Miguel Faustmann: gentle lion of the theater

Miguel Faustmann: gentle lion of the theater
Miguel Faustmann with Celia Diaz-Laurel
in “The Gingerbread Lady” (1983)

Much-heralded actor-director-production designer Miguel Faustmann, whose versatile performances had long been witnessed by audiences onstage, in local and foreign movies, and in TV series and commercials since the mid-1970s, died in his sleep on May 15 at the age of 67. 

A favorite choice of directors and producers for his ability to perform in English, Spanish, and the occasional Tagalog, Faustmann made his professional acting debut in 1974 in “Hello, Dolly!”, directed by the legendary Repertory Philippines founder Zeneida Amador, who died in 2004, and starring Carmen “Baby” Barredo, who died last year. 

He went on to forge an astoundingly prolific career as a leading man over the next five decades in film, TV, and theater. His CV as an actor-director-production designer would have made Laurence Olivier blush with envy.

Theater goers encountered Faustmann as King Arthur in “Camelot”, Juan Peron in “Evita”, Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha”, the Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance”, Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”, Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”, and, most famously, Ebenezer Scrooge in various incarnations of “A Christmas Carol”. 

In recent years, he directed the comedies “Run for Your Wife”, “The Game’s Afoot”, and “A Comedy of Tenors”, and also became a familiar face to movie audiences via “Heneral Luna”, “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”, and “Quezon’s Game”.

Deeply Pinoy

Faustmann (1954-2022)

Faustmann was of Basque Spanish origin, and possessed an Austrian surname. But as his colleagues and fellow actors would proudly attest, he was Pinoy through and through: in appetite, temperament, demeanor, and inclusivity. 

His distinguished and sometimes intimidating appearance belied his incomparable sense of humor. No one could tell a joke quite like Miguel. Sharing meals with the man after rehearsals and performances was invariably a ritual of delight. 

Faustmann’s generosity and humility were such endearing hallmarks that in the three decades I had the privilege of acting with and being directed by him, he never failed to give personalized handwritten messages and traditional “break-a-leg” gifts to every member of the cast and crew. 

His unique syntax and manner of speaking offstage was a distinct hybrid of Taglish and occasional Spanish inflections. People around him could immediately identify the sound: “That’s so Miguel”, they’d say. “Grabe it’s so mainit today I’m so pawis, que asco! traffic was so mabigat, so mabagal, oh que rico, this kaldereta is so masarap!” That was Miguel.

Behind the scenes

One time, three weeks into the run of “The Taming of the Shrew” in early 1998 at Rep’s William J. Shaw Theatre, Shangri-La Plaza, we were in our heavy Elizabethan costumes: poet shirts, corduroy capes, doublets, bloomers, colored tights. In between scenes, the cast (including Robbie Guevara, JM Rodriguez, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, the late Richard Cunanan, and me) would dress down and cool off in the dressing rooms as summer was approaching in a few weeks. 

Miguel, in the lead role as Petruchio, would begin Part II dragging Kate (Shielu Bharwani) into his house over his shoulder after the wedding scene before intermission.

So here we were, listening to him over the monitors. His “this is the way to kill a wife … with kindness …” monologue sounded richer and more resonant than before, with strategic pauses and greater nuance than ever. It was remarkable.

Then backstage I noticed: His black corduroy bloomers were on a hanger on his chair beside mine. “Guys … aren’t those Miguel’s pants?”

After the scene, Faustmann came charging into the dressing room. ”Oh my God, I forgot to wear my pants! I was sitting on top of the table onstage and I thought wow it’s so cool and mahangin today, what a nice breeze … I looked down and putangina, I was only wearing my tights! Good thing na lang they were black!”

But his monologue was just brilliant.

Acting and life

Actor on location in Coron, Palawan (2022)

Faustmann’s approach to acting seemed to be his approach to life: It’s a game of cops and robbers and make believe, but be kind to people and don’t harm anyone. He was a true gentleman, committed to his craft, and he genuinely appreciated the theater, the company of friends, good food, music and laughter. Not necessarily in that order.

We dim the lights on a truly great actor and human being, and shall miss a devoted friend, drinking buddy, uncle, and hermano with the heart of a lion.

Actor/director/voice-over announcer/event host Jeremy Domingo has acted with Repertory Philippines, Dulaang UP, and other theater groups since 1990, in more than 120 plays. The former station ID voice of Studio 23, a radio DJ, and children’s TV host, Domingo dubs international films, animation. and TV series; records audiobooks online; and is currently the voice of Newsweek International’s weekly podcast. He is also an instructor of performance, presentation and communication skills at MINT (Meridian International) College in Taguig, VocAlliance, and various corporations.

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