Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ateneo Children’s Theater stages Batang Rizal

For its 78th season, Ateneo Children’s Theater stages “Batang Rizal,” the widely popular children’s play penned by Ateneo faculty member Christine Bellen, who weaves together elements of the past and present to bring to life the legacy of national hero Jose Rizal.

Play dates are January 29-30 and February 5-6, 6 p.m. at the Henry Lee Irwin Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. For tickets, call the Ateneo Grade School at 4266001 extension 7238 or 7239.

“Batang Rizal” explores the life of Pepe, the young Rizal, juxtaposed with the life of Pepito, the modern-day Filipino kid studying in a public school serendipitously named Rizal Elementary School. Trouble begins when Pepito accidentally damages a statue of the young Rizal donated by Mayor Rapcu, set to be unveiled during the school’s celebration of Linggo ng Wika. Pepito scrambles to find a replacement fast, his siblings’ scholarships and his own at stake. As Pepito tries to find a solution, he stumbles upon a magical book that takes him to the time of Pepe--the young Rizal. And that’s where his adventures begin.

Originally staged by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) as a traveling production that yielded 99 shows throughout the country, “Batang Rizal” is an apt contribution by the Ateneo Grade School, through the ACT, to the celebration of Ateneo de Manila’s sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, and its theme of nation-building.

“When Ateneo gave me the Scholarly Work with Most Social Impact award, I promised (Ateneo president) Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J. that I will bring ‘Batang Rizal’ home,” Bellen says.

The playwright adds that one of her reasons for writing the play was because Rizal was an Atenean, and writing “Batang Rizal” was her way of giving thanks to Ateneo for nurturing her as a writer. Ateneo, she says, is where most of her writings were born--from “Lola Basyang” to “Batang Rizal” to her current projects.

As “Batang Rizal” comes home to the Ateneo, Bellen also recognizes PETA’s creative contributions to the growth of the play, which she says have been invaluable to her. But since “Batang Rizal” is a continuously growing play, Bellen and ACT have infused new additions and attractions to it. New scenes and new songs make “Batang Rizal” fresh while still staying true to the original story. The stage is designed by alumnus and famed stage designer Gino Gonzales. One of the sets is an elaborate replica of the actual Calamba home of Rizal, which will surely delight audiences of the ACT production.

The directorial team of the ACT, composed of head director Ace Elgar and co-directors Jervy Robles, JJ Ignacio, Aids Reyes, Peanuts Valerio and Raissa Bayani, together with the cast and crew made up of grade schoolers from Ateneo, Miriam and St. Bridget, are working hard to make “Batang Rizal” a success. The two sets of cast members and crew members, all children, also make this production unique.

“This is actually a theater of kids, by kids and for kids. So basically, we, moderators are just steering them towards the right direction. But in the end, they will be the ones to stage the play,” Robles points out.

“We felt that Batang Rizal epitomizes the theme of ‘Building the Nation’,” he adds. “We’re not talking about the “matandang” (old) Rizal, we’re talking about the “batang” (young) Rizal and how it is that we can see the “batang” Rizal in each and every one of us. We don’t need to get the “batang” Rizal from the past to be able to save us in the present. In each and every one of us, there’s a Batang Rizal.”

For tickets, call the Ateneo Grade School at 4266001 extension 7238 or 7239.

PLUS: Reviews, video and more about Batang Rizal here.

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