Ateneo Fine Arts scores big at the Asia-Pacific Theater Schools Festival
Poster prepared for the APB Festival.
Ateneo Fine Arts entry My Friend Has Come wins accolades; Professor Ricky Abad elected APB Vice-President
My Friend Has Come, a Filipino-Japanese intercultural production about the sweetness and pain of connecting with another human being, won critical acclaim at the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Bond (APB) of Theater Schools Festival held at the National School of Drama in New Delhi on October 19-26, 2016. The production, directed by Ricardo Abad with music composed and played by Hiroko Nagai, was this year’s festival entry of the Department of Fine Arts, a member school since 2007.
The Ateneo team to the Asia-Pacific Theater Schools Festival
Ricky Abad poses beside the sign that features the logos of different APB member schools.
My Friend Has Come, produced by Ikarus Productions, was initially shown at DITO: Bahay ng Sining in Marikina in September 2014 before it was re-staged at the Ateneo in July 2015. Written by Japanese playwright Suzue Toshiro, the play focuses on two friends, one living and one dead, who struggle to re-establish a bond left unfulfilled since their high school days. The process of bonding proves to be onerous: the living friend, remaining in the real world, cannot conceive of a friendship with a non-living person while the dead friend has great difficulty expressing the real reason why he came to revisit his high school pal. How they overcome these obstacles is the narrative line of the play. Written with spare lines that are rich in symbolisms and framed in a non-linear structure, the play is a challenge for actors who must draw tremendous inner resources to convey the emotional power of the text.
Ricky Abad coaching his two actors, Miguel Almendras and Sky Abundo, in a climactic scene from My Friend Has Come.
The visiting friend, Miguel Almendras, tries hard to explain to his former classmate, Sky Abundo, what it feels like to feel alone in school.
Local critics gave the production high praise and the Aliw Awards named it a finalist for Best Non-Musical Production and Best Acting Ensemble in 2015.
The raves continued in New Delhi. The two actors, Sky Abundo and Miguel Almendras, both Tanghalang Ateneo-bred, were admired for their sensitivity and physicality. Most lauded, however, was the seamless fusing of performance and production. Not one element of the performance dominated the show. Instead, the acting was organically aligned to the live koto music (played by Hiroko Nagai and Harold Santos), the lights (designed by Daniel Cortezano) and the sounds (designed by Reamur David). Taken together, these elements yielded a highly thoughtful and moving experience for the international audience.
Another scene from My Friend Has Come.
The two lead actors in My Friend Has Come.
The production, said one Indian director, was “simple in appearance but deep in its emotional impact. The set and lines may have been spare and the lighting design virtually colorless, but the total effect, ably supported by the scintillating koto music and the punctuation of sound effects, was mesmerizing to the audience. “You are drawn to the play little by little,” commented one student, “and as you get through the final scenes, the ideas of the play start to connect until you are drawn to the final revelations between the two friends.” “I went to my room after the play and cried,” admitted another student whose best friend died recently.
Hiroko Nagai and Harold Santos play live koto music in My Friend Has Come.
Koto and Philippine music received special attention in two workshops held before and after the performance. Hiroko Nagai and Harold Santos took turns giving a lecture-demonstrations on the koto and traditional Filipino music. Well-liked by the workshop participants was a hands-on experience on Cordillera rhythmic patterns using drums provided by the National School of Drama. This workshop was among a dozen others given by experts from different schools. The workshop topics ranged from improvisations to Sufi music, classical Indian singing and Malaysian traditional forms.
Hiroko Nagai and Ricky Abad, two of the creative forces behind the production of My Friend Has Come.
Meanwhile, the directors of theater schools comprising the policy and decision-making group of the APB elected its officers for the next two years. Elected President was Dr. Wahman Kendre, Director of the National School of Drama, the host of this year’s festival, while Dr. Ricardo Abad of the Ateneo de Manila University was named Vice-President.
Wahman Kendre, NSD Director and elected APB President greets Ricardo Abad, the body’s new Vice-President.
Chosen as Director of the Secretariat was Dr. Gong Barong of the Shanghai Theater Academy. All three officers will spearhead APB activities that will lead to the 2017 Festival in Shanghai, China and the 2018 Festival in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. They will be supported by an Advisory Board consisting of representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, and Tehran. More theater collaborations between schools top the list of APB priorities in the coming years.
APB Directors and Faculty of Theater Schools pose for a group shot at the National School of Drama campus.
The participation of Ateneo Fine Arts in the 2016 APB Festival received support from the Japan Foundation and a Loyola Schools Internalization Grant from the Office of University and Global Relations, Ateneo de Manila University.
The student delegates to the 9th APB Theater Festival gather for a group shot after a Student Forum session.
Photos courtesy of Reamur David, Christine Chung, Irwin Arenas, and Yuriko Hyodo