Wednesday, February 25, 2009

playback in the university

we are running a playback caravan, a project we've long been contemplating on. teaching playback theater to people outside metro manila. november 15-16, 2008 saw the beginning of this baby project.

we were invited by a group of students to give them a theater training. we stayed in bulacan, it was 2 hours away by bus ride. we did the training at the school's audio visual room and stayed at one of the teacher's house near the university.

reception to playback was great. we first did some games, than proceed to the lectures. then we followed by teaching them the short forms, then the long ones. the students enjoy the workshop especially the performance. we promise to meet again and help them start their own playback group.

life is beautiful with playback, let's watch.

panoorin natin!

Monday, September 11, 2006


When I entered arvisu house, e never knew I could go back to doing Playback Theater. inside a formation house? Well, I did.

It started as a concept, to put up something for the send off party of one of our resident priests. Since I was one of the organizers, I want it to be personal and yet entertaining. I knew that Fr. eli also has a theater background, he was a stage actor during his early years. So he will definitely enjoy playback. I started by giving the seminarians (candidates) a short course on what is Playback Theater, what it does and what it was for. Then, I taught them some of the forms and the elements of the performance. The workshop was fun, knowing that the participants were non-actors but were open to the idea of coming up on stage and playing a role. After almost 4 hours of discussions, tasting and understanding the playback forms we proceeded to the rehearsal period. It was fun to see them acting out their feelings (I gave the workshop with 8 males) men showing real emotions, wearing their hearts out.

Five days later, the “despedida” send off party came. After a good dinner, we started with the program. The stage was set up. Complete with cloth tree, the chairs and the musical instruments. I conducted the performance. We started with fluid sculptures of the dominant feelings of the people who arrived to say their goodbyes to fr. eli. Most of them were ecstatic, elated and were very happy because he is leaving to finish his pastoral formation. We took a deep breath and the actors started moving, somebody was clapping and cheering, somebody was jumping with joy, somebody was speaking words of encouragement and someone was also singing a farewell song. The opening for was indeed heartwarming. For the second form, I decided to use pairs. One of the audiences gave a mixed feeling of sadness because he felt that he was loosing a friend and a counselor, but was also happy because he knew that fr. eli will come back next year. We had good 3 pairs. One pair was convincing each other to feel the opposite. One pair was closely intertwined that we saw mixing of both feelings and in one pair, the actor portraying happiness spoke loudly that it covered the voice of the lonesome feeling. All reflected the mixed emotion expressed by the teller. We had one story, but it made really the night for all who watched the performance. One of the guest priest, fr. jack us the story when fr. eli he was still a scholastic, he was the one who sent the news that one of his friend died in a mission to Cambodia. He told us how it was hard for him to tell the bad news but he has to do it. How they met and rushed to the airport to fetch his friend’s lifeless body. It was a bit hard for the actors, first because it was their first time to do playback and second because the story was a heavy one. But the guys pulled out the act. The person chosen to play the teller’s part was great. He even embraced the actor playing fr. eli’s part, after giving the sad news. That was the part where fr. eli commented that he was touched because they really did the same thing. He saw himself as if he was there again on the scene. The other parts were done just fine. We ended up with a fluid sculpture of their wishes, something that he can take with him for his trip.

All in all, the playback performance given by the first time actors were unexpected. Sincerity was seen in them, I guess that gave me the great satisfaction that they well understood Playback Theater. The mastery of the scenes, the lines and the blocking became secondary. The openness to be used as a toll for sharing stepped forward in the performance. I saw the actors as bearers of the story, the embodiment of the truth. The soul that was present in the teller’s story.

The “despedida” performance was not only a send off for fr. eli but was also a send off for all of us who were there. An invitation to the realities of life. An awareness of the coming and going of people in our lives. And the feelings that chose to stay with us, forever.

Monday, August 07, 2006

playback and the legend of the bitter gourd (ampalaya)

how do we fuse storytelling for children and playback theater?

last july 30, i was privileged to be asked to tell a story to the children of montalban, rizal. i chose the legend of the bitter gourd (ampalaya) beacuase kids are very much familiar with the "ampalaya". i first brought out my "bayong" basket of vegetables. i showed them the vegetables one by one and asked them to mention the name as i bring them out of the "bayong". then, i started the storytelling. i shifted from one voice to another to give them the feel of the different characters. i finished the whole story in about 20 minutes.

i asked the kids the lesson they learned from the story. i also asked them if they want to see the story on stage, they all agreed. i asked 7 kids from the audience to go up the stage, pick a color that they want from the cloth tree to represent the vegetable they want to portray. we chose the part where the envoius "ampalaya" took all the colors and taste of the other vegetables. one of them played the role of "ampalaya" and got the white cloth to represent colorlesness and tastelessness of the character. while the others wrapped their bodies with the colored cloths that they chose and pretended to be the vegetables that they want. the kids were at their best in playing back the scene. they walked and paraded around the stage, sat down and pretended to sleep. that was the time when "ampalaya" attacked and got all the colored clothes of the other vegetables. the kid playing the role of "ampalaya" wrapped her body with all the clothes that she got and walked around. the kids stood up at all went laughing when they saw the "ampalaya" dressed up with different colors. they had experienced indeed the story while they were playing it back (the legend). for the kids who performed, a more complete experience than by just sitiing down. the audience applauded the in affirmation of the playback performance

we, specially the kids enjoyed playing back the story of "ampalaya".

i ended up the session and promised them that more storytelling and playback theater performance will come soon.

life is beautiful with playback, let's watch!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Manila Playback Theater -- Philippines' 1st playback theater company

Manila Playback Theater -- Philippines' 1st playback theater company

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Playing-back Home

San Sebastian College Arts Month Performance
March 4, 2005

It smells home, and it feels home.

For years I had denied myself the chance to go back to my Alma Mater, San Sebastian. But the February Art Month gave me the opportunity to go back to my roots.

We were invited to take part in the San Sebastian College Arts Month. First, we were asked to give a playback theater workshop for the students from different arts group; Sebastinian Theater Arts Guild, ARMACOM and Sebastinian Arts Society. The second invite was last night, the Arts Month's closing ceremony. Two great opportunities to promote Playback theater in my former school.

Since we have to run our regular first Friday of the month performance at the Playback Studio, we decided to bring the show outside our usual venue. We took part at the “Sulyap Sining” (Glimpse at Arts) program of the Sebastinian. The organizers placed us at the latter part of the program to serve as a 'synthesis' performance for the night's show and the whole Arts Month festivity.

For the performance, we were brought at the college's arcade and there were more than 40 audiences. After some acoustic numbers and poetry reading, we were then introduced to the anticipating audience. There were only four of us from the Company so we asked some of the workshop participants to playback with us.

We opened the playback performance with four of us from Manila Playback shouting and acting out what we feel that night. Afterwards, I asked the workshop participants to join us on stage. I mixed them with the actors from MPT. The result was beautiful and fun.

I asked the audience how they feel that it was Friday, the almost end of the look weekday. Somebody shouted that it's a nice Friday, a great time to drink and relax. For the first form, we used fluid sculptures. They saw and heard the actors merry-making and thanking heavens its Friday. It was followed by a fluid sculpture of tension. It came from the organizer of the program. He said he was so tensed that the whole month's celebration is on it’s closing day and he was wondering if people would come and see the last program. The actors portrayed the tension and the teller experienced released just by looking at the performance. Then, I asked for a pair. One member of the audience raised his hand and told his pair of happiness and sadness. He was happy because his on-the-job training has just finished, but sad because his graduation from college is coming near. The teller and the audience applauded after the pair.

I then decided that it was time to ask for a story. An elementary teacher told a story of his experience of being a winner in a YMCA camp. He, together with his students came to Baguio ( a province in the Northern Philippines) to join a camp. They went there anticipating that there would be a writing competition. They didn’t know that they also need to present candidates for Mr. and Ms. Camp, with talent presentations. They came up with a good pair of contestants and even won 1st place in the contest. They went home happy from the camp and brought honor to their school. After the teller chose the character who will play his role and actors who will play the students, the performance begun.

The actors opened the free form very strong. They were riding on a bus using a brown cloth. Then, they all went down for a break and took some snack. Then one actor shouted and danced the YMCA theme to signal that they finally arrived at the site of the camp. One actor played the role of the organizer and approached the teacher and asked him to come up with a representative for the Mr. and Ms. Camp. He then asked his students to prepare for the talent portion. The girl sang lines from 'the greatest love of all' and the boy did a monologue about his lost dog while the teacher was there shouting and clapping to show his support. I saw the teller smiling and with teary eyes, specially when the other characters announced that both his students won first place. We all clapped our hands to honor the teller for the support he gave his students and for sharing his story.

I then called in the second set of actors from our workshoppers. This time, it was purely the workshop participants who went up to playback the audiences' story. We resumed with a fluid sculpture of one of the audience’s feeling of pride to be part of the San Sebastian Community. One actor did a cheer about San Sebastian college, the other actors followed raising their hands and voices in praise of our school. We continued with a pair, another audience shared his amazement in seeing playback but not wanting to try it since acting impromptu is a hard task. We came near the end of the show but we gave a chance for another story. We heard a wonderful story about friendship. It started with a typical conversation about life and the arts. It went on to flashes of his memories coming back to life like a movie. It ended when both of them decided that they need some sleep. According to the teller, that conversation was the last thing he wanted to see before he closes his eyes. The audience laughed and applauded during the performance since they are all familiar with the story. After the performance, I asked the actors to come up again on stage. I asked them to make a tableau of the conversation, for that was the most important scene that the teller wanted to see in his story.

We closed the night with a sneak preview of the stories we heard and feelings we felt that evening. Fluid sculptures were done by the actors individually--story of friendship, love for the arts, winning, a good break from a long week, amazement with playback and with life.

Many stories came to life that night after the magical words "Let’s Watch!"
Panoorin natin!

Performers from Manila Playback: Fabi, Charm Jayson and Edward
Guest Performers from Sebastinian Theater Arts Guild (STAG): Aiton, Aiza, Jenstein, Leo, Diway, Bryan, Rodge

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


By Leo Ortega Laparan II published at SCU F4 Section in the Manila Bulletin January 28, 2005 Time was when the audience would just have to make do with sitting on their designated seats inside the theater and be content with being mesmerized from their solid spots by their favorite stage stars acting their hearts out. Now, with just four to six stools to be utilized by the same number of people, large pieces of cloth of different hues, one live musician, a conductor/mediator, and practically no elevated stage at all, one can ponder on what life has taught and still has to teach mortals in this world. Thanks to the arrival of improvisational – or playback – theater on Philippine shores. INSTANT PLAY “Playback or improvisational theater,” starts Edward Dantis, founder, president and artistic director of the Manila Playback Theater, Inc., “is a form of theater art in which some members of the audience tells his or her story, which is to be performed by our troupe right then and there. There are no scripts and no rehearsals at all. This flourishing theater form in the Philippines, according to Edward, was actually initiated in New York City, United States of America by Jonathan Fox during the theatrical exploration years. Locally, it all started when a company of “playbackers” from Hong Kong participated in PETA’s women’s conference in March 2003. It was when Edward was asked to document the duration of the empowerment process and the Hong Kong troupe resisting the idea that opened new doors for him. They asked him to join the confab as an active participant, which led him to a consuming passion of pursuing in learning the form and eventually adapting it for his own troupe. “When I encountered the theater form, I absorbed the ideas, then coordinated with the Hong Kong folks until I was able to attend the conference in Japan Last September,” Edward shares. Back home, after enthusiastically talking about playback with his theatrical peers, conducting workshops, searching for people interested in propagating the form in the country, and then officially registering to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Edward and friends made MPTI the first organized playback company in the Philippines and an official member of the International Playback Theater Network. AUDIENCE SERVICE “Playback theater is the one and only form my colleagues and I have come across with and experienced that devotes to a single person and to his or her own story that is heard, respected, and performed in the best way that we can,” declares Edward. “It is true that the audience can relate to traditional theater, but its performance remains on the stage, which is quite far from the audience. The actors move within a different context.” Which is opposite from what the playback form offers. Edward describes, “In playback the audience is of almost equal footing with the actors during the performance. Hindi ka audience na nanonood lang; here, you also become a taker of what is being performed. Karanasan mo o ng kasama mo ‘yung nakikita mo, so there’s a sense of collectivity. The spectators don’t veer themselves away from the performers like ‘Ay, artista ‘tong mga ito.’ The actors only become actors during the performance of the story. But after that, they “go back to normal,” so to speak, ready to listen to the next story.” He adds that since it is the stories of the audience themselves that are acted out, the effect is immediate in playback theater. Aimed at developing and popularizing the playback concept in the country, the nine-strong MPTI engages in the theater form basically to serve the audience – a venue for empowering people by making their stories surface and their voices heard, and thus provide a healing and transforming environment for communities and individuals. Benefiting from this vision-mission of the MPTI is the Samaritana Transformation Ministries, a non-governmental organization assisting women in prostitution towards a transformed life, and with which the troupe staged one of its first performances. “Sila ‘yung mga dating nasa kalye at bars and were into prostitution,” tells Edward. The workshop with the women of Samaritana proved to be a different experience compared to other workshops done by the company as it had been more obvious that te playback form may be and can be used as a tool for healing transformation. “It’s the feeling of being able to empathize with common experiences of grief, happiness and longing that makes all of us in the group look at life in a different angle, coming from outside our studio. So, whatever the other professional theater groups say, whether they recognize us or not, magtutuluy-tuloy pa rin kami” affirms Edward. On the other hand, for those who desire to use the form, the company offers continuous workshops and rehearsals. Free performances are presented to the public every first Friday of the month at the Playback Studio in Quezon City. On February 4 and 5, Manila Playback will be performing for communities and typhoon victims in real, Quezon. Then some time in August, MPTI is also being asked to assist in organizing the Asian Playback Theater gathering in Singapore. FURTHERING PLAYBACK’S LOCAL DEVELOPMENT MPTI also sends scholars for further playback studies to international theater organizations. This year, Edward has been accepted and invited to attend the New York School of Playback Theater’s Winter Seminar and Training at Saugerties, New York come February 12-20 under the auspices of Fox. HE will also represent MPTI at the 2005 International Playback Theater Symposium in Tempe, Arizona on February 25-27. “Through constant communication with the International Playback Theater Network, I was granted this scholarship. They asked us for updates on how the theater from is currently being developed in the Philippines,” relates Edward. “Then, they took a look at the track record basing their granting of the scholarship on our local playback theater works for the past two years.” Edward’s engrossment with the theater form saw him and company conducting workshops with the urban poor, college students in different schools, and the aforementioned Samaritana. “We also used playback during the campaign period in last year’s elections to encourage the people to exercise their right to vote and do it wisely,” he recounts. Seeing their seriousness with the art, the IPTN was finally encouraged to grant scholarship to the only Philippine delegate, together with other affiliates around the world. “In New York, we will restudy the theater form by going back to its core – its origin, how it is practiced, etc. Then, I will share with them the various experiences that the local group has had here in the Philippines so as to situate our country in the international playback world. When I come back here, I will echo the workshop to the communities, so definitely, ibabalik ko lang din dito ang lahat ng mapag-aaralan ko roon,” Edward explains when asked what will happen during the course of his availing scholarship. As of late, his travels are made possible through the genrosity of GMA 7, Phlippine Airlines and Bulacan Governor Josie dela Cruz. Edward appeals, “We believe that the said training will help strengthen and further enhance the work of MPTI here in the Philippines. We will be very grateful to those who would like to help us in this endeavor.” (Note: the scholarship did not push thru since I was not granted a visa inspite of the requirements I submitted. -Edward)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Playback in the Philippines

(from the article posted last December 2003 at the International Playback Theater Network's Interplay)

The 8th International Playback Theater Conference in Japan was indeed a great experience for me. I met a lot of Playback masters and learned a lot from the workshops I attended. I was lucky to be at the class of Maria Elena of Argentina and Jhang of Korea. After Japan I also went to Hong Kong for the HK Playback Gathering. It was a great opportunity for me to know more about Playback. I had a great opportunity to be in all the workshops that they gave. I learned a lot from the seminars they organized and saw beautiful Playback performances by the different Hong Kong Playback groups. I had great time talking to the other participants about their Playback experience in Hong Kong.

My group, Manila Playback Theater Inc. had recently gave a series of workshop to a transformation group here in Manila called Samaritana. They help prostituted women from the bars and the streets to leave prostitution and find alternative jobs and finally live their normal lives again. They offer job opportunities and livelihood programs for these women.

They asked our group to help them prepare for their anniversary performance. We had 4 weeks of training, telling stories and exploring playback theater with 7 wonderful women. We heard great stories ranging from their childhood dreams of finishing school, going to the city, to their sad experiences of abuse and their hopes of leaving prostitution. Playback provided an occasion for them to bond together and share stories--stories that help them heal one another.

Playback had a great effect on the women we worked with, it is now easier for them to open up and talk about their past. They admitted to have experienced healing in that four weeks training. In their common weaknesses they found their strength, through the stories that they shared and through their playback performance. Our group aims to develop the playback theatre concept as a popular theatre art form, serving as venue for empowering grassroots communities by making their stories surface and their voices heard, and thus provide healing and transforming environment for communities and individuals. It is good that I had known playback and met you wonderful people who gave me inspiration to do more Playback in the Philippines. Life is beautiful with Playback

Panoorin natin! (Let's watch!)