Theater without the expensive velvet curtains
By Rocky Cajigan, Ubbog Cordillera Young Writers
A few seats away, an old lady could no longer hold out and blurted in Kankanaey something like “That’s terrible to say!” A line of actors were shouting in unison against the audience, mostly parents. The adolescent actors were asking if the world, treeless, raped by huge mines, intoxicated with corporate henchmen who prefer to distort the solemnity of women and children, and put into an uneducated worldview the auspices of a world grandmother. The youth were asking if this awful worldly mirror is what remains to be inherited. There seems to be none at all. A void.
Cordillera Green Network’s “Aanak di Kabiligan”, a theatrical production that is one of many results of a series of eco-theater program – running along the communities of the Cordillera for a few years now, was staged at St. Mary’s School of Sagada last May 31, 2012. It was the kind of play that did not use a lot of props and sets, because it did not need them. A production of less than a week of workshops and writing the scenes almost spontaneously, it was intended to shake and attempted to answer the bubbling ecological questions. Not clichéd by an almost sick-of-it and what-should-you-do style of storytelling, it showed themes like greedy extractive industries hammering indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determined ways of life, it made the questions essential once again.
The old lady strikes back a second time amidst an audience that had begun to mutter noisily. “That’s terrible to say!” Her cries were left unheard by the crowd that seemed to have muffled themselves in the doubt of a mother to breastfeed her one-year-old or not. Some were hurt by the obscene reality that the kids were crying. They sit and watch and applaud as the stage lights fade and the story moves into another scene: the soliloquies of a young couple caught in a cultural revolution pitted in the corporate mining industry jargon of killing the local community and raping them after the gold has landed on Madame Coquette’s jewelry box. Some teenager audiences heckle their classmates on stage but the bigger audience keeps silent and envelop themselves in the desperate mood of the melodrama on stage. Many hide their tears.
Directed by Angelo Aurelio and Setsu Hanasaki and music by Edgar and Kenneth Banasan, the play was purely collaborative in style. The pair of directors, working for the first time, facilitated several days of workshop that involved allowing the 30 teenagers to develop the story in their own respective languages. They staged for the local audience on the last day. In the end, it spilled into a series of scenes of how corporate middlemen schemed their way into the mineral-rich mountain communities. The local story of Sagada’s Kiwkiw was also added. It was not for the academic, snotty, gala-dressed audience but for the community where it belonged, where theater lives vigorously. Theater began without the expensive velvet curtains.
People huddled inside the hall space to watch a play concocted from teenage dreams by a cast of teens who had come from homes scattered across the Cordilleran Range. They had gathered with dreams of performing, travel, of dream itself, that someday, when the mirror fails to shatter at its own violence, the world would reveal itself as something to hope for like a huge happy smiley face.