Set in the central valleys of California in the 1930s, the play focuses on Magno Rubio, an illiterate Filipino farm worker and his pen-pal courtship with Clarabelle, a white woman from Arkansas who advertises in the back pages of a “lonely hearts” magazine. Believing he’s found the woman of his dreams, Magno fantasizes about their life together, only to soon realize that reality and dreams do not always align.

The Romance of Magno Rubio was filmed in July 2003 by Francisco Aliwalas at The Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila before a live audience, for the Sangandaan Festival. Presented with support from the Asian Cultural Council.

The Romance of Magno Rubio is now available to stream for free on this page through June 4 only!

Join us on June 4 at 6:30PM EST for a live viewing and talkback with actors Jojo Gonzalez and Ron Domingo, and dramaturge Dr. Joi Barrios-Leblanc (Southeast Asian Studies, UC Berkeley), hosted by Cornell University Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) & Asian American Studies Program and UCLA Asian American Studies and Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Register Now

About the Playwright

Lonnie Carter | Playwright

Lonnie Carter’s play The Romance of Magno Rubio received eight Obies for its production by the Ma-Yi Theatre Company in 2003. His plays have been produced by The Yale Repertory Theater, the American Place Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, the Long Wharf Theater, at the first Asian-American Theater Festival in New York City (2007), the Los Angeles Theater Center’s Latino Theater Festival (also 2007), and festivals abroad (the Philippines and Romania). Magno Rubio  was produced at Inside the Ford Amphitheater in LA in 2011 and at the Entablado Theater in Singapore in 2012.  The play was presented in  Seattle in 2014 as part iof the Carlos Bulosan Centenary and will be reprised in Seattle at the University of Washuington in the Fall of 2015.  Plans for its production at the Perseverance Theater in Alaska are in the works.  His plays include China Calls, The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy, The Gulliver Plays (Lemuel, Gulliver, and Gulliver Redux, published by Broadway Play Publishing), Baby GloWheatley (the Colonial HippeHoppe story of Phillis Wheatley, also published by Broadway Play Publishing), Concert Chicago, and The Lost Boys of Sudan, produced by the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis (Tony Winner for Best Regional Theatre 2003). The Lost Boys (and Girl) of Sudan was produced by Victory Gardens in 2010. He is a charter member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights’ Ensemble. (Victory Gardens was the Tony Winner for Best Regional Theatre 2001). He is an Alumnus of New Dramatists in New York and a Core Member Alumnus of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Marquette University, a Guggenheim Fellow and twice a Fellow of the National Endowment of the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.

Author of the Short Story "The Romance of Magno Rubio"

Carlos Bulosan | Author

Carlos Sampayan Bulosan (c. 1911– September 11, 1956) was a Filipino American author, poet, and activist. A chronicler of the Filipino American experience during the 1930s – early 1950s, he is best remembered for his semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical novel America Is In the Heart (1946) — a staple in American Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies classes. Though Bulosan was only 42-45 years old when he died of tuberculosis-complicated pneumonia in Seattle in 1956, he left behind a large body of poems, novels, short stories, plays, and correspondence on a range of related topics. Bulosan’s works describe the experience of growing up poor in a rural area of the Philippines, chronicling social and economic conditions created by the American occupation and centuries of Spanish colonialism. Bulosan’s work captures the “push” factors that drove his generation to the United States. Like Bulosan, they hoped to find a better future and forged resilient and adaptive communities in the face of an often-hostile and exploitative European American culture in the United States. First migrating to the United States via Seattle in 1930, he spent several years working migratory labor jobs and labor organizing with his fellow Filipino immigrants. In doing so, Bulosan shared common experience with many other first-generation Filipino migrant workers, most of whom worked in domestic jobs or in agricultural or cannery labor on a migratory labor circuit that spanned the West Coast—from California to Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. — University of Washington Library

Ralph B. Peña | Original Filipino Text

Recent Off-Broadway: Felix StarroThe Chinese Lady, Among The Dead, House/Rules, and Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra, Go! Ralph has been Ma-Yi Theater’s Artistic Director since 1996, and has been instrumental in establishing Ma-Yi Theater Company as the country’s leading incubator of new works by Asian American playwrights, reaping numerous Obie and Drama Desk Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical (KPOP), and most recently, the 2018 Ross Wetzsteon Obie Award. Apart from Ma-Yi Theater, his work has been seen on the stages of Ensemble Studio Theater, the Public Theater, Long Wharf Theater, Victory Gardens, Laguna Playhouse, Children’s Theater Company, and La Mama ETC, to name a few. This is for Damien, always and forever.

About the Composer

Fabian Obispo | Original Music

Fabian returns to Ma-Yi, where his composing credits include Caucasian Chalk Circle, Mother Courage, and Felix Starro, among others. Other musicals for which he wrote the music are Long Season (Perserverance Theatre), Dear (Syracuse Stage), and Yellowmoon Rising (NYU). He has also provided music for Yerma (Arena Stage), Black No More (Guthrie), Nothing Forever (New York Theatre Workshop), The House of Bernarda Alba (NAATCO), and The Frogs (Juilliard), to name a few. His compositions have been performed in major concert halls including Lincoln Center and Tcaikovsky Hall in Russia and have won numerous awards for international choral groups. Fabian has composed and sound designed extensively for Off-Broadway and regional theatres. His works have been published internationally in Sweden by Sveriges Körförbunds Förlag and Walter Music Corp., and in Germany by Möseler Verlag Wolfenbüttel, and Carus-Verlag, Stuttgart. He was a two-time resident of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy and was an artist in residence at Dartmouth College, Ohio State University, New Harmony Project in Indiana, and Sundance Theatre Lab. Fabian is a recipient of the Barrymore Award and the Berkshire Theatre Critics Award.

About the Director

Loy Arcenas | Director

Loy Arcenas has established career as a theatrical set designer as well as director. He has designed sets for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and major American regional theatre companies. He has collaborated with some of the most exciting American directors and playwrights including Joe Mantello, George C. Wolfe, Anne  Bogart, Robert Falls, Terrence McNally, Craig Lucas, Paula Vogel. For his design work, he has received numerous awards including the Obie for Sustained Excellence of Scenic Design. His directing work is associated with the Ma-yi Theatre Company, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, PETA (Philippine Educational There Association, and Repertory Philippines. He began work directing in films in 2011 and has now four films to his credit. His first, Niño, was co-winner of the best film award of the 2011 Busan International Film Festival New Currents section. His third, Ang Larawan, the Ryan Cayabyab/Rolando Tinio musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, received the best film award of the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival.


Design Team

  • Loy Arcenas | Scenic & Costume Design
  • James Vermuelen | Lighting Design
  • Fabian Obispo | Sound Design
  • Cristina Sison | Production Stage Manager
  • Suzette Porte & Jorge Z. Ortoll | Producers
  • Kristin Jackson | Movement Coach

Donate To Ma-Yi Theater Company

Your contributions allow us to continue to produce and develop innovative, exciting new work by Asian American playwrights and to keep theater tickets affordable.