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Jake, The Thespian

Words by: Mariel Abanes

“I said yes right away.”

It was a no-brainer for Jake Cuenca, TV and movie actor, to return to the theater stage for the second time around, following his debut success in the 2018 project “Lungs”. More so for such an unconventional play bringing life to a provocative, non-typical character that represents a “stereotypical male”, as he describes it. “I attract these kinds of projects because I want to do and be part of these things. Parang not the typical, not your cup of tea—the alternative choice,” he shares on accepting the role of Pete, a pornstar, for V-Roll Media Ventures’ upcoming theatrical production “DickTalk”.

After portraying a closeted gay in his most recent film “My Father, Myself”, the actor will momentarily step out of the screen to make a mark again on the theater stage. The play, inspired by the 1996 piece “Vagina Monologues”, flips the coin for this local all-male version that promises to roll out a narrative normalizing how people look and accept the concept of the male genitalia.

Dubbed as a “dickstravaganza”, it celebrates the significance of males’ manhood in everyday life. Jake, along with fellow cast members Mikoy Morales, Gold Aceron, Archie Adamos, and Nil Nodalo, are in for a ride as they present five Filipino characters and their hitch that comes with having a “manhood” to front.

Jake As Pete, Pete As Jake

We are used to seeing this heartthrob on our big and small screens, but it was only in 2018 when he first stepped foot on the theater stage that we saw his acting flair in plays. Fast forward to five years later, he makes his comeback for another challenging concept—where he dares himself to bare it all.

While his character is a pornstar, he believes that it isn’t very far from what he does as a star who’s always in the spotlight. Somehow, he spills, this role is a relatable one as they share a common expression. “As an artist, I can equate what he goes through-- about certain insecurities and certain things—and what's going through in his career with a facet or phase of mine,” Jake reveals.

Pete, proud of his sexuality and the lifestyle that comes with it, wears toxic masculinity on his sleeve. And while he may think of it as an advantage in such a male-dominated society, this exactly is where he will fall short. Jake muses, “It’s a stereotypical thing if you look at it from the outside. But as his story unravels, you see na maaawa ka sa kanya, because he doesn't know any better.”

After reading through the script, the actor is stirred with excitement as rehearsals come into play. Of course, the story will tackle the righteousness and faults of men as humans with the male genitalia, but it aims to peel more of the layers beyond the decisions caused by the struck ego of a dick-tating (pun intended) part of a man’s anatomy. He remembers the era when male toxicity is at its height and applies that kind of mindset to play Pete. Thus, personifying a role founded on “what they are accustomed to or they're conditioned with,” the thespian says. “It's what I'm trying to inject in my character.”

After all, he sees the theater stage as a platform for voicing out people’s truths. “We live in a time na people are so very careful with what they say and being judged. But here, we don't have to be censored. We can actually speak things out. A lot of people will relate to the material,” Jake notes.

Throughout its two-hour run, the audience will see how Pete is a lovable character in his own right, just like he did. “I’m sure it’s gonna be very memorable,” Jake adds.

A Stage Actor

If you ask Jake why he gravitates towards the theater stage, it’s the unique challenge it offers that gets him on his toes. Maintaining his “newbie” status in this field, the artist insists that he still has a lot to show. “It's something that I need to prove not only to the audience, but also to myself as an actor.”

It’s also a different kind of high when he acts in the play, putting it as “having that full control as an actor”. Being on the driver’s seat, having that command on the character everytime the spotlight is on, offers that fulfillment that movies or teleseryes fail to suffice. “Once you experience it, you realize that it's an actor's medium. For me, I get to go outside of my comfort zone and conquer my fears,” he asserts.

He continues. “That’s why I keep going back to it, kasi it's always very humbling; it’s always the best teacher. Every time I go back to theater, I feel like I've unlocked something with myself. Parang wala na akong reluctancy.”

It’s this affection towards this new craft that rejuvenates him, something he knows he should get more of. Starting 2023 with a bang through this production, it seems like he won’t leave even after the “DickTalk” curtains close. Following this project, Jake had already said yes to another stage play—so we’ll all see him put his act together this coming July. Indeed, it’s a new era for the actor, and we’re all ready to embrace “Jake, The Thespian” in all his impressive glory.

Producer: Matt Pingkian and Stephen Capuchino

Photo: Stephen Capuchino @stephencapuchino using TTArtisan 35mm f1.4 for Sony E-Mount Systems

Art Direction: Jobo Nacpil @jobonacpil

Grooming: Jia Enciso Catu @jiagorgeous


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