Filipino theater artists shouldn’t have to plead for support
By Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

DELA CRUZ. Iconic musical on her life deserves viewers’ encouragement.

Theater lovers cheer the fact that the country’s performing scene is enjoying a bumper crop of productions this year. Trouble is, around 80 percent of them involved visiting foreign acts, or are local stagings of “Broadway” or “West End” musicals created by foreign artists.

Some people see nothing wrong with that—after all, artistic activity should know no cultural or geographical limits, the important thing is to keep it in vigorous ferment.

Others believe that foreign acts are great, because we can “learn” a lot from being exposed to the best from all over the world.

In a perfect universe, that would seem to make sense. However, funding for the arts is limited in this country, so when 80 percent of it goes to support foreign acts and shows, look who’s holding the bag and scrounging  around for the loose change—the Filipino creative artist.

A case in point is the revival staging of the iconic Filipino musical, “Katy.” Another is the new production of the similarly acclaimed Filipino dance-drama-musicale, “Rama Hari.”

Both productions are acclaimed, and yet their producers have had to plead for the support from show buyers and sponsors that should, by rights, be theirs—because, when they approach sponsors, they’re told that most of the money available has been reserved for the “more popular” foreign acts and shows!

In our view, no country should reduce its artists to the status of medicants—it just isn’t right. We trust, therefore, that enlightened theater and arts lovers will go out of their way to mitigate this anomaly and give acclaimed Filipino productions like “Katy” and “Rama Hari” the financial support and encouragement they need to come into their own.

Some people argue that Filipino performers are in fact benefiting from local stagings of foreign musicals, because they’re performing in them. However, there’s a big difference between interpreting foreign writers and composers’ creations, and coming up with our own musicals—which is vastly more difficult and significant than merely mounting scripts and songs created elsewhere.

One key reason why we don’t have enough good Filipino musicals is the lack of support for them—so, we should hasten to correct the unfair situation, and boost the seminal effort to “tell our own stories, and sing our own songs.”

In the cases of “Katy” and “Rama Hari,” the disconnect is made more disturbing by the fact that, when they were first staged, they were acclaimed as iconic shows that did a lot to instil Filipinos’ pride in themselves.

Indeed, there are some respected theater artists and aficionados who recall that, the year it was first mounted, “Katy” was hailed as the best locally mounted production, even better than the foreign musicals staged at the time.

And there are major Filipino theater practitioners, acclaimed writers and directors in their own right, who believe that “Katy” is the best Filipino musical ever made!

You would think, therefore, that its revival staging would be encouraged, so that a new generation of Filipinos can experience the pride and self-worth that theater lovers felt in the late ’80s, when “Katy” was initially mounted to overwhelming acclaim at Rizal Theater and the CCP.

Well, there’s still time. We urge theater aficionados to contact “Katy’s” executive producers, Robert Seña and Carl Balita, at Spotlight Artists Centre (899-8089, 0922 898-6644) for performance and sponsorhip arrangements. We should all be in this together.

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