Lithuania Day kicks off Philippine monodrama festival

Yay! My article on the recent Monodrama Manila festival was used by Philippine Daily Inquirer for its June 6, 2011 issue.
Lithuania Day kicks off Philippine monodrama festival
By Walter Ang
(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.

What do you think of this monodrama festival? Share your comments.

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