Friday, October 30, 2009

Are locally-mounted Broadway musicals a waste?

Oggs Cruz, one of the more intelligent and consistently insightful Filipino film critics online (his blog, Lessons From the School of Inattention, just won Best Entertainment Blog honors at the 2009 Philippine Blog Awards), has tried his hand at theater reviewing with a piece on Atlantis Productions' Spring Awakening. The review appears in the Oct. 31 print issue of the Philippine Free Press (no online version yet.)

To put it mildly, he was disappointed by the show, finding it “lackluster” and “hugely inadequate.” Oggs writes that he saw the original Broadway production; it didn't seem to have struck him as particularly memorable, except for the “indubitable saving grace” of Duncan Sheik's music. His complaint against the local production, though, goes deeper than weak staging or musicality.

“My utter disappointment for the local staging is grounded not on the numerous bum notes that mutated Sheik's rousing melodies... but on the consequent wastage that these productions carry with them as they are negotiated, imported, mounted and publicized. My proposition seems to be an unfair one, especially for the thousands of theater lovers who crave for having a piece of Broadway or the West End in Metro Manila, but the proposition, under the understanding that we are a nation that is struggling with a cultural identity that is slowly but surely being dissipated by post-colonial imperialism, is sound.”

In other words, Oggs is asking: Given our porous sense of national character, is it worth devoting time, talent and resources to mounting foreign productions with their foreign stories, foreign accents and foreign sensibilities when... “There is so much talent in the Philippines, so much material that have remained unstaged or unwritten because of lack of attention or lack of funding”?

He compares his frustrating Spring Awakening experience with his encounter with several original local productions that, "while flawed, are all products of an independent creative energy," citing Dulaang UP's Atang, Tanghalang Ateneo's many attempts at a vernacular Shakespeare and also its musical Lam-ang, Tanghalang Pilipino's Zsazsa Zaturnnah, etc.

Then he throws down the gauntlet with this provocative observation: “It is saddening, really. Directors become mere supervisors. Actors resort to mimicry. Undoubtedly, there is talent onstage and offstage but when the material fails to reach you because of an impenetrable sheen of cultural disconnect, you can't help but wish that these actors just break out of their obviously fake accents and manufactured gesture--and just interpret the characters the way they had lived their own experiences with sexual repression. Also, you wish that director Chari Arespacochaga had more guts to actually direct instead of getting directions via email, phone calls, or the strict stipulations of whatever licensing agreement that was signed between Atlantis Productions and the owners of Spring Awakening. You seriously wonder if there is artistry or any independent thought in the production. Or begin to doubt whatever notion of creative sincerity in the musical since this opulent drivel can never be representative of Philippine theater.”

Do you agree? Is Oggs on to something here--or is he simply extrapolating from this one particularly inadequate production? To flesh out the issue some more (note--NOT all of them raised by Oggs, but these questions should help further clarify it):

1. Is there no outlet, indeed, for genuine artistry or creative sincerity when we're talking of English-language plays or musicals that are mounted locally without benefit of adaptation or Filipinizing? Does that lead to plain “mimicry”? What is the value of staging--to name just some examples--Into The Woods (New Voice Company), Avenue Q (Atlantis), The Sound of Music (Repertory Philippines), High School Musical (Stages), Songs For a New World (9 Works Theatrical), Tick... Tick... Boom! (Ateneo BlueRep)--largely as they are, with no localizing touches in language, character or setting?

2. Should all foreign material undergo transplantation to the Filipino milieu and culture for them to be able to effectively reach us and move us? For that matter, would doing English-language musicals qualify as a frivolous effort compared to, say, doing original Filipino productions?

3. How impenetrable is this “sheen of cultural disconnect,” and how does this render the decades-long efforts of such theater companies as Repertory Philippines, which has devoted itself to mounting only English-language works, and the large sector of Filipino artists--actors, directors, scenarists, etc.--who have involved themselves mainly in productions of foreign language and origin?

4. Should Filipino artists cultivate a conscious preference for original Filipino theater over Broadway/West End imports? Does that make their work more “important”, more “valuable”? Or should talent, skill, professionalism, attitude--one's devotion to the art--supersede questions of whether a particular brand of theater is “more Filipino” than others?

5. Should every local production be held to the standard of being “representative of Philippine theater”? How should that benchmark be defined, and is it a reasonable aspiration to be expected from all our theater companies?

Your thoughts? I'd really like to hear them. (Hot-button topic, I know--but let's keep things civil and reasonable, shall we? Now fire away.)


EdGE said...

I was going to blog about this topic, but was holding on to it until I see Rep's Sweeney Todd to prove or disprove the idea that's been nagging me.

In particular, the consistent disappointments with local productions of musicals.

proletartist said...

Ang ganda ng pagkakasulat, as always. :)

Pero, I'll keep my piece short muna. I do agree with Oggs. There is a "disconnect." And as a regular audience of Atlantis's shows(most productions- if not all - are imported materials), the disconnect is obvious. One enjoys the novelty of the show being an import, but the connection ends there.

There is such a thing as world-view, or multi-cultural bull/shit. But we still have our own culture, our own piece. For example, when they staged Hairspray last year, I enjoyed the gayness of it all. But my connection stopped there. We do not have issues like "overt racism" or "overt exclusion." If anything, the alienation in our country is somewhat implied and invisible, by class.

When they staged The Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Contest, I dearly enjoyed laughing all through out, but somehow found myself lost at the end of the play. The show did virtually nothing for me because, for one (and I guess it is a major factor), we do not put high regard to spelling bees.

This is the case with the actual broadway shows as well. Whenever I watch them, the connection starts and ends with the novelty.

I believe that a theater production 's effectivity is measured by how well it connects with its audience. It need not be a Filipino/"Filipinized" production. But a production that is sensitive and speaks very well to the culture it is being shown to. Apples from the desert, for example, is in English, written by an Israeli, but it manages to connect with the Filipino audience mainly because of our similarities with their culture.

Ang haba na ata ng short piece ko. Haha.

rudeboy said...

Hot-buttons indeed.

I fail to see the point of "adapting" an imported work to tailor-fit a local audience. If I want to see "Evita," I want to see "Evita" and not "Imeldita."

Many things are already lost in interpretation - draconian production mandates notwithstanding - without having even more things lost in translation.

Many moons ago, I had the misfortune of watching "La Traviata" at the Metropolitan Theater. The opera had been proudly bannered as having certain passages translated into Pilipino by Tinio himself, if memory serves. To this day, I recall my reactions of horror mixed with inexplicable fits of giggling as I listened to Violetta trilling about going off to live peacefully with Alfredo - in Novaliches.

FrRoy said...

My two cents.

Gibbs, this is one of the many reasons why you should come to visit Broadway in Manhattan. Experience the musicals and plays in their original intent/beauty when and where one feels his/her own humanity that transcends culture.

Maybe this is one of the flaws of Filipino theater - the lack of or absence of the mastery of the craft in staging and performing which eventually become the obstacle or the source of deviation to deeply touch one's human angst.

If the art and craft of a theatrical play or musical are not met to its optimum they will probably not move, jolt, shock, suprise, transform, question, etc. the core of one's humanity. Then the question of culture comes in rather than the question whether the play has helped its audience to probe into their human journey.

Culture is the skin of one's humanity. So, if the the soul of the play has not been internalized or interiorized, then the soul is lost as the focus shifts to the skin.

Kaya ba parang "gaya-gaya" o datapua't "perya"?

Allan Lopez said...

For me, it’s really an absence of immediacy more than a cultural disconnect that plagues Spring Awakening and its highly syndicated ilk – these are, after all, “fastfood” plays: mass produced, economical (not exactly true when you have to import it – an irony in the context of this discussion), generally agreeable, and tried and tested to be satisfying on the visceral level.

On a sidenote, I managed to see Spring Awakening on the SF leg of the broadway show tour. Posted a brief recollection (review?) here:

There are some impressions on my gut reaction to majority of broadway plays that I feel like reiterating here, in the context of your discussion. I instantly recalled Peter Brooks’ monicker for this type of theatre in his book, “The Empty Space” – “Deadly Theater.” In a nutshell: theatre that aims nothing but to satisfy audiences, patronized by audiences that go to the theater to affirm what they already believe to begin with.

In the introduction to the early published editions of “Man of La Mancha,” the producer notes how they stood out from the rebellious theater of the sixities – they celebrated hope, instead of directly reacting to the social and political issues of the time. Runs of the musical, according to him, played out like popular religious ceremony, where people celebrate their popular and unbending belief to the individualism, embracing a communal respect to the “status quo”, as opposed to being outright anti-authoritarian en masse.

I guess the same was the same for RENT – while it dealth with the dillema from a decade past, it was generally unconfrontational, comftable in its distance from the fact . Imagine how awkward it would have been to hear the seminal broadway sing-a-long classic “Seasons of Love” a decade ago, when Regan-era America was still disregarding AIDS as a serious problem, and when the same characters singing it onstage were dying and suffering outside.

Now, to circle back to Oggs Cruz’ observation. I’m quite honestly torn on this subject. On the one hand, one appreciates the success of commercial run-of-the-mill imports. This is theatre after all – I’m happy enough to see people taking time off to watch a show, appreciating the magic of something performed live. On the other hand, I’m highly concerned with the fact that theatre, in this context, limits theatre to acceptable entertainment. For most people, even a commodity: theater that is "worth the price" and "good enough to buy." Nothing wrong with this on the surface, but when one trusts consumerist instincts and that alone, one rarely questions intention and belief.

“There is also a deadly spectator who helps kill drama. He is the theatergoer whose only conception of good theater is that it be nice, decent, reassuring and uplifting, but never marrow-chilling or soul-devouring.” – from Time Magazine’s review of Peter Brook’s The Empty Space

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Gibbz,

Thanks for posting this. To give Repertory Philippines some credit, although they primarily stage non-Filipino works, you can really identify a certain level of independence and creativity from their plays; for example, the concept of their staging of Hamlet, although I was not impressed, was surely original although the material is obviously borrowed. My gripe about this fad of importing recent Broadway successes is that these production companies are usually strangled with so many stipulations that it is almost impossible to be artistic about it. There's no more discretion to exercise one's own artistic vision. Staging the play has turned into a mechanical process of following formula.

I enjoy these productions as well. I saw Rent three times; saw Avenue Q, saw Spelling Bee two times, but after a while, when you see all these people outside the theater feeling their cultural quotient has been improved severely by the play they just saw, you start to question, do we really want Philippine theater to have that direction?

Kiko Matsing at ang kanyang Monkey said...

May nakikita akong mali. Sa katunayan na ang blog o article o maging ang mga comment ay isinulat sa Ingles ay marami nang gustong sabihin sa kung anuman ang pinag-uusapan dito.

Bakit may mga produksyong kamukha ng mga ginagawa ng Atlantis? Simple lang. Kasi Inglesero tayo. May fascination tayo sa anumang Hollywood o Broadway.

Sinubukang gumawa ng lokal na flavor ang Rep dati. Ito 'yung "Miong" na isang musical (at ilan pa). Pero hit-and-miss ang mga critique dito. Siguro dahil hindi naman talaga ito ang nakasanayang gawin ng Rep. Baka nagmukhang half-baked.

Para sa akin, ang lahat ay babalik sa simula: vision.

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

My take: artists generally take on or create work because it is what they want to do, whether as outlets of expression,a way out of depression,or means of communication. (i'm oversimplifying.) those who are into theater primarily because of the business side (and only secondarily because of the artistic fulfillment they will get out of the experience) know which side their bread is going to be buttered.

Which leads me to the point that a critique of a production should really start with the intention: is this buisness first, art second? Then you will really have to sign on the dotted line and comply with all the provisions.

I do wish there can be a real marriage between the two so that artists can be assured of a living really doing what they want to do, but like most marriages, it never is equal in every case.

mossgreentrunks said...

And problema jan kay Oggs na yan ay nagmamaganda siya.

Walang problema sa western musicals being produced, directed, and starred by Filipinos in the Philippines. Kaya natin I imitate ang accent, ang costume, and grand production. Minsan mas magaling pa tayo kumanta sa mga broadway and west end singers.

Hindi “wastage” ang pag mount ng mga western musicals sa Manila. Mabenta siya, at hindi limited ang mga resources naten ng mga actors, directors, and musicians. Hindi mawawalan ng artists ang mga ibang theater groups na gusto gumawa ng Tagalog musicals dahil lang nag po produce tayo ng Western plays. Dami dami jan murunong kumanta!

Merong audience sa Pilipinas para sa Broadway and west end plays. Bakit ipagkakait ang mga plays na ito sa mga Pilipino dahil lang jan sa “cultural identity” na yan!

Ano ba yang “cultural identity” na yan?!

At paki explain ang ibig sabihin niya ng “cultural disconnect?!”

Kalokah ha, anthropologist or cultural studies professor ba siya?!

Huwag naman sana i essentalize and Filipino culture! Naging bahagi ng culture naten ang kumanta ng “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”, kasama na diyan si Lea Salonga at Monique Wilson na mas mukha pang English/American kaysa sa mga totoong English at American. Ilang dekada na ang Repertory Philippines, so huwag na huwag sasabihin ni Oggs na ilang dekada na tayo may cultural disconnect sa Western theater.

Part ng Philippine culture ang mga kanta at pag imitate kay Karen Carpenter, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, uminom ng Coca Cola, gayahin ang Western architecture, manood ng American TV shows at movies, etc. Aba! Marami raming energies din ang in-invest ng mga Pinoy diyan!!!

Ang ibig ba sabihin ni Oggs alisin natin ang mga ito dahil mas maraming “Filipino” materials sa pagkanta, pagkain, at aliwan kung san natin pwede invest ang ating talino?

Pati na rin ang English language na siyang medium ni Oggs, part na rin ng culture natin yan gurl! Di hamak mayaman din naman ang Tagalog language kung san pwede niya I express ang kanyang mga opinion! But I’m sure mas maraming nabasang English books si Oggs kaysa sa Tagalog. Huwag niyang sasabihin na buong buhay niya meron siyang cultural disconnect sa English language.

In short, matagal ng nag I invest ng pawis at dugo ang mga Pilipino sa so-called Western culture, bakit I si single out ang BROADYWAY MUSICALS?! all in the name of preserving cultural identity!

NAPAKA BOBO naman ni Oggs na I equate ang pag invest ng energies sa Western culture sa pag “dissipate” ng ating so-called cultural identity ng mga Filipinos

Ang cultural identity po naten ay hindi lamang yong zarzuela at mga kanta ni armida siguion reyna. Kasama din po yong ating kinakain, kinakanta, lengguwaheng ginagamit, at paggaya. Kasama si nora aunor, kasama si Michael Jackson, kasama si sushmita sen. Parte po sila ng ating identity. Wala pong cultural disconnect don, ilang siglo na po tayong babad sa Western culture para magkaroon pa ng disconnect.

Kadalasan, yong mga so-called “Philippine culture” at “Philippine tradition” ay invented at ginagamit ng estado para palakasin ang so-called Filipino identity. At natural lang yan, dahil merong Philippine nation state.

Kung mas binubuhos ng Philippine theater ang resources niya sa Western plays at hindi na interesado I mina ang malawak na karanasan ng mga Pilipino para gumawa ng Tagalog musicals, hindi ibig sabihin mamamatay na ang ating cultural identity. Mag iibang anyo lang siya. Parang yong suot-suot natin ngayon. Hindi na siya tulad nong panahon ni maria clara.

Oliver Oliveros said...

Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre productions promote diversity. I see the same thing occurring in the local theatre scene. I guess, this all boils down to a matter of preference. If you feel your money and time is best spent in watching Broadway imports, then watch one or two. If you feel you’d rather spend time and money on original Filipino productions, then do so. For the local theatre producer, it has always been a big challenge to fill up the theatre in every performance. Artistic and marketing issues must always strike a compromise. Unless, you want your cast to play to an empty room.

Oliver Oliveros

Anonymous said...

Opera productions, especially in Europe, usually get "updated" to reflect "modern" times, such as La Traviata set in the present with Violetta portrayed as a high-class prostitute, rather than an early 19th century courtesan, and Alfredo a budding photographer. Works of theatre, after all, are not meant to be dusted off as museum pieces only to be admired at, from time to time. They're meant to be experienced by a modern audience. Conveying this experience means getting the production, not only interesting, but more relevant to its target audience, by updating it to reflect modern conventions, or to be more sensitive to the cultural context of the audience. I’m one of those who cringe upon hearing a fake Midwestern or British accent by an obviously brown Pinoy with a blonde wig.

Also, imagine watching say Othello, or Mcbeth in the original Old English. Unless you're an English major, you won't understand it. The themes of jealousy, power and greed, after all, are all universal, so there must be a way to channel it so that modern Filipino audiences can relate the theatre experience to their own personal lives.

And herein lies the challenge for every production. If the production can transform the play into something more than the original, something closer to the audience’s experiences without deviating away too much from the essence and the original intent of the play, then I consider that a work of art. If it is only reproductive, complete with cowboy suits and cockney accents, then it’s just a run-of-the-mill play, best not taken seriously.

Drei said...

First reason I think of is simple, because it sells. Let a random Filipino in his 20's to pick between a Duncan Sheik written musical, Rent, or Rama&Sita, and chances he won't pick the last option. Production companies should aim to balance, and though they may not get profits during the first few years with the locally written productions, it can slowly change the perspective of the audience. There's a big chance in the future that people will equally prefer adaptations and originals.

Anonymous said...

As a Broadway fan, I answered all YES to your questions. :)

Filipinos need to strive to [maybe] beat the talents of those in Broadway. Forget money, forget labor, use PASSION. :D

Anonymous said...

i'd like to read oggs' cruz' take on the English version of Streetcar Named Desire stage by TP. meron ba?

Anonymous said...


Let's stick to the issue. The issue is not whether it is a broadway play or not --- the issue is does it have to be cold, alien and detached? Kahit naman sa pag-remount ng ilang Filipino plays nawawala ang TRUTH. Walang connection sa audience. Whatever the material NASA THRUST NG THEATER COMPANY IYAN AT NASA KAMAY NG DIRECTOR ANG CONTENT AT URGENCY NG PLAY. Kung pera lang talaga ang dahilan ng lahat--- mahahalata mo naman.

Anonymous said...

Stupid article. A bad staging is a bad staging. If you have bad actors and bad directors you'll get bad theatre. Miss Saigon was staged in the Philippines almost exactly the same way as the one on Broadway and London. Still it was great entertainment. Repertory has been doing these for years....

munkey said...

In my opinion, there are so many ways you can remount an existing play, Broadway man o Filipino material o kahit German opera. Puwedeng gawing adaptation, i-Filipinize, i-deconstruct, i-contemporarize, gawing musical or dance drama. Take your pick. I guess hindi rin sapat na ibahin lang ang costumes o ang set o ang choreography ng isang dula para sabihin bagong interpretation na ito. It takes more than changing the icing on the cake to change the cake itself.

1. Kung gagawa ka ng isang lumang material dapat malinaw ang TAKE mo; ano ang gusto mong sabihin na hindi pa nasabi sa unang production -- meron bang dapat sabihing bago? Kung wala naman huwag ding pipilitin kasi magmumukhang hilaw at pretentious.

2. Sa akin lang naman, kung hindi ko magagawa nang kakaiba o mas maganda ang isang lumang material -- hindi ko na gagawin. Gagawa na lang ako ng bago.

3. Ano ba ang relevance ng material na gagawin sa buhay natin ngayon? The audience should be able to relate to the story --- kung ano man yung "connection" na iyon dapat mahanap iyon ng director. Kung pag-ibig man o adhikain o pangarap o pagkabigo --- the play should be able to tap into that moment where the audience can say "I can relate to the character." Kung walang ibang maramdaman ang audience bukod sa "Wow! Ang saya! Ang kulay! " eh di manood na lang siya ng ASAP o SOP.

In the end, as artists, resposibilidad nating itaas ang antas ng mga ipinapalabas nating dula - English play man o local. Minsan kasi nahahalata na mas "hype" lang ang isang production kaysa sana naging isang selebrasyon ng talent at passion.

Opinyon ko lang po. Mwah.

Joaquin said...

Great discussion gibbs! Nice to see people getting riled up over talks of art and culture. Where can we read Oggs' full article?

rAIx said...

@mossgreentrunks: i think the cultural disconnect that is being pertained to does not necessarily equate to using the Filipino language, appreciating only Filipino music and the like. mas may kinalaman sa experiences natin bilang mga Pilipino. Tingin ko ang isa sa mga punto ni Oggs ay kaya walang effect yung mga western plays na yun ay dahil hindi naman tayo necessarily makakaconnect sa message ng mga ito. Like, we don't have much racism here in the Philippines kasi nga katulad ng sabi mo, melting pot tayo ng iba't-ibang kultura. Kaya mahihirapan kang makarelate sa mga play na ganun ang partikular na mensahe. With Spring Awakening, mahirap makarelate sa context ng sexual repression na nahahayag dito kasi iba yung anyo ng sexual repression sa atin. Kaya ka magkakaroon ng cultural disconnect. Just how Americans would be disconnected with the context of our poverty problems, etc.

Sa personal na pananaw, pakiramdam ko dapat mas hasain ang paggawa ng mga dulang mas Pilipino ang mensahe pero di rin naman ibig sabihin na dapat nang itigil ang pagstage din ng ibang western plays. Mas maganda nga lang kung sa pagimport na ito ay may kalayaan pa rin sa pagdirehe at pag-arte. Sayang naman kasi ang talento. :)

Frannie said...

I think the mounting of Broadway plays in Manila is a good way to introduce the Filipino audience to theater in general. Broadway plays are more commercial, and I think easier to relate to than many original Filipino productions. Medyo kakaiba kasi ang mga orihinal na gawang Pilipino, lalong lalo na kung di ka masyadong sanay manood ng teatro. Sa palagay ko lang, mas madaling intindihin ang Spring Awakening kaysa sa Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. Mas nakaka-engganyong magpabalik-balik sa teatro kung naintindihan mo yung pinanood mo. So I guess, eventually, after seeing enough Broadway shows, the Filipino audience will be encouraged to see the more obscure and original Filipino plays.

Isa pa, hindi porket walang racism sa Pilipinas, hindi na nakaka-relate ang mga tao sa Hairspray. Meron pa rin naman kasing nadi-discriminate dahil kakaiba sila. Saka hindi rin dahil iba ang klase ng sexual repression sa atin, hindi na rin masyadong maiintindihan ang Spring Awakening. Ang sexual repression ay sexual repression pa rin kahit saan sa mundo. Saka yung Spelling Bee, hindi naman tungkol sa spelling bee ang main point o message nun eh. Tungkol siya sa buhay, so dapat na-gets mo pa rin yung kahit walang spelling bee sa Pilipinas. Basta ang point ko lang ay hindi kailangan sumakto ang tema ang isang imported na palabas sa sitwasyon natin sa Pilipinas. Marami pa rin namang pagkakapareho, at kung may pinag-iba man, oportunidad na natin iyon na matuto tungkol sa kultura ng ibang tao.

Mas mababaw na obserbasyon: Hindi ko gets yung issue tungkol sa "fake accents" sa Spring Awakening. Medyo barok nga sila mag-English eh, lalo na si Ernst. But I found Ernst's Filipino accent very endearing and apt to the character.

proletartist said...

@Frannie nung sinabi ko na di tayo nagbibigay ng high regard sa mga spelling bees, iniimlpy ko na, para sa akin, di binibigyan ng kultura natin ang importansya ng 'kumpetisyon.' Kaya matatawa ang tao sa pagka-kengkoy o mga antics ng mga karakter nung dula, pero di natin mananamnam o makaka-konek sa parody nila ng kumpetisyon. Oo, matutuwa tayo at alam nating parody ito, pero yung poignancy ba ng connection ng manonood at teatro, wala.

Marami pa akong maalalang mga dula na di naman pilipino musical pero sadyang ninamnam ang istorya kung kaya't nakakakonek ang manonood na pilipino. Yung pagstage ng WTO ng Threepenny opera, bilang pinakamalapit na ehemplo. German ang manunulat, ingles ang lengwahe, idagdag pa na luma ito, pero bakit profound ang epekto niya sa mga manonood? Dahil, ang temang pinakita nila dun (albeit the GMA under/overtones) ay parehas sa tema ng kultura natin ngayon ng kahirapan at korapsyon. At ang nakakatuwa pang ma-obserbahan ay yung mga foreign na manonood ng ThreePenny ay natatawa sa mga parteng di natutuwa ang mga pinoy (haha oo inobserbahan daw ba sila - minsan lang)

Pati po pala, ang pag assert na di kaya ng taong-di-exposed sa 'obscure' na teatro intindihan ang mga ito, at kelangan pang 'ma-introduce' sa imported musicals, ay parang pag-assert na kelangan munang ma-expose ang mga tao kina britney spears bago ma-appreciate ang kundimang pilipino. baluktot na logic at sampal sa intellect ng pilipino, sa aking opinyon.

Ang 'obscure na dulang' pilipino ay walang pinagkaiba sa 'obscure na dulang imported', o ang pilipino musicals sa american musicals, imported o local. babagsak lahat sa kung naibahagi ba nila ang mensahe ng dula sa epektibong paraan sa kanilang manonood. At para maging epektibo, para sa akin, dapat maging sensitibo/maalam ka sa manonood, at sa parte naman ng manonood: dipende na rin sa kakayanan nilang maka-discern ng mensahe. Kaya kahit na tagalog ang nagsulat/lengwahe, kung ang tema mo ay firstworld-metropolitan-zowshal, matutuwa lang ang masang manonood sa novelty at experience na nasa entablado.

Audie Gemora said...

Essentially there is nothing wrong with Filipinos staging Broadway/ West Ends musicals. Americans do Shakespeare, Greek tragedies, European operas all the time. Even the overtly nationalistic Japanese do a lot of Western stuff. I don't don't doubt if they spoke English widely, they would perform it in the language too. With accent.

No one has to worry that Philippine theater will not progress if one or two theater companies specialize in English productions. There are far far more local theater groups who do all things Filipino.

Like the different parts of the body, all Filipino theater companies express what is pinoy and contribution to Philippine theater. D naman puede pare-pareho lahat.

Repertory Phil's contribution to Phil theater is in having given steady work and training to countless thespians (many have put up their own theater groups and valiantly strive to keep the struggling industry alive).

At this stage in Phil theater- let us MATURE already and stop the discourse on who contributes more to culture. Everything done by one who pursues his art passionately is valid.

I do agree however that in staging Broadway/ West end shows here...there is always the grave danger of sheer mimicry. Pinoys wanting their crack at such shows and simply end up copying what they see abroad or on (egads!) boot legs.

Anonymous said...

i don't see anything wrong with staging western musicals in manila. it doesn't necessarily mean we're turning our backs on philippine theatre. i mean, being a filipino doesn't mean patronizing ONLY filipino things - parang pinagbawalan mo kong kumain ng burger, o sushi, o spaghetti kasi hindi pinoy yun eh :)) or in theatre, imagine how it would be if high school musical were set in some mataas na paaralan. all for the sake of localizing? is it going to work?

the parameters that the contracts from abroad have set aren't really limiting us from carrying out whatever artistic visions we have. in fact i find it even more creative if in spite of those parameters, the end product would still turn out spectacular. it's all a matter of working around what we're given.

i don't get the whole "cultural disconnect" argument. if i read a book by an american author, can i not learn anything from it anymore just because of this "cultural disconnect?" i've watched the Atlantis shows countless times. i've watched shows by Rep, 9 Works, Stages and Trumpets, to name a few. i'm pretty sure i'm not the only one who saw beyond the costumes, the set, the actors and their accents. i saw and learned from the stories they wanted to tell.

it's also a matter of processing the material itself. try dissecting the texts :)

ethan h said...

Local production of Broadway shows that:

I loved: Les Miserables (Repertory Philippines), Into the Woods (Repertory Philippines). It's been a while.
I liked: Avenue Q (Bobby Garcia directed)
I hated: West Side Story (Menchu Lauchengco directed)

They just need to be staged professionally and passionately, like Tita Bibot does.

We all can't afford to fly to Broadway and spend the US$100++ per show. How else can we expose ourselves? They're not like books and movies but what should we do then?

Anonymous said...

I do agree sa arguments ni audie gemora. Matandang debate na iyang pagstage ng mga "copies" from broadway. For me, walang problema na dalhin dito ang mga broadway plays, whatever the reason of the companies doing it, whether they really just want to stage it or for profit. In the end, audience naman ang huhusga. I also do not buy the arguments made by some na "nabobo" ang audience ng theater sa pagdala dito ng mga plays from broadway. I think it is an unfair comparison ang mga theater groups like Tanghalang Ateneo, Dulaang UP, CCP versus Atlantis, New Voice, etc. Iba ang hardships na finaface ng mga theater groups like Atlantis. Correct me if i am wrong, but i feel mas mahirap for theater groups like Atlantis to actually mount shows. Unlike TP, or Tanghalang Ateneo, or Dulaang UP, na to a certain extent ay may natatanggap na subsidy, walang ganoon ang New Voice or Repertory. It is a matter of make or break sa kanila ang mga productions nila. So as a company, I guess they would really scout for materials na gusto nilang gawin talaga and at the same time kikita sila, broadway for that matter. Why penalize them? Recently, ang laking gamble na tinake nila noong dinala dito ang mga prods like Cabaret, Sweeney Todd etc. People from the academe actually should stop belittling companies making broadway prods, using the argument na "nakakabobo" daw iyon. Mind you, people who regularly watch theater, kahit broadway pa iyon, especially those not subsidized are actualy intelligent audience. Ang problem kasi sa mga taga academe and some critics, wala naman talagang insight din sa theater industry ng bansa.

Ok lang naman ang mga broadway materials, and definitely great magstage ng mga locally developed productions. Kung halimbawa,kopyahin iyong broadway, wala naman din dapat problema kung maganda ang pagkakagawa. Nagiging problem lang naman, whether broadway or hindi, ay iyong mga pangit na productions. To cite an example, the recent Into the Woods, hindi talaga maganda ang staging, technically ang dumi and ang daming bum notes. As a viewer of that recent production, talagang i felt shortchanged. I paid a price for the ticket, i expect a good production worth my time, money, and effort. Also, many years ago, ginawa ang "Dreamgirls". Wala akong problem kung copy iyon, pero ang disappointing, ang daming bum notes din lalo na nung lead actress. Kokopya na nga lang, hindi pa pulido. iyong yung mas nakakadisappoint.

Matandang away na ito, panahon pa ni ricky abad ito. I do not get the argument noong critic na porke locally produced material, patatawarin na ang flaws. Kinda unfair ata iyon as critic kung ibang benchmark ang gagamitin mo when looking at the merits of the play, when confronted with broadway materials and local ones.

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

Just to add a few facts into the discussion:
1. Most broadway or west end productions that get staged here by professional productions (read: licensed) have already proven themselves commercially and been performed over hundreds of time and benefitted from it. Licensing arrangements will vary, though in most cases there will be leeway in terms of what can be done producion-wise; otherwise, "copies" will be required to pay royalties to the original creative team. Thus, there will still be room for artistic vision and standards. But they will also be more likely to be expensive, and so the producers will have to ensure that the cots will be recouped.
2. Most Filipino musicals (more so the non-musical productions) can only afford to stage a few weeks of performances; otherwise, they will have to guarantee the fees of the actors for a longer period of time and entail more costs in terms of venue rental, primarily. Given the present marketing realities, this can only be done if the student market(through the teachers and administrators, actually) is targeted with curriculum-related shows primarily. And even in cases where a show is a success, it is not as easy to book a re-run or extended performances.

In sum, every production (and every company now producing regularly, for that matter), does what it does for very specific reasons. Collectively, they all contribute to the vibrancy of arts (specifically theater) in the Philippines. And I am sure that there will still and always be artists and groups who will continue to mine Philippine culture, traditions, history, themes, characters and situations for their productions, no matter how many and how successful the imports will be.

Anonymous said...

That is why pala we have musicals like zsazsa na ilang beses na pinapalabas. tumanda na nga iyong ibang cast dito eh ---> Most Filipino musicals (more so the non-musical productions) can only afford to stage a few weeks of performances; otherwise, they will have to guarantee the fees of the actors for a longer period of time and entail more costs in terms of venue rental, primarily. Given the present marketing realities, this can only be done if the student market(through the teachers and administrators, actually) is targeted with curriculum-related shows primarily. And even in cases where a show is a success, it is not as easy to book a re-run or extended performances.

SK Domingo said...

In every production, there is always a room for personal interpretation from the local production company. with that being said, I agree with rudeboy and tito Audie Gemora.

Original Filipino productions have been a pride of the Philippine theatre community. no doubt the originality and how it interprets our culture is something to be said and if ever, I would love for some of these be adapted by other companies to be shared in other cities/provinces and even countries.

Yet, Filipinos must not limit itself to JUST Philippine originals. We must expand our horizons and be open to new experiences and new ideas and cultures (which plays such as Spring Awakening has been for many cultures).

what is called "imported" material should not be subjected to mere mimicry but be given its own flavor depending on the production company and the locale. But, it must respect and not linger too far from what the original production has offered.

For instance, Wicked in Japan is still Wicked but it is performed in the Japanese Language. Other plays and musicals have been adapted by other countries and each production has made it their own while still preserving the essence and respecting the original production.

This takes time and should not be rushed just for the sake of performing on stage.

MC said...

there is certainly a cultural disconnect. for example, it's really strange that a filipina would take the role of elle woods in atlantis productions' legally blonde the musical. why not get a caucasian-looking or real caucasian actress to play elle?

wala naman akong reklamo sa staging ng broadway/west end musicals, pero sana balanse. it would have been great if orosman at zafira (dulaang UP) were staged again. to me, it was the best musical ever staged in manila (isama pa natin ang lahat ng local adaptation ng mga broadway hits gaya ng sweeney todd na napakagaling naman talaga) in recent years. kailangan galingan ang pag-market para mas maraming makapanood at maka-appreciate ng gawang pinoy. :)

beektur said...

where's the cultural disconnect with a filipina playing elle woods? di mo ba nakikita sa ang libo-libong blondes sa malls. noon ngang hunyo pag-uwi nagulat na lang ako at may pinsan na akong 'kana. kainaman, legally blonde in pinas is just art (or business, ika nga ni dennis marasigan) imitating life (or lack thereof, ika ko nga.)

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