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Another necessary element of theater is the space

What is THEATRE?
in which performers or audiences come together. It
- in dramatic arts, an art concerned almost is essential to have a stage, or some
exclusively with live performances in which equivalent area, where actors and actresses can
the action is precisely planned to create a perform. It is also essential to have a place for
coherent and significant sense of drama. audience members to sit or stand.
- derived from the Greek word “theaomai”
which means “to see”

5) Design Aspects
1) Performers
Visual Aspects - costumes, lighting, and some form
- People onstage presenting characters in dramatic
of scenic background
Nonvisual Aspect - sound.
The audience is coming to see a performer pretend
to be someone else. When the actor/actress is on 6) Text
stage, they must be believable as the character they A final element essential to theater is the text that is
are portraying. If they are not believable, then the performed, and it must be present for theater to
audience will be less interested in the production. occur. Another name for the text is script. One key
element for writing is CONFLICT. The characters
2) Audience
should have a goal to reach, but to reach that goal
- The essence of theater is the interaction between
they must go through a series of conflicts. Without
the performer and audience. Theater needs to be
conflict the story would be bland and boring. When
experienced live. There is a "call and response"
writing your script, how can you make your story
atmosphere that can not be witnessed in a movie
more interesting?

~ In a live theater experience, when the audience

laughs out loud, or cries, then the actors respond to
that energy.

~ In a movie, there is no connection between the

actors and audience, only reactions from the
audience. But, the performances we see today are mere
products of the cultures that have influenced the
3) Director
country through the years. Let’s take a look at how
The director makes certain that the performers
the history of Philippine theatre has evolved.
understand the text and deliver the script excitingly
and appropriately. The director also makes sure the
Pre-colonial Time
blocking, costume designs, set designs and other
aspects of the show blend together to make a
During the pre-historic times, theater in the
production that works together.
Philippines was in the form of indigenous rituals,
All the aspects of theater should compliment each verbal jousts or games, or songs and dances to
other, and the director oversees all these things. praise gods. According to early chronicles, pre-
historic dramas consisted of three elements – myth, through a series of performances. The first
mimesis, and spectacle. Filipino comedia was performed in Latin and
Spanish by Fr. Vicente Puche in Cebu in 1598.
These mimetic performances mostly dramatized
primitive rituals and epic poetry about deities and On the other hand, a zarzuela is a form of musical
mythical legends, where the spirit of the deities theater that combines spoken word and song that
would seemingly possess a catalonan (priest) or celebrates various Catholic liturgical feasts. Jugar
babaylan (priestess). Con Fuego by Francisco Asenjo Barbieri was the
first zarzuela introduced in the country in late 1878
During this entranced state, the priest or priestess or early 1879.
would consume the sacrificial offering, which could
be in the form of a pig, chicken, rice, wine, or nuts. By August 17, 1893, Teatro Zorilla, the home
"…seemed to shoot flames from her eyes; her hair of zarzuela, was inaugurated.
stood on end, a fearful sight to those beholding, and Throughout the 333 years of the Spanish regime,
she uttered words of arrogance and superiority." the Philippines was widely influenced by their
– Juan de Plasencia, 1590 culture, tradition, and religion.
Today, zarzuelas and comedias are still being
Spanish Regime performed, albeit with other cultural influences and
contemporary touches.
When the Spaniards reached our shores, they used
dramas such as zarzuelas as a pedagogical tool to American Colonization
influence the pagan tribes and teach them about
Christianity and religion. When American colonial rule was established, the
United States introduced the American way of life
Another important form of theater popularized through education, media, and language. Their
during the Spanish colonization is the comedia, also influence on Philippine theatre is most apparent
known as moro-moro, linambay, or arakyo. It’s a through the bodabil (vaudeville) and the plays and
play in verse that portrays the lives, loves, and wars dramas staged or translated into English.
of moors and Christians.
In 1898, the first bodabil was produced by the
Moro-Moro is a secular comedy that dramatizes the Manila Dramatic Guild for the sole purpose of
war between Christians and Muslims through the entertaining American soldiers and other Americans
forbidden love between the prince and the princess. residing in Manila. It was also the first theatrical
The comedy is resolved with the non-Christian performance since the revolution.
being converted to Christianity, or through his or
her death, immediately followed by his or her The bodabil is not a straight-up play. The theatrical
resurrection. performance is, in fact, a mix of songs, dances,
comedy skits, and even magical performances.
Comedias were normally performed in Local audiences bought-in and productions soon
the pueblos or village centers to attract more found themselves becoming entertainment
people to the foundation of its regime. spectacles that can be transported from one town
The comedia can last anywhere from 3 to 15 hours to the next. Not long after, the bodabil was
interjected into comedias and zarzuelas, as Theatre was largely performed in English during the
intermission numbers known as jamborees. time, as it became a large part of classroom
education. Meanwhile, zarzuelas such as “Ang Kiri,”
In the 1930s, the country was introduced to “Dalagang Bukid,” and “Paglipis ng Dilim” became
Broadway theatre or stage plays through the well-known beyond their regions.
westernized education that was provided in most
private schools for privileged children. By the 1950s, theatre had moved out of classrooms
Shakespearean tragedies and comedies, as well as and the concept of paying for a ticket to see a
western classics, were performed in the original theatrical performance emerged. This “legitimate”
English or English adaptation. theatre was held in closed theaters – these became
events in themselves, not just mere parts of a
The Japanese Occupation celebration or religious ritual.

By the 1940s, when the Japanese took over the During this time, playwrights such as Severino
Philippines from the Americans, movie actors and Montano, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, and Alberto S.
actresses could no longer appear in films, as the Florentino honed their crafts and contributed to the
Japanese confiscated all film equipment. However, development of performing arts in the Philippines.
the comedia, zarzuela, and bodabil remained in the
country as forms of entertainment and expression. Through the years, Philippine theatre groups have
staged numerous plays in both English and Filipino,
Eventually, the bodabil evolved to become stage be it written by a Western or local playwright.
shows or variety shows with a short melodrama at Spanish culture and traditions largely influence
the end to accommodate the actors and actresses performing arts in the Philippines, but the
who moved their craft to bodabil and contemporary style is borrowed from the
theatre. Venues such as the Manila Grand Opera Americans. Classic shows such as The Westside
House and the Savoy Theatre became homes Story and Sound of Music made waves in recent
of bodabil. years when it took the local stage. This year, The
Theatre at Solaire presents The Lion King, an
After the war, movies returned to popularity, and internationally renown production set to wow
the bodabil era slowly lost its luster. Stage shows Philippine audiences.
became small, cheap performances held in open-air
stages in the provinces. Sadly, the bodabil
deteriorated decades later to become burlesque
and strip shows held in cheap theatres around
American military bases.

Philippine Theatre as We Know It Today

After the Japanese occupation, the Philippine

theatre has evolved to become an amalgamation of
the various influences such that of
the zarzuela, comedia, bodabil, and western classics.