Monday, October 26, 2009

How not to spoon-feed a young audience

At the end of the closing performance of Tanghalang Pilipino's Flores Para Los Muertos (the Filipino version of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire) yesterday afternoon, a Q&A was held for students from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, the show sponsor. Director Floy Quintos moderated, with the cast lined up on the stage.

Minutes into the Q&A and still no questions from the young audience, only excited buzzing and turuan--until a man stood up, introduced himself as a member of the press, and asked the lead performers--Eula Valdes as Blanche DuBois, Neil Ryan Sese as Stanley Kowalski, Meryl Soriano as Stella--what their individual experiences were like in making the play.

Eula said playing Blanche and acting onstage were way, way different from what she's used to doing on film and TV, so she didn't pass up the chance when offered the role, and won't hesitate to do it again if asked. (Hint of a rerun?) Neil and Meryl and the other cast members added that the task was made easier because, during rehearsals, the ensemble worked as a team, there was no division between celebrity and ordinary theater actor, the fidelity was to the material, etc.

Any other questions?, prodded Floy. Going once, twice...

Finally--a student motioning for a microphone. His question: What can we learn from this play?

Big applause and cries of “Yes!” from the kids. Obviously, this was what they were waiting for--a neat, easily digestible summation of what they'd just seen that they could then quote, repeat or echo in their required reaction papers come school day. Why crack their heads trying to decode what all the play was about when here were people who could, just maybe, do it for them?

They didn't reckon with Eula, who took the mic and... turned the tables on them: “Di ba we should we be the one to ask you that question? What have you learned? Since prinesent na namin e,” she said, very sweetly.

Laughter, then more applause--louder this time, the kids enjoying the spectacle of seeing one of their own outwitted and now squirming before the microphone. Egged on to answer the challenge, the boy gathered up enough courage, took to the stage and said, haltingly and breathlessly, “Ang natutunan ko dito ay dapat maging totoo sa sarili, 'wag itago kung ano ka talaga.

An A for him for guts and effort. Whether that's the real point being imparted by Streetcar/Flores is debatable, but at least he arrived at it by his own wits--an important reminder that was underlined by Eula's gentle but instructive pushback, and one that hopefully struck a chord with more than a few of the students: They shouldn't expect to be spoon-fed; they have to start thinking on their own.

11 comments:

citybuoy said...

that must've been very interesting. i swear, i really think eula's very smart. ang bilis lang nun ha! haha

parang nasayang yung play if the students HAD to see it. it seems like the production was full of talent.

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

galing!

beektur said...

clap clap clap

The Bakla Review said...

grabe, that happens in many Q&A's, even in film showings. students ask reaction paper questions, passed from teacher to student to artist present. it's embarassing.

Anonymous said...

Galing ni eula. Another story perhaps similar to this one. i remember years ago when i saw tanghalang ateneo's production of Twelfth Night. I was excited to see the play because the actors are good and the production designer is salvador bernal. However, prior to the play, Ricky Abad spoke and introduce the production. His views and attacks. As in diniscuss talaga iyong play. I found this a big spoiler and the play, and i felt short-changed as a viewer. PArang hindi ko pa nga pinapanood may disclaimer na. After that, wala na. parang kulang na iyong experience habang pinapanood ko. i think that was the last play na nanood ako na si ricky abad ang director. i saw again frankenstein by tanghalang ateneo, pero buti na lang wala ng introduction BEFORE the play.

waltzang said...

and of course, i didn't expect anything less (or more) from the students of that particular school. = ) uuuy, bitter.

Anonymous said...

nowadays when i go to watch plays there will always be a Q&A conducted after.. i mean, what gives? the students should be able to dissect the play themselves, in that way they will pay attention during the scenes were being played and not rely on something that will be discussed later..hope that one day theater productions will not depend on student patronage with reaction paper requirements

exie abola said...

As a former student and current teacher, I disapprove strongly of this practice of requiring students to write reaction papers to plays. It's often just one more thing students will come to resent about theater. Just let them go and enjoy the experience, then come back and talk about it when the class meets next.

Anonymous said...

As a former student and current teacher, I disapprove strongly of this practice of requiring students to write reaction papers to plays. It's often just one more thing students will come to resent about theater. Just let them go and enjoy the experience, then come back and talk about it when the class meets next. --> HINDI NAMAN IRERESENT PORQUE NAMAN NIREQUIRE MO. RESENT IS SUCH A STRONG WORD. EH DI PAG MAY ASSIGNMENTS PALA LIKE PROBLEM SOLVING IRERESENT DIN PAG PINAGAWA. THEY MIGHT NOT LIKE IT, BUT IT WILL BE GOOD FOR THEM.

exie abola said...

Resent is indeed a strong word, and it's the appropriate one for what I'm trying to say.

A student required to watch a play will potentially hate the experience because he/she has to (1) go to the theater (instead of staying at home or in school); (2) watch the play at the appointed time (instead of any time he wants); (3) likely pay more than what he would pay for a movie. Put all of this together and the potential for resentment is higher than for an assigned reading or film.

Then to add the requirement of a reaction paper? This can spoil the experience because students will watch the play with their perception already colored by the assignment. They're already thinking of what to write in the paper instead of being alive to what they're witnessing.

I hope this makes my point clearer.

Anonymous said...

Then to add the requirement of a reaction paper? This can spoil the experience because students will watch the play with their perception already colored by the assignment. They're already thinking of what to write in the paper instead of being alive to what they're witnessing. --> well, thinking of what to write is a skill by itself. also, it is actually the job of our theater mounters to do GOOD PLAYS. that will move students, and make them feel ALIVE.

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