Philippines joins international theater festival in Prague

Yay! My article on the participation of Philippines in this year's Prague Quadrennial was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer for its June 20, 2011 issue.
Philippines joins international theater festival in Prague
By Walter Ang

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!"

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