The pandemic can bring out the best both in humanity and in the Humanities.
Teatro Europa artists coming from 16 Philippine universities have literally gone beyond their limits to adjust and to shine during this pandemic. Teatro Europa is a series of theatre performances organised by the EU Delegation to the Philippines and the EU Member States’ embassies and cultural institutes, and performed by Philippine universities.
Reign Emmanuelle Geronimo, artist from the University of the East - Caloocan, said that her fellow artists had to rehearse at night to make it compatible with attending classes. Rehearsals had to be done after the chickens had risen or after trucks had passed the roads near their houses. She talked about artists being one with the environment, as Teatro Europa artists had little control over their environment.
Artistic Director of the University of Makati, Ronnie Protacio, found it a challenge to stage the virtual Belgian play “The Horrid Little Princess” by Geneviève Damas. Ronnie and his team of 15 have developed a musical with live actors in an animated background, which required a lot of preparations.
Ronnie had to organise a three-day speech-training workshop to come up with a unified diction from everyone.
“I want them to sound like they come from one place except the two characters who play the Goths and Adelaide… After that, we conducted on-line rehearsals. We haven’t been doing plays of this nature for quite some time. That is why I found the Belgian play exciting and interesting to do”.
He mobilised, grouped his team and delineated tasks: animation, editing, music, creative, costume, and props teams.
During the rehearsals, the animation team started designing the animated backgrounds based on the scenes and storyboard. Song arrangements, rehearsals and recording were done afterwards.
“The pandemic cannot stop artists to create. We always find ways to cope and deliver our creative outputs. Teatro Europa provided a venue for artists to still practice their craft despite the pandemic”.
The play from Belgium has a very universal theme that Filipinos can easily relate with. It talks about good leadership, war, kindness and respect for elders, he said.
Roda Dizon, an artist and member of the editing/animation committee, said that being immersed in the play was fun and interesting.
The rehearsals were mostly executed online but the rest was face to face. Roda had to convince her parents to allow her to go on location but they all succeeded in staging the play smoothly even with a tight schedule and low budget.
Roda said that the learning was fun and that going out of their comfort zones, especially when meeting new people, helps improve their work.
Meanwhile, the cast of University of San Agustin Iloilo adapted the play “Snow” by Stanislaw Przybyszewskito to suit the present time. The play revolves around the past love winning over an established marriage. This is highly realistic considering that currently many Filipino spouses are working abroad.
Teatro Europa is an opportunity to understand and appreciate other cultures through outstanding European literary masterpieces. More than identifying what separates us, the artists discovered their common humanity as they were able to empathize with the struggles of the characters from forces outside and within.
Angel Depol, who played Snow or the automated assistant in the play, said that the Teatro Europa experience made her learn a few more things about the European culture.
From trying to pronounce the language, studying the literature and symbolism, and some interesting facts of the country's history based on the play, all these inspired us more to be creative in our performance while utilizing online streaming, she said.
Anthea Dulfo, acting as Bea, said that rehearsing and preparing for the play were not too easy.
“We had to adjust with the current situation of not getting into close contact with other people, which made us realize and acknowledge the limitations we have”, Renz Isiah Inquit, who played Ted, said.
“Truly ironic - we are trapped in the comfort of our homes yet the safety and security it brings comes with the limitations that follow”, Renz said referring to the difficulties, they surmounted.
“However, despite the challenges we faced as actors, it's a joy to see that we were able to push through…passion and perseverance have kept us going”, Renz said.