Tanghalang Pilipino turns silver (2011-2012)

Tanghalang Pilipino turns silver
By Walter Ang
June 27, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tanghalang Pilipino celebrates its 25th season by opening in August with José Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” in commemoration of the National Hero’s sesquicentennial.

To be directed by Audie Gemora with pop singers Mark Bautista and Gian Magdangal alternating as Crisostomo Ibarra and Cris Villonco as Maria Clara, the musical’s libretto is by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera with music by Ryan Cayabyab. Costume and set design are by National Artist for Theater Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal.

TP premiered “Noli” in 1995 with Gemora as Ibarra, Monique Wilson as Maria Clara and Regine Velasquez as Sisa. It has gone through several restagings and has toured Malaysia and Japan.

TP, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was founded by Felix “Nonon” Padilla, who also served as artistic director. After his departure, Herbert Go and Dennis Marasigan served as artistic directors.

“This season celebrates 25 years of dramatizing the best of Philippine theater and awakening the cultural consciousness of the Filipino audience,” says current artistic director Fernando “Nanding” Josef.

In October, TP will hold a Tony Perez retrospective. “He is one of TP’s most prolific playwrights and has spent over two decades eloquently dissecting the Filipino psyche,” says Josef.

The festival of plays includes “Bombita,” to be directed by Dennis Marasigan; “Sierra Lakes,” to be directed by Tess Jamias; and “Nobyembre, Noong Akala Ko’y Mahal Kita,” to be directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio. The first two plays will be presented in a twinbill; the twinbill will be shown on alternating weekends with “Nobyembre.”

In November, TP will stage "Walang Kukurap," a suspense thriller that will incorporate live interviews and improvisational scenes to "reveal the shady politics and unethical business practices so prevalent in the Philippines today."  To be directed by Chris Millado, the production is based on the findings of artist-researchers as well as first-hand testimony from government whistle-blowers and anonymous syndicate insiders.  "Walang Kukurap" is made possible through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

From mid-November till December, TP will stage George de Jesus III’s Tagalog translation and adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” to be directed by Riki Benedicto.

In January 2012, Floy Quintos will direct “Larawan,” Lumbera’s Tagalog translation of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.” TP premiered this Lumbera translation in the late ’80s and restaged it in the mid-90s and early 2000s.

Gina Pareño and Helen Gamboa will play the two spinster sisters negotiating Old Manila prior to the start of World War II.

Mobile productions
To allow more audiences to experience TP productions, it has four mobile productions that are available for bookings by schools and groups.

The productions are selected plays written over the past 25 years by TP resident playwrights: Tony Perez, Paul Dumol, Malou Jacob and Rene Villanueva.

“They all belong to a league of contemporary scribes whose deep sense of love of country, of peace, of truth and justice, and of integrity and spirituality infuse their work with a particular Filipino perspective on the aspirations and challenges of modern-day life,” says Josef.

Jacob’s “Anatomiya ng Korupsiyon” is a dark comedy that follows an idealistic young lawyer as she struggles against indifference and red tape in a government office.

Bienvenido Noriega Jr.’s “Bayan-Bayanan” deals with the tragic diaspora of Filipinos who work abroad.

“Tonyo, Pepe at Pule” is a trilogy of plays, each one tackling the question of heroism from a different point of view via Antonio Luna, José Rizal and Apolinario Mabini.

The trilogy “Teresa, Gregoria, Teodora” contemplates the lives of Iloilo revolutionary Teresa Magbanua, Andres Bonifacio’s widow Gregoria de Jesus and José Rizal’s mother Teodora Alonzo.

All productions feature members of Actors Company, TP’s resident pool of actors. AC scholars, apprentices and members go through continuous training in acting, movement, dance, voice, script analysis, improvisation, directing and other related courses.

“The Actors’ Company is directed toward developing acting as a profession,” he says. “Former members have gone on to be respected artists in theater, television and film such as Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Nonie Buencamino and Irma Adlawan-Marasigan, among many others.”

TP will also launch its anniversary book, “Tanghalang Pilipino: Celebrating 25 Years of Philippine Theater,” written by Inquirer contributing theater reviewer Amadis Ma. Guerrero, with contributions by Dennis Marasigan.

“It will include information about past TP productions and touch on genres, lighting and production design, the Actors Company, the context and social relevance of when and why the productions were chosen to be staged, translations and adaptations,” he says.

Season passes available. For details, to donate or participate in fundraising activities, call 8323661 or 8321125 loc. 1620, 1621. Visit tanghalangpilipino.org.ph

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Seven year itch for Virgin Labfest

Seven-year itch for Virgin Labfest
By Walter Ang
June 20, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Virgin Labfest 2010's "Higit Pa Dito"
will be "revisited" for Virgin Labfest 2011
Now on its seventh year, Virgin Labfest, a festival that focuses on staging new plays, is breaking tradition. Instead of presenting four sets of trilogies, it will present only three sets.  As an alternate, and a logical progression, it will now stage one full-length (two-act) play in lieu of the fourth set.

The fifth set, which "revisits" three selected productions from the previous labfest, remains.  This year's revisited set includes "Ondoy" by Remi Velasco, "Balun-balunan, Bingi-bingihan" by Debbie Tan, and "Higit Pa Dito" by Allan Lopez.

The labfest has always gone by its tagline of being "a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life 'untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged' plays" and its popularity has grown throughout the years for both audiences and aspiring playwrights.

Quantity and quality
VL founder and artistic director Rody Vera received 107 submissions this year, 24 of which are full length plays.

"I think the popularity of Labfest is brought about by the fact that playwrights or writers who want to try their hand at playwriting have found a rare venue to have their works staged and produced," he says.

"If you build it, they will come. I'm not saying all the works submitted are overwhelmingly great and skilled but we have to see this all in perspective-many people out there will say there are no good playwrights around but if we have a venue where playwrights are allowed to fail, sooner or later, the good ones will emerge."

This year marks entries from plays from both established and amateur playwrights who are being included in the Labfest for the first-time.  Vera is also experimenting on not giving themed-titles to the sets.

The line-up includes, Set 1: "Bawal Tumawid, Nakamamatay" by Joey Paras, "Kafatiran" by Ricardo Novenario, "Mga Lobo Tulad ng Buwan" by Pat Valera;

Set 2: "Opera" by Floy Quintos, "Kinaumagahan" by Rachelle Rodriguez and Winnielyn Fajilan, "Kawala" by Rae Red;

Set 3: "Requiem" by Christian Vallez, "The Valley Mission Care" by Russel Legaspi, and "Streetlight Manifesto" by Mixcaela Villalon.

The full length work to be featured is "Isang Gabi Bago Magbukas ang Portrait of the Artist as Filipino ni Nick Joaquin" by Carlo Pacolor Garcia.

Garcia's "Ang Mga Halimaw" and "Bakit Wala Nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas" have been featured in past Labfests.  "Isang Gabi" is about a theater group that encounters a bloody corpse backstage the night before their show opens.

Other full length plays that will receive staged readings include "Chiaroscuro" by Lito Casaje, "Hermano Puli" by Layeta Bucoy, and "House of Candles" by Nicolas Pichay.

New, new, new
Last year's "Balunbalunan, Bingibingian."
VL was initiated by Vera through Writer's Bloc, an independent organization of established and aspiring playwrights that he heads, in partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino.  Later on, the Cultural Center of the Philippines became a co-organizer.  This year, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts is providing partial funding.

Vera is keen on maintaining an emphasis towards eyeing what is "new."  "We're hoping to include a devised work this year so that audiences can see that there are different ways of 'playwriting,'" he says, referring to the practice where a script is created by a group from improvisation work.

"They say seven years counts as one full cycle. I'm thinking of expanding the concept and advocacy of VL and that might mean taking a back seat.  I'm seriously thinking of passing the baton to others so, allowing new eyes and tastes, so that VL will grow and take on a different character, ambience, texture."

He's also interested in developing similar initiatives in other regions.  "Imagine if we can do this in Visayas and Mindanao!"

Playwrights galore
Last year, VL launched its anthology of featured plays.  This year, "Telon: Mga Dula," the first anthology of Telon Playwrights Circle, will be launched.  A seminal playwrights group, Telon was formed in 1983 by the late Rene Villanueva. 

Telon members who have become prominent writers and artists include Nicolas Pichay, Luna Sicat-Cleto, Rolando Dela Cruz, Auraeus Solito, Jun Lana and Romulo "Joey" Baquiran.

"Three of the plays in this collection have been produced at the Virgin Labfest. Four of the anthologized playwrights are members of Writers Bloc," says the book's editor Tim Dacanay.  "Five of the seven plays have won either a Gawad CCP or Palanca award. The book's introduction is by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera."

The plays include (one-acts) "Kaaway sa Sulod" by Rene Villanueva and Rolando Dela Cruz; "Maternal" by Luna Sicat-Cleto, "Gamugamo sa Kanto ng East Avenue" by Dela Cruz; and "Serbis" by Elmar Ingles; and (full lengths) "Koloring Koloraw: Kuwentong Akabaw" by Nicolas B. Pichay, "Teatro Porvenir" by Tim Dacanay, and "Baby B." by Rene Villanueva.

Virgin Labfest 2011 runs June 29-July 10 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.  Call 832-1125.

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Philippines joins international theater festival in Prague

Philippines joins international theater festival in Prague
By Walter Ang
June 20, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Rollie De Leon and the bahay kubo
Philippine pavilion for Prague Quadrennial 2011.
The Philippines has joined the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2011, an international theater festival considered the largest scenography event in the world. 

The quadrennial exhibits a variety of performance design disciplines such as costume, stage, lighting and sound design, including theater architecture for dance, opera, drama, site specific, multi-media performances and performance art.

It's been held every four years since 1967.  This year, it started last week and will end on the 26th, with more than 60 countries participating. 

At the last quadrennial held in 2007, Rolando "Rollie" De Leon had been a guest artist doing foam art demonstration for the Costume Design Working Group of Organisation Internationale des Scenographes, Techniciens et Architectes de Theatre. 

He was disappointed that there was no major exhibit from the Philippines.  "I was motivated to ensure our country would be at the next quadrennial and I initiated talks with the PQ officers immediately," he says.

A costume entry by the Philipipnes
to the Prague Quadrennial 2011.
De Leon has long been a practitioner and advocate of design disciplines for theater.  He trained with National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio and is a freelance set and costume designer for stage, cinema, television and cultural festivals. 

He was personally invited by National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal to be a founding member of Philippine Association of Theater Designers and Technicians. He also founded On the Spot Artists' Association, an arts-outreach group.

As the PQ national curator for the Philippines, De Leon has been working with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and UNESCO International Theater Institute-Philippines to create a working committee and contingent of delegates for PQ11.

"We invited many organizations and friends to join," he says.  "We then shortlisted the applicants who could feasibly comply with the many requirements such as submitting sketches, maquettes (scale models of set designs), photographs and even video copies of performances."

Set and costume designs from productions staged from mid-2007 until April of this year were eligible, resulting in more than ten entries from across the country.  "Not everyone is aware yet of how big this event is globally," he says.  "We hope to have more entries in the next quadrennial."

De Leon's design and construction plans for the bahay kubo.
De Leon has designed a six-meter high bahay kubo to serve as the Philippine Pavilion for the main exhibit area in Veletrzni Palace, the building of the Czech National Gallery.

"Photos, videos, maquettes, and costumes will be installed 'suksok' style inside the bahay kubo.  It's inspired by the Pinoy penchant for inserting things in crevices, jambs, joists, and holes in walls."

"After the exhibition, our bahay kubo will move to the Philippine Embassy in Prague to house Jose Rizal memorabilia in celebration of his sesquicentennial."

De Leon promises that he and the contingent will learn as much as they can from artists from all over the world at the quadrennial and bring back information to the country through a design congress he has in the pipeline.  "We plan to hold it before the year ends and it will be for artists, practitioners and students."

The quadrennial also has workshops, lectures, discussions and presentations, and, of course, performances.  Filipino students and performers will also be joining the contingent as dance and choral performers. Performers from Passi City, Iloilo have been tapped to present "Los Pintados," a dance theater piece inspired by Sinagnayan, the tenth epic of Panay Island.  They will also interpret the Ceubano dance ritual Sinulog in a streetdance showdown.

The bahay kubo will come with Filipino hospitality by way of audience interaction.  "We'll have a 'Filipino Costume in Flux' where every day, ten selected delegates or guests will be dressed up in Philippine costumes and will be taught to perform portions of different Philippine literary or musical pieces.  These impromptu performances will be videoed and shown in the Philippine Pavilion."

PQ awards medals for excellence in different categories though the highest honor, the Golden Triga, is for the Best Presentation for exhibits.  "The countdown is on," De Leon says.  "I am positive the Philippines will bring home the bacon!"

For details, visit www.pq.cz/en

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Lithuania Day kicks off Philippine monodrama festival

Lithuania Day kicks off Philippine monodrama festival
By Walter Ang
June 6, 2011
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(From left) Former Philippine Prime Minister Cesar Virata, Birute Mar
and  Lithuanian Consul to the Philippines Romualdas Vildžius.
Members of the diplomatic corps were in attendance at a reception hosted by the Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania for the 93rd National Day of Lithuania.

Hon. Romualdas Vildžius, Consul ad honorem of Lithuania personally greeted and welcomed guests before giving his welcome remarks.  Guest of honor was the Department of Foreign Affairs' Undersecretary for Policy and former ambassador to Lithuania Erlinda Basilio.

Introduced that evening was a group of journalists and scientists from the Lithuanian Journalist's Union currently in an expedition of the Philippines following locations visited by Lithuanian journalist Matas Salcius in 1933 and hoping to "find traces" of Lithuanian scientist Pranciskus Baltrus Sivickis, who worked in the country in the 1920s and founded a biomarine station in Mindoro.

Held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Silangan Hall, the reception also served as an opening ceremony for "Monodrama Manila 2011," a four-day festival of monoperformances organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and CCP.  A gala twinbill performance immediately followed the reception.

"Monodrama Manila 2011" aimed to showcase "this unique theater form, one where a single actor takes on several roles."  Eight groups took part in the festival with the addition of Lithuania as the international entry.

After the Unesco-International Theater Institute (ITI) established a Monodrama Committee to oversee the promotion, cultivation, and enrichment of the art form, ITI-Philippines has been organizing the annual "Alsa Balutan: Monodrama Festival" since 2009 with events throughout the country.

Vildžius introduced Lithuanian poet and actress Birute Mar, who performed Sophocles' "Antigone" in Lithuanian, "one of the oldest Indoeuropean languages, akin to Ancient Greek."

Mar is known as the "Queen of monodrama" in Europe and she considers monoperformance as "the most personal theatre genre closest to poetry."  Mar elicited laughter from the guests when she joked that it felt strange to celebrate her country's national day away from her country.

Produced by Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, Birute performed all the characters in the play against a backdrop of projected photo and video images.

"The art of monodrama … is steadily gaining worldwide attention," NCCA executive director Malou Jacob said.  She noted that the bi-annual Fujairah International Monodrama Festival is evidence to this as nations all over the world gather at Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, to celebrate the craft.

The Fujairah festival started in 2003 and has inspired the creation of "Monodrama Manila."  Guests at the reception and gala included Mohammed Saeed Al-Danhani, Fujairah festival chair, and Mohammed Saif Al-Afkham, ITI executive board member.  ITI officers Ali Mahdi (vice president) and Tobias Biancone (secretary general) were also present.

Jacob highlighted the role of the Philippines in the global arena of performing arts and noted that our very own festival is an indication of our country's participation in the creation of a "theatre of nations."  And that the inclusion of international guests and participants "highlights strong mutual understanding and increases creative cooperation in the performing arts."

She also pointed out that this year's festival "piques a poignant heart" as the theater world bade farewell to Ellen Stewart, founder and stalwart of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, who had provided a haven for Filipino exiles in America who were fighting for the restoration for democracy.

Entries to "Monodrama Manila 2011" from the National Capital Region were Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino in Layeta Bucoy's "Galeon ni Simeon;" Glecy Atienza in J. Laspuna's "Bien;" Nar Cabico in Al Santos' "Anak ng Babaylan;" and Jonathan Tadioan in Reuel Aguila's "Alimuom."

The Visayan entries were Tanya Lopez's "Emo Trip" featuring Adelyn Maloloy-on and Jeremy Everdone's "Biyuos" featuring Kenneth Deananeas.  From Mindanao was "Su Lokes" by Romeo Narvaez featuring Sybil Alvarez.

Fray Paolo Casurao's "Queen Kong" was also an entry from the NCR with Skyzx Labastilla performing during the gala.  A forum on monodrama concluded the festival.

"It is NCCA's hope that this fete for the art of monodrama will not only be an annual event but likewise usher in a paradigm shift that will look deeply into and give great importance to culture and the arts beyond the notion that it has little or no economic, political and social value," said Jacob.

Thanks to Ma Theresa Belleza of NCCA and Juliet Ravino of the Consulate of Lithuania.