March is World Theater Month, and March 27 is World Theater Day. Spearheading the worldwide celebration is the International Theatre Institute, the UNESCO World Organization for the Performing Arts.
Last year, Manila was the global launch site of the 50th anniversary of World Theater Day. In her message that year, Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, said, “Theater has the power to move, inspire, transform and educate in ways that no other art form can. Theater reflects both the extraordinary diversity of cultures and our shared human condition, in all its vulnerability and strength.”
Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo (who has also been to Manila, by the way) is this year’s writer of the traditional World Theater Day Message. In the message, Fo attributes the decline of theater audiences to an attempt by those in power to silence actors and theater companies. He quotes Saint Carlo Borromeo, who wrote in the 16th century, “Concerned with eradicating the evil weed, we have done our utmost to burn texts containing infamous speeches, to eradicate them from the memory of people, and at the same time to prosecute also those who divulged such texts in print. How far more devastating to the minds of adolescents and young girls is the spoken word and the appropriate gesture, than a dead word printed in books. It is therefore urgent to rid our cities of theater makers, as we do with unwanted souls.”
Fo could actually have chosen a more suitable quote. Then archbishop of Milan, Borromeo excommunicated everyone who watched a play. He believed that theater “substituted illusion for reality, denied temporal space and time, and trafficked in dreams and imaginings.”
The Philippine Centre of the International Theatre Institute and the ITI-Earthsavers UNESCO Dream Center are taking the lead in celebrating World Theater Month in our country. Among several projects ongoing is a World Theater Festival on Radio, aired over Radyo Balintataw on DZRH on weekdays.
A highlight of the Philippine celebration is the awarding of this year’s Lampara ng Kultura (Light of Culture) Awards. (Since next week is Holy Week, the awards will be given after World Theater Month.) The awards are given annually to individuals and corporations or groups that have helped spread the light of Philippine culture and arts inside and outside the country.
This year’s batch of awardees include:
AIR 21 for sponsoring the first Philippine participation in the Prague Quadrennial on Performance Design and Space, run by the International Organisation for Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians (OISTAT).
PLDT-SMART for assisting global connectivity for the Tri-Continental Intercultural Dialogue on Defying Disasters.
CHOWKING and SAN MIG COFFEE for sponsoring the ITI program of Cultural Caregiving Services for vulnerable groups.
SM for providing venues for arts events, particularly those involving persons with disabilities.
METROBANK for its continuing patronage of arts competitions and arts education.
LISA MACUJA for popularizing ballet, integrating indigenous art forms, and initiating international interactive dance projects.
LEA SALONGA and MONIQUE WILSON for projecting Filipino excellence in acting and singing and lending their popularity for social causes.
NORA AUNOR for pioneering in the integration of theater, television, and film.
JUVENAL SANSO for integrating painting with stage design.
ALBERTO FLORENTINO for excelling in the art of playwriting, particularly in the field of social realism.
DANNY DOLOR for animating culture among various schools groups, primarily Emilio Aguinaldo College Theatre Center.
ROSALINDA OROSA for being the Dean of Culture and Arts Criticism in media.
BOY ABUNDA for theater patronage through media, promotions, and arts communication.
GEORGE YANG for promoting scholarship in the field of music and performing in concerts and theater presentations.
A special International Award is being given this year to the SEOUL INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS, headed by Duk Hyung Yoo, for its collaborative projects with Philippine theater groups.
The selection committee consisted of Vilma Labrador (chair), Cecile Guidote Alvarez, Heherson Alvarez, Fray Paulo Casurao, Tomas Ongoco, Fernando Peña, Frank Rivera, Jose Laderas Santos, and myself.
ON KRISTEL TEJADA: CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan is a psychologist. She knows what she is talking about when she says, in her official statement, that “suicide is always complex and must be approached with great sensitivity. Simplistic speculation on cause does not help anyone.”
I completely support Licuanan’s view.
I have lost a close friend through suicide, and I have close friends whose loved ones committed suicide. I know personally that suicide cannot be attributed to a single cause. I also know how difficult life is for the survivors (relatives and friends of the one who commits suicide).
In a sense, we are all survivors of Kristel Tejada. We all feel the grief and the guilt. We all could have done better by her. The blame game that is happening is a way of coping with the guilt that we all feel. I am not a psychologist like Licuanan, but I believe that the most vocal against the UP administration are probably the most guilty. They could have spoken up before it was too late.
There is, however, something positive we can learn from this tragic event. We can spot the signs of suicidal tendencies in our relatives, friends, students, or colleagues. They need a hug. Let us give them that hug. We could be saving their lives.