From Ronan B. Capinding, Director of the Play
An Open Letter to Pinoy Teenagers
My Dear Young Friends,
This play, Rite of Passage, is my latest offering to you as a theatre director. It is the sixth in a series of plays that I have done over the past years with you in mind, and it was doing these plays that made me realize, now more than ever, that you have always been at the centre of my theatre work.
In my directing and writing work for theatre, I have resolved to represent you. It has become my advocacy to stand in for you in a way that dignifies your aspirations and convictions. In literature and in theatre, you appear to me as a most misrepresented and misunderstood age bracket. Characters of your age seem to have been carelessly labelled, disappointingly researched or poorly delineated in Filipino stories and plays. You are reduced to stereotypes, and the awkward and embarrassing details of your adolescence are apparently forgotten. So I have decided to be among those few theatre practitioners who will deal with characters of your age bracket with proper regard.
Choosing to speak for you has made my theatre work more meaningful. Few theatre directors, for one, can claim to be your ambassador, and I feel qualified to do so. I have been immersed in the high school education profession and I have spent much effort for the past 21 years to understand the context of your lives, your styles of learning and absorbing, your skills, your concerns, your dreams, your fears and your values. Because of this, I know if a depiction of you in stories and plays is adequate and correct. As a result, I also find myself as having so much to say about your lives and feeling a greater sense of urgency to write and direct more plays about you, and to make audiences understand you better in my work. With this comes another realization – that my own kids are now of the same age as you. I am thus not just your advocate but also my own children’s. My roles as high school educator, theatre practitioner and father have never been so unified.
The message I convey in my plays is usually inspired by my bond with you and my children. At the same time, my training in philosophy, literature and theatre allows me to present my message in an interesting manner for older audiences. When I taught you in Teens’ Acting in ABS-CBN (late 1990s to 2006), I devised the culminating presentations using your expressed sentiments. I thought it would be beneficial to let your parents hear you out during the show, and not just be impressed with your acting abilities. I translated and directed Middle Finger Po for the purpose of bringing your suppressed sentiments to the consciousness of mature audiences. I directed Measure for Measure, Waiting for Godot and Hamlet in a way that showcased the frustration, meaninglessness and paralysis that you experience. I wrote William for PETA and I thought it revealed so much about your different circumstances and pursuits in life. I devised Para Los Jovenes during the 150th Anniversary of Rizal to reveal how you actually deal with Rizal, his works, and this mandate about you being the “Hope of the Nation.”
Glenn Mas’s Rite of Passage hits the spot as far as your young lives are concerned; this is one of those rare Filipino plays that recognizes and respects what you are going through, and does so with a lot of heart. Isoy`s story is your story; his doubts and discoveries are your doubts and discoveries; his pain is your pain.
Plays about teenagers should never be high-school-ish (in production value). I assembled the greatest team for you, to help me serve you effectively. I brought in my dear friend and Suor Clara co-actor, Ms. Frances Makil-Ignacio, who I believe has given justice to all the roles she has ever portrayed by her impeccable acting instrument and infectious work ethic. I also invited the most sought-after Shakespearean actor in the country, Mr. Teroy Guzman, to portray an extremely unsophisticated character from the barrio. To support them by playing cameo roles, I roped in Mr. Bok Pioquid, Mr. Mark Alcantara and Mr. Guelan Luarca who, besides being extremely talented mature actors, have also been very supportive allies in the theatre, and since I wanted authenticity, beauty, flexibility and efficiency in the production design, I invited another dear friend, Mr. Gwyn Guanzon, a native of Antique who knows the town of Catungan like the back of his hand, to do set and costume; he and Glenn Mas also doubled as Kinaray-a dialect consultant to the actors. The sound of this play needed much research and creativity, so I also got on my friend board, my suki collaborator and neighbour, the always-awesome Sound Designer, Mr. Jethro Joaquin.
Of course, I thank Tanghalang Ateneo for including this project in their Season of Navigating Identities, for entrusting this play to me, and for providing all the other talented and dependable contributors to this project: Mr. D Cortezano for Lights Design, Ms. Niki Calma for Graphics Design, the Stage Management, Business and Technical teams, and the Acting ensemble. Join me as well in thanking especially Ms. Inna Abrogena, my ever-trustworthy, always cool-but-ready-for-anything Stage Manager, and Mr. Cholo Ledesma who, when I look back, has been auditioning for this role of Isoy since he was as young as you are in Ateneo High School’s Teatro Baguntao.
I also thank my theatre mentor and Ninong, Dr. Ricky Abad, for sharing his very helpful thoughts and suggestions for this play. My deep gratitude also goes to the Ateneo Fine Arts for making this project proceed more smoothly.
Before I end, let me confess that Rite of Passage showcases many things I have experienced as a young probinsiyano in Tarlac. The play brought me back to the town of Gerona, particularly the barrio of Tagumbao where my Lolo and Lola reside. Catungan is very much like my Tagumbao – the circumcision process, the cockfights and drinking sessions; the Kinaray-a accent is so like the hard Ilocano of some Tarlaquenos; Tiyay Susing is just like my Lola Nita, Auntie Lerma and Manang Malaya; Tiyoy Berning is just like my Lolo Darwin, Tiyo Pedring and Manong Eddie; Pila is my childhood playmates Shelley May, Kengkeng and Fely; Isoy is like me and my friends Obet, Eddieboy and Noel. So while this project is for you; it is a poignant and bittersweet homecoming for me, as well.
This sense of homecoming brought another realization of my decision to represent you in my theatre work. By standing for you, I have found that I am able to make better sense of my life. Recognizing you and learning from you help keep my sanity intact, make me appreciate my life more, and renew my enthusiasm and humility towards the future. I hope our audience will experience these, too, through this play.
I hope to continue this work of valuing and honoring you in the theatre. I also look forward to your partnership in future projects. For the time being, I hope you are pleased with the gift that Tanghalang Ateneo, Ateneo Fine Arts, and I have given you. May your own rite of passage be rich with insight and love!
Wishing to hear more voices of the young in Philippine theatre, I remain.
Rite of Passage: Sa Pagtubu Kang Tahud