Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Martial Law Musicals: Theatre of a New War? [Philippines]

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“Philippine theater has, through three eras of political struggle—Filipino-American, Japanese, anti-Marcos—never hesitated to go to war.” – – Doreen G. Fernandez, Seditious and Subversive: Theater of War

From the essay cited above two important ideas emerge: that war breeds theatre and that theatre is a particularly effective weapon of protest. As Fernadez’s survey shows, the Philippines has a heritage of political plays, which began in the 1900s, when plays labelled “seditious” by Americans were suppressed because of what they could do: stir the audience to “such a pitch of indignation and enthusiasm that they could leave the theatre full of purpose against the government and its emissaries” (Riggs 349).

Decades later, during the martial law years, the tradition of protest theatre made it possible for plays to “stand beside the people, against the enemy,” as Fernandez puts it. At first, subversive themes were woven into historical plays and folk theatre fare. As anger grew, plays became more confrontational, overtly calling out human rights violations and decrying Marcos as a monster. …”

 

Read Marina Lorena Santo’s essay on Philippine theatre on palabas.org: the Philippine Performance Archive Project of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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