The scene began in 1988, just two years after the country has restored its democracy, when Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan set the stage for Dulaang Atenista. As the first repertory theater organization of the university, DA commits to giving life and liberty to the performing arts scene in Cagayan de Oro City.

Thirty years later, the tradition continues as DA looks forward to staging two original plays by CDO-based writers – “Mama’s Pork Pochero” by playwright Dennis Flores and “Sakay” by poet and Nagkahiusang Manunulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC) founder Mai Santillan.

Dubbed as “#RelationshipGoals”, the twin-bill production is slated from Wednesday (January 30) to Saturday (February 2) at the Xavier University Little Theater. From Wednesday to Friday, performances will take place at 7:30 PM, while Saturday will comprise one performance in the afternoon (3 PM) and the last in the evening (7:30 PM).

Family and romance

Co-directed by Jesus Christopher Salon and Angelo Dabbay, the plays take relationships at their core, with the theme of family resonating in Flores’ Pochero and a budding romance in Santillan’s Sakay.

Development Communication major Madonna Actub and Master of Arts in Literature major Angelo Lorenzo are set to take roles in Pochero, while Business Administration student Rufin Vamenta and Psychology major Isay Alvarez will perform in Sakay (their roles alternating with Dev Com alumnus Jethro Javier and Psychology major Clair Niez).

This will also mark as Salon and Dabbay’s directorial debuts in theater. As members of DA, they gained prominence for stunning performances in the past that helped shape the theater organization’s excellence today.

Looking back

Through the years, DA has staged a variety of theatrical productions to fulfill its mission to “harness the creative forces of Xavier Ateneo and forge theater interactions that provide staging ground for public discourse.” With the collective goal to underscore the relevance of theater in the locality, it is grounded on the advocacy to promote culture and heritage through staged and spoken narratives.

Most recently, the 2010s decade has shed light over the organization as DA performed a series of plays in their annual seasons. These ranged from the award-winning acts like Juan Ekis’ “Twenty Questions” (2013), to classics such as the stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (2015) – all made possible by the passionate collaboration of artists who belong to the group.

During its silver year in 2013, DA welcomed its fellow theater organizations from all Ateneo schools across the Philippines when Xavier Ateneo hosted the first Ateneo Theatre Festival. DA’s prowess in interpreting and adapting narratives meant to be performed has manifested during this festival when its production of David Ives’ “All in the Timing” received acclaim from both the audience and the critics.

However, what sets DA apart from other theater organizations is its iconic spontaneity in one of its productions. Recognized due to its wit and humor, DA’s “No Probs, It’s Improvs” casts the limelight over performers that internalize their characters and act the scenes by sudden [and unrehearsed] prompts onstage. This production is often presented during Xavier Ateneo’s Festival Days, gathering crowds to this day.

Its place onstage

As one of the earliest forms of art, theater still keeps its relevance in the present generation. With theater organizations like DA that sustains this initiative, theater still finds its place onstage today.

DA, however, pursues this initiative by integrating the promotion of local culture and heritage in their productions. One significant example was its adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” when its language and setting had been localized to parallel with the prevalent issues in CDO. In this adaptation, Victor Frankenstein was motivated to disprove the existence of God by bringing a corpse to life after severe flooding in the city and its eventual disastrous consequences cost him his faith.

Among the existing framework of the organization is the purpose to educate through situations presented in the plays, empower individuals sharing similar backgrounds and aspirations with the portrayed characters, and to entertain through performative storytelling.

Complementing these narratives with themes, then theater finds its cause.

DA’s two upcoming plays encompasses the value of relationships – from siblings conflicted by regrets in the past in Pochero, to two potential lovers relishing each other’s companionship in Sakay. These plays, just like what DA has been doing with their numerous productions for the past three decades, attempt to reflect the realities of life.

Keeping the theater scene alive in the locality is what DA aims to do, even for the next 30 years. After all, supporting the arts marks the existence of democracy – where society expresses liberty that becomes the inspiration for performances onstage.

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