Some people may consider William Shakespeare to be an outdated writer whose Elizabethan language is archaic. But what many do not know is that his stories of love (Romeo and Juliet), ambition (Hamlet), morality (King Lear), and greed (King Henry IV) transcend time and are still relevant today. Surprisingly, The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last known work alone, can apply to the Philippines.
The Tempest tells the story of Prospero, a sorcerer who conjures a storm to bring his usurping brother Antonio and King Alonso of Naples to a remote island, with the aim to restore his daughter Miranda’s rightful place using illusion and manipulation. And when we speak of a tempest in the Philippine setting, we remember Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), considered as the strongest storm recorded at landfall, washing away more than 6,000 lives in 2013. It’s a story that we’re still recovering from.
The story of The Tempest and Typhoon Yolanda echo and intersect with each other, and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) hopes to tell the stories of survivors through the eyes of Shakespeare with The Tempest Reimagined, a landmark collaboration between PETA, the British Council, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), and the Japan Foundation.
The play also comes out in time for the Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, a special time marked by performances, interpretations, studies, and retrospectives.
PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined combines Shakespeare’s play with the story of Yolanda survivors. And what’s beautiful about this is that the theater group immersed themselves in the experience. Within the year of Yolanda, PETA’s actors and theater workers were in Tacloban for their counseling program and cultural campaign Lingap Sining. They collaborated with the Palo Cultural Arts Association (PCAO) to teach community disaster risk reduction management and psychosocial support. Yeyin dela Cruz, the actress who will play Miranda, spent two years there, while director Nona Sheppard, a British national, flew there to personally hear the survivors’ stories.
The result? A very personal and first-person account that is sure to touch the hearts of viewers. In fact, many of the lines uttered in the play are the same exact lines they heard from survivors.
The use of the survivors’ words answers the play’s need to overcome and learn from the horrific Yolanda experience. It serves as a tribute to both Shakespeare and the survivors, in the hope that we truly understand their stories and use art to heal.
PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined is directed by Sheppard and co-written by Sheppard and Liza Magtoto. It stars CB Garrucho as Prospero; dela Cruz as Miranda; Neomi Gonzales, Gab Pangilinan, Gio Gahol, and Ian Segarra as Ariel; John Moran as Caliban and God 1; Jenny Jamora as Alonsa, Alina, and Jenny; Meann Espinosa as Sebastiana and Edith; Renante Bustamante as Antonio and Diego; Bodjie Pascua and Gabe Mercado as Gonzalo and Tatay; Topper Fabregas as Trinculo, Adrian, Master, and God 3; Jack Yabut as Boatswain and God 2; and Norbs Portales as Jaime.
For the artistic staff, Marsha Roddy is the production designer, Tsuguo Izumi is the lighting designer, Teresa Barrozo is the sound designer, and Robin Aronson is the vocal coach.
PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined will be staged from November 11 to December 4, Wednesdays to Sundays, with 10am, 3pm, and 8pm shows at the PETA Theater Center located at No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. For tickets and reservations, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.