APAC Theatre: All Manila’s a Stage

A guy who wrote some plays or something once said “All the world’s a stage.” Nowhere in the world was it more so than at Brent International School Manila for APAC Theatre. Over the course of three days, students from five schools–Brent, UNIS, HKIS, SFS, and CA–came together to learn, devise, and perform theatre. The result was five school performances, three original ensemble plays, and a lot of fun and learning throughout the experience :-).

The festival itself started on Thursday, February 16th, but for all schools involved the theatre experience had begun much earlier. Each school ensemble had devised a 5-10 minute theatre performance, to be performed on the first day of the festival. After months of rehearsal, we finally got to see every school’s performances on that Thursday. We heard COVID monologues and a Hamilton song and original slam poetry; we watched pretend-dogs and a phone light show and also a video of slam poetry. (There was a statistically improbable amount of slam poetry). With all our poetry thoroughly slammed, we moved onto new performances, and brand new physical theatre skills.

Day 1–school performances aside–consisted of three workshops with Filipino theatre experts Missy Maramara, PJ Rebullida, and Dingdong Rosales setting us up for physical theatre devising the next day. The first workshop was all about consent, which Missy characterised as FRIES–“Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific.” This was important to respect during a physical theatre workshop that followed, aka moving and touching each other in creative ways. Yes, it was odd and uncomfortable(!) but after our work on consent, we were very able to trust one another :-). This task taught us about how to communicate through physical movement–through shape and tempo and place and gesture–and to work with each other accordingly. The last workshop was about telling stories from our lives, mapping them out in the most simple structure possible to inspire movement pieces the next day.

On Friday, rehearsals began. We were split into ensembles, each with students from different schools, and started work on a brand new 10-15 minute theatre piece to be performed on Saturday night. Each group took a different tack. Mine was at first efficiently spearheaded by two directors. However, we eventually felt the need to reshape the scene by committee to add nuance, something which got lost when quickly developing non-verbal theatre.

Another group delegated work from the start. To quote 10th-grader Irina Rutjens: “At the beginning, we split up into two groups. We came up with ideas of how to represent the theme that we were given, which was “Interconnections.” […] Then afterwards […] with those ideas we split up into smaller groups […] to come up with our [scenes] and at the very end we put it all together.” Others were concerned about the short time-frame: “I learned a lot from the […] the experience of creating a piece of theatre following a theme in around a day and a half. I was nervous to do it at first but the 3 days of almost non-stop working told me that it was possible to create a good piece of theatre in a short amount of time,” said Emily Burke, Grade 12 student at Brent.

The day ended with an APAC Cultural Experience, more an insight into theatre kid culture than Filipino culture… Only theatre kids would decide to spend a bus ride to a mall singing the entirety of both Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s greatest hits at random, at full volume. The actual cultural activity put a stop to this though; we watched “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Not to poach on BJ’s turf (turn to pg.5 for his review of “Everything Everywhere All At Once”), but I later noted to myself: “this was a very, very bad movie. [/] i loved this movie.”

Day 3, Saturday, was similar to the second–more devising, more revising, more rehearsing in preparation for our final performance that night. Contrary to my expectations, the performances went really well. My personal favourite was a series of vignettes that formed a touching, imaginative, and at times hilarious anthology about love and loss and how all men–particularly straight ones–are evil. The night ended with a candle-lit school banquet with succulent beef and tender chicken and creamy panna cotta (take note, Caterers), as we shared our amazing memories from the past three days :-).

Of course, it was all over too soon. Though, despite concerns, three days of work was enough to craft these amazing performance pieces, everyone there longed to have more time. In fact, with less than four months till the end of the year many long for more APAC experiences generally. But with years of high school to go for many, and football and badminton still to come this school year, the chance for fun, learning, and making new friends is still there (though maybe with slightly less Hamilton) :-).

To watch the final performance in full, access this YouTube link: tinyurl.com/4amsff64 or search “APAC Theatre 2023” on YouTube.