In Ms. Titaverse, their new musical-comedy extravaganza,  The Tita Collective unpacks their relationships with pageant culture, coming-of-age as Filipina Canadians and all of the growing pains that come with it.

Alia Rasul, AP Bautista, Belinda Corpuz, Ellie Posadas, and Maricris Rivera make up the Tita Collective, coming together from a range of artistic backgrounds to tell the stories of the  Filipin* diaspora and explore their identities as Filipina Canadians. 

The comedy troupe will perform Ms. Titaverse at the Theatre Centre’s Comedy is Art Festival this Thursday. We caught up with the wonderful creatives behind the Tita Collective before the show.

How did Ms. Titaverse come to be, and why did you want to make the show a musical comedy?

Alia: Our first show, Tita Jokes, was a love letter to our elders. We wanted our next show to explore themes that were more personal to us, as Filipina millennials growing up in (or immigrating to) Canada. Some central themes for sketches are sisterhood, body image, the expectation to be perfect as model minorities, being pit against each other in competition and the double standards of growing up in a largely patriarchal culture — it made a lot of sense to house this sketch revue within the drama of a beauty competition. It’s a musical comedy because we love a spectacle.

What is it like writing and performing material that’s so personal to you?

Belinda: It is definitely challenging, but very rewarding. Ms. Titaverse is in many ways a love letter to our younger selves. Writing and performing material that is personal to us empowers us to create and share from a deep place of heart, honesty and vulnerability, all of which are powerful to storytelling. In sharing a piece of ourselves through this show, we hope audiences can feel seen and connected to their younger selves and with one another.

Alia: It’s like taking a leap of faith that people will understand what you’re trying to say. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. I love it when people share with us their own stories after the show.

How has your relationship with pageant culture changed since your childhood?

Belinda: In our culture, pageants are very popular. The biggest thing we wanted to call out was the toxicity of the competitive environment and the patriarchal/male gaze pageants often perpetuate. As we continue to grow and endeavour to break away from these toxic cycles, we felt it was important to confront them in our show.

Alia: I have never appreciated pageant culture and I still don’t.

AP: I’ve heard of pageants being compared to the Olympics. It’s a sporting event, and we all have our own personal relationships with it. I’ve had my brushes as both an insider and outsider, and I’m happiest outside.

Maricris: I love Miss Congeniality. 

Ellie: Search Miss Janina San Miguel on YouTube! 

What is one part of the show you’re most proud of, or most excited for people to see?

Maricris: We take some traditional pageant elements and put our own Tita spin on it. Some moments are more personal, some call out pageant culture directly, and some moments are just silly and fun! We had a lot of fun putting this show together. We can’t wait for the audience to laugh along with us.

Alia: I do burlesque in this show. As a fat lady, I am very proud of that. 

AP: The new material. I love getting to see how silly ideas form into full-fledged characters, and there is lots of that in Ms.Titaverse!

Ellie: Music! 

Belinda: All of the above, yay!

What is your favourite thing about being part of a comedy troupe?

Belinda: That we get to laugh and have fun together. The best part is when we create and put all our jokes and ideas, bringing our life histories and experiences together to create something really fun. Then sharing the joy of that creation with our community.

Alia: We get free food and snacks sometimes, and that is aces. Also travelling. 

AP: I also second the travelling! Touring our shows and reaching out to the Filipin* community across Canada has been such a treat so far!

Maricris: Making each other laugh and creating the work we want to see. It’s a bonus when the Filipin* community think it’s hilarious, too!

Ellie: My friends! 

What do you think makes comedy so special as an art form?

Belinda: Laughter has always been a tool of resistance. With everything that’s happening in today’s world, it’s a huge effort to stay uplifted. When you’ve created conditions for laughing, it means that you’ve created a safe space for people to be vulnerable, funny and silly. You’ve created a space where people feel like they can just be themselves. That’s a healthy place to be. 

Alia: It is medicine.

AP: Laughter and comedy allow us to transmit our culture and experiences to others in ways that other genres struggle to do. It gives us the agency to be our truest selves and share in a way that is universal. Comedy is special because it is a great tool in bridging gaps and bringing people together. 

Maricris: There’s something really unifying about laughing together in a community. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by joy?

Ellie: Laughing! 

What is making you laugh these days?

Maricris: Atsuko Okatsuka, Abbott Elementary 

Belinda: Aunty Donna, Key & Peele, and of course, our own aunties (and uncles)

Alia: The live comedy scene in Toronto, we have so many amazing comedians living and practicing here, there are shows every night of the week. 

AP: My nephew. He’s 2 going on 30, and has a lot to say.

Ellie: My cats! 

Can you describe the vibe that audiences can expect from Ms. Titaverse?

Alia: We are at the point where we’re no longer reducing our culture and lived experience into bite-sized digestible bits. That means audiences will likely not understand every single reference and that’s okay. 

Maricris: They can expect some nostalgia, silliness, catchy songs, and a lot of heart. We hope audiences feel seen, and leave feeling like a winner. 

AP: Tutus, moustaches, and of course, harmonies.

Ellie: The vibes are immaculate! 

Belinda: All of the above, hehe!

See The Tita Collective perform Ms. Titaverse at the Comedy is Art Festival on October 26. More info here.