Building Audiences for Phil Theater
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
Speaking during the press launch for the 4th National Theater festival, TRUMPETS founder Audie Gemora hopes for the day that theater will be appreciated by a bigger audience in the Philippines, “My dream is if we can bring the ticket prices to a lower level na almost presyo na siya ng sinehan. Movies now cost 300 bucks right? If we can bring ticket prices to that level and something like a network could show it to the masa. They will acquire a taste for it.”
The 4th National Theater Festival brings together productions from around the country. It will run from November 7-18, 2012 at the CCP. While theater is still an acquired taste for the great majority of audiences, there are signs that it is growing.
Some companies have even been able to invest in theater according to Gemora, “I think Resort’s World is thinking of constructing a 3,000-seater so they can bring down the ticket prices. Precisely to catch an audience that wouldn’t otherwise go into what is considered as an elitist form of entertainment.” After a successful run of “Sound Of Music” last year Resort’s World decided to produce “The King and I” with Leo Valdes and Monique Wilson. Since audience and ticket sales have also been stellar, the original schedule of September has been extended to December 30.
Theater has its advantages on how it can draw more spectators, “There’s nothing like live. Once they acquire that mabubuhay talaga ang theater natin dito. I dream for that. I think the day is very very near.” Gemora will be directing Joy Virata for the play “Mind’s Eye.” He is also currently directing “Camp Rock” for Repertory Phil.
Apart from different shows from theater groups from around the country there will also be a forum to talk about how to develop theater by practitioners and academicians. The fest includes theater groups such as: Mindanao State University Kabpapagariya Ensemble, Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation Inc., Bohol Antequera and Maribojoc Cultural Collectives, Teatro Bol-Anon , Carlos Celdran, Dulaang U.P., Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Integrated Performing Arts Guild, PETA, Sipat Lawin Ensemble, Tanghalang Ateneo, The Xavier Stageof Cagayan de Oro and Trumpets Inc. There will also be special performances by Kanlaon Theater Guild of Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod, SPIT (Silly People’s Improv Theater) and ventriloquists Ony Carcamoand Wanlu.
Tanghalang Pilipino Artistic Director Nanding Josef talked about the origins of the previous National Theater Festivals also in the CCP. According to him it started in 1992 when the CCP’s Dramatic Arts Division needed to touch base with different theater groups all over the country. He said, “Eto yung sinimulang tulungan ng PETA in the 70’s, 80’s at tinulungan din ng CCP outreach division. After the EDSA revolution na yung mga tumulong sa PETA ay nandito na rin sina Dr. Tiongson sina Mrs. Bing Roxas.”
The very first fest back in 1992 was graced by Nora Aunor, “May rituals na ginawa para sa tubig para sa hangin. Pagkatapos sa apoy. Meron kaming na kuhang chanter na imbitahan namin. 94 years old yata si Lola Elena na galing sa Panay mountains nagchachant ng hinilaud. Nagchant siya dito kumanta si Ate Guy ‘Pagibig sa Tinubuang Lupa’.”