“Isang dulaang umiispluk ng samu’t saring ispirikitik ng dulaang Pinoy.”
Gets mo? Get the drift, I mean. No? Well, you are not alone—but not for long, Peta hopes.
This is the mantra of the new Philippine Educational Theater Association production, “FnL,” that’s coming right after the ferociously successful “Rak of Aegis” (still on until Sept. 14). “FnL” is a reference to “Florante at Laura,” the epic poem by Francisco Baltazar (Balagtas) which is one of the glories of Tagalog literature.
In fact, the original title of the play (written by Anj Heruela), as announced by Peta earlier this year, was “Florante at Laura Remastered.” The story was supposed to be that of a private school student and a young street vendor as they navigate their way through the Balagtas masterpiece “in search of their own voice.”
There followed months of brainstorming, with playwrights Rody Vera and Maynard Manansala joining the fun or the fray. And so the story became more complicated, new characters emerged, the classic Tagalog of Balagtas dovetailing with the contemporary slang of Pinoy youth—as in “jologs,” “jejemon” and “bekimon” (“swardspeak” to the previous generation).
The reimagined “FnL” by Vera, Heruela and Manansala will be staged at Peta Theater Center (tel. 7256244), and will run for three weekends (morning and matinee shows) Sept. 19-21, 26-28 and Oct. 3-5. It will be restaged Jan. 30-31/Feb. 1 and Feb. 6-8, 2015.
The story is about Lance (Eko Baquial and Deli del Rosario), an English-speaking balikbayan (returning Pinoy) and a call center agent (Meann Espinosa and Divine Aucina), who both find themselves suddenly speaking the archaic language of Balagtas. Their paths cross, and together they go on a journey to explain this magical gift, assisted by friends and relatives speaking in their own style.
At a recent press launch at the Peta Theater, excerpts from the play were shown, with bubbly hosts Aucina and Kiki Baento speaking in tongues, calling for volunteers, and working the audience over with their stand-up comedy routines and with-it youth lingo.
At the open forum, Vera said, “The language of Balagtas is not understandable to the youth today. So in the play, the actors go through a journey through the languages, the classic Tagalog of Balagtas, bekimon, English, jejemon, Cebuano, until the masterpiece becomes clearer to the youth.
“We used the richness of the language of Balagtas. This is a supplement to the teaching of the work.”
Indeed, as the excerpts performed that night showed, the play begins with a compelling, concise prologue of the epic poem.
“A team of people put the play together,” said Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda. “How do we tackle Balagtas? The educational aspect is an important part of Peta’s vision. Also important is the bilingual-ness of our culture.”
Direction is by Ian Segarra, with music by Jeff Hernandez, choreography by Delphine Buencamino, set design by Leeroy New and lighting design by Joseph Matheu.