The performing arts came to the fore recently at the St. Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City with festivals—coming one after the other—in music, dance and theater. The 2015 Drama Festival was spearheaded by Tanghalang SLU under Dan Rommel Riopay of the SLU Center for Culture and the Arts.
Dramafest jurors were Philippine Educational Theater Association founder Cecile Guidote-Alvarez of the International Theater Institute; playwright Frank G. Rivera; and this writer. The three categories were Stand-Up Comedy, Tula-Dula (play in verse) and One-Act Play. Eight schools (colleges) under the university participated in the competition.
Enthusiasm was high among the student supporters, as they cheered lustily for their teams.
The stand-up comedians were rated on humor, stage presence and originality. They each performed as gay young talents facing an audition or their exams, drawing upon their experiences as students or what they have read of events,
developments in entertainment, spoofing beauty contests, and the like.
The Best Comedian Award went to Daryl Jan Francisco of the School of Accountancy and Business Management.
Vice Ganda, move over.
This category had for its theme “Ang Kaugaliang Pinoy na Nais Kong Ipabahagi sa Mundo (the Pinoy trait that I would like to share with the world).”
The issues the performers grappled with were mostly social, dealing with hunger, history, patriotism, family solidarity and commitment, hiya (delicacy of feeling), the diaspora, sense of Filipino-ness, heroism, bravery in the face of tragedy, being respectful to elders and being mabait (kind).
The Best Performance and Best Story Awards went to “Unang Sigaw” of the School of Humanities.
The theme of this climactic category was even more provocative: “Books vs Gadgets: Saan Tayo Patungo Bilang Pilipino? (Where are we Filipinos headed for).”
Seven plays were presented. They blended social with magic realism, inexpensive but imaginative set designs, a minimum of props, and acting that was often convincing but occasionally over-the-top.
One play had a time-ticking-away theme. Another had a circus atmosphere, showing the travails of performers now reduced to a robot-like condition. This achieved a certain poignancy.
Play 3 showed a youth in native costume being tempted by all sorts of characters in a post-Eden atmosphere. He held a bayong (native bag) containing a book of knowledge from his forebears (ninuno).
The last play dealt with the theft of a “gadget” by a brother in financial straits that triggered quarrels between sisters, causing hysterical confusion in three households.
The two outstanding plays for me were “Status sa Hukay” of the School of Teacher Education (written by Joey Lartec and directed
by Rhum Fernandez Lumague) and “Selfie” of the School of Computing and Information Sciences (written and directed by Niño Angelo Gavino).
In “Status sa Hukay,” a soldier killed during the recent massacre in Mindanao finds himself in the spirit world, confronted by young women with cell phones and a mature woman who believes in the power of books, and realizes he is dead upon seeing his wife grieving over his tomb.
In “Selfie,” a young man obsessed with computer games neglects his mother and gay brother, but learns to appreciate them when he is visited by dead relatives.
The Best Play Award went to “Status sa Hukay.” First runner-up was “Sa Hudyat ng Labindalawang Palaso” of the School of Humanities, written and directed by Jonnie Lyn Dasalla. And second runner-up was “Bukas ang Bukas” of the School of Medicine, written by Nehemiah Bangalan and directed by Navid Roodaki.
The Best Male Performer Award went to Amiel Patrick Campos, the lead in “Selfie,” with Rhum Fernandez Lumague (the star of “Status sa Hukay”) as first runner-up.
It was an all-day event, “a marathon,” as Guidote-Alvarez put it, and she is a veteran in the field of judging plays. You might say this is a tribute to the dedication and determination of the organizers, and the stamina and talent of the performers, the artistic staff and the production crew. Kudos.