‘Bridging cultures,’ foreign groups to grace theaters in Cebu

In a week-long festival set to run from July 1 to 6, 2024, theater companies from Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, will showcase captivating shows free of charge.
Cebu International Theatre Festival 2024
Cebu International Theatre Festival 2024

A world without art is a world without joy, and a Cebu without theater is one that the Reverend Monsignor Agustin Ancajas cannot live in.

In a mission to revive theater culture and reintroduce it as an art form in the Philippines, the Reverend, through the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu - Commission on Social Communications, in cooperation with Fo Guang Shan and in partnership with NUSTAR Resort Cebu, has teamed up with Dr. Woonki Hwang, chief executive officer of DOMO Production in Korea with a doctorate in Theatre, to organize the very first Cebu International Theatre Festival.

In a week-long festival set to run from July 1 to 6, 2024, theater companies from Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, will showcase captivating shows free of charge.

Thankful for the sponsors, the Monsignor revels at the kindness of those who understood his advocacy, seeing his mission to not capitalize on the event by allowing a greater reach of theater through free shows, even for international plays. Ensuring that the event is not exclusive to those who can afford, giving away free tickets will allow people from different backgrounds to appreciate their initiatives, and come to the realization that “theater is not just fun, but it is basically food for the soul.”

“That’s why I want the theater enthusiasts to grab the opportunity to get tickets because they’re free… so that they can take part in the experience, to encourage them to go back to Theatre,” he said.

What to expect

Having witnessed Korea’s dedication to the craft, from government funding to Theatre as a profession, Msgr. Ancajas attests to the quality of the upcoming productions. As companies from Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia fly to Cebu, he attributes this level of craft to their love and passion for the art form.

“Since this is a gathering of people who really love theater, with international delegates who are really professionals in theater, for sure, you can expect a production with good stories, as well as technicals… You can expect a professional way of presenting theater as a craft,” he said. 

By observing the international productions, the Monsignor remarked on taking inspiration from their craft, alluding to them as a model for Cebu through their efforts to excel in theater.

The festival features a total of nine shows (two from Korea, two from Japan, one from Singapore, one from Malaysia, and three from Cebu, Philippines) with genres ranging from drama to musicals.

The lineup begins with "Playing House of the Dads" by Gongter Da Theatre from Korea, exploring modern parenthood and family dynamics on July 1 at 2 p.m. at Siddhartha Theatre, Guang Ming College. On July 2, Teatro de San Pedro Calungsod from the Philippines presents "Mga Dula Sa Gugma (Plays of Love)," an anthology of one-act plays about love and marriage, at 2 p.m. at Marcelo Fernan Press Center. The same day, at 8 p.m., Theater Domo from Korea performs "Sonakbi: The Rain" at Siddhartha Theatre, Guang Ming College, telling the story of impoverished men under the control of a wealthy landowner.

On July 3, Japan's Theater Konoshitayami performs two plays, "Paper Balloon" and "Bear," starting at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Hijas de Jesus, examining marital boredom and unexpected romantic confessions. "Siddhartha the Musical" by Siddhartha Theater Ensemble from the Philippines follows at 8 p.m. at Siddhartha Theatre, Guang Ming College, depicting the journey of Prince Siddhartha to enlightenment.

July 4 features "Sapa sa Calagasan (River of Calagasan)" by The University of Cebu - Maritime Training Center at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Hijas de Jesus, focusing on cultural heritage and environmental issues. Later, at 8 p.m., 劇団アンゲルス Theatre Angelus from Japan presents "Muddy Water" at Siddhartha Theatre, Guang Ming College, a story set in the chaotic transition period of Tokyo's westernization.

On July 5, Opera Academy Singapore stages "Bangsawan Si Burung Bulbul (The Nightingale)" at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Hijas de Jesus, a traditional Malay opera about a prince and a nightingale. The festival concludes with "The Man and the Dog" by CHOW DRAMA Theatre from Malaysia at 8 p.m. at Siddhartha Theatre, Guang Ming College, a heartwarming tale highlighting the therapeutic bond between humans and animals.

While admission is free, seating capacity is limited. Interested viewers can get their tickets at the Teatro de San Pedro Calungsod Office at the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod, SM Seaside Complex, Cebu City, Cebu; University of Cebu Theatre Workshop Company at UC Main in Sanciangko, Cultural Office - Mezzanine floor; and Guang Ming College, 246-2 Englis Rd., V. Rama Ave., Guadalupe, Cebu City.

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