Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Feature: Nina Lee Aquino on Every Letter Counts

Nina Lee Aquino & Jon de Leon (Photo: Nir Bareket)

Notes about Every Letter Counts
by Nina Lee Aquino

I blame Marjorie Chan for this, really. After attending the opening night of The Madness of the Square here at the Factory Mainstage, I became quite fascinated – almost obsessed – with the idea of a young voice in the middle of a revolution. I realized that I, too, had been a child of revolution, having grown up in a country that was going through significant change. Tremendous movement.

Ninoy Aquino was part of that movement. He was the youngest senator to be elected in Philippine history and the most threatening political and personal opponent of President Ferdinand Marcos.On August 21, 1983, he was assassinated; shot at close range in the back of the head while
disembarking from his plane. And the nation that was once silent with fear and doubt was suddenly awakened.

Inspired by the real events leading up to the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, what was once an attempt to commemorate an important chapter in Filipino history became a deep personal examination of my history, my lineage, my last name and all the baggage that comes with it. I had to ask myself... in the short amount of time that I spent with Ninoy, at six years old, could I have said something to keep him from going back to the Philippines? And if he did stay, would I have altered the fate of all the Aquinos – including me?

I guess I’ll never know the answer… but through the gift of words that I so vehemently refused to receive back then, here I am writing a story about Scrabble, strategy, belief, legacy and love, set in the museum of my mind. And I guess I discovered a thing or two about myself along the way. Turns out Ninoy was right, after all: with words, anything is possible.

My gratitude goes to Jovanni Sy and Cahoots Theatre Projects for listening to the ramblings of a madwoman and daring me to put them on paper; the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for supporting the voices in my head; Iris Turcott for being the beacon of light in this oft dark, very lonely road of writing; Ken Gass and Factory Theatre for giving my play a home; and to Nigel Shawn Williams for always mining the truths underneath the words.

This play is dedicated to the game that I never quite finished with Ninoy.

Every Letter Counts continues at Factory Theatre to February 24

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