Friday, November 20, 2009

To answer some questions for a paper (not mine), part 1

When appraising local works, I am cognizant of several facts:

One, we can seldom approximate the production values of Broadway/West End productions, which means having to consider scaled-down works for what they are, and not in useless comparison with their counterparts in other countries.

Two, we don't have extensive tryouts here, unlike abroad where shows are fine-tuned through weeks of out-of-town tryouts and previews before opening night. Here, the economy is much more severe: 2-3 months of rehearsal, 2-3 weekends of performances. Thus, I don't review preview performances, preferring instead to see the production when it has begun or settled into its groove during the run, to give it a better chance.

Three, whenever a production strikes me as bad, I make it a point to watch it again--because my negative reaction in the beginning might be attributable to outside factors like fatigue, unpreparedness, etc.

In short, I am willing to give productions a long leash to prove themselves. I try not to write reviews to feel clever about myself or to bitch and nitpick; I come from a place of friendship, incongruous as that may sound. I am passionate about Philippine theater, and I want it to succeed. Whatever criticism I direct its way is the tough talk of a friend.

But--given how small and self-contained the Philippine theater industry is, I also feel I can do a better job at reviewing theater when I am not part of it--not a practitioner, but more an informed outsider.


Anonymous said...

Gibbs, i feel your conflicted, yet strong, feelings towards the philippine theater "industry". Ideally, kung may "industry" na nga talaga ang theater sa pilipinas, na working and functioning ang mga stakeholders like producers, actors, writers, and viewers, you can really review the theater industry without any feeling of "remorse" , or really an informed outsider (if there is such an appropriate term as informed outsider given a context of an industry).

However, since ours is still a young and fragile theater scenario (for the LONGEST TIME), an option or view is really to be "considerate" when reviewing plays. When actually reviewing or looking at the final product, the backend of it should also be considered (e.g. mahirap magstage ng play, talagang may artistic sacrifices kailangan since we are still enticing the audience). So, one could also approach criticism as a sort of exercise of brotherly love and friendship (which you yourself use). Unless, sobrang sama talaga ng plays.

Given the scenario today, i think i would err on the later. Reviewers should actually be a little bit considerate (especially when reviewing non-academic pieces). However, for plays produced within the confines of the academe, talagang dapat tabla-tabla ang pagreview, since it is THEIR FUNCTION to lead the development of the sector. Sila dapat ang objective and gold standard. I mean, Dulaang UP for instance, should really produce quality plays, no excuses. If money is also an issue with them, then downsize or tinker with the material and staging (IN SHORT, BE CREATIVE). No excuses for poor production value for academic theater.

For me, wala talaga tayong legitimate critics ngayon na nagsusulat sa mga pahayagan. Meron tayo mga self-annointed critics. Point in case, the person from manila times. Ang meron talaga tayo ngayon, mga reviewers and not critics....which makes the practice of leniency when REVIEWING excusable. :)

So ok lang iyan gibbs, the mere fact na you are having conflicted emotions and views just means that you are processing and still thinking.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying, Anonymous, but that kind of leniency unfair to both the viewers and the people behind the production? Actually, among the art scenes in the country, the theater/performing arts critics are among the most reliable because they are the most detached. By being lenient, aren't we promoting theater's stagnation?

I think we have writers who can be legitimate critics. However, because our theater industry is still "young" and small, it's not possible. I remember, during a presscon, some writers and actors talked about Gibbs, saying how his reviews are compromised because he's friends with the people behind the productions. But we really can't help it, can we? In a industry where the same writers write about the productions and the same people watch the shows, is it even possible not to be connected with the theater people?

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