Mark Ghosn is mostly known nowadays as The Bitter Writer of Ampalaya Monologues and a spoken word artist with his EP CoLove. For others, he is the man behind the viral #QueenKris posts and the adaptor of some of TV5’s trending Wattpad Presents episodes. But aside from being one of today’s most popular writers, a lot may not know that Mark Ghosn is also a Theatre Actor.
His more than 10 years of theatre experience has allowed him to portray different characters and participate in different productions, leading him to build one of today’s most known independent theatre companies; Theatre in Alternative Platforms (TAP).
In this Psst.Ph Part of the Story Series,Mark Ghosn talks to us about his career in Philippine Theater and his experience in the industry.
Full Name and Alias:Mark Ghosn alyas Bitter Writer
Location: Batang Las Pinas
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication
When did you first know you wanted to become a stage actor?
3rd grade, nanuod kami ng musical nakasaliyung brother ko sa school nila. And natatandaan ko talaga yung mga napanuod ko was Hunchback, Miss Saigon and West Side (Story). And after nun, na-amaze talaga ako. Kasi di ba, ang magical kapag first live theatre experience. Yung naiyak ka talaga, na may pagtayo ng balahibo and all. So pag-uwi ng bahay, I remember, may Pretzel, tapos gugupitin mo yung characters sa likod. At the time, the characters from Hunchback yung mga nandun. So ginupit ko sila, and then naggawa ako ng show sa mga cousins ko gamit yung mga cut-outs. Ginaya ko yung napanuod ko, with matching pag-arte ng bosesn anagpapalit-palit depende sa character. Ang nakita ko nanae-entertain yung mga cousins ko. So I think yun yung unang moment na, although hindi ko naman alam na being an actor or director na pala yun, but alam ko sa sarili ko na yun ang gusto kong gawin because iba yung joy na binigay niya sa’kin.
What was the first show you ever did? And how’s the experience?
Before college, lahat ng shows na ginagawa ko ay sa room lang namin sa harap ng cousins ko. Haha. So ang unang beses nanakasali ako sa isang legit na show was when I was in second year college. The title of the play was Balang Araw, it was written by Chris Martinez. It was a futuristic gay comedy and I played a manly gay alien na may superpowers. Doon ko na-realize na comedy pala talaga ang forte ko. It was one of the best experiences of my life. At siyempre di ba at the time, mababaw pa lang naman ang tingin ko sapag-arte, di ko pa kilala si Stanislavsky, so yung makapagpasaya lang ako ng tao at makapagsuot ng make-up at costume, sobrang iba na para sa’kin yun. Lalo na because, the stage na nag-perform kami was the same stage kung saan ako nanuod ng musicals at nainspire umarte nung 3rd grade ako.
What has been your favorite role so far?
In 2012, I played the role of Timothy in Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Battalia Royale. It was, so far, to date, the most challenging role that I’ve ever had. And I’ve played a lot of challenging roles aside from that. I was once a taong-grasa, I did Shakespeare, a was even an american cowboy, and other roles that requires me to be na sobrang ibang tao. But Timothy, even though he was just a high-school nerd, was somehow the most challenging for me. I think because first, before Timothy, I was so used to playing characters that are far from who I am in real life. Kasi I like transforming eh. I like being another person. So it was the first time that I had to play a role, that somehow was close to who I am in real life and mas mahirap pala yun. Second, because there was a lot of improvisation involved. And lastly, it was traumatizing. Haha. Search it, Batatlia Royale, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Really, it was. It came to a point that during the last few runs, I couldn’t deliver anymore. I couldn’t cry. Because I was too scared to enter the character’s mind again,It was that hard. But it’s also my favorite because I think that the hardest roles are the ones you will eventually be thankful for. And I am thankful for that role, it taught me a lot.
Have you ever played someone of the opposite gender? (If not do you want to try it?) What was that like?
No, I haven’t. I think maybe because I’m balbon and balbas sarado na parang they find it hard to cast me as such. Haha. But if may chance, why not di ba. Like what I said, my training as an actor was really focused on drastic transformations and I really enjoy fading and allowing another person to take over and use my mind and body, so I’m open to it.
What show/shows are you currently working on?
I have 4 shows lined up until 2018. The soonest is this October, we will be going back to PETA Theatre, this time for the second anniversary of Ampalaya Monologues. And we are going to do it as ‘Ampalaya Dialogues’ #2isBitterThan1. So we are taking it to the next level. I promise to comeback and talk more about it.
Have you ever forgotten your lines, or a prop, or choreography during a performance? What happened?
I don’t wanna brag, but I am really good in memorizing my lines. Haha. Totoo. Na parang I think the reason why I was able to succeed din sa monologues is because of that. Wag lang akong wala sa kondisyon, like, there’s this one time na wala akong tulog tapos pumunta ako ng event. I was not supposed to perform naman but yung mgatao dun requested, so pumayag ako. And nakakahiya, nagkalat, haha. But yung sa actual play talaga, wala pa akong experience na nakalimot talaga, kasi siguro masipag din ako maghimay ng mga unit-unit. Ma-homework akong actor. Haha.
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor?
I wish I knew that, uhm, hmm, that there is more to acting than just memorizing your lines and being funny. But I mean, that’s part of the process naman I think eh. No kasi di ba, growth. Parang may stages talaga na kailangan akyatin yung mga actors bago sila maging super galing. But yun nga, siguro kung nalaman ko yun nang mas maaga, mas na bigyan ko pa ng justice yung roles na ginampanan ko at hindi siya basta mababaw lang na umarte ka lang.
Besides acting, what other training have you had (voice, dance, stage combat, etc.)?
Wala. Sorry. Gusto kong mag-pretend na meron, pero parang looking back, wala. Haha. Acting lang talaga. I mean, nag directing classes ako and writing, pero kung sa pag-arte, like voice lessons, dance lessons, mga ganyan, wala ako niyan. Haha. Hindi ako bibo kid.
How do they memorize a lot of lines?
Nasa preparation kasi talaga yan eh. Kailangan malinaw sa’yo ang objective, ang unit. Kailangan alam mo yung gusto mong sabihin at kung bakit mo siya sinasabi. At I think importante rin namarunong kang makinig. Active listening talaga dapat at hindi ka nakaasa lang sa script. Dapat sa show, wala na yung script sa utak mo.
If you could choose, what three actors would you really want to work with?
Sa local,Lea Salonga, Nora Aunor, and Lolita Rodriguez. Although siyempre patay na si Miss Lolita pero wala naman sa usapan na buhay lang ang pwede di ba? Haha.
Why do you think theater is important?
Because it has the ability to change people’s mind. And that is a very powerful thing. Kahit isa lang ang lumabas sa teatro mo na may bagong pag-iisip matapos kang mapanuod, sapat nayun. If you can change a person’s mind, you can change his life, that person will never be the same again, and that is the magic of art, of theatre, it changes lives.
Why do you think so many aspiring actors end up giving up on their dream?
There can be a lot of reasons, but based on experience, most of the time, it’s the financial instability of this career. Unless you can afford and you come from a well-off family, being an artist in the Philippines is always connected to struggling and being poor. Ang sad, but yun yun eh.
What do you need in order to become a successful actor?
You must have the willingness to learn, to never stop learning, to stay curious. And always listen to the ones who came before you, pay your respect, and appreciate the road that they’ve paved for us to be able to do what we do. And also, learn how to not take yourself too seriously.
What organizations do you belong to?
I’m the Artistic Director of TAP | Theatre in Alternative Platforms.
Let’s talks about the Ampalaya Monologue book, any plan to book that in amazon kindle or something like that?
Yes, it is also available in Amazon and other online stores.
How much that book cost and why people will buy that book?
Reading the monologues is a totally different experience. You get to understand the stories more, you get to see some hints, and some hidden meanings and all that, because now you have more time to appreciate and feel the material. I also wrote two book exclusive monologues as an extra bonus, so there’s that. But really, it’s the experience of enjoying these stories more intimately.
If you weren’t a stage actor or an artist, what would you want to be? Why?
I tried the corporate world before as a Trainer and I was good at it. Haha. Ang yabang ko sa part nay un. Pero yeah, maybe that.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?
Huwag. Haha. Don’t. Unless you’re willing to give-up a lot of sleep. Unless you’re willing to sweat it out and sacrifice a lot of things and put your 101% effort into it. Unless you’re sure that it’s the only thing that’s going to keep you alive and make you truly happy. Unless you’re all that, then don’t do it. But if you are, then welcome to the club.
What legacy will you leave on?
As an artist, sana ano, yung bang, marami na rin kasi akong natulungan na artists, lalo nasa TAP. Lahat kasi ng ginagawa ko I make sure na may ibang artists o tao rin na makikinabang, without really expecting anything in return. So siguro yun. And yung kahit papaano, yung contributions ko lang sa spoken word scene sa Philippines. How creating Ampalaya Monologues helped it, and how it became the venue for artists to perform, and get to know each other, and grow. At saka kahit yung simple lang na maaalala nila ako sa mga sinulat at tinanghal ko. Kung nakapagpasaya ba sa kanila, o nakagaan ng nararamdaman nila, o nakasakit, nakabago ba ng takbo ng isip nila, nalinawan ba sila. Yung bang, yung crineate ko, kahit papaano, may naging effect sa ibang tao. Yun lang. Okay na ako dun.
Any final message? Its time to shine!
Legacy tapos final message? Parang nakakakilabot naah. Haha.
Gusto ko lang siguro magpasalamat sa lahat ng patuloy na sumusuporta sa’kin. Bakit para akong magpapa-text vote? Haha. Pero seriously, thank you for always supporting me and TAP. Please know that I/we appreciate it a lot. We love you. Totoo yun. Walang char. Hehe. Thank you!
The Ampalaya Monologues Book (Summit Books) is available in newsstands, bookstores, convenience stores, and supermarkets nationwide for P250.
Photo from the official facebook page of Mark Ghosn