As Park Square Theatre presents its regional premiere of Calendar Girls on the Proscenium Stage this week, Mu Performing Arts will stage the world premiere of tot: The Untold, Yet Spectacular Story of (a filipino) Hulk Hogan on Park Square’s Boss Thrust Stage. The play is written by Victor Maog, who was named one of American Theatre Magazine’s “20 Theatre Workers You Should Know” (October 2015).
Victor Maog received the Mu Performing Arts/Jerome Foundation New Performance Program commission to write tot, his first full-length play. This opportunity came about after a fortuitous encounter with Rick Shiomi, founder and — at the time — Artistic Director of Mu, in 2013 at a conference in Philadelphia. Although he was known more as a director, Maog accepted Shiomi’s offer to write a play even though he did not yet know what to write about. Many months later with the deadline looming, Maog finally gave into his fears to dig deep within himself to examine what it means to be Asian and American. And tot was born.
Despite being one of the largest immigrant groups, Maog notices that Filipinos appear to not be as visible as other Asian groups, lacking much literature, films, or other documentation; the Filipino story tends not to take center stage. In Mu’s press release, Maog stated, “I’m proud to build upon the too-few produced works that explore the Filipino-American experience.”
As described in Mu’s press release, “the play follows the life of an immigrant boy named tot who travels from the Ferdinand Marcos-ruled Philippines to the San Francisco Bay Area to meet his long lost parents. He journeys from a country full of strife and military rule only to find himself in his lonely American bedroom conjuring a pro wrestling fantasy to escape his new life.” The lead character, tot, will be played by current Mu Artistic Director, Randy Reyes, who said, “Victor Maog wrote a play that I connect with in so many ways, it’s scary. It’s as if he wrote it about me. Not literally, but emotionally and spiritually.”
The character tot is also not literally Maog. In the play, tot comes to America when he is 9 years old; Maog immigrated from the Philippines at 6-1/2. Like tot, Maog played with wrestling figures and watched a lot of wrestling on television; unlike tot, wrestling did not overtake his everyday life. Much of what Maog conjures on stage is his reality and imagination mixed together— a way to create a play with suspense which will entertainment and delight the audience as much as to carry the personal emotional truths that will resonate with those who understand the sense of loneliness, the need to be seen and loved, and the struggle to figure out one’s identity which tot experiences. As Maog puts it, “tot echoes my own life questions.”