Monday, November 19, 2012

Pure love and a wondrous tale

For The Philippine Star, 19 November 2012, in Art & Culture.

The third time’s the charm. Tanghalang Ateneo had staged Sintang Dalisay (Pure Love) twice before, on the Loyola Heights campus in July 2011 and February 2012, the second run improving upon the first. Now, as part of this year’s National Theater Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the production reaches a triumphant height. 

 Actually, I had already gotten to see a prototype of the play, a thirty-minute concept involving only three performers that director Ricardo Abad had taken to a Shanghai festival in 2009, performed in a conference room for a limited audience. The germ of the idea: using dance, namely, the igal of the Sama-Bajau people of Mindanao (with choreographer Matthew Santamaria), music, and a stripped-down text to tell the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The response was strongly positive. At the suggestion of the nation’s leading Shakespeare scholar, Judy Ick, Abad turned to a little-known adaptation of the play: an awit written by G. D. Roke in 1901. Recognizing that by itself the text, in a traditional Filipino form of narrative poetry, was insufficient for staging, he turned, with Guelan Luarca, to the late Rolando Tinio’s translation of the tragedy and lifted passages from it to plug the narrative gaps. (Luarca, now a college senior, submitted a play to this year’s Virgin Labfest, the CCP’s annual festival of new work. Not only was “Mga Kuneho” accepted and staged, the play was chosen with two other works to form part of next year’s “Best of 2012” set. He is an emerging talent in his own right.) Muslim names were assigned to the locale (Semporna for Verona) and the characters (such as Rashiddin and Jamila for Romeo and Juliet).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The view from the juggernaut

For the Philippine Star, 24 October 2012, in section M.

When the game finally ended, I logged onto Facebook and posted a new status update: “SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE!!!!!” Then I added a comment: “I waited all season to post this status, dammit!” 

And really, I did. Not ever having been a devoted fan of my alma mater’s men’s basketball team (I would watch a few games on TV every so often), I decided to catch every single one this year. We had won four straight UAAP championships, after all, and if a landmark fifth crown was to be won at the end of the season, I wanted to witness the journey.

Why? Maybe because success isn’t something I’m used to. Sure, when I was a student the Blue Eagles won back-to-back titles. The first one, in 1987, was clinched by a wild come from behind victory in the championship game. The team came back from a twenty-point deficit with ten minutes to go in the second half to take the winner-take-all match against a UE team led by Jerry CodiƱera (who would go on to have an illustrious career in the Philippine Basketball Association). And I missed it. The next year, the Blue Eagles were back in the finals, this time against arch rival La Salle, and this time I caught the clinching game live in Rizal Coliseum, a much smaller and cozier arena than the cavernous Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The half-life of the stage performer

For The Phlippine Star, 5 November 2012, in Art & Culture.

Because of a mixup, the version that was printed and posted online was an earlier draft I sent in. Here is the most recent version. The two are substantially the same except for stylistic differences, most visible in the last five paragraphs. 

Also, the print version mistakenly identifies Mario O'Hara as the director. The play is directed by Chris Millado.

Shows about shows are nothing new. Movies about movies or plays about plays often contrast the world of celluloid or stage with a usually more grim or banal reality. Tanghalang Pilipino’s Stageshow offers a vivid version of this concept, this time depicting a band of performers and their off-stage lives.

Written before his untimely death in June this year, Mario O’Hara, who made an indelible mark in radio, theater, and film as writer, actor, and director, intended the play to be a tribute to the performers he knew and learned from in his youth, bootstrapping men and women who sang, danced, told ribald jokes, acted tear-jerking skits, and even did magic tricks. Close kin with bodabil, stageshow was supposedly where entertainers such as Dolphy, Elizabeth Ramsay, and German Moreno got started.

As its title suggests, TP’s Stageshow has a simple heart, with no greater ambition than to entertain with modest means while remembering the people who spent their lives doing so. And it succeeds smashingly.