Theaterbatoring GT's Rizal-novels plays 2011

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thoughts on GT's rizal-novels plays 2011
by walter ang
july 11, 2011

Cast of Gantimpala Theater's "Kanser" (stage version of "Noli Me Tangere")

For its 2011-2012 season, Gantimpala Theater opens with the "Rizal-novels" plays, namely, "Kanser" (Jomar Fleras' version of "Noli Me Tangere") and "El Filibusterismo" to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Rizal's birth.  This inverts its usual practice of opening its seasons with "Ibong Adarna" and "Florante at Laura."

I think it would be nice if GT could schedule a show or two of its Rizal-novels plays in the evening so that adult audiences (okay, 25 and above) can have a chance to watch:

1. A play version of the Rizal novels.  Even if there will be a slew of Rizal-related productions for the second half of the year, so far I have not heard of any scheduled play versions of Noli and Fili except for the GT productions.  In my previous "Rizal versus Shakespeare" post, so far, there have been announcements of musicals, operas, and devised works but no plays.

2. Without having to sit with hordes of chattering teenage and early-20s students.

Since GT uses a curriculum-based line-up (as the four plays are required reading for each level of high school), its audiences are predominantly student audiences.  GT has been staging the "curriculum plays" for decades to swarms of students.  In fact, one of the very first plays I ever saw (as a high school student) was their staging of Fili at the (then still open) Metropolitan Theater.  In 2008, I finally caught their version of Noli.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with students who cheer along or erupt in choruses of "yiheeeeee" when characters kiss lips-to-lips (I'd rather an audience that reacts than an audience that's snoring), nonetheless, it can't be denied that student audiences can be (though not always) distracting.

If you were required to watch a play or musical when you were still a student (or if you've had to watch a production that had a large student audience), you know what I'm talking about.

We meet again
But beyond the possible noise and distraction that audiences can generate (student or otherwise), an evening show for adults-only would allow GT the opportunity to:

1. Allow its pool of actors to give a performance or two without the harried atmosphere of delivering lines and emotion to a theater full of hyper, restless, noisy students.

2. Expose 25-and-above audiences to the Rizal-novels via the stage.  My assumption is that the last time anyone over 25 would have had exposure to the two novels is the required high school reading (and not even the complete novels, mind you, since most teachers use textbooks that employ shortened versions of each chapter) and possibly a required field trip to watch a production.

There are very limited chances (or none at all) for Filipino adults to revisit the two novels of the country's national hero--I'm sure there are a lot who haven't had the chance at a first visit at all.

The way I understand it, the novels are, arguably, the major contributing factor that elevated him to hero status to begin with.  (The novels inspired a revolution! And this is why they say literature is dangerous ... kekeke.)

The idea here is, I assume also, that the Rizal-novels (as plays, in this case) will "read" differently when seen and analyzed by an adult mind that's free from the constraints of being required to read/watch.  And also, the underlying themes and whatnot should resonate in a different way (if not more strongly).

Money, money, money
But of course, scheduling in extra shows in the evenings and the idea of it being only for adult audiences has cost implications.  Venue rental, equipment rental, salaries for staff, ticket sale recoupment, etc.

It's easier said than done.  Perhaps some independent producers or showbuyers would like to give it a go?  Rally some adults and invite/cajole/encourage them to watch? (Because forcing them to watch will kind of defeat the purpose of allowing them a new way of approaching the Rizal-novels plays.)

Whatever one's thoughts about the novels and/or Rizal, theater can provide an avenue for (re)acquaintance to these two works -- especially if you're not the reading type, kekeke.

Rizal-novels plays? Rizal food as well!
While we're on the subject of enticing people to watch the Rizal-novels plays (adults or otherwise), maybe all the theater groups staging Rizal-related plays this year could serve/sell something that I had the chance of experiencing when I attended a Rizal Day Party* last year: Rizal cupcakes! Kekeke!

(*Rizal Day Party: This is a party conceptualized by a friend of mine.  It's held every Dec.30 to commemorate/celebrate Rizal Day. The first time my friend thought of this, we brought over some of Rizal's books and attempted to do readings of passages.  We ended up eating more than reading, kekeke.  On the third year of this annual party, we had an impromptu excerpt reading from a Rizal-related play, the title of which I forget right now, and we ate Rizal cupcakes, as seen below.)

What do you think of these productions? Share your comments.

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