Thursday, November 05, 2009

Are locally-mounted Broadway musicals a waste?, part 2

The bulk of the highly stimulating, thought-provoking discussion here, with valuable inputs from both sides that need to be read in their entirety. Since my Multiply and Facebook accounts also had their share of comments--mostly well-argued additions to the back-and-forth--I'm reposting them here verbatim for those who have no access to my sites there.

About my stand on all this--you can deduce that by now from reading this blog and my reviews over the years. I'd like to see all kinds of Filipino-made productions, whether remounted, adapted, inspired by or wholly original, whether English-language or in the vernacular, whether perfectly accented or not. I might not like all of them; better that than the monotony of parochial drama. The more types of theater we do, the better in the long run for our actors, artists, practitioners and audience, I think. That's one kind of promiscuity I'm happy to lay credit to and wallow in some more.

The full text of Oggs' review of Spring Awakening is now online, by the way--here.

From my Facebook:

RALPH B. PENA: very old subject. yes, more original works must get produced, no question. but it's too easy to say that staging b'way musicals in manila are about mimicry. they're not. like all theater, some are bad, and some are good. personally, i would rather see more zsa zsa zaturnahs than spring awakenings, any day. but i've also come to accept that theater is big enough to contain us all. even if one can take the position that foreign musicals don't advance the cultural profile of the filipino, it still employs actors and gives them a venue for expression. bottom line: producing companies must invest in filipino writers to begin developing original work. they should set aside a portion of the money they make from producing larson, shiek,, and use that to support an original project. until that happens, then b'way musicals should feature all naked casts.

BOBBY MARTINO: They are a good source for any actors in rehearsal process.I agree that they are only relevant if we put the Pilipino heart in these characters and stories.It benefits the audience to have identification for all of the plots can happen at any point in time, location and race. Our ultimate goal is to at least produce one original Pilipino work, may it be in english or tagalog. It can start with the collaboration of all the Pilipino producers, a national contest where all the new writers can submit original work and established Pilipino artist who have done international works can collaborate with local actors and directors. Our work as talents have always been profitable to foreign producers. It is time that we hone our national identity cultivated by our own stories and raise our voices singing original Pilipino songs. We have done so many rehearsals it is now time to be in "show" mode. To wait for another big international producer to give us a break is like waiting for them to harvest the best fruits of our land. It is time for our own golden harvest season!

Isa sa bawat taon, if we are staging 20 foriegn , ISA lang ang dapat naman para sa atin.It is an industry that needs investments , we have the talent, that is given. we have to nurture the young writers, when this works, more people will benefit and yes the obvious that we are Asia's Broadway will finally be realized. 2010 is the first year, from this year alone so many stories to write, the natural calamities, our acknowledgement and new respect for mother earth is very universal. We have film clips and images, a painted set of real stories, already a lot of songs are written. Local producers should collaborate, artist both locals and international, multi- disciplines, all the best Pilipino's ,O tayo na!

SUSAN ISORENA-ARCEGA: theatrical material is still literature. you appreciate it for what goodness it adds to the soul. the physical interpretation is another thing. the performance methodology i help to espouse is not that popular among production groups that do western musicals, and even less among artists in showbiz. perhaps, therein lies the difference. siguro, sa audition pa lang, kailangan muna ipag-sense memory, mag-ragdoll at humingi ng piso. .just to add to the believability.

MIGUEL DIAZ: i think spring awakening was just a pile of shit. but filipinos love things-foreign. they prefer mcdonalds to sweet potato.

OLIVER OLIVEROS: 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.

VALERIE FERIA-ISACKS: In some European countries (Schengen ones in particular) they re-adapt the piece to local language, culture, references rather than taking the thing whole cloth like most pinoy theaters do. There are so many parallels between Ibong Adarna and Mid-Summer Nights Dream I'm surprised that nobody (at least that I know and I could be wrong) has done an adaptation playing in that sandbox (using the Adarna creatures and metaphor but the MSND storyline). Then you could sell it to the Shakespeare lovers and the Local theatre lovers...

JOEY TING: Honestly, we, Filipinos, love to replicate things based on what we hear and see from the other side of the world (US and Europe). We are more capable in patronizing art rather than appreciating art. We are more deliberate when it comes to choosing what's in and what's hot but we actually do not even bother to balance what's art and what's not. It's not really bad to replicate for as long as the audiences get satisfied in what these companies present. In reality, we learn from the Americans and Europeans and it's not bad to learn from them. We just do not know how to have a Philippine accent or trademark in order to say that it is indeed a Philippine staging of a particular Broadway hit. More so, we are not ready to have a series of Filipino musicals, not yet. I believe a playwright must learn to unlearn to achieve a greater impact in the world theater. So far, these playwrights have the same and as old as that of Philippine rituals. More competent theater directors are not given the commercial theaters' slots. Why? they choose not to be part of a patronizing society like our very own culture - the 'showbiz' theater world.

ALEX DOROLA: Whatever, original Filipino musicals are still the best! Adaptation of foreign works, somehow, can be poisonous to Filipino culture. Be original! Kaya naman natin gumawa ng musicals na sa atin lang galing.

ANGELICA-LEE ASPIRAS: Hmmm... I think it's always a challenge to see artistic efforts criticised-especially when referring to fledgeling efforts of a developing theatrical profile in Manila. Here's my thought: regardless of the many good and bad opinions of the production's outcome, we need to be supportive of the intention. Projects may not resemble their American counterparts on many levels, but it takes so much courage and love to commit to ( and be held accountable for) an ambitious idea such as this one. How wonderful it is! Filipinos are known for their ability to adapt to ... well, you name it we've assimilated. This is a quality that sustains us and also camouflages us. When paired with a solid work ethic, it can take us so far :) but now, it would be beautiful to see our identity develop, especially in a venue of endless possibility and expression. They have so much to say over there! The fact that we have the opportunity to even discuss this is so exciting. Each thought is as a seed...

NICO QUEJANO: i agree that there is some form of "cultural disonnect" but good theater is good theater, good art is still good art, regardless of any cultural persuasion that a person might have...not really a total waste, but a little "filipinization" can go great lenghts, i mean i remember watching West Side Story and was totally disappointed with the total "mimicry"

From my Multiply:

MITS SHIMIZU: spring awakening, how appropriate, huh? the critic was one "lucky guy" to watch the musical on broadway that's why may comparison sya. so, are we going to deprive the "unlucky ones" to see the musical in its original form? :) here we go again... chicken and egg phenomenon..apples and oranges... let us not be myopic. think global. art knows no boundaries... we can still retain our filipino identity without resorting to 'filipinizing" everything in our midst. also, i think we have enough filipino materials to negate our concerns regarding the so-called foreign invasions. much ado about nothing really.

JULIE CRUZ: Blargh. I mean, I watch US television series instead of local ones not because they're foreign, but because they're better. Because I've TRIED to like some local stuff, but the sad truth is that a lot of it is crap. Same goes for films, books, and yes, theater. I would be more than happy to support a well-done original Filipino musical production, if it were good enough. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places? But boy, what a sad, sad thing Philippine theater would be without Avenue Q, or Altar Boyz, or Songs for a New World. I think it's ridiculous to imply that we should shun these things just because they're not our own. I fucking LOVE Red Concepcion's original spin on the Mark character. Felix Rivera was an absolutely winsome Princeton. Joel Trinidad's talent and sense of humor is unique, sparkling and inimitable. I would hardly call any of their performances carbon-copies of their Broadway counterparts.

LAWRENCE VILLEGAS: Agree with the comments above, but I think we're being too simplistic here. I can see several points of discussion we can break this down to:

1. Material: Foreign material have the edge here. Before something reaches a place like Broadway or the West End, it gets edited and rewritten, usually based on the intended audience and marketability. Local material don't get that much care and attention. This could be what's lacking with local material.

2. Training: Most of our seasoned performers have gone to greener pastures either abroad or to other industries like TV & film. And we don't have a lot of venues for training new ones before they need to perform professionally. Hard to blame theater people who still need to make a living.

3. Money: Don't expect a Broadway-style production (or expect to mount one) when the audience cannot (or refuse to) pay for proper theater. In the art film world, I think they're trying to solve this by finding artistic material that requires less funding to produce. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from this.

4. Commercial or art: Like film, productions are done either for profit or for art. Seldom do both happen. Should we be mounting commercial productions than will sell, or should we patronize serious art production? Don't get me wrong, there could be a lot of artistry in commercial productions.

We've seen Shakespeare commercialized and Filipinized. Purist would call that bastardation of the classics, but it does serve its purpose to capture new audiences. We've seen great productions of it, and we've seen thousands of bad ones. But it doesn't mean we should stop doing Shakespeare.

Maybe the Spring production just wasn't ready when it had to run. That's always a risk taken in mounting theater productions. But good thing there are still people taking that risk. And there are still the critics who tell us the truth for us to learn from.

ALWYN IGNACIO: Tama na! Itigil na ang mga "second rate, trying hard, copy cat" theater companies na masyadong bilib sa mga ginagawa nila, At pagalitan rin natin ang mga broadsheets na OA sa pagbibigay ng espasyo sa mga press releases ng mga copy cats na ito na para bang hindi magiging kumpleto ang buhay natin kung di natin mapapanood ang kanilang mga palabas.What do we gain from these imports? Ano pa, eh di actors who speak with peculiar accents? Hahaha. That's all.

LEA SALONGA: Shows like Avenue Q, Spring Awakening, and the like will always have a place wherever they play, because they have something relevant, funny, and pointed to say. As for foreign versus local, there is a lot of crap on both sides of the Pacific... it's all just a matter of figuring out which is which.


Anonymous said...

Simple lang naman iyan. At the end of the day, kung pangit talaga ang pagkakagawa, kahit broadway material pa iyan or hindi, hindi na papanoorin in the future ang mga companies na nagstage. For example, ang pangit talaga ng Into the Woods staging dati noon ng New Voice. Decision ko is wag na talaga panoorin ang mga gawa ng new voice. sa atlantis, in the past talagang may problema in terms of polish ang mga works nila. napanood ko dati ang dreamgirls, so i was utterly disappointed. kakantahin na nga lang ng maayos hindi pa nagawa. and full price ang ticket na binayad ko doon, hindi ako guest lang. so decision, hindi ko na talaga papanoorin. buti na lang hindi ako nagwaste ng money sa spring awakening.

beektur said...

diyos me, it seems like isang hindi magandang local staging lang ng isang proven broadway production, nilahat na. reductionism. kung susukatin ang broadway/west end musicals sa ganitong paraan, bakit di sukatin si shakespeare, verdi, brecth, havel, garcia lorca etc etc etc. basta lahat ng iyan pwedeng gawin at pwedeng panoorin. sabi nga nila, the more the many-ier!

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