14 April 2006

UNESCO-ITI World Congress

March 27 was World Theater Day. The day has been celebrated all over the world since 1962 by a hundred countries, members of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), an NGO associated with UNESCO.

The Philippines celebrated World Theater Day by staging a sneak preview of the New York-bound sarswela Something to Crow About, by Philippine Star columnist and National Artist Alejandro Roces, featuring the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music and the Earthsavers DREAMS Ensemble, at the Emilio Aguinaldo College Auditorium, under the direction of Cecile Guidote Alvarez.

In May, the 31st UNESCO-ITI World Congress and Theatre Olympics of the Nations will be held in the Philippines, sponsored by several government agencies and private organizations, led by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine Center of International PEN.

UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura leads a roster of distinguished world leaders and international theater artists (which include current and former heads of state, royalty, and Nobel laureates) who are invited to attend the Congress. Some 26 shows (most of them involving foreign performers) are scheduled for the last week of May at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The event includes several components, among them a World Congress, a Leaders Forum, a World Festival of Drama Schools, colloquia or symposia, theatre shows, an indigenous people’s showcase, a cinema fest, committee and project group meetings, and exhibits.

The entire event has for its theme “Ancestral Roots to New Routes of Artistic Expression: Mobilizing Cultural Diversity to Achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.”

Plenary and small group discussions will be held at the Manila Hotel. Shows will be held primarily at the CCP, with various Philippine theater companies staging shows in their own venues for the benefit of the visiting foreign artists and media. Drama schools around the country are hosting foreign performers for workshops and cooperative productions.

This is the first time the ITI event will be held in the Philippines. The performances are open to the public, but since seats are limited, interested parties should buy tickets at the CCP (or from the various theater groups) as soon as possible.

Here is a partial list of professional theater shows scheduled on the last week of May at CCP: Acteal (Mexico), Antigone (Lithuania), Binodini (Bangladesh), Circular Ruins (ITI), The First Man (Romania), Last Night (Lithuania), Last Night (Morocco), Los Maloleñas (RP), No Return (Finland), Panakayon sa Panalublion (RP), Panata sa Kalayaan (RP), Paris and Alexander (Greece, RP), Peregrinasyon (Australia, RP), Pilak (RP), Prison (Greece), Realizing Rama (ASEAN), The Saga of Gudridur (Iceland), The Second Will (Armenia), Shooting the Boys (RP), Tagore (Bangladesh), Taya (RP), Three Sisters in Distress (Burkina Faso), Unicornios (Peru), Unravel Noh (Japan, RP), and The Voyage Project (Hungary, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia, USA). (The Philippine Star, 30 March 2006)

On May 25, as part of the UNESCO-ITI Theatre Olympics of the Nations, The Voyage Project will be staged at the CCP. The show features professional performers from Hungary, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and the United States.

Here is a portion of Peter Goldfarb’s notes on the production:

“The theme of Voyage or Journey is perhaps the most central and abiding of all dramatic and literary motifs; its meanings and definitions myriad, vast, nearly infinite. The theme is embraced by all the seminal works of the Eastern and Western worlds – the Odyssey, the Holy Grail, the Ramayana, the Arabian Nights, and countless others. What these stories have in common is that they all reflect aspects of the human condition and embody aspirations, triumphs, and sufferings that are universally recognized.

"Certainly they have changed and diversified over the centuries as each age has seized on them and restated the themes for their particular time. But whatever the temporal and cultural permutations may have been, the essential metaphor has remained unchanged – that of the journey through life with its confrontations and overcoming of obstacles, its triumphs and its transformations. Thus was born the idea of bringing together a group of young actors, each from a country which has undergone significant political or cultural changes.

"Rooted in their personal life experience and working through songs, stories, poems, and dreams, we would then go in search of the collective and/or individual stories for our time. Geographically our voyage took us first in June of 2001 to the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania. After a month hiatus, we met again in Cividale, the ancient mediaeval town in Northern Italy.

“As the actors recounted the legends and personal stories I had asked them to gather and as the shapes and contours and rhythms of the piece began to emerge, I experienced a powerful confirmation of the intuition that had guided me to undertake The Voyage Project in the first place: that our personal stories contain within them the seeds of transformation both for the teller and the listener and that if, together with the old stories, we can simply learn to listen, then perhaps we will not continue to make the same mistakes over and over again throughout history.

“We met again the following year in Sibiu but, this time, to give our first full performance in an ancient fortress in the hills above the town. In the ensuing time, 9/11 had occurred and a young American actor joined the ensemble to recount his first hand experience of this harrowing event. Due in part to our success in Sibiu, we were subsequently invited to perform in 2003 for the entire period of the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. This time the continued escalation of the situation in the Middle East prompted me to add yet another participant, an Israeli who speaks of his experience in the Army during the first Intifada.

“The message carried by the young voices of The Voyage Project has become all the more relevant and all the more poignant. Over the tragic din of conflict, they resonate as youthful testimonies of compassion which, in their intensely unique and personal way, pay homage to the human spirit and shine a beacon of hope on the essential wonder and value of being alive.” (The Philippine Star, 6 April 2006)

On May 26, as part of the Theatre Olympics of the Nations, the Viirus theatre company of Finland will present its highly acclaimed production of No Return, a play loosely based on Kafka. Here are excerpts from a review by Kirsikka Moring of the October 2005 production of the play:

“Viirus’s No Return is a splendid actor’s performance, which trusts in the ability of the spectator to imagine. All are invited – to the stage of death. Viirus’s No Return exploits all aspects of the theatre of death, but the colors are not black, nor does the music follow the score of a funerary procession. The Lithuanian composer Martynas Bialobzekis has created a musical world to the show which revels in light and joy! What an ecstatic happiness the train passengers radiate, as they travel through the pink side-scene. After all, they do not know their terminus, as we in the stands do. The performers bring to mind the dramatic troupes of the concentration camps and Stalin’s prison camps. As long as you perform you survive. And they just continue, continue.

“The Lithuanian director Cezaris has chosen themes from Amerika and Kafka’s short story A Fratricide. During the rehearsal process the final dramatization has been born out of the improvisations of the performers, resulting in a drama which repeats and alters the themes. On an empty stage, with an upliftingly light and expressively rich pantomime they tell the story of the actors. The divine music of the angelic bassoons beckons higher and higher, and for the sake of being an artist they run up the spiral staircase to the heights, always running and running. Hurrying to the train. The fine ensemble of Viirus – Robert Enckell, Dick Idman, Marika Parkkomäki, Jerry Wahlfors, Joanna Wingren and Tobias Zilliacus – exploit their journey to the full. They attune us to an intense game of theatre, in which imagining takes central stage. By the dramaturgy they repeat each other’s phrases as their own, inspired by a common experience; and as true actors they compete audaciously for the attention of the public.

“The theatre is locked. We have all been confined into a common room to experience the same. The troupe captures us, their spectators, into an experience in which the transcendental drama of bliss and joy is transformed into ultimate horror, increasing by the moment. The second act of the performance makes death tangible. With an increasing pace the murder of the clerk Wese is told, as the circumstances are described and the details of the event are disputed. The actors argue, experiment, run to their stations in different emotions. Time and time again they repeat the events to assure the correct description of them, to stay alive.” (The Philippine Star, 13 April 2006)

On May 23, as part of the Theatre Olympics of the Nations at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Armenia will present The Second Will. Here is the description of the play sent by the director:

“Here are two sisters, two illogically opposite characters. One of them has given herself to men and pleasure, and the other is forever isolated.

“Ten years have passed since the day they separated, when the elder sister left the motherland, swearing never to be back. She did not even go to their mother’s funeral. Their mother died in silence, without saying a word about the elder sister’s spiritual dereliction and indifference. The mother was sure that her younger daughter would just organize the funeral and nothing more, with no feelings.

“Suddenly, seven years after her death, the mother’s second will appears. It changes everything, and even for a very short time and with some mystery, it makes the elder sister return to her motherland.

“The memories are unavoidable. The sisters relive their story, turning their lives into a living hell. Only the mother’s second will makes them reconsider their past and future.” (The Philippine Star, 27 April 2006)


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Izzy said...

We actors don't get a lot of Theatre (Professional) till we get "really" famous - but we live and breathe our Theatre (Professional) regardless. Theatre (Professional)
Like your blog :o)