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The life of Rosa Henson is not relegated as mere tragedy but is celebrated in the play Nana Rosa for her bravery. As a war victim, she suffered immense pain from foreign soldiers and persecution from people judgemental of her character and history. And most agonizing was the conflict within her self. Peewee O’Hara starred in the play written by Rody Vera and directed by José Estrella.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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Fuente Ovejuna, written by Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, features the collective action of a whole town to murder their tyrant overlord. Here, the oppressed couple Frondoso (Tristan Bite) and Laurencia (Hariette Damole) listen to the tortured villagers as they withhold the names of the plotters of the murder. Instead, they unitedly testsify that “Fuente Ovejuna did it!”

This was staged by Dulaang UP, directed by Tony Mabesa.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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The Spanish setting of Federico Garcia Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) easily fits the Philippine social environment because of the common conservative Catholic experience.

Bernarda Alba (Frances Makil-Ignacio) torments her all-female household with her controlling nature, which is influenced by the prevailing repression against women.

This was staged by Dulaang UP, directed by Alexander Cortez.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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Both disturbing and emancipating, Nana Rosa is a play about the elderly Rosa Henson (1927–1997) coming out after four decades of silence regarding her ordeals as a comfort woman during the Pacific War.  The fight for acknowledgement of comfort women continues to this day in East and Southeast Asian countries. The play is written by Rody Vera and the premiere is directed by José Estrella for UP Playwrights’ Theatre.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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Nearly a year ago, Dulaang UP staged the premiere of Angry Christ premiered at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre in UP Diliman. It was an exploration of how Alfonso Ossorio, a Filipino painter of cosmopolitan background, conceived arguably his most ambitious mural in a chapel located in a sugarcane hacienda owned by his family. Playwright Floy Quintos delved into the mind of the artist, speculating much about his identity, homosexuality, and artistry. Actor Nel Gomez starred as Ossorio.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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One of the best plays I’ve seen this year (half of it) is Floy Quintos’s Angry Christ (directed by Dexter Santos). It is about the American painter, rather of Filipino descent, Alfonso Ossorio’s period of artistic metamorphosis while doing a mural in their family’s chapel in Negros island. The play’s book is rich in real and imaginative details of the struggles for identity and expression (both artistic and gender).

Photo by I.R. Arenas