By Walter Ang
Nov. 11, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer
His "Mga Kuneho," about five men hired by a mysterious employer to transfer a loaded body bag from one room to another, had its world premiere at last year's Virgin Labfest and was chosen to be in this year's "Revisited" set.
Currently wrapping up his Literature in English course at Ateneo de Manila University, the first play Luarca ever wrote and directed, "Lingon," was for Ateneo High School's Palig, an annual competition hosted by the Filipino department.
Since then, he's worked on a few more plays and translated even more. And he's only 22 years old.
Currently, Luarca is handling translation duties for TA's staging of Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice."
Unlike the Greek myth on which it's based, Ruhl's adaptation adds a father for Eurydice when she ends up in the underworld. When her lover Orpheus comes to claim her, Eurydice's torn between her love for these two men.
Luarca has been working with director Loy Arcenas. "He is super hands-on, even with the translation process. We are not adapting Ruhl's text but [Arcenas] didn't want to locate it in America, either. So I went for Filipino that's quite devoid of historical connotations."
"[Arcenas] also has a unique reading of Orpheus, less the romantic hero and more of a jock who learns to sacrifice life for love; so my translation accommodates that specific reading."
In the blood
Theater, for Luarca, is partly in the blood. His mother dabbled in theater under Fr. James Reuter. His father Ward acted for Dulaang Sibol and Teatro Pilipino; whose recent credits include a role in the movie "Zombadings 1: Patayin sa shokot si Remington."
"I grew up watching my dad rehearsing scenes alone at home. The first time I watched a play was when he was in Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Lysistrata.' That play was directed by Ricky Abad [Tangahalang Ateneo's artistic director]. The first production I acted in for TA, 'Walang Sugat,' was also directed by Abad. Father and son's theater experience came full circle."
It was watching Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Makbet" using National Artist for Literature and Theater Rolando Tinio's translation that triggered Luarca's passion for translation. "I was amazed that you could do that with Filipino."
He started studying English-Filipino dictionaries, collecting stock vocabulary. In high school, he wanted to direct Chekhov's "The Boor" but couldn't find a copy of Tinio's translation. So he translated it himself.
Most of Luarca's translations thus far have been of classic playwrights (Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors"/"Komedya ng Kalituhan" and "Troilus and Cressida"/"Trobol sa Troya").
Ruhl's work, on the other hand, is undoubtedly contemporary, premiering only just a decade ago.
"Translating modern Western plays is always harder than translating classics like the Greeks or Shakespeare. It's a balancing act between respecting the historical context of the original and allowing the specific needs of the target language to sort of bend the material for its own uses.
"Something as American as Ruhl's 'Eurydice' is a lot trickier. Her dramaturgy is so, so very poetic. You can't quite reword her; she seems to be very sure about how she chooses her words, how long or short a sentence is, how arbitrary some of her images are.
"It was clear that we were doing a translated version. So I didn't want to take too many liberties with the language. But, of course, there will always be unintended 'Filipino-ness,' something very specific to the language and culture, that I think adds to Ruhl rather than distorts her. At least that's my intention."
Likes it both ways
When it comes to translation work, Luarca idolizes Tinio. "He'd contribute to Filipino and also to the original work. For example, he translated Hamlet's 'a little more than kin, and less than kind' to 'higit mang kamag-anak, hindi naman kamag-isip.' His 'kamag-isip' is genius!"
Otherwise, Luarca looks to his father for guidance. "[When I won the Palanca], more than anything, I was really excited because I knew it'd make my parents happy. Especially my dad, who's really one of my most trusted mentors in writing. I bounce my ideas off him. I admire his poetry."
Luarca admits he feels "friendless and alone" when writing original plays. On the other hand, translation is "always fun" and makes him feel that he's given "a backstage pass to the workings of minds greater than my own."
Nontheless, "Original plays allow me to torture and indulge myself. Translating teaches me selflessness and discipline. I like them both."
Set and costume design by Arcenas, lighting design by Lex Marcos, sound design by Teresa Barrozo.
"Eurydice" runs Nov. 14-30 at Fine Arts Black Box Studio, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Contact 09177931175 or 09175760805.
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