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'The Vagina Monologues' on March 31 at Music Museum, to feature stage, screen and recording stars

Now on its 12th year in the Philippines, V-Day Manila 2012—a benefit performance of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues,” by Tony Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler—will go onstage at the Music Museum on March 31.

Produced by The New Voice Company, the show is raising funds for Lila Pilipina, ILA the Philippine comfort women organization.

The special one-night performance features stage, screen and recording stars—as well as acclaimed journalists and activists—all formidable women in their respective fields.

Leading the list of empowered women are screen legend and film star Boots Anson-Roa and international singing star Kuh Ledesma. Joining them is acclaimed stage, screen and TV actress and theater director Monique Wilson, who has been performing and producing the play and organizing V-Day events in the Philippines and around Asia for the last 12 years, and who was a special guest at V-Day’s 10th year anniversary show in New Orleans with other international stars.

Also in the cast are leading ladies of the Philippine stage—Joy Virata, Pinky Amador, Tami Monsod, Juno Henares, Sheila Francisco, Roselyn Perez, Madeleine Nicolas, Gina Wilson and Mae Paner, as well as acclaimed singers—Cynthia Alexander, Leah Navarro and multi-awarded actress/singer Aiza Seguerra.

The show also stars film and TV actress and host Giselle Tongi, along with a younger generation of rising theater actresses—Angelina Kanapi, Christine Carlos, Ampy Sietereales, Christine Escudero and Angela Padilla as well as NVC resident actresses Denise Bontogon, April Celmar, Rona Lou San Pedro and Nikki Ventosa.

Other special guests include multi-awarded actress/writer Bibeth Orteza, celebrated news anchor Ces Drilon, well-known journalist Dolly Anne Carvajal, respected women’s rights activists Anna Leah Sarabia, Edna Aquino, Rep. Emmi de Jesus and Rep. Liza Maza, leading OB-gynecologist Dra. Marlyn Ruaro and Gabriela’s cultural group—Sining Lila.

Poignant and hilarious, “The Vagina Monologues,” based on interviews with over 200 women about their memories and experiences of sexuality, is a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. The play inspired a global activist movement, V-Day, to stop violence against women, using creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.

In 2011, more than 6,000 V-Day events took place around the world. To date, the movement has raised over $80 million and reached over 300 million people. V-Day was first launched in Manila in 2001 and has been reaching communities all around the country since then. The play and V-Day have received sustained critical acclaim in the country and around Asia and the support of the biggest female stars and women leaders in the Philippines.

The show is directed by New Voice Company Artistic Director Monique Wilson and Associate Artistic Director Rito Asilo, with Rossana Abueva as Executive Producer. Light Design is by Mel Roxas and Stage and Production Management by Tcel Maramag, Lisa Santos and Bambi Gamban.

For tickets, call 8966695 or 8990630, or e-mail newvoicecompany@gmail.com. Tickets are available at NVC, Ticketworld (8919999) and the Music Museum (7210635). Visit www.newvoicecompany.com for more information about VDAY. To join the movement, visit www.vday.org.


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Lea, Lisa, Cecile in concert—what to expect

Something like these three choice video moments, I suppose—when this triumvirate of peerless Filipino artists join forces for the first time this Saturday and Sunday (March 17-18) for a concert called The Legends and the Classics at the Main Theater of the CCP. (These are individual, stand-alone performances, mind. Imagine them combining their gifts on collaborative numbers.) From my baul to your screens…

Cecile Licad playing Francisco Buencamino Sr.’s piano masterpieces Larawan and Mayon Fantasy—from the 1999 ABS-CBN/CCP concert Kulturang Handog Sa Bayan:




Lisa Macuja dancing to Willy Cruz’s Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas, played on the violin by Zambales-based virtuoso Coke Bolipata—from the Ayala Foundation/ABS-CBN concert The Music of Dreams:




Lea Salonga singing Sa Ugoy ng Duyan by Lucio San Pedro (music) and Levi Celerio (lyrics)—from a Philippine Independence Day concert staged at the CCP by the Department of Tourism some years ago. This video clip appears on YouTube for the first time with this post.



Joining them are Gerard Salonga and FILharmoniKA and Ballet Manila, with internationally acclaimed cellist Wilfredo Pasamba in a special number. Musical director is Gerard Salonga, with stage direction by Roxanne Lapus.

“The Legends and the Classics” is presented by Ballet Manila and Manila Broadcasting Company, with the support of Lifestyle Network, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, and Ayala Land Premiere. Special thanks to McDonald’s Philippines.

Tickets are available at TicketWorld outlets. For details, check out www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 8919999.


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The 62nd Palanca Awards now accepting entries; deadline April 30

From Panitikan.com.ph:


Now on its 62nd year of encouraging excellence in literary writing, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (Palanca Awards) is currently accepting entries for this year’s contest. Deadline for submission is at 12 m.n. of 30 April 2012.

The Palanca Awards, the country’s most prestigious and longest-running literary competition, welcomes submissions under the following regular categories:

English Division—Short Story, Short Story for Children, Essay, Poetry, Poetry for Children, One-act Play, and Full-length Play

Filipino Division—Maikling Kuwento, Maikling Kuwentong Pambata, Sanaysay, Tula, Tulang Pambata, Dulang May Isang Yugto, Dulang Ganap ang Haba, and Dulang Pampelikula

Regional Languages Division—Short Story-Cebuano, Short Story-Hiligaynon and Short Story-Iluko.

Each contestant may submit only one entry per category.

The Palanca Awards saw a significant boost in the participation of young writers over the years. To further encourage the youth to hone their literary talents, writers below 18 years old may submit essays under the Kabataan Division.

This year’s theme for the Kabataan Essay is “In the advent of e-books, do I still consider printed books to be an important part of education?” The theme for the Kabataan Sanaysay is “Sa paglaganap ng e-books, maituturing ko pa bang mahalagang bahagi ng edukasyon ang mga nakalimbag na aklat?”

The literary contest is open to all Filipino (or former Filipino) citizens, except current officers and employees of its organizing body, the Carlos Palanca Foundation, Inc.

Contest rules and official entry forms are available at the Foundation’s office at 6th Floor, One World Square Building, No.10 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and at the Palanca Awards official website, www.palancaawards.com.ph.

Entries with complete requirements may be submitted at the Foundation’s office or through the official website.

Winners will be announced on 1 September 2012.

Established in 1950 in honor of Don Carlos Palanca Sr., the Palanca Awards aims to help develop Philippine literature by providing incentives for writers to craft their most outstanding literary works, to serve as a treasury of Philippine literary gems and assist in its dissemination to the public, particularly the students.

To date, the Palanca Awards has a collection of 2,052 winning works. Of these, 898 are in English, 1,020 in Filipino and 134 in Regional Languages. The collection includes 527 short stories, 366 collections of poetry, 208 essays, 344 one-act plays, 182 full-length plays, 60 teleplays, 54 screenplays, 148 stories for children, 34 futuristic fiction stories, 77 Kabataan essays, 36 novels, and 16 collections of poetry for children.

For further information, please email the administrator at cpawards@palancaawards.com.ph or call telephone number 856-0808 loc. 33.


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Stage Camp—summer theater workshops by 9 Works Theatrical

9 Works Theatrical, one of the Manila’s leading theater companies and the outfit behind hit musicals “Rent”, “Songs For a New World”, “The Wedding Singer”, “Sweet Charity” and the recent “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, re-launches Stage Camp, its annual summer theater workshops, in cooperation with The Rockwell Club.

This year’s workshop runs for even weeks at The Loft @ Manansala Tower, Rockwell Center, Makati, from April 16 to June 3, 2012, under the tagline is “We Make Your Dreams Come True.”

Now on its third year, Stage Camp has opened doors for several of its alumni to try their hand at professional theater. Sarah Facuri and sisters Becca and Rachel Coates have become part of Resorts World’s ongoing production of “The Sound of Music”. Fran Jose was also recently part of 4th Wall’s “Rivalry: The Ateneo-La Salle Musical” and appeared in last year’s “Seussical the Musical” under Rep. Erik Lozano was seen in Kids Act’s “Pinocchio” while Joseph Perez was in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Noli Me Tangere”.

Stage Camp helps participants develop their skills in singing, dancing, and acting, discover new talents, and make lots of friends. This year’s edition will offer Kiddie Camp (5-8 years old) Mon-Wed-Fri; Pre-Teen Camp (9-12 years old) Mon to Fri; Teen Camp (13-17 years old) Mon to Fri; Adult Camp (18 years old and above) Mon to Fri; and Advanced Camp for Adults (limited to 18 slots and must have appeared in two professional productions, or joined three workshops) Mon-Wed-Fri.

Culminating Showcases will be on May 31 to June 3, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati where majority of 9 Works Theatrical’s productions have been staged.

Kiddie Camp will be under the tutelage of Francis Matheu (“The Wedding Singer”, “Peter Pan”) and Peachy Atilano (“Rent”, “The Sound of Music”); Pre-Teen Camp under Onyl Torres (“Joy Luck Club”, “A Fire in the Soul”) and Harold Cruz (“Rivalry”, “Rent”); Teen Camp under Toff de Venecia (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, “Little Shop of Horrors”) and Gemini Quintos (Broadway’s “Annie” and “A Christmas Carol”); Adult Camp under Topper Fabregas (“Leading Ladies”, “Sweet Charity”) and Anthony Tarrosa Ong (“Rivalry”, “Sweet Charity”); and Advanced Camp for Adults under 9 Works Theatrical’s artistic director Robbie Guevara (“Miss Saigon”, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”), along with several guest instructors.

Stage Camp is brought to you by 9 Works Theatrical and The Rockwell Club, with media partner When in Manila. For inquires, call 5575860, 5867105, 0917-5545560. Or email info@9workstheatrical.com, or visit www.9workstheatrical.com for details.


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Lea, Lisa, Cecile—an unprecedented triumvirate in ‘The Legends and the Classics’


Lea Salonga, Lisa Macuja, Cecile Licad—three Filipinas who have shone brightly on the international stage and brought home countless accolades for their country.

Now, they will be together for the first time on one stage, in a once-in-a-lifetime concert called “The Legends and the Classics”, on March 17 (Saturday), 8 p.m., and at March 18 (Sunday), 6 p.m., at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

“The Legends and the Classics” brings together the outstanding talent and impeccable showmanship of this triumvirate. Each of the three artists represents a lifelong dedication to the arts—whether in theater, music or ballet—where success is forged through long years of training, unwavering commitment and an ironclad will in pursuit of excellence.

Multi-awarded thespian and singer Lea Salonga, who began her career in musical theater at the age of seven, took the West End and Broadway by storm with her unparalleled success in major productions of “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables”.

A certified child prodigy, Cecile Licad made her debut with a full orchestra also at age seven, and launched her international career as a piano virtuoso by being the youngest gold medalist to win top honors at the prestigious Leventritt Competition.

Meanwhile, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja learned her first ballet steps at eight and went on to become a soloist of the legendary Kirov Ballet when she was barely out of her teens.

From these early successes, all three women artists have continued to excel and to evolve, from ingénue to icon to legend.

Joining them are Gerard Salonga and FILharmoniKA and Ballet Manila, with internationally acclaimed cellist Wilfredo Pasamba in a special number. Musical director is Gerard Salonga, with stage direction by Roxanne Lapus.

“The Legends and the Classics” is presented by Ballet Manila and Manila Broadcasting Company, with the support of Lifestyle Network, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, and Ayala Land Premiere. Special thanks to McDonald’s Philippines.

Tickets are available at TicketWorld outlets. For details, check out www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 8919999.


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Nagbabalik—‘Rama, Hari’!

As the announcement below confirms, Ballet Philippines is re-staging the pop-opera ballet Rama, Hari in November-December this year. Why am I all excited about this? Because the last time anyone saw Rama, Hari was 22 years ago, during its original run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, when Marcos was still president and some of us hadn’t even been born yet. (Okay, I was already 10 years old then, drat.)

Wait—but wasn’t there something like it at the UP Theater in 1999? If you’re thinking of Rama at Sita, no, that was a different production—a musical that borrowed (with the permission of composer Ryan Cayabyab and librettist Bienvenido Lumbera) Rama, Hari's original songs (among them Halina sa Mithila, Awit ng Pagsinta, Magbalik Ka Na Mahal) and grafted them onto a new score penned by Danny Tan, Roy Iglesias and Dodjie Simon. Same source story, different treatment.

From an earlier post: Rama, Hari, the 1980 pop ballet by Alice Reyes that featured the music of Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by now-National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, retold in song and dance the Indian epic Ramayana. The fabled, one-time run of Rama, Hari offered three of that decade’s signature talents: a stunning Kuh Ledesma in the role of Sita, Basil Valdez as Rama and Leo Valdez as the villain Ravana. Ms. Ledesma was then on the cusp of superstardom following her stint as lead singer of the popular showband Music & Magic. Soon she’d explode with her first big hit, Dito Ba, and the rest would be history.

Rama Hari's most famous song is Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal, a song forever associated with Ms. Ledesma. Ryan Cayabyab’s enchanting melody, vivified by the poetic yearning of Bienvenido Lumbera’s words, made for an instant classic. Mr. Lumbera’s lyrics are, in fact, some of the great wonder of Rama Hari. In Awit ng Pagsinta, sung to mark the union of Rama at Sita, the experience of love so great that it crosses over from the ecstatic to the ineffable is rendered in highly charged verses:

Init ng hininga, darang sa pandama
Tumatagos sa kaluluwa
Ang pansamantala’y naging walang hanggan

Bango ng champaca, awit ng pagsinta
Nalimbag sa alaala
Ingatan mo sana at nang magkabunga
Ingatan mo, ingatan mo sana!


So, to mark the impending return of Rama, Hari—here, back on YouTube from my baul (and by special arrangement with Mickey Munoz of ABS-CBN) is a video clip of Kuh, Basil and Leo, in a rare reunion, singing excerpts from Rama, Hari during the birthday tribute concert to Ryan Cayabyab at the CCP in October 2004.

"Only one other Cayabyab musical, ‘Rama Hari,’ was featured in the program," I said in my review then. "But this one was distinguished by the appearance of [Basil] Valdez, Kuh Ledesma and Leo Valdez in the roles they had originated. Needless to say, seeing these three musical institutions in one number was a thrill." (AD 92 provided the backup vocals, while the fabulous set design was by Gino Gonzales.) Enjoy!



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Ballet Philippines holds March 22 auditions for its Nov. 2012 revival of ‘Rama, Hari’

Ballet Philippines’ legendary pop-opera ballet, “Rama Hari” will be revived on November 30, 2012 at the CCP Main Theater 20 years after its inaugural run in the same venue.

“Rama Hari”, a dance-musical based on the Indian epic “Ramayana”, was created by BP’s founding artistic director Alice Reyes, featuring the music of Ryan Cayabyab with libretto by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and costume design by National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal.

Premiered in 1980, the extravagant and luxurious production boasted the decade’s top singers including Basil Valdez as Rama, Kuh Ledesma as Sita, Leo Valdez as the villain Ravana, Gigi Escalante and others.


For the 2012 staging, BP is looking for one male tenor for the role of Rama, one baritone tenor for Ravana, two baritones, one high soprano, one soprano and one alto-soprano to complete the cast. “Rama, Hari”, under the musical direction of Mr. Cayabyab and accompanied live by the Manila Symphony Orchestra, is scheduled for 10 performances from November 30-December 9 at the CCP Main Theater.

Preliminary auditions will be on March 22-23 at the CCP Rehearsal Hall, 3-8 p.m. Callbacks will be on March 24 at same time and venue with Mr. Cayabyab.


Applicants should submit their resume including past productions, film appearances, photo, and song of choice, preferably from “Rama, Hari” or any OPM song, to ramahari.balletphilippines2012@gmail.com.

An email confirmation upon receipt of your application will be sent. After reviewing, please wait for an email confirming your slot and schedule for the audition days.



For more information, please call BP 8323689.


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Summer workshops with Gantimpala, PETA


Tony S. Espejo, artistic director of Gantimpala Theater, announces the opening of its 35th Summer Workshop-Musical Theater for Teen and Young Adults, which begins April 9, 2012. Registration/enrollment starts on March 13.

Within 22 sessions plus a culminating recital on May 18, 2012, participants will learn acting for musical theater. Actor, singer and director Roeder Camañag will facilitate the workshop. Participants will gain knowledge in creative drama, music, voice and dance exercises, and scriptwriting, all these will assist them to perform in a musical production.

Gantimpala Theater was one of the original artistic companies of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. During its more than two-decade residency at the CCP, it produced scores of “untried and untested” plays that were winners of the CCP Playwriting Contest.

These plays delighted the public, were the talk of town, earned considerably at the box-office, received critical acclaim and became the benchmark of excellent Filipino theater. Producing these plays made a significant contribution to the development and enrichment of Philippine dramaturgy.

After the EDSA Revolution, the theater company embarked on a more ambitious undertaking, producing and bringing literary pieces to life on the legitimate stage, specifically the Four Classics—“Kanser (Noli Me Tangere)” and “El Filibusterismo”, “Ibong Adarna” (which originated from a “corrido”) and “Florante at Laura”, Francisco Balagtas’ masterpiece presented as a “komedya”, a Filipino theater form.

Aside from these, Gantimpala produces plays written by National Artists for Theater and Literature and original Filipino musical for children. The 35-year-old theater company, led by Tony Espejo, Philstage Natatanging Gawad Buhay Awardee for Theater, has made the most number of plays based on the works and life of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

Tuition fee for the summer workshop is P5,000. Those interested must bring a 2x2 photo.

Gantimpala Theater is located at the 2nd Floor, Open Air Auditorium Building, located inside the Rizal Park. For more information, call 5280603, 5365860 or 0921-5286308. Or visit www.gantimpalatheater.multiply.com or www.facebook.com/gantimpala.



Since its inauguration six years ago, the PETA Theater Center, the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s home, has been the venue of not only PETA’s performances and events, but also its annual summer workshops during the months of April and May.

These theater arts classes are a mix of acting classes with voice and speech, movement, dance, writing, and improvisation modules. The workshop encourages participants to use their imagination, explore the world of live performance and expand their creative potential.

In PETA, workshop techniques are taught from a student-centered point of view. Without competition or pressure, the emphasis is on the process of the work and the importance of the collaboration.

The workshop programs are tailored to every age group. The Children’s Theater courses (Children’s Theater 1 & 2) expose children from 6-12 to short-story writing, poetry, movement and dance, visual arts, music and drama improvisation.

The courses for teens (Teen Theater & Teen Theater Production) are more challenging and exciting, to cover the more enthusiastic temperament of those in this age. Teens not only learn a good mix of creative writing, creative body movements and dance, visual arts, creative drama, creative sounds and music, new media and improvisational theater during the workshops but are also given a greater sense of self-confidence and accomplishment as they mount an original recital piece to express their personal and social concerns.

Through the Theater Arts course, young adults 17 and above are given the chance to learn the basics in theater history, theater appreciation, aesthetics and criticism and improvisational theater production.

Advanced courses for young adults 17 and above are also being offered such as the Basic Acting, which involves dialogues with respected theater artists and acting exercises the will enhance one’s natural skills. Aside from this, Creative Musical Theater offers lessons on composition, voice, performance and a variety of music explorations while Creative Dance Theater delves deeper into body movement as a medium of artistic expression and story-telling.

Explore your creativity this summer! To register, contact PETA Marketing and Public Relations Office at 7256244, 4100821 or 0906-2115003. Email petatheater@gmail.com.


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The day Isagani Yambot wept

I have heard him called one of the last idealists of Philippine journalism. This is the man who was caught weeping while lighting a candle after 57 people were confirmed dead in the slaughter in Maguindanao. Two years after the massacre, there were already journalists beginning to demand a review of the list of the dead. Many were not real journalists, they said. Many were hacks and guns for hire. They do not deserve to be counted in the list of those killed in the line of duty.

I remember how he shook his head. “Every man’s death diminishes all of us,” he said. “Whether he or she is a legitimate journalist or not, we should grieve over the death of even just one person.”
After Gani, by Patricia Evangelista

I saw that scene myself. It was dusk of Friday, December 4, 2009, when—as I wrote herethe paper held its own indignation rally and moment of remembrance [for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre] on the front steps of the office. How grave the present circumstances are—not only for Filipino journalists but for the general civil order—was underscored by the early sight of our veteran newsman-publisher, Isagani Yambot, breaking into tears in deep anger and sadness during his brief remarks. The gentlemanly Mr. Yambot never once cried during the Marcoses’ Martial Law; he did now.

And that’s how I’d like to remember Sir Gani—not only passionate, but also compassionate. Principled, but also the soul of forbearance and humor. To the people he had the privilege of mentoring, including me, he was as direct in his criticism as he was generous with praise. The highlight of my first years in the Inquirer was seeing pages of my movie reviews, then my theater pieces, pasted on the bulletin board after the weekly editorial meeting, with notes in Sir Gani’s handwriting—“Good read” his usual comment. And I knew he didn’t dispense that judgment lightly, because he also saw nearly every play or movie I went to; he could do a better job of writing about it had he wanted to.

Sometimes, of course, the notes went the opposite way—red marks on bad captions and grammar lapses, with gender-benders and convoluted phrasing his most common pet peeves. One emerged from such fine-toothed scrutiny a better, more careful writer. But Sir Gani never made one feel harassed or imposed upon.

He will be much missed. In the meantime, we grieve.

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Stark, stylish, daring—an un-tragic ‘Lear’

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02.27.2012

Peta’s production is rendered in brilliant, exceptionally vivid Filipino prose by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera


THE PHILIPPINE EDUCATIONAL Theater Association’s Filipino production of King Lear, directed by Nonon Padilla and running until March 4 at the Peta Theater Center, opens with a familiar scene arrestingly re-imagined.

Lear and his court, garbed in all-black Japanese-silhouette costumes, their heads uniformly shorn except for Lear’s Christ-like shock of hair, assemble for the ritual division of the kingdom among the monarch’s three daughters. The backdrop is a hulking, dystopian metal-and-wood scaffold dripping with frayed plastic and dead tree branches, its garish fluorescent tubes shuddering to harsh light as the play’s first order of business gets underway. (The production design is by Gino Gonzales.)

As Lear (Teroy Guzman) asks his three daughters (all played by male actors—Nor Domingo as Goneril, Gary Lim as Regan, and Abner Delina Jr. as Cordelia, the last the only character in white) to flatter him with fawning gratitude before giving each of them her share of the realm, a diaphanous curtain unfurls on all three sides of the stage. The effect is of the play suddenly boxed in, the audience divorced from and watching it at a further remove.

Then, as Goneril and Regan are each rewarded her allotment, the corresponding third of the curtain, indicated as the map of the daughter’s new possessions, flutters down and is draped over her, implying not merely inheritance but investiture, a full and fatal transfer of power from the unsuspecting king to his scheming daughters.

When an incensed Lear eventually disinherits Cordelia for her inadequate show of affection, her last third of the curtain is appropriated by Goneril and Regan, who let it billow behind them as they exit the stage. Enter Gloucester’s bastard son Edmundo (Jay Gonzaga), who slides beneath the cloth and luxuriates in it, foreshadowing his sexual entanglement with the two women.


Persuasive
What follows this dense opening is a dark, stylishly stark Haring Lear that registers high in conceptual daring, though sometimes to obscure lengths. Cordelia and the king’s Fool, for beginners—the two main characters who speak without guile to the king—are played by the same actor. Eminent Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber writes in her book, Shakespeare After All, that it’s “a disputed stage tradition [that] the parts of the Fool and Cordelia were played by the same boy actor” in the Bard’s time. Here, Padilla makes the setup organically persuasive.

He adds a further layer of implication by having the Fool speak to Lear through a puppet in the likeness of the king. At play’s end, when Lear laments, “And my poor fool is hanged,” clearly referring to Cordelia who, reverse Piéta-like, lies lifeless in his arms, here the puppet drops down from the scaffold, hanged by the neck. The Fool is dead along with Cordelia, but so is, for all intents and purposes, the king.

Withering barrage
Except for Goneril and Regan’s fraudulent words of love which are spoken in Shakespeare’s tongue (itself a provocative differentiation), the entire play is rendered in brilliant, exceptionally vivid Filipino prose by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

Regan’s “O, sir, you are old! Nature in you stands on the very verge…” for example, has become, “Matanda ka na, at ang kalusugan mo ay nasa gilid na ng hangganan.” Lear’s cry, “You see me here, you gods, a poor old man…” is heartrending in the vernacular: “Narito ako, isang matanda na puspos sa pighati.”

Lumbera outdoes himself in Lear’s staggering stream of invective against Goneril. No, not the verse that ends with the famous “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child!”, which now reads “Parang tinuklaw ng ahas ang magulang na nagkaroon ng anak na walang utang na loob!”, but the second, more gut-wrenching part of the king’s outburst.

In Shakespeare, it’s already a withering barrage: “Blasts and fogs upon thee!/The untented woundings of a father’s curse/Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,/Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,/And cast you, with the waters that you lose,/To temper clay.”

In Lumbera’s Filipino, it has become positively terrifying: “Tamaan ka ng kulog at kidlat at lamunin ng lupa! Makasugat nawa ang sumpa ng ama at pasukin ang bawat pandama mo! Matang nalinlang noon, iluhang muli ang aking ikinagalit. Dudukutin kita at itatapon kasama ang lahat ng tubig na umaagos sa iyo upang basain ang lupa.”


Highly physical
These lines acquire great force and heft in Guzman, who is in all respects a fitting Lear, but for one thing: He remains up to the last uncharacteristically robust, for a king described as a “poor, infirm, weak and despised old man,” or in Lumbera’s translation, “dukha, sakitin, matanda at mahina.” Sonorously voiced, charismatic, his highly physical Lear seems paradoxically to grow even more vigorous the more crack-brained he becomes.

His stamina is beyond question. In the storm scene, as the howling tempest on the heath mirrors Lear’s own mental state, Padilla has two stagehands blast real water from handheld hoses onto a sputtering Guzman, Goneril and Regan eventually taking over the task for a riveting but rather too obvious symbolism.

That solid, sound core never once deserting Guzman’s ancient sovereign even at his most deranged moments, his plight crushingly misses the shattering, harrowing power so central to this Everest of Shakespearean tragedies.

To be fair, it might not be entirely his doing. Padilla, rather than letting Lear’s tragic momentum play to the hilt, often blunts it, turns it on its head, jolting an audience primed to marinate in bouts of pity and horror into a more distanced, self-aware appreciation of the proceedings raging onstage.

In the scene of Gloucester/Gloster’s blinding, Death in the form of a caped, carbuncled male stripper in bondage gear appears, crunching on Gloster’s eyeballs and gyrating lewdly to the cabaret lilt of Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen—a visual metaphor for the lechery that spawned Edmundo’s illegitimacy. The same mordant specter, this time in the guise of the Fool’s king-like puppet, stalks other scenes where murder and bloodshed occur.

As the body count rises, Padilla appears to consciously pull back from the horrific to the ironic, allowing the scenes to stab not at bone-deep drama but at something more blackly comic, the audience’s uneasy titters at the Brechtian flourishes substituting for any easy surrender to grief.


Hopefulness
“The fashionable view,” wrote the British theater critic Michael Billington in 1990, “is that King Lear is an essay in Beckettesque nihilism.” Watching this “Lear,” that description is not what comes to mind, but something closer to—dare we say it?—Catholic hopefulness.

Padilla’s allusions to Catholic mythology and iconography are unmistakable. In one of Lear’s mad scenes, Guzman, already Jesus-like in appearance, slashes the air with blades of grass in his hands, then begins flagellating himself like a Lenten penitent. And when Cordelia reappears near the end, not only is she dressed in immaculate white, she has also become a woman warrior, her right arm sheathed in knightly armor and her head in a plumed helmet—Joan of Arc, no less.

Padilla drives the point home by the play’s close when, moments after Gloster’s wronged but now restored legitimate son Edgardo (a strong turn by Myke Salomon) announces the king’s demise, the cast, candles in tow, reassembles onstage and begins mouthing lines that are clearly not Shakespeare’s.

In what looks like an audacious bid to wrest a hard lesson, perhaps even a cautionary tale, from the spectacle of a king undone by the follies and frailties of his dotage and whose suffering seems devoid of any sense, rhyme, reason or meaning, Padilla fashions a coda to Haring Lear by appending to it the last lines of T.S. Eliot’s seminal 1922 poem, The Waste Land.

Stable social order
Eliot’s enigmatic work, commonly seen as his disillusioned reaction to the fall of the old order in Europe after World War I, alludes to the mythical Grail romances, specifically to a wounded or ailing Fisher King whose disability reduces his realm to a barren place (“I sat upon the shore/Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/Shall I at least set my lands in order?”).

Like other strains of Arthurian legend, this tale pines for a vision of a unified, stable imperium—the same social order, of course, fleetingly present at Lear’s beginning before the king’s rash decision to parcel it out to his daughters leads to apocalyptic devastation.

This reference, unfortunately, and all others in Eliot’s verse sail over the heads of the largely student audience, many of whom laugh when the line “London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down” is reached.

Padilla’s most telling gesture at this point has to do with the Hindi quotations “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.” Even though they are not rendered in English in Eliot’s poem, Padilla supplies a translation for his audience—“Charity, Compassion, Control”—presumably as the takeaway moral from all the pain and affliction that have gone before.


Redemption
But (spoiler alert!) he’s not done yet. The Waste Land ends with the mantra “Shantih. Shantih. Shantih,” which Eliot (an Anglican, by the way, who nevertheless identified himself as “Anglo-Catholic”) defines, by way of quoting the Upanishads, as “The Peace which passeth understanding.”

After the cast says this prayer in unison, they begin singing—and here the audience is absolutely in a quandary how to react—Lupang Hinirang. Padilla’s point seems to be that King Lear’s story of greed, betrayal, power, politics, opportunism and family strife is as present now in this country as it was in Lear’s time. The same ills haunt the land and can rend it to bits just as easily, but for citizens who can learn to live by the tenets of their humanity and citizenship.

And there it is, the existential despair of Lear transposed into something more urgent and hopeful, the bleakness graced by faith in a redemption of some kind. Taking its cue from Eliot’s modernist masterpiece, Padilla’s re-imagining of this Shakespearean colossus gleams with intellectual rigor. But, at gut level, it can also leave one quite cold, baffled and unmoved.



Peta’s “Haring Lear” runs every Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m./3 p.m.) until March 4 at The Peta Theater Center. For ticket reservations, contact 7256244, 4100821-22, 0917-5765400, or petatheater@gmail.com, www.petatheater.com.