By Maria Monica Borja and Caryl Be Trabadillo (with some reports by Stephen Pedroza)
Xavier University’s premier and oldest-running theater company Dulaang Atenista (DA) staged “Frankenstein” from February 1 to 6 at the XU Little Theater for “Panaghugpong 8: Xavier Arts Festival.” The play also served as the debut performance of some of the company’s newest members.
DA’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous novel shunned away from the original Victorian Era, setting the story, instead, in a post-apocalyptic time in the vein of a Philippine setting.
“The challenge in doing this play is the script. The script wasn’t really defined from the very beginning,” shared director Ray Anthony Lao.
The play is adapted into Binisaya and focuses not so much on the quest for knowledge as is a major theme of the novel, but on the desire of man to become God.
“We did [the play] differently from the book,” Lao explained. “It’s about a man trying to create life because he wants to give people hope that there’s a corporeal God.”
The DA director likened their preparations for the play to the story of Frankenstein, a young scientist who fortuitously brings a monster to life from assembling together dead body parts. Like Frankenstein, DA had to gather different sources and materials and put them together into one production.
“We had exercises to measure the capability of the actors in delivering the lines. I described the scenes to them, which they then had to improvise. Later on, we had everything assembled and formed into a play. We call the process ‘Intertext,’” Lao recounted.
He added, “What made it challenging was that we hadn’t really done anything like it before.”
Veteran DA actor JC Salon who portrayed Frankenstein’s monster prepared for the role for a year. One of his preparations was reading books and watching movies related to the play. He also shaved his head for the show.
“I had to find time to exercise and tone my body despite my busy schedule,” related Salon. “I had to look buffed because I had to be naked.”
In playing the monster, Salon realized that “Given the opportunity to ridicule, people become monsters as shown in the play.”
Salon continued, “Make sure you do the right thing or you have to be sure of what you are doing, or else it’s going to eat you up in the end.”
Frankenstein, immersed in his study of life, ends up horrified by the grotesque creature he creates. Whereas the monster, although hating Frankenstein for making him so hideous that he is doomed to a life of loneliness and misery, weeps with remorse at the death of his master.
Lao said this was what intrigued him about the story, and also what made him relate to it.
“As a director, what drives me to direct plays is the joy of creating stuff. To me, it’s like being a God who creates. It’s about assembling something out of raw materials and showcasing it for people to enjoy.”
“It’s very philosophical when you come to think of it,” he said about the play. “It’s basically pointing out: To what extent are we capable of as people?”