Cynthia Farias: Attorney, Musician and Director

by Renelaine Bontol Pfister

Cynthia Farias is the director of “Symphony in Manila,” a play written by Michael Markrich and performed as a staged reading last August 19 at Manoa Valley Theatre.

The play follows Austrian composer and conductor Herbert Zipper who, at the end of World War II, gathered the members of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and played Beethoven in the ruins of Manila to uplift the spirits of the Filipino people.

When Michael Markrich approached Farias about directing his prize-winning play, she was hesitant but honored at the same time.

Farias, who is an attorney, had taken acting classes when she was younger and always enjoyed and appreciated the arts, but it would be her first time directing a play.

Farias was born in Honolulu and raised in Hilo. She attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa and then the University of Hawaii Richarson School of Law.

She is currently with Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen, a firm that specializes in maritime and business litigation. She is married to James Barry, a retired coastal engineer who is also passionate about music and moonlights as a guitar player in Pau Hana Blues Band and the rock band Tell Mama. 

“Music has always been an important part of my life,” says Farias who plays the flute in the Oahu Civil Orchestra (OCC). “The OCC is made up of musicians of all ages and backgrounds. We have doctors, teachers, retired folks, you name it! What unites everyone is the love of playing orchestral music.”

She also plays for Tiki Taboo, a band that plays an eclectic mix of pop, surf, jazz, rock, and tiki sounds. Directing a play was a whole other artistic endeavor.

“Because this was a staged reading,” Farias says, “we really wanted to fully develop the characters to the same extent as with a full production.”

In a staged reading, there are few, if any, props and costumes. Farias explained:

“In one sense, the restriction in movement across the stage and ability to fully employ gestures and body language to enhance and express the spoken word poses challenges for a staged reading, where actors tend to be stationary and reading from a script. A staged reading also does not have the benefit of a full set which enhances the story and conveys a sense of place. Because of this, the cast worked hard to define the characters and bring them to life essentially through their voices. The actors rose to the challenge and made this a reality.”

They did, however, add music, sound effects and lighting to enhance the theatrical experience.

Being an attorney helped Farias with her role as director. She says:

“Litigation attorneys learn the art of persuasion. Attorneys must craft an argument and present it in a way that convinces a judge, jury, clients or other attorneys that what they are saying is correct. Actors must also persuade, and I believe a director’s job is to guide an actor’s performance towards an authentic and believable expression of the character.”

Now that the performance is done, Farias remarks: “It was a great experience working with Michael and Kathleen Markrich and the cast of talented and passionate actors.”

One day, they hope to bring the full production of “Symphony in Manila” to Hawaii’s audiences.

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