Seven Cebuano plays by seven playwrights recently staged by six directors delighted an appreciative audience of around 10,000 in their eight shows at the Cebu Coliseum.
Collectively titled “7 Ka Drama sa Pebrero,” the 10- to 15-minute plays were produced by the University of Cebu Theater Workshop Company and gathered 23 actors from various theater groups, including the Young Thespians of Cebu, Cebu Thespians Club Inc., Our House and Unified Artists of Cebu.
The audience, mostly teenage students, laughed heartily and cried unabashedly as seven pieces of comedy and drama unfolded on stage: “Joke Lang” by April Moncada, directed by Emman Mante; “Fret,” by Revan Sinadjan, directed by Mante; Pip Compra’s “Ang Paghuwat,” directed by Mark Jude Tenedero; “The World is an Oyster,” by Haidee Palapar, directed by Junrey Alayacyac; Mante’s “Disney X,” directed by Rudy Aviles; “Katapusang Pagbalik” by Msgr. Augustine “Ting” Ancajas, directed by Eli Razo (and most ably performed by Clint Solante and Rachel Layaog); and “Missing Bising,” by Rudy Aviles, directed by Orlando Magno.
Four of the seven plays were written by first-time playwrights.
This bare-bones production is an offshoot of the Cornelio Faigao Memorial Playwrights Workshop in Drama and Performance (CFMPW D&P). Established in 2014 by Linda Faigao-Hall, the workshop aims to seek out and develop Cebuano-identified playwrights writing in English and/or Cebuano. Its workshops are designed to encourage Cebuanos to write original short plays, and train actors and directors in the process.
The workshops are being subsidized by a five-year grant from the Terence G. Hall Family Estate, named after Faigao-Hall’s husband who died in 2011. D&P executive artistic director Aviles says the aim is “to develop playwrights who can write scripts and Cebuano plays to be produced by community-based and school-based theater groups.”
The theater workshops are a welcome addition to the fiction and poetry fellowships that the Memorial started in 1984 in honor of Faigao-Hall’s father.
From a poor family in the island of Banton in Romblon in 1908, Cornelio Festin Faigao rose to become a poet, writer, educator and newspaperman. He was a newspaper editor and columnist while serving as English department chair of the University of San Carlos (USC).
His first book of poetry, “The Song of Hos-Katting” (1936), was a satire of 4,000 lines in 181 pages, and was considered the longest English poem by a Filipino. Another book, “The Song of Freedom: Commemoration Ode” (1946), celebrated Philippine independence. His third book came out in 1948 during the inauguration of USC.
His poems and essays appeared in the Philippines Free Press, Graphic, Evening Paper and Tribune. He had many more unpublished poems.
Faigao was 43 when “The Brown Child” won the top prize in a national poetry competition during the jubilee of the Philippine educational system. He passed away at 51 in 1959.
Twenty five years after, the Cebuano Studies Center of USC, through its chair and leading scholar in Cebu literature, Dr. Resil Mojares, founded the Cornelio Faigao Memorial Annual Writers Workshop with seed money from Faigao’s widow, Rosita Go. It has been held annually ever since, with subsequent USC funding. The workshop has helped develop young and budding writers from Cebu and the region.
Like father, like daughter
Faigao’s daughter, Cebu-born and New York-based playwright Linda Faigao-Hall, has written 14 plays. Eleven have been staged in the United States on both off-off Broadway and off-Broadway venues.
They include “Woman from the Other Side of the World” by Ma-Yi Theater Ensemble Inc., and “State Without Grace” by Pan-Asian Repertory Theatre Company, both in New York, and the Asian-American Theatre Company in San Francisco.
Faigao-Hall is a recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts award. An anthology of her plays, “The Female Heart and Other Plays” (available at amazon.com), has been published by NoPassport Press in New York, with a second printing forthcoming.
Also, for the first time in Faigao-Hall’s three decades of writing plays, her full-length play, “The Female Heart (Pusong Babae),” first seen on Theater Row, New York, will be staged in the Philippines by UP Playwrights Theater in University of the Philippines Diliman for its 25th theater season (2016). It will be directed by UP Diliman professor and freelance actor, singer and director Banaue Miclat-Janssen, who has called for casting auditions this April.
Faigao-Hall draws on both her Philippine roots and US experience for her works. Upon graduation from Silliman University, she went to the United States to earn graduate degrees in English literature and educational theater from New York University and Bretton College in Wakefield, England. She lives in Brooklyn and has one son, Justin, who works and lives in Singapore.
She has been running the CFMPW D&P’s playwriting workshops since 2014, but this year in May, she will be training Aviles, Palapar and Mante, all Cebuano theater artists, to take over the workshops eventually.
Miclat-Janssen, who successfully ran the actor’s workshop last year for CFMPW D&P, honed 10 of the actors in “7 Ka Drama sa Pebrero,” and will be running the same workshop this year in May.
Aviles attributes the dynamism and creativity in regional theater practice to healthy interaction.
“Our past interactions with Manila and region-based groups during festivals were a very healthy exercise in promoting local arts and culture,” he says. “Local government and institutions should support and promote the creative sector of the region.”
The contributor is author of the coffee table book “Soul Searchers and Dreamers: Artists’ Profiles” (published by the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation Inc. and Erehwon Center for the Arts), available at Solidaridad Bookshop, Mt. Cloud Bookshop and Liongoren Gallery. E-mail [email protected] and/or [email protected] For the D&P workshops, email [email protected]