Their Own Dramatics Club
Their Own Dramatics Club
Realizing their responsibility in fostering eloquentia, sapientia and humanitas, ideals of Jesuit education laid down in the Ratio Studiorum, the mentors in the (Grade School activated their playhouse and named it Dramatics Club. They focused on spoken eloquence, cultivating poise, polish and power on the stage. This endeavor received great impetus during the time of Fr. Irwin and was given continued support by other headmasters like Fr. Luis Pacquing and Fr. Paul Bartolome. High premium was placed on the correct speaking of English. Regular elocution exercises and contests were held. Before long another tradition was born.
Thus the repertoire of the club from the late 40' s to the 60's was dominated by American and English classics. Among the plays presented in that period were Captain of the (jate by Bender Marie Dix, Treasure Island (for the second time), The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain with a script revised by Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J., Forest Prince, Junto al Pasig in three different languages English, Filipino and Spanish, Hansel and (jretel, Pinocchio and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Figuring prominently in those days were Teresa Bonifacio, the director and Fr. Luis Candelaria, Assistant Headmaster who was engrossed in the training of the actors and in the casting.
Oldest Children's Playhouse
It was in 1966 that the Dramatics Club was renamed Ateneo Children's Theatre (ACT) by Mariano SingsonJr., the new director who was a member of the teaching staff.
ACT was then defined as a non-academic, co-curricular activity open to voluntary membership by students of the Ateneo (jrade School from fourth through seventh levels (ages 10-14), an activity designed to suit the members' psychosocial needs.
The members were provided with structured exercises like singing, dancing, play reading, production work, art work and socialization games under the supervision of a moderator and an assistant. The overall course content aimed to provide an introduction culminating in the staging of an annual play.
The non-profit, non-commercial annual presentation showcased the school's Ignatian thrust in literature, rhetoric and the theatre arts. Performances were held in early February each year.
In a consortium type of agreement Miriam and St. Bridget girls were involved in the productions. Also participating was an ensemble of third grade students from the Ateneo (jrade School (members of the Junior ACT who were assigned apprentice roles).
An executive and artistic board consisting of a producer (representing the Jesuit sector), an executive producer (representing the lay, academic sector), an artistic director, a resident playwright and resident designers who provided aesthetic and pedagogue direction to ACT and attempted to bring each production as close as possible to professional standards.
Time and the winds of change have not blown away the definition, policies and procedures of the organization.
For Love of the Theatre
Those who knew Singson (especially his fellow college glee clubbers) believed that he could not resist the contagion of the unquenchable passion for the theatre of his role model, the quintessential director of both the Ateneo (jlee Club and the Players' (juild-Fr.James Reuter, S.J. Singson had in fact retained the memory of the famous words of the good priest, "the tougher you are with yourself the happier you are with yourself." Little did his mends dream that he had already felt a lingering fascination for dramatics when he was a child in Vigan. 'That's why my 1010 built a stage under our house," he would recall with a smile
His personal credo was creativity. "I always want to do something I've never done beforesomething new, something extraordinary. If one really loves the theatre he must be willing to take risks." In 1966 other drama directors toyed with the idea of presenting Peter Pan. However, they abandoned it because they found the production too demanding. But Singson could not be daunted.
He fought the odds single-handedly and it paid off. So his group premiered it in the Philippines. Peter Pan flew all around the Philippine stage for the first time.
That was not all. The ~hild thespians premiered two more Broadway plays Oliver, with a number of teachers such as Araceli Dans portraying the adult roles, and Aladdin.
When the Filipinization Movement swept across the Loyola Heights campus, ACf was not a mere bystander. like Tanghalang Ateneo the collegiate playhouse and Dulaang Sibol of the High School, the grade schoolers put on Filipino plays starting in 1970 with a full-length Ibong Adarna whose script was written by Paul Dumol. This young playwright had come into public notice for Ang Paglilitis ni Mang Serapio and Ang Puting Timamanukin which he penned when he was in the Ateneo High School. Those works had been declared minor classics by Filipino connoisseurs.
Not long afterwards Singson reinvented his group once again and proved that it was truly a theatre of, by and for Filipino children.
He assigned youngsters to do the script collectively as well as the casting. Everyone had to play varied roles, and to sing and dance. Some designed sets, costumes and the playbill. Others took charge of the props, the lights and sound and took turns in ushering. In that way they produced such plays as Palasyong Pawid and Bata.
The following is a list of their productions during that decade (all were original):
. 1971 Ang Prinsipeng Hindi Tumatawa based on an old Tagalog movie . 1972 Palasyong Pawid, a bilingual musical play . 1973 Kambal ng Sinukuan; an adaptation of an old Tagalog play serialized in liwayway Magazine . 1974 Si Handyong, si Joseph at si Kulas, a trilogy made up of a Bicol epic, a Webber and Rice Rock Opera and a script written by Ateneans.
. 1975 Isaac, the first play done in an environmental theatre . 1976 Bernardo Carpio, a work depicting Philippine culture and lifestyles, shown through a child's simple viewpoint.
. 1977 Patintero done with the theatre's objective of developing an integrated drama group . 1978 Karwaheng qinto and qoodnight, Blackeye, a first attempt to show two annual plays together, one penned by students and the other by Fr. James Reuter, S.J.
. 1979 Bata, in celebration of the Year of the Child . 1980 Ang Anino ni Abe, dealing with three persons' search for a new service of oil, seeking to rescue a kingdom and its ruler from doom.
That ACT could be an effective vehicle for values education was demonstrated from the late 60's on. Values that could not be taught in the classroom were caught in the theatre. The spirit of cooperation, the joy of bonding with others in the workplace (the stage), respect for the property of others, appreciation of Philippine culture and traditions, the value of self-reliance, resourcefulness and respect for the talent of each individual were instilled in the participants. The youngsters learned to accept criticism and correction even as they were enabled to give constructive criticism. They developed humility, politeness, honesty and a sense of responsibility in fulfilling their duties. Above all, they were led to the realization that God is the source of all gifts and talents.