For the love of theater: Happiness and Blood

Lots of change in the air. I got back in the swing of production with Sipat Lawin Ensemble‘s Battalia Royale, and managed to catch 9works Theatrical‘s’ You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

I. “Happiness Is” – 9 Works Theatrical’s You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

For those who followed the Charles M. Schultz Peanuts serial, with kids you want to pull away from screens, do catch You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful show, made of children’s thoughts on childhood, happiness, and a dash of “philosophy”. As someone raised on the Peanuts holiday specials, it was just the break I needed from the humdrum of work. As an adult, it’s easy to lose sight on what it means to be ‘happy’. You could see that the cast had fun with it, and the fun is contagious.

To see just what I mean, here’s that classic clip of Kristin Chenoweth’s “My New Philosophy” with the bows version of “Happiness” from the Tony Awards 2000. Promise, the Philippine cast is just as good.

You can still catch the last few shows this weekend – March 2-8pm, March 3-330pm & 8pm. Call 557-5860, 586-7105, 0917-554-5560, or email

II. “A Sacred Space for Violence” – Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Battalia Royale

It was through hell and high water that I made time to help with Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Battalia Royale. It has been worth it.

Inspired by the Japanese cult series, “Battle Royale”, the story follows a batch of hijacked high school kids then made to fight each other to the death in a deadly game. Only one survives and “wins” the game.

The impact on the Philippine audience was an afterthought – even amidst largely conservative views on sex and violence. While I knew that it would gain a “following”, I did not expect a craze, a clamor for the show. As of writing, tickets for the March run have sold out. I remain amazed, even shocked, at the demand.

In the performance, several scenes play out to accommodate a 40+ member cast. As a crew member I found the show in the audience.

It was the last show during it’s CCP run that I caught part of a phone conversation from one audience member, “You have to come over here!” He was urging in Tagalog, “They’re shooting each other! They’re dying! They’re making out! It’s bad-ass, man! SO BAD ASS!”

The show brings out the little monsters in all of us. On the last night of its CCP run, it seemed like one big monster was made out of the 900+ or so people who came out to watch. They even voted to kill off one student during halftime (on the first two shows, that student was spared), and gleefully clapped as he fell to the floor.

But there is no prize at stake, just the show.

Also consider: the student most popularly rooted for is Kakai, who lies and seduces her way to survival. In the confines of classrooms, offices, any group of friends, a Kakai-type would be “ahas” – a snake. A manipulative slut who stops at nothing to get what she wants. But in this game, she’s considered cool, a hero.

So why the craze? I suspect, in a society where it’s all the more important to represent the good and proper, this is the only show where you can let your demons out. After all, the blood is fake. The deaths only last for as long as the show. It’s become sacred space to let it out, without any judgement.

Rage becomes the best weapon in this game. It can make something as basic as a bag of marbles into an instrument of murder. In the end, it’s what saves even the most peaceful and pacifist.

The show isn’t for the lighthearted. Watch if you dare.

For more information on Battalia Royale, check out their facebook.


Art as Conversation

My approach to art is to see if it works as a whole. I wasn’t wowed by Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo”, but I get it. If the only thing we see is a condom and a dildo over pictures of Jesus and Mary, then the criticism fails.

I overheard a colleague criticize Mideo Cruz’s work as being too controversial, because, “If this were a Middle Eastern country he’d be dead.” Yes, but then the rest of the world goes on to call them barbaric.

“Poleteismo” was shocking, but I wouldn’t say controversial because it is a slice of the real world. I thought what made it more disturbing for other people was the placement of pop culture posters right next to religious imagery. For those who thought it tasteless, I say they haven’t been inside a typical poorhouse where it’s not weird to see FHM posters are put up next to the Last Supper. It’s not about being sacrilegious to them. It’s just decor, it’s their aesthetic. Agree or disagree with it, it’s their concept of “maganda”.

As the debate on reproductive health rages on in the country: Do we also continue to deny that religion, Catholicism in particular, continues to meddle with what should be state issue of reproductive health? Review your facts. The symbolism of “Poleteismo” isn’t even that much of a stretch.

In the time I’ve spent with the arts, I have not seen any government or church body support or uphold a standard for art and aesthetic. I have seen a lot more toned down, even outright banned.

This is what agitates me most about the Mideo Cruz fiasco: why are we so concerned about what shouldn’t be seen, when we haven’t set the foundations for good, local art?

Recommended viewing: “Hamlet 2” by Andrew Fleming.

“It was stupid!” “Yes it was stupid, but it was also theater.”