By Dianne Miranda, January 30 2024—
Co-produced by Lunchbox Theatre and Chromatic Theatre and presented by One Yellow Rabbit as part of the 38th Annual High Performance Radio, Kisapmata is a new play, centered around two Filipino/a/x women written by Calgary artist, theatre-maker and Downstage’s associate producer, Bianca Miranda.
“I really wanted to write a love story. I feel like there is a resistance to love stories. It just gets such a bad rep because everyone is like ‘Oh, we’ve seen it all; we want new things’,” said Miranda in an interview with the Gauntlet. “But also being queer and Filipinx, I wanted to write a story that was queer and with two Filipinx women in them.”
“Also, I grew up watching a lot of teleseryes with my Lola and my mom and that was something that we all would gather around the TV,” they continued. “It became a ritual every night and there was something so simple about it. I missed that feeling.”
Kisapmata is inspired by a song with the same title by Rivermaya, a Filipino alternative rock/punk band. The word kisapmata itself translates to “the blink of an eye”. The song explores the concept of fleeting love and how quickly it can disappear.
“There is this inherent kind of drama that spoke to me [from the song and the chorus]. This idea that you could be forever changed and affected by a person coming into your life and they could disappear in a blink of an eye. I also know that there are a lot of Filipinx folks who spend a lot of their time away from home, away from family. So, I thought it was interesting to put these two characters together who ultimately can’t be together. They’re just in this for a borrowed time,” she said.
Starting on January 10, Chromatic Theatre’s Instagram is posting a Tagalog word and its translation as part of its weekly Wordy Wednesday. Miranda commented on how the play incorporates Tagalog and English in its dialogue and the significance of that for the characters and narrative.
“A’s character was born and raised in Canada and can understand Tagalog but not speak it confidently. B is in an internship. She was born and raised in the Philippines, and can fluently speak her first language. I wanted to get a little bit into this; the experience of code-switching and what it’s like for B to come to a country and kind of have these expectations.”
Miranda was born and raised in the Philippines. She lived there for most of her teens and moved to Canada when she was 14.
“I also find myself in both characters,” Miranda said. “Drawing from when I first landed here, I remember being [like] I have to be the most un-Filipino person you’ve ever met. Kind of wanting to forget the language and not letting myself slip in accents, in words and almost wanting to erase that part of me, wanting to assimilate, really, simply put.”
“A, however, is in this other world where she is yearning so much to understand her parents and where they come from—feeling like the language is the main thing that’s keeping her from fully understanding the nuances of her culture. I think it’s so interesting because both characters’ relationships to language speak about their background.”
Regardless of the audience’s cultural background, Kisapmata is sure to resonate and relate with the broader audience because it, at its core, is a love story. It can remind people of the feeling of baring your soul to someone, to a friend or a loved one—this feeling of being seen and heard. Even if the audience does not share the entirety of the experience that they’re watching, there is something to relate to and bond over.
“I’ve heard people [say that] there’s always a person that comes to mind or even a friend that they’re like, ‘that person changed me, impacted me.’ They weren’t there for a long time, but they stay with you forever.”
The play is directed by Gina Puntil and the cast and crew have been nothing but supportive. They took the time and energy to read the words and be inspired by the words that Miranda had put on a page and turned into another form of art.
“Gina [Puntil] has been the director from day one and she’s definitely had a lot of input in terms of the script. She did the casting and we talked about what the goals are for the script and what I want people to feel,” Miranda said. “Kodie [Rollan] who is now the assistant director, but also was my dramaturg has watched me bawl my eyes out because I [said] I don’t know if I’m doing enough and he’s just like, ‘I’m here for you—cry but also keep writing’. Our sound designer, composer, Sallie Mae wrote a song for A and B and that’s going to be their theme song.”
Feb 3 is the Brown Out Night, an invitation to Filipino/a/x and other racialized folks to come in specifically which will be followed by a private reception.
“Theatre historically is, and still is, a white-centred institution,” Miranda said. “It’s just a celebration of all of us, of this community, a brown story for a brown audience.”
Kisapmata will run from Jan 30 to Feb 18. Those interested in getting a behind-the-scenes look at all things Kisapmata can visit the Backstage pass. To view showtimes and buy your tickets, visit Lunchbox Theatre’s website.