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Balagtas’s ‘Orosman at Zafira’ at the 4th National Theater Fest


Dulaang UP, the university-based theater company that was established by Tony Mabesa in 1976 will restage Balagtas’ ‘Orosman at Zafira’ (OZ) on Saturday, November 17, 8pm and Sunday, November 18, 3pm for the 4th National Theater Festival at Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.

Dexter Santos, the choreographer and director of the said production has this to say about indigenizing the piece of Balagtas and making it attractive to the young audience of this day and age, “In a theater culture where Filipino classical and new works are seldom mounted, I believe that it is the responsibility of a theater artist to re-introduce classical works that is a part of our history culture and heritage.

Komedya, revitalized.

“My vision is to revitalize the komedya in an alternative production so that the audience of today would be able to appreciate it. I have considered the short attention span of the young audience and their exposure to television, technology and Hollywood films. Thus, it is my mission to come up with a production that would reintroduce Baltazar and his work but give them a new theatrical experience they would never encounter from other forms of mass media.”

Santos added, that in the original and complete text of Baltazar’s ‘OZ’, he eliminated the religious conflicts found in the conventional komedya text.

“Instead we discovered that the author was indeed a revolutionary writer. We found new and essential themes of love, power, feminism and war.

“His characters were more realistic and psychological. I, together with the dramaturgy team edited, adapted the text, and eliminated scenes and characters to create a narrative that would revolve and focus more on Baltazar’s recurring themes .”

In the traditional komedya, it boasts of rich theatrical conventions. Instead of eliminating those, Santos took it to another level by revitalizing it. He integrated various aspects of indigenous Filipino tribes, rituals, signs, symbols, dances, and practices.

Reinventions integrated in OZ

The following reinvention of komedya conventions integrated in the production are :

  • The marcha and curacha played by the brass band was substituted with a trans-world-dance-fusion-music played by a live indigenous/rock band.
  • The marcha used in the prologue and batalla based on the paso doble used in the conventional war scenes was substituted with contemporary dances abstracted from indigenous Filpino rituals and dances.
  • The poetic delivery of dicho was reinvented with realistic delivery present in modern acting. Some monologues were tranformed into songs similar to a modern musical.
  • Bright colors and color-coded medieval costumes was reinvented with the use of indigenous Filipino silhouettes, color and patterns.
  • The loa (presentation of characters ) was substituted with a central character of the play who served as the play’s narrator.

Its Mission and Vision for OZ

OZ, according to Santos, must be a performance that would pay homage to Baltazar and his work.

“Revitalize and reinvent existing komedya conventions.

“Emphasize on the universal themes of love, power war and feminism; showcase Filipino culture rather than conventional medieval European settings and use modern staging techniques that would make the young Filipino audience be engaged in the show.”

When asked to differentiate Balagtas style of writing a romantic story, and if this would be a git in mainstream teleplay, he was quick to reply, “Well, almost no difference with any Western theme of a love story.

“It can also be seen like ‘Florante at Laura, which has criticisms that it was inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Balagtas’ lines, though, is a Filipino classic awit. The structure of forming the poetic lines, measure and rhymes, which makes it different from the iambics of Shakespeare.

“The theme of the story would most probably hit the mainstream. Come to think of it, the teleserye’s nowadays can still be patterned with Shakespeare’s most popular formula of a love story.

“The political motif of this Balagtas story will even heighten its popularity. think ‘Pangako sa’Yo’ and its character, Amor Powers. These themes made the story adjust to the taste of the popular audience and made the play sensible to the issues of the ‘now’. Balagtas’ works present confrontation between good and evil that provoke a deeply emotional outpouring of audience sentiment. These same formulas are still present in our teleseryes.”

The scenes are suspenseful and plot contrived. With this run, the old cast are being joined by new ones. Reprising his role as Orosman is Jerson Lafuente so as Delphine Buencamino as Zafira. Other actors in the cast are: Roeder Camañag as Abdalap, Jean Judith Javier as Gulnara, Tao Aves as Zelima, Vance Kierwin Larena as Zelim, Frederick Hipol III as Aldervesin, Nazer Salcedo and Enrique Ibe as Boulasem, Ronnie Martinez as Ben Asar, Neil Ericson Tolentino as Mahamud, and other ensemble actors.

The 4th National Theater Festival with its theme: ‘Ika-Apat na Tagpo, Ang Bagong Yugto: The New Act’ is spearheaded and organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. For more information, please call the NTF Secretariat at (632) 8322314 and visit CCP’s official website – www.culturalcenter.gov.ph.

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