*my column in the Nov. 6 issue of Cordillera Today
Of course their first major production would be excerpts from musicals such as Miss Saigon and The King & I, that’s how a lot of us have been introduced to theatre, thanks to Lea Salonga , Repertory Philippines and Atlantis Productions. Nothing really wrong with that, but it’s amusing, sad even, that when newly formed theatre groups decide on what play to stage as their maiden offering, often they choose some popular Broadway production, perhaps one that has been adapted into a movie. But hey, no real complaints here, at least more and more young people are being introduced to this wonderful art form, and that makes me happy. I just hope that their love for theatre would somehow lead them to a more diverse repertoire eventually.
I’m in the back of an FX taxicab on my way to the second day of the workshop I was asked to facilitate for the resident theatre group of St. Louis College in San Fernando, La Union. Yesterday was spent discussing western theatre history, a bit of Asian theatre, and how theatre figured in the shaping of our nation’s consciousness and history. Today we shall focus on acting. This is in preparation for their aforementioned premiere production and later a competition between fellow schools run by the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) such as St. Louis University in Baguio and St. Mary’s University in Nueva Vizcaya.
The competition will have three categories – chorale singing, dance and theatre, the three disciplines common in the schools’ respective centres for culture and the arts.
In Baguio, St. Louis’ University’s Centre for Culture and the Arts has been at the forefront of not just the school’s but the whole city’s performing arts scene. This is primarily because of the efforts of its resident theatre repertory company, Tanghalang SLU led by the highly dynamic director, Dan Rommel Riopay. SLU has created a very conducive environment for artistic excellence where talented students can further hone their talent and where both the SLU community and Baguio as a whole can experience the wonderful world of theatre. Because of the school’s support, the company can afford to come up with an annual theatre season and even periodically offer free admission to some of their performances.
This does not only develop the talents of the students who belong to the group, but because of the fact that such art forms are made accessible to their students, faculty and employees, it helps encourage critical thinking within and help the consciousness of a community. It exposes them to different ways of thinking, of perceiving world around them.
I am reminded of the time we were invited to perform a play in Daet, Camarines Norte and how I was so impressed by the support their local government provided local artists. The Provincial Government employed resident artists – painters, writers, actors, etc. They receive a monthly stipend for doing only one thing – developing their respective talents and sharing it with the whole community.
And we thought Baguio was highly urbanized city.
Such efforts – recognizing the value of artists and art in general in shaping a community's consciousness – truly deserve a standing ovation. So to the CICM, the likes of Dan Rommel Riopay and Tanghalang SLU, The Centre for Culture and the Arts at St. Louis College in San Fernando, La Union under Jeddahn Pacalso Rosario… I salute you. Bravo!