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Short Does Not Mean Lacking: Short+Sweet Theatre Festival

Famous for their 10-minute plays, Short+Sweet Theatre Festival is a theatre play festival where writers get the chance to have their scripts be realized in Short+Sweet’s stage. It originated from Sydney, Australia in 2002 and slowly began expanding, reaching cities like Dubai and eventually Manila in 2015.

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Short+Sweet theater play
Photo by Andrei Tolentino

Clearly, “The biggest little play festival in the world” did not just mean the length of the pieces performed. It also meant making sure that they made the most out of every second.

When we think of indie productions, we often think of movies or songs that offer something outside of the norm. Rarely do we associate it with theatre plays or musicals; we often see these as productions done in cinemas or high-end theaters. Little did we know, some of the best theatrical pieces sat right under our noses and took less than an hour of our time! Such an example is Short+Sweet Manila and their annual Short+Sweet Theatre Festival. 

The Short+Sweet Theatre Festival is a theatre play festival where writers get the chance to have their scripts be realized in Short+Sweet’s stage. It originated from Sydney, Australia in 2002 and slowly began expanding, reaching cities like Dubai and eventually Manila in 2015. While not limited to theatre plays, Short+Sweet is most famous for their 10-minute plays. These plays have become the opportunity for actors, directors, and writers get together to bring their creations to life.

This November, I had the chance to witness some of their performances that were held in The PARC Foundation in San Juan. There were 3 time-slots of shows namely the Wildcard, Mainstage 1, and Mainstage 2. The tickets were seemingly affordable at 350 pesos as compared to a full blown production and the means to get them were very simple. Not to mention, they provided a specific guide on how to get to the venue. Other than that, here are some ways that Short+Sweet show that they are indeed “The biggest little play festival in the world”. 

The diversity of themes and topics that they present

One of the things that make indie films great is the fact that they are given the liberty to tackle any topic that they see fit. Short+Sweet Festival’s plays are no different. The writers are given freedom on what they want to talk about in their works and it makes for some of the boldest yet most candid takes on some of the less-talked about topics in society.

The plays that I was able to watch gave unique takes on commonly tackled topics in today’s media, without being cliche or too predictable with the plot. They were also very candid on their opinions of the topics without being insensitive or offensive. The takes were open and honest, giving a straightforward depiction that ultimately prove a point by the play’s end. It was never too careful nor too brutal.

theater play open arms

The 10-minute format makes for interesting storytelling

One of the most popular characteristics of the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival is that the plays are exactly that: short and sweet. The plays are given only 10 minutes of runtime which leaves it to the writers, directors, and actors to come up with the best way to tell the story to the audience. Amazingly, they are still able to develop the characters as well as tell a deep and convincing story without feeling rushed or worse, lacking. They were also very creative with the plot twists each play had, leaving the audience in awe at the end of each play.

I had the opportunity to talk to one of the directors namely, Mr. Phillip Latonio. He was able to give some of his insights on the format. Latonio is a Thomasian alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, who is also the director of the play “Misadventure Time”. He said that he finds the format “fun yet challenging” as he has to come up with a way to fit the writer’s vision within the 10 minutes that was allotted.

Theater sitting at table

Easily accessible for independent writers, directors, and actors/actresses.

One of the things that Philip was able to tell me was how he found out about Short+Sweet Manila. He said that he was invited by a friend to join and has continued to follow Short+Sweet since. According to him, the process is relatively simple for someone who would like to be a director or talent. All they would have to do is submit a resume or CV when the openings come up and wait for a response. If accepted, they get the chance to select the script they want to direct from a pool of scripts submitted.

For writers who want to submit their script, the Facebook page as well as the website offer up instructions on how they can send in their work. The page serves as a means to notify and update actors, directors, and writers on the updates regarding their applications. Actors may also submit videos of their prior performances in place of an audition. Such is the experience of Angelo Del Rosario who had learned about Short+Sweet after a director asked him to audition to replace a cast member who had fallen ill.

Theater Auditions

Auditions being held for the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival. Source: Short+Sweet Theatre Manila Manila Facebook Page

A pleasant environment for everyone

The actors roamed freely around the venue as they were preparing for their plays. You can hear the support from each other as they traded uplifting words across the halls. There were also some who congratulated performers of the prior timeslot. The viewing angle was also at the eye-level of the audience which made the production that much more immersive. 

Philip Latonio stated that he enjoys participating because it allows him to meet new friends as well as to explore his creativity as an actor and as a director. Angelo on the other hand, finds it as an opportunity to escape from his job as a college professor. The experience also allowed them to explore a different type of style and in the case of Philip, used the experience as a gateway to other forms of theatre.

Short+Sweet bench

Short+Sweet Manila’s theatre festival proved to be a showcase of some great talents that may not have been appreciated without their stage. It offers an experience that captures the imagination of their audience and inspires the creativity of their artists. The broad range of topics and the candid takes on these topics provides a refreshing new look that audiences will surely enjoy or at least respond to. Add to that the affordable price and the friendly staff to match, and you will surely have a great time in “The biggest little play festival in the world.”

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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