Cover art by Noah Scalin, Another Limited Rebellion

The Romance of Magno Rubio

Lonnie Carter, with Loy Arcenas, based on the short story "The Romance of Magno Rubio" by Carlos Bulosan, additional dialogue in Filipino by Ralph B Peña
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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.

Production Info

Cast: 5 total (5 male)
Full Length Drama (about 80 minutes)
Single Set
Contemporary Costumes
Category: Tags: ,

Press Quotes

“If the Rainbow Coalition had a playwrights’ wing, Lonnie Carter would be a leading candidate to chair it.”—Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times

“The high-priest of multicultural hiphop, Lonnie Carter, brought his übertheatricality to a movingly simple story of Filipino migrant workers scratching their way toward love and self-worth.” —Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

“There may be no bouquets of flowers or Michel Legrand love songs in THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO, but this unusual eighty minute fable … has much to say about the world’s most delicate emotion. Playwright Lonnie Carter uses an intriguing mixture of verse, music and dialogue.” —Brian Scott Lipton, The New York Post

“The play is virtually musical. Lonnie Carter’s text throbs with rhyme and rhythm.” —Don Shirley, The Los Angeles Times

“THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO is one of those theatrical gems that heals your heart even as it breaks it. A magnificent piece of deeply humanistic storytelling … This is the tall tale of a man who may be small in stature and worldly goods, but is gigantic in his ability to believe in himself and his dreams — or at least in his ability to keep self-delusion alive. It is classic in its outline. But it is distinctive in the way Carter’s lyrical yet powerfully rhythmic language (English laced with bursts of Tagalog, a Filipino language) melds sounds and cultures.” —Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times

“One of the best off-Broadway plays of the season.” —New York Times

“A beautifully conceived fable.” —Variety

About the Author


  • Lonnie Carter

    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, and 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). 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 GLO, WHEATLEY (the Colonial HippeHoppe story of Phillis Wheatley), CONCERTO CHICAGO, and most recently 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 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. He has taught at the Yale School of Drama, the Hammerstein Theater Center at Columbia University and the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. His screenplay for THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO is in pre-production.

  • Carlos Bulosan

    Carlos Bulosan was born in the Philippines in the rural farming village of Mangusmana, near the town of Binalonan (Pangasinan province, Luzon island). He was the son of a farmer and spent most of his upbringing in the countryside with his family. Like many families in the Philippines, Carlos's family struggled to survive during times of economic hardship. Many families were impoverished and many more would suffer because of the conditions in the Philippines created by US colonization. Rural farming families like Carlos's family experienced severe economic disparity due to the growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the economic and political elite. Determined to help support his family and further his education, Carlos decided to come to America with the dream to fulfill these goals. Traveling by ship, Carlos arrived in Seattle on July 22, 1930 at the age of seventeen. With only three years of education from the Philippines, Carlos spoke little English and had barely any money left. Desperate to survive, he soon began working various low-paying jobs: servicing in hotels, harvesting in the fields, and even embarking to the Alaskan canneries. During his hardships in finding employment, Carlos experienced much economic difficulty and racial brutality that significantly damaged his health and eventually changed his perception of America. From several years of racist attacks, starvation, and sickness, Carlos underwent surgery for tuberculosis in Los Angeles. His health condition with tuberculosis forced him to undergo three operations where he lost most of the right side of his ribs and the function of one lung. Yet, he recovered and stayed in the hospital for about two years where he spent much of his time reading and writing. The discrimination and unhealthy working conditions Carlos had experienced in many of his workplaces encouraged him to participate in union organizing with other Filipinos and various workers. Carlos become a self-educated and prolific writer determined to voice the struggles he had undergone as a Filipino coming to America and the struggles he had witnessed of other people. Like many of his fellow Filipinos in his time, Carlos never had the opportunity to return to the Philippines. After years of hardship and flight, he passed away in Seattle suffering from an advanced stage of bronchopneumonia. He is buried at Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.

  • Ralph B Peña

    Ralph is a founding member and the current Artistic Director of the Obie and Drama Desk Award – winning Ma-Yi Theater Company. Recent directing credits include Michael Lew's MICROCRISIS (EST/Youngblood and Ma-Yi Theater Company), Lloyd Suh's CHILDREN OF VONDERLY (Ma-Yi) and HAPPY END OF THE WORLD (Children's Theater Company and Ma-Yi at Arena Stage), Nicky Paraiso's HOUSE/BOY (La Mama ETC, Singapore and Dublin Theater Festivals), and SAVAGE ACTS by Kia Corthron, Han Ong, Sung Rno, and Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas (Ma-Yi). He is also the author of FLIPZOIDS, DEAD MAN'S SOCKS, I__NY, PROJECT: BALANGINA (with Sung Rno), and additional text and lyrics for Lonnie Carter's THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO (Obie Award).

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 2/1/2005
Pages 50
ISBN 9780881452600

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

Originally produced by Ma-Yi Theater Company, New York

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
The Romance of Magno Rubio is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


4/23/2025 – 4/26/2025
Juneau, AK