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August 16, 2019

Workshop Summary: Day 1

Expectations from the Workshop

Joined by National Artist for Theater Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, for whom the workshop is named, the 4th Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop (ALBWW) formally began at the University Hotel in UP Diliman with a discussion of everyone’s expectations from the four-day workshop.

This year’s cycle focuses on the one-act play, and many of the writing fellows expressed their sentiments about the form and how some of them see the workshop as a way to get back into writing plays–a feat that some of them no longer take on, given their present circumstances.

The fellows also see the workshop as a way to strengthen their understanding of the one-act play as a form; a venue for them to sharpen their works and maximize what the form has to offer to best tell the story they are trying to tell.

With the exchange of ideas between both fellows and panelists, the workshop is expected to cultivate critical thinking and constructive criticism among fellow writers, many of which come from different stages of their writing career.

“Hindi kayo nasa laylayan lang ng writing community,” revered playwright Malou Jacob told the fellows after hearing their different sentiments. “I hope that after a few days here [in this workshop], you will realize how important you are. Because historically, nandun kayo.”

This year’s workshop director, Luna Sicat-Cleto, welcomed the fellows and detailed how or why they were chosen among the other applicants, giving them a warm welcome to this year’s ALBWW.

Workshop Session 1: Jaymar Castro

Before the first session began, Vladimeir Gonzales delivered a craft lecture about the process every playwright goes through when writing a play.

“Ang akto ng pagsusulat, parang nakikipag-wrestling ka sa iba’t ibang katotohanan,” Gonzales said. “Mga salita ang gagamitin para magkaroon ng lohika ang [mga katotohanang ito.”

After his lecture, Gonzales introduced Jaymar Castro’s work, a fantastical piece that draws strength from comedy and the use of supernatural elements to talk about real social issues. Cold Feet is packaged as a love triangle involving a female manananggal, a taong ahas hybrid, and a police caught in the middle of the drug war.

Given that the work delved into humor as a way to present a narrative that touches on narco-politics, many commented on Castro’s masterful use of comedy, but also warned against its pitfalls.

Many took interest in the characters of the play, especially with the manananggal character and what she symbolizes, as well as the different contemporary and archaic myths attached to the taong ahas character.

In the realm of the fantastic, the playwright can play around with such elements to enrich his or her work, and Cold Feet presents several possibilities for the author to explore.

The fellows and panelists both shared their insights and suggestions, questioning certain points of the play. The fellows pointed out that the play presented a lot of important issues and Layeta Bucoy went on a lengthy discussion about weaving these issues together to better present the narrative.

Workshop Session 2: Rose Angelica Ruiz

Dennis Marasigan delivers a lecture on the structure of a play, particularly one followed by most, if not all, playwrights: the three-act structure–with a beginning, middle, and end. He also brought up the concept of starting a play in medias res.

His short lecture helped provide a jump-off point for the workshop session for Rose Angelica Ruiz’s Conduct C. One of the striking suggestions during the session was posed by Bucoy, who pointed out a specific line from which the play could have begun.

Conduct C follows what starts out as a quiet dialogue between a boy and a high-ranking Catholic priest, with the latter confronting the former about a recent scuffle he was part of.

The fellows observed that the play seemed to follow a trope that has been used many times before in different forms of narratives and suggested for ways to bend the trope.

Ruiz was also urged to flesh out her characters more, and to explore their motivation. Herlyn Alegre comments that the character’s breaking point must be built up to justify his action toward the end.

The fellows and panelists remarked that the weak points of the piece can be remedied by making sense of the play’s main conflict.

“Ang tunggalian ang pinanggagalingan ng lalim ng isang dula,” Marasigan said, and his co-panelists echoed the sentiment.

“Pag nahanap na ng mandudula ang gusto niyang sabihin, makakayanan niyang sabihin sa iisang declarative sentence lang. Kung hindi mo pa kayang sabihin in a simple way, hindi mo nahahanap ang punto ng akda,” Bucoy said.

Workshop Session 3: Gerald Manuel

Alegre facilitated a brief theatrical exercise that both fellows and panelists participated in before delivering a short lecture on crafting a character’s goals, which became the springboard for the discussion of Gerald Manuel’s play, Bold.

Bold centers around the story of an aged couple, in the midst of planning their 25th wedding anniversary. They get into an argument when Juancho, a former actor, reveals that he’s working on an adult film at his old age of 64.

Manuel’s play was met with praise for his decision to focus on mature characters, considering that there seems to be very little space for characters of mature age in theater. Junsan, however, observed that the play seems to fall into a well-known trope of old people seeking renewal, but others argued that following tropes doesn’t matter as much once the playwright has made it their own.

“Napakalaking tulong ng tropes dahil binibigyan tayo ng foundation,” Jaymar Castro said. “Pero nasa iyo kung paano mo idedetalye ang tropes na ito.”

Several of the comments on the work involved apparent issues involving the female protagonist and her characterization, which was deemed as weak by many. The fellows and panelists urged Manuel to further flesh out her character.

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