Tanghalang Pilipino’s 31st Season Puts Freedom Fighters at the Center

The 31st season of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) embraces all that the company stands for: diverse, entertaining, and powerful storytelling that is rooted in centuries-old Filipino culture and history while being responsive to our evolving contemporary society. Each play takes you on a Filipino journey with a unique point of view, style and tone. It includes something for everyone, with piquant comedies, suspenseful dramas, and inspiring Filipino stories.

Tanghalang Pilipino's Season Launch

TP Chairman Tony Boy Cojuangco opens the press conference

Performances begin in June 2017 with the opening of Virgin Labfest 13: Wagas, an annual festival of unpublished, unstaged, untried and untested works for the theater held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). This festival is a partnership project of the The Writer’s Bloc Inc., Tanghalang Pilipino Inc., and the CCP.

Last May 15, 2017 at a new venue called Rustique Kitchen (owned by TP chairman Tony Boy Cojuangco), the company gave us a little taste of what we can expect for their upcoming season.

Tanghalang Pilipino's Season Launch

TP chairman Tony Boy Cojuangco opens the press conference

THEME: Freedom Writers; Freedom Fighters

Its theme for this year is, “Freedom Writers; Freedom Fighters”, which features plays by and/or about four brave playwrights who have fought for freedom and justice—Aurelio Tolentino, Arthur Miller, Nick Joaquin, and Severino Reyes.

TP’s Artistic Director Nanding Josef tells us more about the theme for the company’s 31st season:

“Lahat ng apat na playwrights at one time or another ay either nakulong o nacharge sa sedition, nacharge ng contempt of court. Si Tolentino ang paulit-ulit na kinulong ng mga Amerikano. Si Arthur Miller ay nacharge ng contempt ng isang judge dahil sa kanyang pagsusulat against Congress. He was banned. He was suspended. Hindi na siya kinilala at all.”

“Si Nick Joaquin ay isang very brave writer. When he was already recognized, siya ay binigyan na ng National Artist Award during the Marcos time. He was invited by Imelda Marcos sa isang event sa Mount Makiling, at doon, nung tinanggap niya, nung nirecognize niya iyung kanyang award as National Artist, he spoke for the artistic freedom and asked for the release of a prisoner na writer din, si Pete Lacaba. Si Severino Reyes was also imprisoned for one month because he was suspected of being Katipunero.”

Tanghalang Pilipino's Season Launch

TP Artistic Director Nanding Josef, TP Associate Artistic Director Liesl Batucan, TP Chairman Tony Boy Cojuangco, director Carlos Siguion-Reyna, and the cast answer questions from the press

“Iyung materials na sinulat ng napiling playwrights are all about being free. And all the playwrights were freedom fighters. Hindi talaga sila natakot na magsalita, to defend what is just, what is right.”

Season Line-up

The company opens its season with Nicanor Tiongson’s Apung Aurelio. The artistic team of the company’s critically-acclaimed production, Mabining Mandirigma, comes together to stage another steampunk musical based on the life of of Aurelio Tolentino, a Filipino playwright and dramatist. Together with Bonifacio and Sakay, Tolentino founded Teatro Porvenir, a theater company where they show their patriotic sentiments. Tolentino was charged with sedition and imprisoned by the Americans after one of his plays called for the ‘tearing of the American flag,’. Josef mentions that they are composing around 24 original songs for this production. The show will run from September 1-17, 2017 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). He celebrates his 150th birthday this year.

The second production is Histerya, a Filipino adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, translated by Jerry Respeto and directed by Dennis Marasigan. TP’s Associate Artistic Director, Liesl Batucan, mentions that Marasigan is crafting it as a devised theater production with 22 actor characters played by 12 actors from TP’s Actors’ Company. The play dramatizes how “the establishment” is used as a tool of the powerful few, exerting its magnitude on people to prevent any sense of community and collectivity from being formed. Miller’s warning is for individuals not to be afraid and to take a stand when their government is operated in a manner contrary to public interest. The show will run from September 29 to October 22 at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute Theater of the CCP.

Tanghalang Pilipino's Season Launch

TP’s Associate Artistic Director Liesl Batucan

During the press conference, guest actors Audie Gemora and Cris Villonco performed the English version of The Crucible as John Proctor and Abigail Williams. You can find the performance excerpt of the staged reading on the video below.

The third production is a play catered to young audiences. Nang Tamaan ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad is based on Nick Joaquin’s story, and adapted to the stage by Rody Vera. The play is a mash-up love triangle among Maria Makiling, Juan Tamad and Monte Banahaw. Batucan says it will be colorful, compact, and mobile to accommodate the possibility of touring. The show will be directed by Ed Lacson Jr. and will run from December 1 to 19, 2017 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Tanghalang Pilipino's Season Launch

Tanghalang Pilipino’s Actors’ Company performs a staged reading from Nang Tamaan ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad

The fourth production is entitled Walang Aray, a musical that will feature popular Filipino songs like Sampaguita. It is a contemporized comic version of Severino Reyes’ Walang Sugat, which was written when the zarzuela became a potent means of expressing Filipino nationalism during the Spanish Occupation of the Philippines. It was, eventually, one of the plays considered subversive by the American colonial authorities, resulting to Reyes’ imprisonment. The show will be directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna (who also directed TP’s Walang Sugat) with stage adaptation by Rody Vera. The show will run from February-March 2018 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

You can find an excerpt of the staged reading from Walang Aray performed by guest actor Audie Gemora and TP’s Actors’ Company below.

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