TA’s Sintang Dalisay garners 7 medals in the 3rd Vietnam International Experimental Theater Festival
Sintang Dalisay, Tanghalang Ateneo’s acclaimed rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the Sama-Bajau dance tradition, bagged seven medals in the recently concluded 3rd Vietnam International Experimental Theater Festival held from October 11-20 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The production, staged with only six actors and three musicians, won a silver medal for production, five gold medals for acting, and a gold medal for sound and music design. Kalil Almonte and Natasha Tañada, playing the star-crossed lovers Rashiddin and Jamila, earned gold medals for their performances, while Charles Yee, Jacinda Lopez, and Joe-Nel Garcia received silver medals for their portrayals. Pedro Abraham, Jr. also won a gold for sound and music design, an award he shared with his two musicians, Jayson Gildore and Dan Liamco. Abraham was also chosen to deliver a message of appreciation on behalf of the international delegates.
Sintang Dalisay won the hearts of the predominantly Vietnamese audience when it was shown at the renovated Dai Man Theater in downtown Hanoi. Though the play was in Filipino, audiences laughed at the play’s comic moments, applauded the dramatic scenes, and merrily danced the igal in the closing moments of the show. Members of the audience enjoyed the pace and energy of the production and the seamless unity of performance and production elements. A Panamanian director and choreographer said he was impressed with the ease in which the actors combined dance and speech and how the movements conveyed so much emotion that language was not a barrier to appreciate the play. Similar comments were expressed by the Greek, French, and Chinese directors who admired the ensemble quality of the production, the versatility of the performers, and the social commentary evoked by references to clan wars.
Other members of the audience, however, saw Sintang Dalisay as a traditional play, an example of folk theater in the Philippines, and hence not experimental enough to grab the gold. Little did they know perhaps that the movements were innovations drawn from the igal dance tradition of the Sama Bajau since no codification of the movements is available to render the dance for theatrical purposes. The production is thus not traditional but a reinvention of the traditional.
But all that is water under the bridge. The production did receive critical praise, brought tremendous goodwill with the Vietnamese and other international theater artists, and earned an invitation for Tanghalang Ateneo to join the 4th International Festival in 2019.
Invitations do not come easy, however. Forty nations, we were told, applied to join the 2016 Hanoi Festival. Of these, only seven countries, including the Philippines, were chosen to participate in the event on the basis of production videos submitted to the Vietnam Stage Artists Association, a government body under Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture. These seven countries plus Vietnam (which presented six of their productions) competed for medals in the competition. The Philippines joined Panama and Germany for silver honors, while Japan, China, and Vietnam shared the gold.
Everyone, however, was a winner as far as local hospitality was concerned. The Vietnamese people, said the President of the Vietnamese Stage Artists Association in his opening speech, “treat its visitors like gods.” And so, from hotel arrangements, food, local transportation, and many gestures of care, especially from the volunteer guides, all international delegates received first-rate hospitality from their Vietnamese hosts.
Ricardo Abad, director of Sintang Dalisay, headed the Philippine delegation, supported by Matthew Santamaria, choreographer and Associate Director, Pedro Abraham, Jr, the music and sound designer, and Meliton Roxas, Jr., Lights Designer and Technical Director. The acting team members were Kalil Almonte, Natasha Tañada, Charles Yee, Jacinda Lopez, Angelique Basa, and Joe-Nel Garcia. The musicians’ pool included Jayson Gildore and Dan Liamco., while the super-efficient Rachel Panotes served as the Stage Manager. John Mark Yap designed the poster for the event.
Three representatives from the Philippine Embassy in Hanoi watched the show and expressed much delight at witnessing the beauty of Filipino cultural traditions performed on the international stage. In return, the Ateneo team trooped to the Philippine Embassy and paid a courtesy visit to Ambassador Noel Servigon who welcomed the Filipino artists and exchanged ideas on cultural exchange between the Philippines and Vietnam. The Ambassador has two sons enrolled at the Ateneo.
The international touring version of Sintang Dalisay, such as the one performed in Vietnam, will run at the Rizal Min-Theater from December 9 to 11 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. By then, Sintang Dalisay will have exceeded 60 performances since it opened at the Loyola Schools in 2011. The production won a COA Award for Best Project in 2011 and an Aliw Award for Best Production in 2012.