Workshop Session 4: Kwesi Junsan
For Malou Jacob, it’s important for a playwright to immerse herself into the culture and community of the people whose story she’s trying to tell. Herself a fan of immersions and research, Jacob stresses the need for playwrights to put a focus on characterization.
One of the prominent points of discussion during Kwesi Junsan’s workshop revolved around the characters of his play “Project Hiyas,” a sci-fi play set in a post-apocalyptic future.
Considering the setting, a large chunk of the discussion revolved around the world-building that went into writing the play. Panelist Dennis Marasigan remarked that there seemed to be a lack of clear details for the audience to fully visualize the world he’s trying to build and understand the context of the play.
Many suggestions were brought up for Junsan to improve the world-building, particularly in making sure that the audience will be able to feel that the narrative takes place in a Philippine setting.
The characterization was also a point of discussion during the session. “Humanize the characters,” said Jaymar Castro, a sentiment echoed by many. The development of the character, as seen through the narrative, was also brought up by many, noting that the protagonist’s catharsis felt neither earned nor justified.
Junsan was praised for his attempt to write science fiction, which rarely seen in Philippine theater, but was warned against the common pitfalls of the genre. Dennis Marasigan reiterated the question, “What are you trying to tell other human beings like me?” The answer to which, Luna Sicat-Cleto said, might be able to help Junsan know how to better build the world to situate the characters and their motivations.
Workshop Session 5: Andrew Estacio
Many playwrights agree that the setting of a play is as much a character as the actual characters of the play are. Layeta Bucoy’s craft lecture focused on the significance of the setting in writing a play, as it provides context and therefore affects the characters and the trajectory of the play. “Tanggapin mo ang hamon ng setting,” she said.
Andrew Estacio’s Ang Pambansang Impyerno ng Republika ng Pilipinas takes place in a very interesting setting: A special place in hell reserved for dirty politicians. It shows the exchange between Ping and Pong, two demons who are tasked to torture a character simply referred to as the President.
The play is highly political, but is given a comic treatment. It’s peppered with humor delivered in coarse language and in rapid-fire succession of verbal jabs.
Bridge Rebuca raised her concerns over the effectivity of the language used in achieving what the play might be trying to achieve, as well as the effectivity of the characters themselves. Her observations were echoed by many of the succeeding comments.
“What am I supposed to take away from the play?” Manuel asked Estacio, admitting that he found it hard to become invested in the play and the characters because it didn’t feel like there was anything at stake for the them.
Estacio was advised to dig deeper into the material and figure what, exactly, is the point he wants to get across.
Workshop Session 6: Leslie Corpuz
Vlad Gonzales delivered a craft lecture about the elements that play a huge role in a playwright’s life: Poetics, patronage, and skopos. More often than not, these elements are visible in the playwright’s works and they manifest in one way or another.
For Leslie Corpuz’s Hindi Na Muli, the playwright’s sensibilities are embedded into the play. It follows an exchange between two women with a romantic past, both of whom were former activists. They meet again five years after their last encounter.
Set in 1992 in an old tailor shop in Marikina, the play painted a clear and detailed picture of the place and its history. “Na-feel ko. Naamoy ko. Parang nahawakan ko na ang Marikina,” said Jaymar Castro.
Hindi Na Muli falls under the category of a memory play, said Sicat-Cleto, thanking Corpuz for her attempt to map where women stood in history.
However, some people observed that the play had a tendency to rely too heavily on feelings of sentimentality. “Ang dating sa’kin, parang nakulong sila at ang dula sa kasaysayan.”
Sicat-Cleto urged Corpuz to explore the history of women–and queer women, at that–through the narrative. The characters, she said, are strongly placed in history, and the playwright can capitalize on that to deepen the narrative.
“Kita naman ‘yung gusto mong i-achieve,” Bucoy told Corpuz. “Pero what’s really weak at this point is the orchestration. Lahat ng isinama mo dito, kayang isulat ng iba. Ang personal take mo ang wala. Nasan yung voice mo?”
Bucoy suggested for the playwright to ask herself, if this is a memory play, what is it about these memories that made you want to write about them?
“Ang personal take mo ang magpapaiba sa akdang ito,” she told Corpuz.
Visit to Teatro Mulat and Dolorosa Viewing
After the three sessions, the fellows and panelists went to Teatro Mulat. National Artist Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio welcomed them and introduced the theater and its beginning. Afterwards, her daughter, Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete, UPD College of Arts and Letters dean, performed three songs from the puppet play Sita at Rama with the help of her daughter.
Later that night, they dropped by Arete Hall in Ateneo de Manila to catch a viewing of Tanghalang Ateneo’s Dolorosa.