Dexter Santos: “I really want to do a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that would feature the temper of today’s youth ... a pastiche of different art forms—music, movement, dance, inter-text, video, etc. It’s not really a musical, and not a dance or ballet, either; but it will have all these different things.” PHOTO FROM DULAANG UP
A ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the millennial generation
Announce a staging of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and expectations are set for swooning romance, heartrending tragedy and poetry in iambic pentameter. Inform people that it’s a modern Filipino reinterpretation, and there is a general presumption of irreverent Filipino wit and modern sensibilities, as well as stabs at social relevance to make the performance all the more closer to heart.
Take Dulaang UP’s upcoming “#R</3J.” It’s Romeo and Juliet in the age of hashtags, emoticons, tweets, Tinder hookups, cyberbullying, slut-shamming and revenge porn posted online. Directed by Dexter Santos, DUP’s new artistic director, it opens Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 13 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, second floor, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman.
As with other DUP productions, the artistic team is a star-studded ensemble. Joining Santos are lighting designer John Batalla, music designer Krina Cayabyab, designer Ohm David, set video designer Winter David, costume designer Darwin Desoacido, and Guelan Varela-Luarca for adaptation.
But unlike other DUP productions that are usually headlined by seasoned professionals, this play on young love highlights the Dulaang UP Ensemble, supported by veteran actors Leo Rialp, Mitoy Sta. Ana and Ricky Ibe in key character parts.
It may be playing on campus, but don’t expect busloads of students crowding Guerrero Theater as part of any academic requirement. DUP has advised that this performance is not recommended for audiences below 16 years of age, due to some delicate scenes that require more mature sensibilities. Then again, teen suicide and family feud murders—
as told by Shakespeare’s original work—was never fare fit for young children.
DUP describes its latest production as “a multimedia hallucination on William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”
In rehearsals previewed exclusively for the Inquirer, “#R</3J” appeared to be more akin to a contemporary dance performance than a traditional Shakespearean play, with the student ensemble performing ambitious and evocative choreography against stark, even jarring, lights, sound and scenery. This take on “Romeo and Juliet” would probably be equally at home in an art gallery, labeled as performance art.
“It’s going to be a pastiche of different art forms, a fusion of music, movement, dance, inter-text, video, etc.,” said Santos. “It’s not really a musical, and not a dance or ballet, either; but it will have all these different things.”
Besides directing, Santos has successfully choreographed many acclaimed plays, such as “Maxie the Musicale,” “Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini,” and “Collection.”
“I was a student of Anton Juan in his stage movement class,” he said. “After that course, he took me as assistant director and choreographer for many of his productions. I have no formal training in dance. I just believe in the idea that any movement, from the real to the stylized, from everyday gestures to abstract ones, can be used as a powerful tool to express any idea, feeling or emotion on stage. My choreographic process always stems from what the scene needs. What does it want to say, what is essential? Before any form or movement phrase, I go for the narrative, character and conflict.”
Through the years, there have been many notable local reinterpretations of “Romeo and Juliet,” from Tanghalang Pilipino’s highly successful and rip-roaringly funny jologs version “R’meo luvs Dew-lhiett” in 2005, to this year’s staging by the Manila Shakespeare Company that was set in the 21st century but was otherwise conventional in its approach to Shakespeare’s words.
For its part, “#R</3J” reinterprets Romeo and Juliet as modern-day young Manileños.
“I really want to do a ‘Romeo and Juliet’-inspired piece for today’s generation, something that would feature the temper of today’s youth. There’s the popular YOLO or you-only-live-once mentality, the need for social validation, with everybody on the spotlight and living their lives through likes, selfies and followers on social media. So, in our ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the characters, the material, the scenes are inspired by the things we see on our timelines on Facebook.”
This performance promises to reveal the tragedy of young love in the millennial age, its fresh-faced protagonists armed with smart phones and dating apps and viral video scandals. It remains “Romeo and Juliet” at its heart, but Santos promises, at the very least, a jolting surprise.
Dulaang UP’s “#R</3J” runs Aug. 26-Sept. 13 at Guerrero Theater, 2/F, Palma Hall, UP Diliman. Call Samanta Hannah Clarin or Camille Guevara 9261349, 4337840 or 9818500 local 2449; or e-mail [email protected] Visit facebook.com/DulaangUnibersidadNgPilipinas.