Theater community honors playwright, academician
Josphine Bracken, Katerina Alonso and Marjorie. Three different women from different eras—the first a historical figure and the two others fictional characters—whose lives, struggles, triumphs and loves were written for the stage by award-winning and critically acclaimed playwright Dr. Isagani Cruz.
To remember three of the writer’s most revered heroines and the dramas in which they came to life, the De La Salle University’s (DLSU) College of Liberal Arts under the Department of Literature, held a production titled Staging Isagani R. Cruz that saw abridged performances of Josephine, Kuwadro and Marjorie.
Dulaang UP staged excerpts from Josephine, under the helm of the theater group’s artistic director Dr. Alexander Cortez, which depicts how Bracken through Manuela Orlac found her way to Dapitan in search of Jose Rizal, who would later on cure her father’s impending blindness. More than this, the play also shows how Josephine found her true love in the man who would become the Philippines’ national hero.
Kuwadro featured monologues of theater actress She Maala under the direction of Em Mendez. She portrayed Katerina Alonso, a beautiful, talented and revered sarsuwelista whose star was fading from the birth of the vaudeville.
Marjorie, as staged by the Harlequin Theater Group under the direction of Raffy Tejada, showed a more modern setting in the1990s. It follows the story of a Filipina balikbayan who develops an affair with her best friend’s husband, despite the fact that she herself has a family back in the United States. The play is a study on how modern society views adultery by women.
After the restaging of the three dramas, a roundtable discussion followed led by veteran thespian Antonio Mabesa, who is also professor emeritus at the Department of Speech Communications and Theater Arts at the University of the Philippines. More notably, he was also the first director to ever stage Cruz’ early plays.
“Isagani Cruz is one of my favorite Filipino playwrights. And it is my honor and pleasure to have conceptualized and directed the premiere productions of four of his major plays,” shared Mabesa.
These are Josephine in 1978 in UP, Ang Kuwadro at the Manila Metropolitan Theater in April 1980, Marjorie at the Philippine National Bank head office in Escolta in June 1980, and the musical Ms. Philippines again in UP.
In all four productions, Mabesa confirmed that Cruz’s plays are always “well-crafted, painstakingly researched and musically theatrical.”
The three main actresses who performed at the event also shared their experiences in playing the Cruz’ women. They said they not only felt honored to bring them to life but that that they were challenged to be thinking actresses in the process.
Also part of the roundtable discussion were Dr. Ronald Batyan of DLSU’s Literature department, as well as the directors and performers.
The event ended with the response of the honoree himself. Cruz personally thanked Mabesa for giving his plays a chance to be staged, and Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, founder of Philippine Educational Theater Association, who encouraged him to write plays from the very beginning.
Cruz, who is a professor emeritus and university fellow of DLSU, is also the president of The Manila Times College. The tribute to his works was held to celebrate National Literature Month in April.