The Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Ipag) of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) and Ateneo de Manila University joined 16 other universities, consisting of Asia’s elite drama schools, in a marathon festival of performances, workshops and directors’ conference in the 2017 Asia Pacific Bureau (APB) Theatre Schools Festival and Directors’ Conference at Shanghai Theatre Academy last June 2-9.
The APB, established in 2008 under Unesco’s International Theatre Institute, provides a platform for sharing, showcasing and experimenting with performance practices and pedagogies through the annual festival-conferences. This year’s festival, which drew some 200 artists from all over the region, is the APB’s 10th. Next year’s edition will be held at the Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s leading arts academy.
The productions gravitated toward one quality—narratives that took off from experiences rooted in their realms.
Yogyakarta’s ISI employed the tepuk galembong, a traditional Indonesian dance form, to narrate “The Legend of Roro Jonggrang.”
The ancient story of Rustam and Sohrab (a rebuff of war) was performed by India’s National School of Drama in the “hyperbolic” folk Parsi style, while the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts employed the vocal and movement conventions of Yu Opera in an exquisite adaptation of Strindberg’s “Miss Julie.”
Australia anchors its theater on its historical bonds with Europe, hence the plays of naturalism by Chekhov (Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia), explorations of the “absurd” in “Bite the Hand” (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth), and a devised exploration of the body as an expressive tool in “The Bare Stage” (University of Wollongong).
The LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore performed “Raise the Roof,” a revue of portions of musicals produced on Broadway to illustrate samples of various styles in musical theater.
Hoseo University of South Korea captured the confused routines of Seoul-living in “Angry Seoul Sam-Sin Grandmother.” Mongolian State University experimented with scrims-as-set for its “Fate, Forsaken by God” dance-drama. The Taipei National University of the Arts performed surviving a falling mountain. Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University explored the world of ghosts.
Tanghalang Ateneo’s poignant portrayal of “The Wayside Café” by playwright Tony Perez, directed by Ricardo Abad, slammed us with the reality of life-death transition. In an exacting mode of “physicalizing” the confrontations of the newly died bears in his threshold state, actors Brian Sy and Nicolo Magno devised the body struggling with its new state, suggesting the twists and curls of coming to terms with death.
Ipag’s “The Orpheus Trilogy” deconstructed the tale of the Thracian music god losing his dead wife Eurydice forever because of his doubt. From the original tale, our young theater makers-directors Veniza Yamomo and Trixcel Jon Emborong extracted two more vignettes to form a trilogy of stories with loss as the recurring theme.
Ipag also introduced the basics of its signature idiom—the pangalay, the traditional dance movement of the Tausug people of Sulu championed by Ipag founding chairperson Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa.
This Shanghai outing was the first time Ipag produced an all-student production, from concept to production, rehearsals and music composition. The piece created as a workshop showcase a year ago became a study for the MSU-IIT’s performance and directing classes.
Gaspar Cortes, Jr. served as production and stage manager, Hermi Dico as designer and boardman and Kim Indino, Primo Bagasol and Meshaq Dangel as music composers.
The Philippines’ robust participation in this international confab through Ipag and Tanghalang Ateneo confirms that, on benchmarks qualifying the productions and their studies vis-à-vis other academies around the world, Philippine student productions are well within the world-class standards of APB.
Steven P.C. Fernandez is the founding artistic director of the Integrated Performing Arts Guild of MSU-IIT.