Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
Late last year when news broke out that Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was no longer Associate Artistic Director for Repertory Phil. the theater community received it with shock and dismay. Having started her career with Rep since her adolescent years she has evolved from a fruitful acting career to become an acting coach and has even directed several successful productions with JEKYLL&HYDE as the most recent. Close friends, actors especially those from CAMP ROCK showed their support for Menchu by changing their facebook profile photos to red.
She was also a constant presence in the launches and press cons for the many productions of Rep. Apart from being articulate and a source of quotes for media, she was always very warm and accommodating to everyone. Yulo currently stars as Anna Leonowens in Resort’s World’s KING AND I with Nonie Buencamino extended until May 2013.
Menchu is one of many names that are identified with the prestigious theater company that has produced the likes of Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson. KING AND I was actually one of the first productions for Lea Salonga at age 7 and Menchu’s brother Raymond Lauchengco was Louis. Lea and Menchu were reunited on stage most recently for GOD OF CARNAGE with Adrian Pang and Art Acuña last year for Atlantis productions, during her tenure as Associate Artistic Director of REP.
Juno Henares is Officer In charge for the current Repertory production BOEING BOEING. In one on one interview Henares did not pin point any one thing as the cause of the termination for Yulo. “It may have been a bunch of different things. But it wasn’t between me and her. It was basically a board decision. The board discussed it. I am on the same level as hers.”
Henares noted that Menchu was asked to continue her directorial post in two projects NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY and THE PRODUCERS. It was Menchu, however, who decided not to direct any more, “Everybody’s welcome to work here. We never stopped anyone from coming to work. I’ve been working here in and out since I won’t say how old! (laughs) We all have our different times. We come in and out. I for example I was gone, I was in the U.S for years. And here I am now on the business side. This is our home, everybody’s welcome.”
THE GRADUATE with Cherie Gil in the lead role is one of the most anticipated shows of the 2013 season for Repertory. Since Menchu was the one who was able to cast her, it was rumored that Gil may also bow out of the project. Henares said it was a simple case of scheduling, the same with the original casting for BOEING BOEING, “Cherie bowed out because she also had problems with her schedule. First Michael (De Mesa) had called me and said his teleserye is with Bong Revilla, INDIO with GMA network. They’re doing a lot of taping all around and they have to stick to the availability of Bong.”
According to her De Mesa had explained that the shoot of INDIO was in Pagsanjan in one day and another part of Laguna the next. She agreed with him having to bow out, “If that’s gonna be the case, it’s live theater. So everybody has to constantly grow with each other through this discovery process while you’re on stage. So we said think about it because it’s going to be unfair to everybody else as Miguel (Faustmann) was saying. When he made that decision we just had to respect it.”
Miguel Faustmann the director of BOEING BOEING in an interview was more forthright about losing Menchu, “She had a contract with Resort’s World for 6 months and the board felt that she may not be giving enough time for the office. So for her to concentrate on all the other projects she’s doing outside of Rep, to go ahead and do it. She’s welcome to return. She was I think offended and backed out of even her directorial. We didn’t want her to back out. We just wanted to remove her position in the office so she can concentrate on whatever she’s doing. She’s always welcome to come back. We need somebody there full time.”
Faustmann believes there are no ill feelings between REP and Yulo. The younger cast of CAMP ROCK may have been affected the most with the loss, “The kids make drama, the kids were all making facebook, facebook I don’t know what. They’re making such a big deal being so childish, so stupid! Baby (Barredo) loves Menchu. We all love Menchu. Menchu felt offended because she felt she was fired. She was not fired. She was just asked to step down from that position. I don’t know why she felt offended and backed out of even her directorial.” Baby Barredo is the co founder of REP and is the current Artistic Director of Repertory Phil.
Faustmann stated that after Menchu’s 6-month contract with Resort’s World is done she can come back to REP, “There are no hard feelings on our part. I don’t know about them. It’s a big misunderstanding. Baby was very hurt also. What do you think? She’s like our mom. She mothers us all. We’re like all her kids.”
Faustmann also related how Menchu was very much concerned with the BOEING BOEING with both Michael De Mesa and Michael Williams backing out, “In fact Menchu called me about BOEING BOEING, she found out the 2 Michaels backed out. She was worried about the opening of the season. ‘Menchu but why aren’t you directing NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY? No Audie will take over. That’s your play. No, no, Miguel I’m hurt Miguel, I’m hurt.’ I was trying to explain to her it’s nothing personal. But apparently she was very disturbed about the whole thing. She just didn’t want to do it. So that’s what happened.”
At the same time he spoke about the reason for asking Menchu to step down he admits that he himself has worked in outside projects while working with REP, “I’ve freelance also. I’ve worked with other companies like Atlantis and so many other companies. It’s a matter of scheduling. It’s not a problem I have TV and I couldn’t do theater because I had TV. I was earning more. Why stop me from earning a better income? When there’s no TV or nothing, I’m back in the theater again. She’s part of REP. She hasn’t left, I don’t know the drama that people were saying or making chismis, making a mountain out of a molehill, so stupid and childish.”
Backstage in KING AND I, Menchu was able to talk about how it happened, “I was asked to step down so my term ended in December for various reasons. I’m not even quite sure, but I think one reason being was my KING AND I. Which was really never a factor because I had done shows during my tenure as associate and I’ve always prioritized Rep. So that came as a shock to me when I tried to explain that basically I’m only here weekends.”
According to her there was no scheduling conflict, “I helped launch the season and the season was set to go. There was really no work for me to do except to make sure that rehearsals were going on. I could do that during the week. I’m only here on the weekends. So that was it and it was very painful for me. But I had to accept and that was basically it.” Bo Cerrudo and Sheila Valderrama are also in the lead roles for KING AND I.
There may have also been a disagreement with the functions of her job, “If there were other reasons, one was that I was not around for CAMP ROCK production week. But then again that is really not in my obligations any more because I’m just Associate Artistic director. I wasn’t the director for that. It was directed by Audie Gemora.”
Whatever reasons or problem wasn’t clearly brought up with her beforehand, “If there were more reasons than that I really don’t know. It was pretty much based on that. If they wanted exclusivity maybe they could’ve asked me and not terminate me because it was never a rule that I not perform outside. It was agreed on that as long as I do my duties then I could perform outside, which I did. As they very well know the last two years. So if it had been an issue then it should have been brought to my attention and have been given the option to say ‘yes’ I will be exclusive or ‘no’ I don’t want to be exclusive. But I wasn’t given that choice. So it’s all right.”
The remaining question was why she felt she had to let go of the directorial apart from the Associate Artistic Director position, “I just felt that it was very painful to be terminated. And not be allowed to see my season through which is the season I put up. I thought about it well and I just felt if you’re going to terminate me let’s call it quits, clean cut. It would be very hard for me to still be involved half way. It’s either yes or no, not maybe. Don’t do this but you can do this. If that’s how you feel and because I was very hurt by it, I decided I need time to recover. Let’s just do it cleanly and see what the future brings. It’s going to be very difficult to come in half way.
Menchu however remains concerned with REP and its productions and responds to the questions if she harbors ill feelings, “Not at all, REP is my home. I just felt that it’s really just a matter of principle. I set the season and I’m not allowed to see the season through then I can’t work half way. Like you said, pahinga muna. So there’s no sama ng loob. It would be very hard for me to work on that premise. Given that I did set the season, I cast the season and I won’t have a say on it anymore. So it’s like you’re not quite here or there. The only way for it to really work for both ends is for me to just be out of it. There will be more hurt feelings if I had continued. Then I’d raise an issue and it might create friction even more. By my stepping back it lets them go full blast on their own without anything from me.”
Although she hasn’t recently talked to Cherie Gil about backing out of THE GRADUATE she’s sure it wasn’t because of the termination, “I really don’t know what her reasons were. It would be very unfair for me to say so. I don’t think it’s because I’m out; she’s very professional. It’s a role she wanted to do. I’d be afraid to assume but she was perfect for that.”
Apart from KING AND I, Menchu is involved with a new group called FRIENDS IN MUSIC or F.I.M. for short. The group is composed of herself, Liza Infante-Robinson, Teenee Chan, Jett Pangan, Michael Stuart Willams and Rem Zamora. The group came about after a good friend approached Menchu for a fund raising event. Nene Chan Chairperson of the One Meal Foundation brought the group to Ilo-ilo for a very successful one-night show.
Since that night the group has gotten a lot of good feedback and has even booked an important show abroad, “We sing in private functions, events and we do a lot of Broadway songs. We have a great musical arrangement in Inday Echevarria. She’s done wonderful arrangements for us. We’ve been slowly getting a lot of attention. So we’re very fortunate that we do what we love to do which is to sing. We’re singing in Paris for the Philippine Embassy for Independence Day that’s on June. We’re having so much fun.” Watch out for an upcoming F.I.M. concert this April.