Things happened faster than ever in the 80's. A revival of Peter Pan was presented to mark the 50th anniversary of the graders' Dramatic Club. In 1982, a year after the boys pooled their writing talents and came up with a script for the Lord of the Rings based on the books of Tolkien. (It was a premiere production.) Then Tony Perez arrived at the scene. Already a multi-awarded writer, he wrote Lualhati, a spectacular play about the Bible which was presented in 1983.
The thought that his former pupil was offering his new play and was eager to work in tandem with him thrilled the veteran dramatist no end. For there was something teacher and student had in common. Both had plunged into the revitalization of two of the oldest Ateneo traditions-theatre arts and creative writing. And having caught their romance they were ready to add new glories to make them live on.
Before long two more Ateneo alumni came to the fore, Fr. Fruto Ramirez, SJ who through the inspiration of Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, SJ got involved in the development and promotion of liturgical music in Pilipino and different Philippine dialects, enthusiastically composed the music of Lualhati.
Edmund Ty a psychology graduate who became a free lance production designer for television, the movies and the stage, designed the set.
Riding on the crest of their initial success the foursome scored another unforgettable triumph, Tolda. The young players were comfortable with Perez' script which was not in the least archaic and Fr. Ramirez' music had an instant appeal for they were singable. The thespians also found Ty's carnival setting dazzling. Thus the 1985 presentation was etched in their memories.
In the subsequent years Perez wrote seven more plays for ACT: Kwentong Baboy, the revolution of the Pigs which predicted the EDsA revolution (staged in 1986), the futuristic Tagbituin (1987), Tatlong (jabi sa Horror Disco House (1988), The Tricycle Kings, a play on the plight of tricycle drivers (1989) and Tales from Huron Country which was about the martyrdom of theJesuits in North America (1990).
The Widening Repertoire
During the 1990's ACT's focus shifted from the historical drama exemplified by the life of Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuit order, penned by Perez (1991) to the revival of best loved Broadway hits-Oliver (1992), Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1993) and Aladdin (1994), together with the touching Ang Pinakamagandang Luha ni Kulas.
Then in 1995 the group zeroed in on the burning issues of the day, particularly nature and the environment with Ty's Mga Prinsipe ng Dagal, yielding to a nagging desire of maintaining the relevance of their plays which had surfaced in the previous years.
Their growing repertoire evinced maturity in the period 1996-1998 with the trilogy on the centennial of the Philippine Revolution (Batubayani, a play on Rizal (1996), (jregorio del Pilat Ang Batang (jeneral (1997) and Mga Bata ng Himagsikan (1998). ACT went down in the annals of Philippine Theatre as the lone group in the country that produced such a trilogy.
Batubayani was scripted by Jesus Deogracias Principe a college student from the Ateneo de Manila. Its music was compo~ed by Jesse Lucas, (jregorio del Pilar, Ang Batang (jeneral, was written by Dennis Marasigan, Lucas again wrote the music.
The staging of Batubayani was a part of the inauguration of Irwin Theatre, "the completion of a dream" as Ateneo President Fr. Bienvenido Nebres put it.
Not many people knew that the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre was an old dream which the late Fr.
Asterio Katigbak, S.J. had chased relentlessly during the time that he served as Headmaster of the Grade School.
Wrote Fr. Nebres, "It is fifty years since the end of the Second World War and the destruction of the great Ateneo Theatre on Padre Faura. It is but fitting that we now have the opportunity to continue the memory of Fr. Irwin and the great Ateneo thespians enshrined in our history.
May this inauguration be both a celebration of the fulfillment of a dream and a commitment to making even greater contributions to Ateneo de Manila's legacy of excellence in the dramatic arts." "Batubayani was the first ACT production to enjoy the state-of-the-art stage and to bid goodbye to the barn-like old auditorium that became an environmental theatre with sets almost surrounding the audience.
Ty's Mga Bata ng Himagsikan, the Grade School's contribution to the Celebration of the Centennial of the Philippine Independence in 1998 was, unlike the other parts of the trilogy, a historical fiction. Its plot revolved around orphans who escape from the cruelty of people in the orphanage, trudge from forest to forest in search of help and meet their nation's heroes, their role models.
Researching on the subject of heroes for the scriptwriter, the Ateneans discovered that 17 of the heroes of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and 1898, Rizal, Gregorio del Pilar, Antonio Luna and Juan Luna among them, studied in the Ateneo. In fact, as they were girding for their presentation the Ateneo Heroes Memorial Committee was in the thick of preparations for the enshrinement of 102 Ateneans who fought for their country in Bataan and in the hills as guerrilla soldiers as well as those who put their lives on the line during the martial law years.
The message of Mga Bata ng Himagsikan was "Children have the capacity to fight their own battles" .Singson mulled ACT's offering for the last year of the 20th Century. "What was the most successful play put up by the group?" he asked himself. And the quick answer was Tolda, Perez' work which they mounted in 1985. For the script had received an award from the CCP years before they premiered it. It depicted the Philippine carnival in the most colorful way. Children loved it and adults felt a nostalgic tug while watching it. And it was taken to Vigan for the start of ACT's outreach program.