3 Reasons PETA’s Re-imagination of “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare Was So Worth Seeing

In a generation of movie buffs and 3D-goers, are theater plays still worth seeing?

The answer is a big yes! Theater in the Philippines is alive and thriving.

“The Tempest Reimagined”, for example, a show I saw recently, is a feast for the classic theater buff and a charming piece for the young ones. PETA (Philippine Education Theatre Arts) in partnership with Japan Foundation and Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts proudly brought a Filipino adaptation of The Tempest, a Shakespeare classic, and interwove it to the 2013 tragedy of super typhoon Haiyan. Though that’s two different stories set in two different worlds, the play successfully showcased the innate human behavior of when faced with the inevitability of unfortunate events.

The Tempest is ran from November 11 to Dec 4, and here are some few reasons why I loved it:

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3. The present relevance of a classic piece

The first story was the classic tale written by Shakespeare about a magician named Prospero, who seeks vengeance on the people who betrayed him. For 12 years, Prospero ruled his city, but her sister, who is a queen, and her followers threw him out. He was later on exiled to an island where he became an occult master enabling him to send a storm to wreck the ship of his sister.

The second story was about the disaster brought by super typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda on November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan is the one of the strongest typhoons recorded to date. The ruins it brought was incomprehensible. The second story showcased the desperation of the super typhoon survivors, the lack of immediate help, the controversies of the relief operations, and how the survivors, despite all of these things, bravely fought on.

Directed by Nona Shepphard and co-written by Liza Magtoto (playwright of Rak of Aegis and Care Divas), the play captured the hearts of everyone who saw it. Though the story was soul-wrecking as a whole, at the core of it The Tempest Reimagined showed that love is still the most powerful force in the world. And that it still prevails. The show celebrated the resilience of the Filipinos, our unbreakable affection with our families, the natural humor we possess, and the hope that is strongly rooted deep inside of us.

2. It’s Shakespeare

Shakespeare is Shakespeare, and what makes him timeless was his use of deeply evocative words, his psychologically complex characters, and his exploration of human emotions. Romance? Ambition? Greed? Power? Death? Name it.

It is both a poetic eargasm to listen to the lyrical play and a pinch in the heart to listen to the true-to-life accounts of the super typhoon survivors. Though I personally thought the stories were not flawlessly merged together, injected with tear-jerking humor and well-crafted prose, the play still cast a delightful spell to its viewers. And to myself.

1. It is based on the real-life stories of Yolanda survivors.

“The isle is full of noises. Caliban said from The Tempest. And on the 8th of November 2013, in the Philippines, the same phrase rang true. The isle was full of noises, not of songs and chants from Prospero’s spirits, but of cries and howls of people who lost everything.

The part of the play when the storm smashed the island and wiped out everything is still distressing. It brought the audience back to when the Philippines fell on its knees, speechless and confused on where to begin facing the four million families who lost their homes. And the 6,000 people who lost their lives.

The heartfelt play was made possible because the writers and actors themselves spent time with the survivors and saw at hand the disaster brought by Haiyan. For me, this is the most notable part of the play as it eloquently communicated the rawness of emotions that filled everyone during the super typhoon.

“The Tempest” was resolved by Prospero’s change of heart, from vengeance and hatred, to forgiveness and love. On the other hand, the story of the survivors was also resolved into a change of heart when they decided to carry on and ultimately learned that no amount of help from the government could help them heal and move on. They had to do it on their own.

The play was simple, yet classic in many ways. I love how that, in the end,the play made me realize that though there will be lots of typhoons and disasters to come, what matters most is a heart that is courageous.

William Shakespeare has said it best, how life is so short, yet so beautiful: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

PETA: Philippine Education Theater Association

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