Watching plays, whether it is contemporary, classic, comedy or musical is a habit I acquired since my wonder years. The very first play I have ever watched was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.
The play dubbed as a trivial comedy for serious people was a production of Teatro Pilipino, then headed by Rolando Tinio (who became National Artist for Theater and Literature) and starred his wife and forever muse, the great Ella Luansing.
Imagine my awe and kilig, as I watched Luansing and the rest of the cast in their Victorian outfits, lines in Filipino delivered in peculiar accents and how Wilde’s writing poked on the eccentricities of the English upper class.
Fast forward to my days as PR Assistant to the now being rehabilitated Metropolitan Theater wherein I had hands-on experience in theater production as I became part of Frank Rivera’s musical Oyayi, directed by Danny Mandia for the short-lived actor’s company Teatro Metropolitano.
My character in Rivera’s play was Eleonor Roosevelt, with an aria to sing, “Pusong Tigang.” And I am proud to say that during our entire six-performance run, no one suspected that I was a man who played a role of a woman.
The first pink themed plays for the initial incarnation of the Virgin Labfest, I reviewed for another broadsheet and yes, I did work for a decade as publicist of Gantimpala Theater, headed by the much missed and love, Tony Espejo.
My love affair with the theater continues to this very day and the efforts of the CBRC Dream Theater, headed by Dr. Carl Balita, mounted the first Mano-Mano Theater Festival registered well in my must watch activity.
When I went to the venue, the 250-seater theater was packed. Four one act, all original plays, written, acted and directed by students were shown.
The festival was the culmination of a workshop conducted by Angeli Bayani and JK Anicoche wherein 25 theater students from different college theater groups (PUP’s Sining-lahi Polyrepertory, UP Manila Dramatista, Ateneo Entablado, Ateneo Blue Repertory, Baon Collective and UP Los Baños’ Umalohokan, Inc.) were in attendance.
For three months, the workshop participants crafted their own productions - writing, performing, designing, and directing their own plays. The ones who made the cut were Takbo, Huwag, John!,Super Boy and Isang Gabi Sa Balete Drive.
The plays presented somehow mirrored the millennials’ causes that they champion, curiosities and concerns, dreams, hopes and realities.
Awardees for this year: Best Performance: Rian Magtaan (Huwag, John!, Baon Collective); Best Script: Isyan Sandoval (Isang Gabi sa Balete Drive, Ateneo Blue Repertory); Best Direction: Johann Dale Reyes (Huwag, John!, Sining-Lahi Polyrepertory, PUP); Best Play: Huwag, John! (Johann Dale Reyes, Director/Playwright; Sining-Lahi Polyrepertory, PUP)
Dr. Carl Balita said, “I hope that the Mano-Mano Theater Festival spark new fires within our millennial and Gen Z citizens to pursue the arts as an effective means for education. We want people to know that the CBP doors are always open to the opportunity for all artists and educators. In CBP, the art and the artist become one.”
With the arrival of these newfound actors, playwrights, directors and production team, the Mano-Mano Theater Festival has now become the platform, and the CBRC Dream Theater as a space for “The Theater of the Millennials, by the Millennials.”
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