Tanghalang Pilipino is getting ready to stream its live stage performance of Doc Resureccion: Gagamutin Ang Bayan this April.
Last April 1st, the media and some select students from MINT College watched the show’s technical dress rehearsal (TDR) at the CCP Main Theater, a place that many–audiences and theatermakers alike–have not entered in over two years.
During the TDR, the cast and the creative team had been getting ready to film what would eventually be the streaming version the next day. The show is helmed by theater director, Dennis Marasigan (Ang Pag-uusig, Baka Naman Hindi), and Director of Photography, Pong Ignacio (Heneral Luna, Goyo).
Written by Layeta Bucoy, Doc Resureccion was originally staged in 2009 at the Virgin Labfest and was restaged a year later as part of the Revisited set. Set in a poor fishing village, the story follows idealistic young doctor Jess Resureccion who is running for mayor to help uplift the status of its residents. Standing in his way is his cousin, Boy ‘Pogi’ Resureccion, who was paid by the incumbent mayor to run as a nuisance candidate and hopefully spoil the votes for Jess. Throughout the show, Jess tries to convince his cousin to withdraw his candidacy.
Same problems, different elections
With the national elections coming up, it’s no surprise why Tanghalang Pilipino has chosen to revisit this material again after 13 years. The company’s Artistic Director Nanding Josef says, “Pinili namin kasi with what we’ve seen, it’s really timely. Pero kung titingnan niyo ang history natin the past several years, in many other elections, at saka iyung social realities, as early as the Marcos period, ganito pa rin ang nangyayari. Marami pa ring mahihirap. Ganito pa rin ang sitwasyon nila. Iyung inequality is still here with us until now and I think iyung pinapakita nga dito, hanggang ngayon, in general, ganun pa rin iyung pag-iisip natin.”
“Iyung pagdating sa eleksyon, parang laging pera ay kasama sa pangangampanya and it’s so sad that it still happens,” he adds. “Money is still being given out. Iyun ang ibinoboto. I think ito ang gusto namin– mas ma-challenge ang mga viewers to think more critically and to assess ano iyung tama, ano iyung mali, ano iyung desisyon ko based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve felt after watching this play kasi it’s very familiar up until now. Kailangan tayo magbago and I hope that the play can make people somehow change para maiba naman ang bayan natin at saka maiba iyung leaders natin, lalo na maiba ang mga botante sa pagpili ng iboboto.”
Josef shares that whatever happens to the results of the upcoming elections, the company will continue to produce plays that will continue to challenge voters’ minds and make them think critically. Marco Viaña, who serves as the company’s Associate Artistic Director and who is currently playing the role of Doc Jess Resureccion shares, “Nagbibiruan kami nila Tatang [Nanding Josef] at saka ng artistic committee na iyung next season, hindi natin if-finalize hangga’t hindi natin malalaman kung sino iyung mananalong presidente, which means sa Tanghalang Pilipino, ang layunin lang talaga ay mag-respond sa kung ano nangyayari sa current situation. So doon kami kakapit, kung ano man ang mangyari after May.
Jonathan Tadioan, who is reprising his role as Boy ‘Pogi’ Resureccion after originating it in 2009, says, “…hindi kami nageendorso. Ang sinasabi namin, ito ay isang palabas na hahayaan ang manonood na mag-isip at pumili at kilatisin kung sino iyung kanyang iboboto ngayong halalan kasi hindi lang ikaw ang apektado. Lahat tayo. Kaya kailangan maging kritikal at maayos ka sa pagpili ng susunod na lider kung sino man siya… Isipin natin kung sino iyung susunod na magiging lider kasi hindi lang siya o sila. Tayong lahat iyung maaapektuhan.”
Tadioan adds that he understands his character even more clearly now. “Mas nakikita mo iyung mga taong Boy Pogi. Mas nakikita mo, nakakasalamuha mo, so mas naiintindihan mo sila. So I think iyung psyche noon at iyung psyche ngayon, may deperensya talaga.”
A ‘hybrid’ theatrical future
Over the past two years, live theater performances in Manila have been almost non-existent, and many companies took to online streaming to keep their companies afloat and to satisfy their theater audiences. Now that a few productions are preparing to return to the stage, some have considered doing a hybrid form of theater, where online performances will now be offered alongside or after live performances are staged.
Is this something that the company is considering? Viaña says that streaming online performances will now be part of the company’s program moving forward. “Hindi na lang kami limited within the CCP stages kung hindi, tatawirin talaga namin iyung online performances kasi gusto natin mas maraming tao iyung maabot ng mga performances ng Tanghalang Pilipino. Kami na iyung pwedeng pumunta sa inyong mga tahanan maliban na sa iniimbitahan namin kayo sa stage.”
Doc Resureccion director Dennis Marasigan says,”I think for now, we recognize that in order to reach more people, we can actually use the streaming platform… I think there’s a general realization that even if we go back to face-to-face performances, there is always that opportunity to reach more people by putting the productions on film, on video, on stage. So in a way yes, it will be really a kind of a pivot for Tanghalang Pilipino. I think that Tata Nanding will agree with me that there is consciousness that all the performances have to be filmed in high-resolution also for posterity.”
He adds that companies abroad have already been streaming their live performances even before the pandemic started for the purpose of expanding their audience. “The audience is not limited in terms of the geographic area where the actual venue is located. So I think the pandemic only hastened the process and maybe made more companies realize the need for proper documentation.”
Emotional, physical returns
Marasigan and Director of Photography Pong Ignacio will be using a multi-camera set-up to shoot the play. Ignacio, who comes from the film industry, says that one of the biggest challenges is how not to interrupt the actors’ flow while shooting. “You don’t want to disturb that powerful performance just to adjust the camera. It has to be inconspicuous para hindi kami destructive sa flow nila just to preserve and capture it properly.”
But what’s most significant about the process is that this is also the first time in two years that the actors’ have rehearsed with each other in person, at the CCP Main Theater no less. Joining Viaña in the cast are Jonathan Tadioan, who is reprising the role of Boy ‘Pogi’ Resureccion after originating it in 2009, Nanding Josef as Papang, Sherry Lara as Mamang, and Lhorvie Nuevo as Elsa.
What does it feel like to return to the theater after two years? “Dalawang taon kaming nasa screen. So doon kami nagre-rehearse, kausap mo iyung tao sa monitor. ‘Nung bumalik kami dito, it’s the first time na nag-rehearse ulit kami dito. First night, nilagnat ako kasi first time ulit tumayo na kaharap mo iyung co-actor mo. Naaamoy mo iyung co-actor mo.” shares Tadioan. “…nanibago iyung katawan ko kasi for almost 2 years, nasa monitor ka. Hindi ka tumatayo, nakaupo ka lang. So iba talaga iyung pakiramdam na makatungtong ka ulit on stage. Nakikita mo, nalalasahan mo, naaamoy mo. Sobrang nae-excite ako. Iba talaga. So parang iyung dalawang taon ko, linagay ko doon sa isang buong araw. Kaya napagod talaga ako ng malala.”
Viaña also shares, “Ngayon nasusugatan na kami. Nakakakain ng sawdust. Ganun ulit versus iyung dati na sobrang hindi mo nararamdaman talaga iyung kaeksena mo pagka-online performances. Ngayon ramdam na ramdam namin iyung isa’t isa.”
He says that the biggest change is actually the rehearsal process. “Dahil meron pa rin tayong limitations sa paggalaw, hindi pa rin namin naa-achieve iyung usual na a month to two months na rehearsals na face to face. Ngayon meron pa ring nasa Zoom pa rin iyung iba naming rehearsals. Kailan lang talaga kami nakumpleto as a team. Pero iyun iyung challenge nga na moving forward, ano na ba iyung pwede nating gawin para mapagpatuloy lang itong pagkukuwento na ito in any way we can.”
Doc Resureccion: Gagamutin Ang Bayan will be streaming from April 17 to 30 on Ticket2Me.net.