albertus Magnus auditorium. Tanya Justine R. Baldovino and Ayn Rand I. Parel

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