Friday, July 12, 2013

Hail the Messengers: Tanghalang Pilipino Spotlights Bringers of Heroism in its 27th Season

The Bikol epic Ibalong is transformed into a visual spectacle
Heroism takes on many forms. With this in mind, it can be said that there are many kinds of heroes. While heroism is an act that can be rare in real life, it is a constant as aspiration of humankind as can be gleaned in popular and artistic works. In these, there are always heroes, and their acts of heroism aim to inspire and uplift us. The well of edification and inspiration is replenished anew with the new season of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), the resident theater company of the country’s premier cultural institution, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The 27th season of TP has theme “Mensaheros,” meaning messengers with the word “hero” highlighted within the word. 
“Through this season’s offerings, we desire to inspire, to educate, to entertain and to encourage thoughts of selfless heroism. We invite everyone to join us in becoming messengers of hope, goodwill, truth, justice and heroism,” declared Nanding Josef, TP’s indefatigable artistic director.
Josef said that they are emphasizing the other heroes — the messengers.
“Heroism can refer to playwrights, all artists, messengers of heroism,” he explained. “Artists have a role in the formation of heroism… They are the new heroes.”
Well, TP’s efforts themselves are not short of being heroic, mounting excellent productions year after year despite the indifference and the dearth of funding and massive support that popular and often vacuous and insipid forms of entertainment enjoy. Year after year, they constantly look for funding, but they never wane in terms of quality. In fact, TP was a big winner in the last Philstage Gawad Buhay, which honors achievements in the field of theater.
At the helm of TP is a new board of officers, taking on the challenge of continuing this tradition. The new president is Jolly Gomez, grandson of Aling Asyang, the founder of The Aristocrat restaurant. He expressed his desire to take TP plays to the provinces because “it is shame that these quality productions are not seen by larger audiences.” This is of course a perennial desire of all artistic productions. Filipinos are not the kind to flock to these kinds of productions, thus artists and cultural workers have no option but to bring these to them. And this is one of their heroic acts.
Anyway, the new season presents an exciting and impressive line-up — a children’s musical, an original opera, a Shakespeare play in Filipino, an epic made into a musical and a straight drama by a revered National Artist.

Susie and the shoes in Sandosenang Sapatos

Sandosenang Sapatos
The season will be opened lightly with a children’s musical, Sandosenang Sapatos, an adaptation of Dr. Luis Gatmaitan’s Palanca award-winning and now classic children’s book. Gatmaitan wrote it during a scholarship training in Tokyo, Japan, where he explored writings that deals with motifs of love, respect and concern society can give to disabled people. Josef said that they felt a need to create a new children’s musical aside from their perennial Pinocchio.
The protagonist, Susie, a child bound to a wheelchair, meets the Shoe Fairy in her dreams, and demands for a pair of feet the night before the birthday of her father, a shoemaker who dreams of her becoming a ballerina. But the shoes in Susie’s dream maintain that she can only talk to the Shoe Fairy the night before her own birthday.  Every year, the Shoe Fairy gives her a pair of shoes and for a night Susie is able to dance. After Susie’s father dies, she finds herself in dreamland the night before her 12th birthday, where the Shoe Fairy reveals where the shoes she has been giving Susie really comes. Susie’s father appears with a pair of shoes, and for the first time, she is able to dance with her father. In the real world, Susie discovers a huge box containing 12 pairs of shoes, each of different sizes and comes with a note, her father’s letter for her, testaments of his great love.

Ralph Mateo as Bluey in Sandosenang Sapatos
Socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdez debuts on stage in Sandosenang Sapatos
This moving children’s story was adapted by playwright Layeta Bucoy, who won the Philstage Gawad Buhay for best original script for Doc Resureccion: Gagamutinang Bayan. The play focuses more on the “psyche of the child rather than the relationship between the father and the daughter,” revealed its director Tuxqs Rutaquio, who watched Guillermo del Toro’s movie Pan’s Labyrinth to study its transition technique from reality to fantasy and vice versa.
“This production is… a milestone for Tanghalang Pilipino because it is their first sung-through children’s musical. Layeta Bucoy, who I’m working with for the first time, wrote a libretto that was poetic enough so that even the parts that are supposed to be dialogs can be turned into songs. Meanwhile director Tuxqs Rutaquio embraced the sing-through challenge with eagle’s wings,” related Jed Balsamo, the play’s co-composer, co-arranger and musical director.

Balsamo is joined by Noel Cabangon as composer and arranger. TJ Ramos is the sound director while Gerald Mercado is the choreographer and John Batalla the lighting designer. Thirteen Artists awardee Leeroy New and emerging fashion designer James Reyes were tapped to design the costumes.
Trixie Esteban will play Susie while May Bayot will play her mother. Interior designer and prominent socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdes will debut on stage as the Shoe Fairy (Diwata) alternating with Hazel Maranan. They will be joined by the actors of the TP Actors Company, namely, Jonathan Tadioan (Tatay), Regina de Vera (Ate), Marco Viaña (Red), Remus Villanueva (Maong), Jovanni Cadag (Yellowy), Ralph Mateo (Bluey), Doray Dayao (Whitey), Raquel Pareño (Diwata understudy), JV Ibesate (Sandals), Antonette Go (Pinky), Lhorvie Nuevo (Sequins) and Aldo Vencilao (Bluey).
Sandosenang Sapatos will be staged at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of CCP on July 13, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and July 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Handyong and Oryol in Ibalong
Because of popular demand, TP is bringing back last season’s acclaimed Ibalong, the epic of the Bicol Region, adapted by veteran playwright Rody Vera into an “ethno-rock” musical featuring the musical direction and composition of Carol Bello, and musical arrangement of Rizalino Reyes and Inkantada.
Vera explained that the Ibalong, which exists in fragments, has been controversial because of its authenticity. Some doubted if the epic fragment was really transcribed by Fray Bernardino de Melendreras, from which Fray Jose Castaño published a short fragment. Sixty stanzas, of the said 400, are only what is known today of the Ibalong, which is celebrated today by the Bicolanos and inspired several other artistic works.
“As playwright, I focused not on the fragment’s authenticity. What I found more interesting and ennobling is how the people of the Bikol region appropriated this fragment and claimed it as part of the enrichment of their culture. And as literary and dramatic works have begun to pile up to contribute to the deepening and layering of Ibalong, I believe we may be witnessing the continuing story of how epics can remain alive and resonant to the very people who claim it,” Vera averred.
The Ibalong is about the fight between darkness and light during the early stages of creation with three heroes — Baltog, Handiong and Bantong — battling monsters, restoring peace, inspiring great inventions and leading the people with just laws. This version of the Ibalong fragment is told from the point of view of the perceived villain Oryol, a serpentine monster and daughter of Asuwang, the main deity of the underworld.
Ibalong was syaged at the Adamson University in Manila, and in the Bicol Region, particularly in Legaspi City where the epic traces its origins. The play will be part of the Ibalong Festival of Legaspi City. It will be restaged at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater), with direction by Tuxqs Rutaquio, choreography by Alden Lugnasin, lights and sounds design by KatschCatoy, and costume and puppet design by Leeroy New, on Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 and 13 at 8 p.m.; Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 and 14 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sept. 1, 8 and 15 at 3 p.m.

Der Kaufmann
Written between 1596 and 1598, The Merchant of Venice is one of the popular plays of iconic English poet and playwright William Shakespeare about a bitter and hated Jewish moneylender who seeks revenge against a Christian merchant who faulted him. Rody Vera adapts the translation of the late National Artist for theater and literature Rolando Tinio and tells it as play within a play set during the Holocaust, with Nazis directing the Jewish “actors,” stressing the dehumanizing effect of racism and intolerance.
Der Kaufmann will be staged on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 and 11 at 8 p.m.; Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 and 13 at 3 p.m. at the CCP’s Tanghalang Huseng Batute.

San Andres B.
As a contribution to the nationwide celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, one of the Philippines’ most popular heroes, TP will bring to life an opera based on his life, San Andres B., by National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario. His libretto is based on his earlier novel on Bonifacio. A live orchestra and professional opera singers and actors will be tapped to join the production as well as the Philippine Madrigal Singers, which is being invited to be the chorus. San Andres B. will be directed by Floy Quintos with Chino Toledo’s musical composition and arrangement and Paul Morales and Alden Lugnasin’s choreography, Eric Cruz’s production design, Jay Aranda’s light design and Rards Corpuz’s sound direction. It will be staged on Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Dec. 1 and 8 at 3 p.m. at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Mga Ama, Mga Anak
TP will close the season with Mga Ama, Mga Anak (Fathers and Sons), a play originally in English by National Artist for literature Nick Joaquin, written in 1976, based on his short story “Three Generations.” This will be adapted into Filipino Virgilio Almario and Pete Lacaba. It tells the conflicts between the once poweful Zacarias Monzon, now ill, wheelchair bound and harsh, and his sons. The play will be directed by film, television and theater director  Joel Lamangan, who hopes to tap celebrities Eddie Garcia, Richard Gomez and Coco Martin to star.
Mga Ama, Mga Anak will be staged at the CCP’s Tanghalang AurelioTolentino on Feb. 21, 28 and March 7 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 22, March 1 and 8 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Feb. 23 and 28, and March 2 and 9, at 3 p.m.

For more information and updates, visit Tanghalang Pilipino’s official Web site or like them on Facebook (Tanghalang Pilipino Foundation Inc.). All shows will offer a 20 percent discount on regular ticket price for senior citizens, government employees, military employees and PWDs. Present a valid ID. For inquiries on ticket reservations, group sales, sponsorships, special performances, e-mail Cherry Bong Edralin, TP’s marketing manager, at or contact mobile phone numbers 0917-7500107 or 0918-9593949.
The Tanghalang Pilipino board of trustees
The local arts and community mourns several deaths of artists and cultural workers. The latest one is the death of National Artist for music Andrea Veneracion on the night of July 9. The 84-year-old founder and former choirmaster of the acclaimed Philippine Madrigal Singers had been bedridden for years. She has been influential in the development of Philippine choral music. Her remains lie at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral Grottos. CCP is preparing a necrological service for her set for July 14.
Earlier, cultural worker and writer Elmar Beltran Ingles died on the morning of July 9 at the age of 49 from complications from diabetes. He was the Philstage Gawad Buhay! executive director and jury coordinator, Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit executive director, former commissioner of the Subcommission on Cultural Dissemination of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and director of the Philippine Cultural Education Program of the NCCA.
Veteran actress Amable “Ama” Quiambao passed away on the night of July 5 at the age of 66. She suffered a heart attack upon the conclusion of a play, “Pamamanhikan,” she acted in, part of the Virgin Labfest 9, a festival of new plays, at the CCP. She bagged her first best actress award last year at the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival for her work in Diablo of Mes de Guzman.
Their works have inspired and uplifted us. They were all heroes.

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