Yahoos in Yogyakarta: Ateneo staging of Tinio play draws raves in the 11th Asia-Pacific Bond Theater Festival

September 27, 2018
The Ateneo Fine Arts production of Rolando S. Tinio’s Reason Has Its Reason (May Katwiran ang Katwiran) wowed audiences from 20 countries in the recently concluded 11th Asia-Pacific Bond Festival of Theater Schools, held 15-21 September at the Institut Seni Yogyakarta, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  The production received support from Areté and the Office of Internationalization. Office of the Vice-President for Loyola Schools.
Audience acclaim primarily went to the text itself, a Palanca prize-winning play; the jaunty songs composed by Vincent de Jesus; and the sterling performances of the lead actors -- Cholo Ledesma as the landlord and Gabo Tolentino as the role of the tenant.  Professor Aubrey Mellor, one of the Asia-Pacific Bond Founders, summarized the audience reaction: “A very funny lehrstück, brilliantly acted with a shocking ending. Wilde said that the meaning of fiction is that the good die happily. I fear therefore that (the Ateneo) play is fact and we have much to be wary of.  Thanks for that amazing show!”
Cholo Ledesma as the Landlord and Gabo Tolentino as the Tenant in Tata Tuviera’s 17th Century-inspired costumes.
Rounding the cast were Iman Ampatuan, Nicolo Magno (who also did the choreography), and Daniel Roan Cortezano (who also served as Technical Director and Lighting Designer) – all three tackling the role of the mountain bandits.  Reamur David handled the sound and video design, while Tata Tuviera designed set and costumes. Ricardo Abad directed the play and translated the Filipino text as well with Ledesma and Tolentino. 
Cast and Crew in a pre-departure shot.   Seated (left to right): Tata Tuviera, Ricky Abad, and Reamur David.  Standing (left to right_: Daniel Cortezano, Cholo Ledesma, Iman Ampatuan, Gabo Tolentino, and Nicolo Magno.  Not in Photo; Composer Vincent de Jesus.
Reason Has Its Reason -- a learning or teaching play (lehrstück) in 18 scenes with songs -- invites audiences to question the arguments the rich use to oppress the poor – and the poor’s inability to rebut them.  In the play, a landlord, desperate to escape from the law, persuades his tenant to guide him to a mountain spot where a helicopter will come to fly him to safety.  
Onstage in Yogya: The landlord explains to the tenant how the principle of social justice applies to the division of the food.
Onstage: The Tenant sings a song about the worthiness of educated people.
How the landlord persuades the tenant to accompany him to the mountain, build a raft to cross a raging river, agree on a division of food rations, and avoid detection by bandits constitute the play’s action.   Within this frame, the landlord, the tenant and the bandits reveal their “reasons” for doing what they do – the very reasons which the play urges audiences to look, listen, and reflect.  
The tenant sings a song in praise of bandits who treat well-dressed people with respect.
Written in 1972, Tinio’s play still resonates in 2018 Philippines that remains mired in great disparities in wealth, feudal arrangements, and authoritarian regimes. It was thus an appropriate choice as one of the activities that Loyola Schools students can choose as part of TALAB 2018, with its theme of Filipinization. 
The landlord gathers his belongings to hide from bandits while the tenant falls asleep.
Yet the play, though serious in purpose and message, wears its intelligence lightly, aided in this task by a string of sprightly songs to provide emotional detachment and analytical readiness.  It’s negotiating this ironic tone, the tragic in the comic, which makes staging this play a daunting task.  Happily, in Yogyakarta, the irony came through in gales.  Audiences laughed and clapped their hands to the beat of the songs, responded to repartees with actors, and then wondered: why are we laughing when the issues raised are dead serious?  
The question prompts a personal assessment of the arguments, among them the elite reading of social justice, the deployment of religion to justify wealth and poverty, and the arrogance of power. Heavy stuff, and all within the Brechtian spirit of theater-making that puts social engagement at the forefront of a production.
Having disposed of the tenant, the three bandits (Magno, Ampatuan and Cortezano) confront the landlord about his disguise as a farm hand.
Besides the production, members of the Ateneo team also gave two workshops to festival participants, both of which were well-attended and well-received. Daniel Cortezano facilitated a session on lighting design, while Nicolo Magno conducted a workshop on body awareness.  In the conference portion of the festival, Ricardo Abad gave a report on his Bilibid theater project that also drew a lot of interest from faculty participants.
Director Ricky Abad watches a run-through of the play before it opens in two hours.
Further proof of the audience’s positive response to the play, the workshops, and the paper were invitations to perform in other festivals and to engage in a number of collaborations with Ateneo Fine Arts on various theater projects.  The Korea National University of Arts seeks to join forces with Ateneo theater students in a joint performance for next year’s festival.  The University of Melbourne’s Victoria College of the Arts desires Ateneo participation in a cross-cultural design and performance course, one that will have implications for the appreciation of Philippine cultural heritage.  Similar interest in collaborations and exchange came from China and Indonesia. 
The warm and hospitable people of the Institute Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta in front of the school’s entrance.
Embedded in all these were the singular hospitality of the Institut Seni Yogyakarta (each delegation even had an Indonesian guide); the general warmth and friendliness among the participants, and the many lessons learned about performance from watching some 24 excellent productions, several from different Indonesian cultural regions.   The positive energy built up from Day 1 and reached its climax on the last night when all participants, students and teachers, spontaneously trooped to the stage of the large concert hall and danced to the pulsating sounds of an Indonesian student orchestra.
The delegation in a final group shot after the closing ceremonies.  Say Yogyakarta!
Next stop: Vietnam in 2019.  What will the morrow bring this time?  Meanwhile, Reason Has Its Reason, the Ateneo entry to the Yogyakarta Festival, will have a campus run for TALAB 2018 on October 10, at Areté ’s Doreen Black Box Theater, with shows at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  The Ateneo community and the larger public are invited to come.
Thank you, Rolando Tinio, for this wonderful play, read widely in Philippine classrooms, and now part of an international repertoire!
Photos and Poster Design by Reamur Adaza David