From Entablado to Tinampo, Defining Unconventional Theater Spaces
For an independent theater group, the absence of their own physical structure that can house rehearsals and performances – something like a small room at the least or an arts center or auditorium at the most – can be a big problem. Not having enough money to rent one during production season can be a serious limitation too. But not for Sining Banwa. These home-grown artists really know how to claim the space their art requires.
Sining Banwa is a three-year old Albay-based cultural group with sections on drama, music and dance. Their members are volunteer artists from different sectors of the community. They are often tagged as a ‘guerilla’ group as they don’t have a permanent rehearsal and performance venue.
“We do our meetings at members’ houses, sometimes at the park, [and] even at the boulevard,” explained Julyses Belga Jr., a junior artist of Sining Banwa, during an interview. “We ask permission from the church to use their facility when we need to rehearse indoors.”
For Lent of this year, instead of doing the traditional Senakulo in the conventional manner, they performed in front of the Daraga and Legazpi public markets.
“[Our approach to space] is in line with our objective of bringing performances closer to the masses. The ordinary palengke-goers will not, or very seldom will go to a conventional theater to watch plays. Aside from the fact that we don’t have money to rent auditorium, we do performances for a more noble cause. We want to involve the common people,” Belga added.
The group performs at barangay basketball courts, elementary school plazas, parks, rotundas, and downtown streets, among others.
“The principle is this, if you don’t have a space, you must create it.”
No matter where they perform, Sining Banwa considers each performance as equally important. For them, every performance is a community gathering – a convergence of hearts and minds.
“We don’t just want to appeal to the heart, the emotions. We want to start a discussion. We want to strike the mind. We want to the community to keep thinking, to be critical,” Belga added. “What good is a performance that has no issue at hand?”
“Every performance is a community gathering. This has to be fruitful, productive. We don’t just gather to relax, we gather to strengthen our capacity as a community.”
Sining Banwa is particularly disinclined with how the government spends millions of pesos during festivals, with celebrations held by almost every local government unit, to boost tourism.
“Festivals are community gatherings, too. Good. We also participate in its cultural shows. What we are not up to is the millions being spent for enjoyment alone. We lack the very purpose of community gatherings – to address our issues as a people.”
Creating unconventional theater spaces gives the group a certain degree of freedom to create unconventional performance pieces. In September 2014, during the commemoration of Martial Law declaration, Sining Banwa artists walked around Old Albay and Downtown Legazpi areas – all in chains, blindfold and blood. Each one carried a placard that said, ‘Never Again to Martial Law.’
“The idea of protest art is to make [things] simple. What is important is to make the message come across,” Kathrine Taopo, another junior artist, stated.
The group also makes many other protest art pieces ranging from estatwas, libreng hula booth, tulaan sa kalye, and various others.
“Sa totoo, we don’t lack in performance venues. We may not always be able to rent indoor theater spaces, pero kadakol an palengke, dakulaon an park, halabaon an tinampo. Performing outside the conventional space gives us the feeling that we truly belong to the people – we are bringing their issues and concerns through our creative platforms, and our platforms must always be closer to them.”
Editors Note: Videos below are from Aquinas University of Legazpi’s STAGE or Sama-Samang Tinig Ng Mga Aktor Na Gumaganap Sa Entablado. They are posted to give idea how Sining Banwa performs.
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