Publication Date: April 2003
Price: P150.00
Available at your favorite magazine stands

Beautiful, talented, and starving theater actress Kach, who has a real penchant for drama, lives off the refrigerators and affection of her dearest childhood friends. Now Kach has finally landed a legitimate role costarring an intense, sexy and brooding young stage actor of the James Dean mold named Sanchez. Their onstage chemistry quickly reaches boiling point and suddenly Kach finds herself in an exciting romance, complete with snatches of smooches behind closed stage curtains. But their romance takes a dramatic turn when Kach discovers that Sanchez isn't tailor-made for the role of her real-life leading man... and that someone else is ready and willing to audition!

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"It was the dreaded Morning After. It never quite plays out beautifully as I imagine this scene to be. I am still a normal girl, after all, and in my head I've blocked it perfectly: We wake up with a slow stretch, cuddle for a few minutes, conduct a short conversation with our husky sleepy voices..."

Even for a struggling actress like 26-year-old Kach, love doesn't come easy. Especially if your timing is off and you miss your cue and forget to deliver the right lines at the right time...

Beautiful, talented, and starving theater actress Kach, who has a real penchant for drama, lives off the refrigerators and affection of her dearest childhood friends - Nats, a chef who has taken it upon herself to play mother to Kach, and Jorge, an overachieving research genius who balances off Kach when she starts overreacting and who gladly supplies much-needed warm hugs when her world dramatically turns cold.

Now Kach has finally landed a legitimate role costarring an intense, sexy and brooding young stage actor of the James Dean mold named Sanchez. Their onstage chemistry quickly reaches boiling point and overflows into real-life, and suddenly Kach finds herself in an exciting romance, complete with snatches of smooches behind closed stage curtains.

But their romance takes a dramatic turn when Kach discovers that Sanchez isn't tailor-made for the role of her real-life leading man... and that someone else is ready and willing to audition!

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People ask me why I went into acting (except my aunt, who screamed the question at me five years ago at a family reunion) and I always offer different answers. Saw Cyrano de Bergerac when I was ten and cried. Have secret dreams of eventually starring in my own bold flick just to be in a sexy scene with Albert Martinez. Saw a senator and his starlet mistress in the mall one day and envied the dozens of shopping bags she towed. Heard an actor's costume rustling as he ran past me, down the aisle and towards the stage, and thought, "I could be fabulous."

They're all true. But I have my favorites.

In high school and college, I joined every play I could find and juggled rehearsal schedules and schoolwork. My parents were, by nature, against anything that required me to scream, preen and wear loud clothes, and so forbade me to join any theater troupe. But they even-tually gave up when they called up the registrar's office to complain about my class schedules and learned that no, no, business taxation classes don't start at ten p.m., no, no ma'am, we've never had ten p.m. classes actually, that's way too late, whoever gave you that idea?

They conceded defeat on one condition. I had to maintain a certain grade point average and finish my studies within a decent number of years. And this is something only Jorge and Nats know, because it takes too much effort to explain: I have a business degree, a 93 percent grade point average, and I hide this fact very well.

Right after my college commencement exercises, my dad walked up beside me, slapping the thin glossy program against his left hand thoughtfully. "You'll never let go of this acting thing, will you?"

"Nope," I said. He sighed and slipped the program under his left arm.

"Well," he said. "If it doesn't pan out, your mom and I are entitled to say 'we told you so' in a loud and annoying manner, for the rest of your waking life."

"It's your constitutional right," I agreed.

He sighed again. "Your great-grand-uncle Josef Elias was pretty good at tarot cards. And I think one of your mother's cousins was a choir singer." It was as if he was trying to trace whose genes had slept on duty and let a deviant strain of DNA through. Like diabetes, or falling hair.

I put a black polyester toga-clad arm around my father's shoulder.

"I'm good at it," I said.

"Oh, sweetheart. That's why I worry," he said. I can still remember his voice when he said it, as if he was just about to laugh but then decided against it.

On Sunday I was the second to arrive at rehearsals. Ernest's house was in Parañaque, an area I had been to only a few times. I always thought of it as a kind of province, and each time I went there I had to resist the urge to buy espasol.

Contrary to popular thought, professional theater is very much like high school theater-you practice during your free hours at someone's house, and the orange juice is almost always lukewarm. Rehearsals are almost always at night during weekdays, and on weekend afternoons, because everyone else has a day job - teachers, business professionals, models.

The garage door was open, so I went right in. It was one of those houses that looked too new and too right. The kind that if you opened a drawer or a kitchen cabinet, you'd still get a faint whiff of paint. Pretty and new and rich. Once I reached the garden, Sanchez was already there, sitting at a glass table, giving his script the once-over. I could see Ernest and the stage manager, Raquel, inside the house, fixing the refreshments. Orange juice, I supposed. Ernest glanced over his shoulder and called out, "Scripts are on the table, get one, whoever you are," and so I grabbed one.

I sat on a pretty rock, balancing the script on my knees as I lit a cigarette and squinted my eyes to take a good look at Sanchez. He looked lean and angry. His left hand was somewhat tangled in his hair as he read his script. Ay, cute.

I texted Nats: "May guwapo sa rehearsals."

In less than a minute, Nats replied: "You go, girl. I'm at a family lunch with screaming nieces and nephews." I shoved my phone into the back pocket of my cutoffs and smiled, making sure my smile didn't quiver at the cheeks.

"Memorizing already?" I said. Sanchez looked up from his script and took a few seconds to locate me.

"Elena," he said.

"Katrina, actually. Pero, yes, I'm playing Elena." I smiled. "Call me Kach."

"Catch 22?"

"Yes." I grinned and he grinned back.

"Interesting nickname. I'm Sanchez."

"I know. You were cute in New Yorker in Tondo, the Musical." I stood up and we shook hands. He had lovely, dry, hard hands.

"Wow. I thought only students saw that," Sanchez said. His words seemed to stroll out of his mouth, as if he was constantly stretching. A new play title flashed through my mind: Surfer Dude in Parañaque.

"Yes, well, you caught me. I'm a fan."

"Are you? I ought to take advantage of that sometime," he replied. We stared at each other.

"Katrina! How prompt of you!" Ernest came out with a tray of small glasses that tinkled against each other.

"Have some juice. The others will be here any mo." Raquel stepped out from behind him and handed me a perfectly sharpened pencil for any scribbling I would need to do on my script.

I only had Sanchez to myself for a few minutes before Andy and Tony arrived. Andy in a tight white tee, and Tony in a corresponding tight grey tee. I had seen Tony as part of the chorus in a few musicals. He was adorable, almost coltish in his beauty, and gifted with a wonderful voice. I give him half a year before some television network would notice him, and pretty soon I'm sure he'll be hosting a noontime show. Or maybe a record deal, a self-titled debut album with a photograph of himself wearing a carelessly buttoned white linen polo, showing off his gym-made chest.

Coreen and Pinky arrived soon after. Those two I'd seen in a few workshops. Both are cute and petite and if they hugged each other just right, they could probably sell a million panty liners or tons of face powder. Lila was last to arrive, looking pale and clean, as if sweat had never known her. Her skin looked thin and cool to the touch, her hair pulled back in a bun. She had the look of a woman who was using a most precise regimen to maintain a beauty that was almost beginning to fade.

"Hi, Ernest. Sanchez." She nodded. She permitted a small smile as she glanced at us. "I'm sorry, I don't know the rest of you. But I'm so excited to be here."

Coreen and I looked at each other. "Bitch," she mouthed silently.

I smiled. I had a new friend. The reading began, with Ernest assigning the roles as if we didn't know which part we had gotten, and Raquel silently scribbling away. Ernest had his mouth half-open when Andy started reading his part. "I just love his voice," he whispered to me, as Andy was reading.

"Hmmm," was my reply.

Then it was Lila's cue to come in, and she started reading perfectly. Some actors read like second graders during a play's first reading. They usually have that annoying up-down intonation, the same way seven year-olds would recite "The Three Little Kittens."

Lila read her lines as if she weren't reading at all. Listening to her was like sitting inside a jeepney and striking up a conversation with the woman beside you. A very pleasant conversation about the heat, the cost of commuting, and maybe politely asking if she had a family, a husband and children. Lila threw her lines effortlessly, as if she had thought of them herself.

Then Sanchez came in, and he matched Lila line for line. It was verbal tennis and we were watching the Wimbledon Cup finals. Ernest had a smug look on his face-I could almost see him counting his ticket sales. This promised to be a fabulous play.

When we had reached the end of the second act, Ernest called a ten-minute break. I went to the bathroom. Before I could close the door, Sanchez knocked and stepped in. He closed it behind him.



"You were pretty cute there during the reading," he said and grinned. "I need to ask you something - that cologne you use. Can I smell it?"

It was such a corny line, I guess he couldn't think of anything else to say. He leaned in towards me before I could even reply - did I want to say no? How do you say no to someone asking to smell you? He leaned in close, his breath hot on my neck, and lingered there.

"It's's just Johnson's," I said.

"Really?" Sniff, sniff, his breath went on my neck. I leaned back and swooped down to his lips. We staggered further into the bathroom, our lips locked together. We kissed wildly for a couple of minutes before he reached down and started to unzip my cutoffs. He slipped one hand inside and I started to moan. His fingers were incredible. Part of my mind was trying to calculate if we could do everything in ten minutes and still have time to get a glass of cold water after, before - Plop.

"Shit," I said. I stopped squirming against his fingers. "What what?" We were panting heavily but had stopped moving, as if we had crossed a landmine. His fingers were still caressing me though, and I couldn't resist bucking against him one more time.

I licked my lips and rested my head on his shoulder. "My phone fell into the toilet."


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Author interview

by Lynn Lopez

With a book as fun-to-read and wacky as Drama Queen, how much are you willing to bet that the author is just as fun? Abigail Aquino, the girl behind Drama Queen, Summit Books' first offering, takes some time off to dish about writing and her first-ever novel.

What's Drama Queen all about?

I'm almost tempted to say it's a "sweeping saga about one woman's struggle to discover the meaning of true love amidst the turbulent background of theatre..." but it's actually a fun romp through the muddled head of one very loud, amusing, confused theater actress named Kach.

You dabble in theatre, and Drama Queen's protagonist Kach is in theatre, too. Any chance that the book is autobiographical?

I wish! I think that Kach has it better than most women I know (including me!) -- she's confident, talented, and gets to choose between these two hunkahunka burning loves! But the book is autobiographical in the sense that my sentiments on friendship, career, and luuuuvvvv is the same as Kach's. Oh, and if I were living in the book, I would have this huuuge crush on Jorge.

Of all the characters in Drama Queen, for whom do you have a soft spot?

Raquel. She's so efficient and yet her heart is all over the place! And her story (which I won't go into right now so as not spoil it for the readers) is such a funny, common, arrrgh-inducing situation that lots of women can identify with today. I feel for her.

What got you started on writing?

I was (and still am) a reader before I was a writer, and I guess it was the books that I read when I was a kid that got me started on writing my own stories. Oh, and the sound of typewriter keys clacking away is quite addicting. I kid you not.

How accurately do you think you've represented the local theatre scene in Drama Queen?

Naku, sana pretty accurately! I only have a couple of years' experience in theater, and with just one company at that, but talking to actors and listening to their experience with other theater companies gives one a pretty good idea of what the whole scene is like here. I wanted to paint a colorful background for Kach, but I didn't want to get so technical or clique-ish that only theater people would understand it, so I just illustrated common truths about what it's like to be in and love theater.

I would like to clarify a little fib I wrote in the book -- in real life, the orange juice is always ice cold during rehearsals. Sometimes, it's grape.

Are you hoping to carve a niche for yourself as one of contemporary Philippine literature's burgeoning talents?

Oh my gulay! At this point I'm just hoping the readers will just enjoy the story and not hurl their beinte singkos at me when they see me at the mall ("Laos! Laos ang kwento mo! Refund!")

What kind of books do you read, and who are your literary influences?

Some of my favorite authors include Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Stephen King, John Updike, Jeanette Winterson, Elizabeth McCracken, Simon Mawer, Lloyd Alexander, and Madeleine L'Engle. But I find myself gravitating towards books that use humour to shape the story.

I like to think my writing is humorous, and I'm not quite sure how it got that way. I tried being really deep and angsty once, and the story turned out to be shallow and artificial, so I just write the way I think. Somebody told me once that my short stories are in the literary tradition of James Thurber, this American writer and humourist, and that is a HUGE compliment for me.

Let's say the book caught the attention of our local filmmakers and they wanted to put it on the silver screen. Would you agree? And if so, who would you want to star in the film?

Wow, I'd be thrilled. And then I'd be worried--haha!

Mylene Dizon would be a good choice to play Kach. Not many people realize it, but she's an amazing actor -- she knows how to avoid the huhuhu-niloko-mo-ko cliché acting that we see on TV and in the movies.

Do you think Drama Queen will generate some comparison with other fictional single career women like Bridget Jones?

Definitely. It's been the trend nowadays, what they call "chick lit." So you have all these books written by women for women. But I've tried to make Kach unique by making her as Pinay as possible -- confident, courageous, stupid, funny, smart, charming and sexy all at the same time.

Can we expect other books from you soon and would they be anything like Drama Queen or are you going to branch out into other literary genres?

I soooooo suck at poetry, it's not even funny! So trust that I will safely stay in the realm of fiction -- as long as I enjoy writing stories, and as long as people enjoy reading them, I will continue to write. Naks. Get your copy at your favorite magazine stand!



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