By DAWN PENA
With a steampunk musical starring theater veteran Monique Wilson as Apolinario Mabini and Mark Twain’s character played by an actor dressed in drag, Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) continues to push the envelope with its productions on its 33rd year.
On its crusade to provide its audience with productions that reflect the times and show love for our motherland, who is battling different kinds of political, social, cultural, and environmental wars today, TP launches the fourth run of its highly acclaimed steampunk musical, Dr. Nicanor Tiongson’s Mabining Mandirigma.
In a conference held yesterday, July 24, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Silangan Hall, the CCP resident theater company opens its 33rd season with the Gawad Buhay Outstanding Musical Mabining Mandirigma. The musical, which tackles the life of Filipino hero Apolinario Mabini, is also CCP’s 50th anniversary offering.
Tanghalang Pilipino’s Artistic Director Nanding Josef explains that the theme for this season is ‘Pakikidigma’. All four productions slated to run until early 2020 will have narratives that focus on fighting injustice, feudalism, poverty, and cultural imperialism.
With CCP Artistic Director Chris Millado at the helm of the production, Mabining Mandirigma will explore the essence of the Filipino word ‘mabini’ which means ‘genteel’ or ‘gentle’, but will also reveal the hero’s militancy that does not seem to be implicit in the often-used description ‘sublime paralytic’. The show will also highlight how human integrity and love of country are the noblest goals, and therefore, the biggest challenge to all Filipinos who commit to loving and serving others.
Theater veteran and One Billion Rising director Monique Wilson goes back to the Tanghalang Pilipino stage as she plays the titular character of Apolinario Mabini. She was last seen at the TP stage as Maria Clara in the musical adaptation of Noli Me Tangere in 1995.
She states, “Eto siguro yung pinaka-role na talagang nagko-combine ng activism at artistry.” Wilson also shared that it is a fulfillment of a life’s dream to be part of an innovative, dynamic, progressive, radically creative, and deeply revolutionary musical.
When asked about what made her take on a Filipino speaking role after years of working on English musicals and plays, Wilson said “Mahirap po talaga, pati yung pag-iisip no? Iba siya. Buti nalang sa mahabang panahon na 25 years, when I last did a Tanghalang Pilipino show, nakagawa na rin ako ng mga ibang mga palabas tulad ng Vagina Monologues in Filipino. At miyembro din ako ng Gabriela, kung saan dinadala nila ako sa mga Lumad communities at sa mga relocation sites. Siguro yung trabaho ko as an activist ang nagbigay sa akin din ng malaking confidence at inspirasyon na gumawa ng ganito kabigat at kalalim at ka-challenging na musical.”
“It is not only the deepest honor, but most profound duty, to be called to do what we can to contribute to creative resistance and to the awakening of political and social consciousness through art and theater, and to keep forwarding the revolution we are still fighting against imperialists and colonizers today,” she added.
New sound, new musical direction
Joining Millado and the team, Ejay Yatco is the new musical director to interpret Joed Balsamo’s compositions. He explains that the interplay between the historical and contemporary, “Our history added with a modern twist to resound with Filipino audiences especially the youth,” will make Mabining Mandirigma different from other musicals.
On how he managed to include the Western steampunk to a Filipino musical, Yatco said, “This musical what I noticed is it’s really a mix of traditional and contemporary. So even with the music, there are songs that are Kundiman, traditional songs, but there are also songs that are Fliptop Rap, so it’s like a hybrid. I never heard of a steampunk musical before this, so I think that composer Joed Balsamo might have invented a new genre, which is this. That’s why it’s unique, because there’s nothing like it.”
Through modern elements such as steampunk and fliptop rap, Mabining Mandirigma tells the story of Apolinario Mabini in a heartfelt and imaginative way while keeping the spirit of what it means to be a true Filipino hero.
Mabining Mandirigma, a Steampunk Musical, runs at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) from August 16 until September 1, 2019. For ticket reservations, group sales, and special performances please contact Tanghalang Pilipino: 0999 884 821, 0915 607 2275, or (02) 832 1125, local 1621.
Tickets are also available at the CCP Box Office, Ticket2mw, Bliimo, and all TicketWorld outlets. For more information, visit the TP Facebook page at http://facebook.com/tanghalangpilipino or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.