Nurturing the future audiences of theater

POINT OF VIEW - Eva Mari Salvador - The Philippine Star

“It’s been a dream come true, my experience at the Met and I felt honored to see the show that our National Artists created, especially Alice Reyes and Ryan Cayabyab. To witness their greatness and the cultural history of our country’s arts made me feel so happy!” said a student from Southville 8B National High School in Montalban.

It was his first time to watch a play, along with almost a thousand first-time musical theater audience students and teachers who attended the tech-dress rehearsal (TDR) of Rama, Hari at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila. The hit Filipino rock opera ballet featured direction and choreography by National Artist Alice Reyes, with music by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, lyrics and libretto by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, production design by National Artist Salvador Bernal and translated by National Artist Rolando Tinio.

The event brought the National Artists closer to the students. The young audience were fanscreaming in excitement, an emotion usually reserved for pop artists. Their active and enthusiastic participation, especially during the talkback with the cast and crew of Rama Hari, was so inspiring, Reyes said.

Through the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)’s Sining Alamin program, the participants were able to witness the process of a TDR and watch the full show. Sining Alamin is an arts appreciation program under CCP’s Arts Education Department, designed to develop the participants to appreciate the arts and art making.

“When I entered the theater it was filled with wonderful noises and colorful costumes, I was astounded by the scenery… I knew that someday I want to be a part of a show in a theater. I imagined a lot of things as if they were real,” said another student from Montalban.

The TDR engaged the young audience to participate in a similar experience of viewing a behind-the-scene show. More revealing to them was the process in doing an excellent artistic performance. They saw the National Artists at work, calling the shots, stopping the show to fine tune a technical flaw, i.e. lights, mic, sound.

The event was an enriching experience for the participants, specially the students of the Raja Soliman Science and Technology High School in Tondo. They were briefed by the show’s technical director, Barbie Tantiongco, on the STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) applications in theater production, sound, lights and production design.

CCP is working with the school in adding the arts to their curriculum to become a STEAM school. And so far, the students have been receptive.

Sining Alamin also advocates learning by experiencing the arts pedagogy in teaching many subjects. While CCP’s arts education program trains teachers and students in Special Programs in the Arts and the Senior High Arts and Design Track, the unit believes that learning by experiencing arts is an effective strategy to learn many subjects and values in school. Watching a performance, watching a film, going to a museum or to an exhibit should be highly encouraged by schools to teach lessons more creatively and help connect with this generation of learners.

According to Ian Wong, project coordinator, “Many schools were also encouraged to allow the students to watch because of the theme of Rama, Hari, which was based on the epic Ramayana, common to Southeast Asian nations.” Southeast Asian art is a subject taught in high school. After the talkback, Reyes said, “They even asked about the wayang kulit, which was in one of the scenes.”

From a Facebook post of a teacher from Tala National High School of Caloocan, “This allowed us to immerse ourselves in an extraordinary cultural experience. We were truly enchanted by the spectacular tale unveiled through the unique blend of music, dance and drama. This unforgettable moment not only provided wonderful entertainment but also deepened our understanding of our rich artistic heritage.”

“Everything was new to me. I feel lucky to be included to join these events and I am sure I learned something and I discovered new things and will bring this to our performances,” said a student from the Philippine Normal University, home of many of our future teachers.

For most of the audience, it was also the first time the students visited the Metropolitan Theater. They marveled at the architecture and its role in the history of Philippine performing arts.

“Overall best experience so far, and really thankful that we came here, so many learnings about Philippine culture and history, plus we were able to meet with one of our National Artists, Ms. Alice Reyes.” Many students and teachers went home with a selfie with the National Artist.

Karylle, one of the artists who played Sita, also joined the talkback and said, “Akala ko wala nang pagasa ang theater audience (I thought there’s no more hope for theater audiences). But this is inspiring. There is hope for the future Filipino theater audience!” The young audiences responded by mimicking a crown being bestowed on her. “Ikaw na (You do it)!” some giggled in delight.

“Everything was perfect, the storyline, details, orchestra, dances and singing. If only I get to rewind this day again. This is an experience that I will cherish forever,” says a student in her Facebook post whose group, Pagsanhan Integrated National High School, traveled six hours to and from Laguna.

In addition to the students from Raja Soliman Science and Technology High School, Tondo, Pagsanjan Integrated National High School, Laguna, Southville 8B National High School, Montalban, Philippine Normal University (BCAED) and PNU Chorale, Tala National High School, Caloocan, the young audience also came from Pasay City National High School, ELJ Center for Media Arts Senior High School, Golden Acres National High School, Las Piñas, University of the Philippines, Manila, De La Salle Santiago Zobel School, Diocese of Parañaque Parochial Schools Association.

As a student from Pagsanjan said in Filipino, “I am extremely grateful to the CCP for inviting us to watch Rama, Hari to witness different talents and the excellence of theater actors/actresses... Extremely grateful for all who are part of the CCP, because for a short time, we were treated like princesses and princes. This is a new but happy experience that I will take with me.”

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Eva Mari Salvador is head of the CCP’s Arts Education Department.

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