In today’s digital age, social media has fed a trend that has grown in leaps and bounds—trolling. Both the noun and the verb “troll” is now associated with Internet discourse and equated with the act of online harassment.
Trolling is thus used as a powerful tool in this day and age to divide people on important issues, one of which is Martial Law. Trolls in favor of this means of governance, which victimized many Filipinos on its declaration four decades ago on September 21, will defend and trivialize its effects.
These in mind Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)—known to produce plays and musicales that are not only entertaining but also relevant to the times—is using its platform for a call to action among young people, to encourage them to look beyond “memes” and other online propaganda on critical issues like Martial Law. Titled “A Game of Trolls,” the new musical hopes to touch the youth “so they will learn to treasure their freedom, which was fought with blood and tears by their elders.”
A Game of Trolls—a title obviously based on the hit American series “Game of Thrones”—is the story of Heck, a troll whose indifference makes him the perfect keyboard warrior for Bimbam, the manager of a ‘troll center’ that runs an online pro-Martial Law campaign. Heck’s lack of attachment to any belief makes him an easy target to join the campaign. He can unleash any sentiment without knowing the history and consequences of the issue.
Ghosts of Martial Law victims soon haunt him from the Internet cloud, where they fear being erased as people slowly forget their stories. The encounters forces Heck to reflect on his own beliefs and his relationship with his mother, a former Martial Law activist.
The musical’s cast includes Myke Salomon, TJ Valderama, Upeng Galang-Fernandez, Gail Guanlao-Billones, Vince Lim, Gold Villar-Lim, Lemuel Silvestre, Joseph Madriaga, Kiki Baento, Gilbert Onida, John Moran, Juan Miguel Severo, Norbs Portales, Roi Calilong, Jasper Jimenez, Ada Tayao, Lea Espallardo, Icee Po, Nieves Reyes,Dan Cabrera, Jason Barcial and Justin Castillo.
“Frustrating and darn infuriating. That’s how it feels to read trolls’ comments. Having been part of a community that I thought was making strides toward a just and humane society, it felt like going back to medieval times, and we’re struggling all over again. That’s why this play has been one of the most painful pieces I’ve written,” the musical’s writer Liza Magtoto told members of the press during its launch.
“As theater artists, we have to expose them for what they are. We decided to use a troll for our character to connect to this generation. He will also connect all the elements needed to tell the story about martial law,” she added.
According to Magtoto, the selection of data was a challenge in showing the heavy subject of Martial Law in such a manner. Unlike what trolls usually do—swarm a social media user with personal attacks—they had to push the arguments and substantiate some statements with data.
“This would probably make the trolls in this play less rude and less harmful. There’s so much to cover—how trolls revise history, drive people to fear, make grave threats. We couldn’t develop each of those so we had to make choices for this story. It is just but one game of trolls, which is probably why we say it’s A Game of Trolls. So with that, we hope that the youth will be enlightened with the truth in the issue of Martial Law and online trolling,” Magtoto ended.
A Game of Trolls is directed by PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda with music by Vincent De Jesus. The musical runs for the whole month of September at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.