TP stages family drama

A MUSICAL play which banners peace through the intertwining of conflicts in a folk tale, stark social realism, and a family drama is how Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) returns to the live stage for its 36th season.

After its online showcase of Doc Resurreccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan, TP is staging Anak Datu, a play based on a story by National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Imao., as the second offering of its 36th season. The play will run from Sept. 16 to Oct. 9, and is the maiden production at the newly built Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (Black Box Theater) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

The play includes music by a kulintang ensemble, experimental music by Chino Toledo, chanting and singing by some of the actors, as well as the dance styles from Mindanao and their martial arts tradition.

The story was written by Mr. Imao in 1968, before the birth of his first son Abdulmari “Toym” Imao de Leon, Jr.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Imao pitched the short story that his father wrote to Tanghalang Pilipino. According to Mr. Imao Jr., TP found the story interesting enough to be adapted into a full-length production. Since its staging was put on hold because of the pandemic, meetings via Zoom between Mr. Imao and the rest of the creative team saw the direction of the story evolve, until it was decided to adapted it into a straight play with music.

“Rather than just deal with the mythology, [playwright] Rody Vera intertwined the story of the Bangsamoro conflict and how the Moro people were affected in reference to the [Marcos] dictatorship. At the same time, he weaved our family’s story into it,” Mr. Imao Jr. told BusinessWorld during the opening of the artist’s exhibition at the Podium on Sept. 7.

Anak Datu is a story about the son of a village chieftain in the Sulu Archipelago in pre-colonial Philippines. Before he is born, the village is raided by pirates and his mother gives birth in captivity. The protagonist grows up believing that his father is a former pirate. When the old man dies, the son discovers the truth about his real father.

Award-winning veteran playwright Rody Vera’s stage adaptation of this short story sets it adjacent to other events in the history of Mindanao and the personal lives of Abdulmari Imao’s family.

The final version is being directed by former CCP Artistic Director and Vice-President Chris B. Millado who said that the story weaves together three layers of myth, memory, and history.

The myth is evident through the mythical story of Mr. Imao’s original text, memory with the inclusion of the Imao family’s story, and history through the lives of the Tausug community in the pre-colonial period.

“We started dealing with the adaptation of Rody Vera of the tale and a lot of documentary films about crucial events on the conflict in Mindanao. About the family, a lot of storytelling came from Toym [Imao] himself,” Mr. Millado told BusinessWorld over the weekend at Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte during the Cinemalay 18: Festival of Winners.

The play was originally planned as an immersive staging in various rooms but changed to traverse staging. “We will use traverse staging and our action moves like a flow, like a river,” Mr. Millado said.

Playing the young Abdulmari is TP Associate Artistic Director Marco Viaña. TP Artistic Director Fernando “Nanding” Josef plays Jibin Arula.

Other major roles are played by TP Actors Company senior members Antonette Go (Imao’s wife Grace de Leon), Lhorvie Nuevo (Putli Loling); TP guest artists Tex Ordoñez-de Leon (Putli Loling), and Carlos Dala (Binatang Karim/Toym Imao).

Also in the artistic staff is composer and musical director Chino Toledo. The show’s choreographer is young Maranao artist Hassanain Magarang of Sining Kambayoka who also plays the role of Datu Karim. Mr. Imao Jr. designed the sets, while the costume design is by John Carlo Pagunaling, sound design and engineering is by TJ Ramos, lighting by Katsch Catoy, and projection design by GA Fallarme.

For tickets contact 0915-607-2275 or e-mail tanghalangpilipinomarketing@gmail.com. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman