(The Philippine theater mourns the passing of one of its stalwarts, Miguel Faustmann, who passed away May 15, 2022.)
I first worked with Miguel Faustmann in 1979. We were cast in the Woody Allen comedy Don’t Drink the Water. He was the quintessential leading man—tall, well-built, with mestizo good looks, and spoke impeccable English. He had a flair for comedy so I watched him intently at rehearsals, hoping to learn comic timing.
One weekend, our mentor director Zeneida “Bibot” Amador announced that Miguel could not attend rehearsals because his grandmother was sick and he needed to care for her. I was playing a supporting role, but she asked me to pinch-hit for him.
Monday came, and Miguel returned to rehearsals. Everything seemed to be okay until Bibot noticed that he was terribly sunburned. She calmly finished the run, after which she called him to a huddle. The screaming and cursing Bibot was known for began. It was so intense, the rest of us in the cast inched our way to the Insular Life Auditorium elevators to escape her wrath. As the elevator doors were about to close, someone pressed it open again. A seething Amador barged in, followed by a remorseful looking Miguel Faustmann. Bibot grabbed Miguel’s script, slapped it on my chest and said, “You’re playing the lead!” Turns out Miguel lied about his abuela and had spent the weekend on the beach.
My first big break at Repertory Philippines was courtesy of Miguel Faustmann.
That incident (of which there would be many) did not stop him from being the “favored son” at Rep. He went on to play countless roles in comedies, dramas, classics, farces. Even musicals. It’s a good thing he could only do “character singing,” or my career as a musical theater actor would have been greatly challenged.
Miguel was what Bibot referred to as an ‘instinctive actor,’ a rare breed
Miguel was what Bibot referred to as an “instinctive actor,” a rare breed who didn’t need script analysis, character study, even much direction, because he could get into a role and know exactly how to bring it to life. Miguel was a child at heart. Children have the innate gift to believe anything make-believe. Everything for him was child’s play, on stage and off.
Miguel was a bohemian without a care in the world. He loved a good time. He loved smoking and drinking. He was a beach bum and could party like there was no tomorrow.
In 2010, I directed Equus, an award-winning psycho-drama about a boy who blinds horses. Miguel was cast to play the psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart. I was giving the actors their blocking. Instead of taking my direction, Miguel had his nose on the script, correcting me because I was not following the author’s notes. At first, I calmly explained that those notes were 37 years old, and I wanted to give the play a new interpretation. But he kept arguing. In the heat of our exchange, I fired him. He walked out of the rehearsal studio. I turned to his co-actor Jaime del Mundo and exclaimed, “Are you ready? Are you ready!?” (Echoes of Amador bumping up a support to the leading role). One of the other actors, Roselyn Perez, gave Jaime a look to go after Miguel.
Jaime found him outside the hall, audibly arguing with himself. One, insisting on his point, the alter ego reprimanding the other for being insubordinate to the director. When he simmered down, Jaime advised him to go back in and apologize. Miguel heaved a sigh and agreed. After a beat and like nothing happened, he asked, “Do you think I could ask Audie if he can let me off rehearsals early? I have a party to go to.” To which Jaime strongly countered “Whatever you do, do not ask Audie to let you go early.”
Miguel moved on to win Best Actor for his portrayal.
That was Miguel Faustmann, an actor whose every portrayal and performance was brilliant, because he was a child at play.