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Teatro Europa To Return With More Plays and Less Restrictions

Following the accomplishments of last year’s debut, the theater festival showcasing EU plays will run its second edition come August.

If theater articulates real life sentiments, then Teatro Europa, a festival of European plays, has this to say when it returns in August: the world–albeit its recent difficulties–is on the mend.

This, at least, is reflected on the festival’s plans this year.

Back in 2020, the initiative–put together by the European Union (EU) Delegation to the Philippines–was meant to debut to a live audience. Its goal was to tap seven local universities to stage seven plays from different countries. However, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) put most of the world on hold. The measures set to curb the pandemic’s spread, hobbled the Philippine theater scene by preventing nonessential mass gatherings.  Because of this, the festival’s organizers decided to migrate to an online setting.

This year, however, as COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out and restrictions are lessened, Teatro Europa has more freedom to do what it wants and it has returned bigger. From seven plays, the festival will now do 16; as a result, the number of universities it will be collaborating with have also increased. Additionally, for the first time since its debut, it will have an onsite show. Come August 28 in Intramuros, it will be collaborating with the University of the East to stage Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s “The Great Theater of the World.” And, with this in mind, the festival’s organizers are vocally eager to see results.

“Theater is one of the greatest forms of art,” said Rafael de Bustamante, First Counsellor of the EU Delegation to the Philippines. “It’s a dynamic reflection of the rich culture and heritage of the European Union.” And this year, plays will continue to display such wealth through a diverse range of stories that will tackle a wide array of subjects.

Following a showcase of online trailers to be launched this month, Teatro Europa will officially begin with a play from France.

Come August 6, 2021, Colegio de San Juan de Letran will be staging an online adaptation of Moliere’s “Taruffe (The Imposter,)” an examination of institutions of power and how they can be corrupted by hypocrisy. It will then be followed by a showcase from the Czech Republic; Saint Louis University of Baguio will be doing Karel Čapek’s “R.U.R.,” the sci-fi tale responsible for introducing the word “robot” to the English language. Here, Čapek work will weave a world where machines will gain the intelligence that eventually urges them to rebel against their human masters. It will be shown on August 7. On the 8th, meanwhile, Sweden will be represented by “Pariah,” a play by August Strindberg. To be performed by Wesleyan University, it is a one-act play which sees a dialogue between men who want to be pardoned for their crimes.

The festival will resume on the 12th. On this day, the University of Makati will be representing Belgium by doing Geneviève Damas’ “The Horrid Little Princess.” This tells the story of a royal couple’s struggles with their “horrid” daughter. As for Hungary, Meridian International College will be performing their version of the Hungarian folktale “The Salt Princess” on the 13th. It’s a story about a princess who was banished by her father for saying that she loves him like people love salt. Poland will also be represented this year through “Snow” by Stanislaw Przybyszewski, a play where an old love threatens a marriage. It will be performed on the 14th by the University of San Agustin. Denmark will also be put on the spotlight through “Erasmus Montanus,” a discussion on academic snobbery written by Ludvig Holberg. It will be performed on the 15th by La Salle University of Ozamiz.

Fatalism and paganism will be highlighted on the 19th as Mapua University performs “Riders to the Sea” by John Millington Synge of Ireland. Then, “The Birds“, a Grecian classic by Aristophanes will be realized on the 20th by Jose Rizal University. The strength of friendship will then be the main point of discussion on the 21st as Arellano University stages “Il Vero Amico,” a play by Italian writer Carlo Goldoni. And on the 22nd, the spotlight will go to the Neatherlands as Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina does their version of Josst van den Vondel’s “Lucifer,” a tale about the fallen angel, Eden and the Biblical first couple.

Resuming on the 26th, First City Providential College in Bulacan will be representing Austria with “La Ronde,” a controversial play by Arthur Schnitzler which looks into sexual morality. Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela will then continue the festival on the 27th with their interpretation of “My Three Angels,” a play by Sam and Bella Spewack of Romania. It will showcase the interaction between three prisoners and a family of French colonists. On the 28th comes the live staging of Barca’s work in Intramuros. Here, UE will be tackling man’s place in the world.

Following “the Great Theater of the World,” the impacts of societal expectations and identity will be put on blast as University of St. La Salle in Bacolod does “Broken Heart Story” by Saara Turunen of Finland. And to cap off the festival, Rizal Technological University will do “Leonce and Lena” by Georg Büchner of Germany. It is a criticism of a government detached from its people. It is also a love story that poses this question: “can we truly escape fate?”

All of these performances will be streamed on Facebook page of Teatro Europa.

Aside from showcasing European plays, Teatro Europa will also serve as a venue to discuss both craft and culture through a series of webinars. These, according to the group’s press release will feature well-known theater directors who will discuss the similarities, intersections and differences between Philippine theater and European theater. And come September, there will be a rerun of the plays showcased the month before.

In other words, the festival aims to be an expansive, multi-layered experience that seeks not only to entertain but to provoke discussions and broaden the understandings of its viewers. Such, after all, is among the many purposes of the art form.

“Theatre is a mirror of all human emotions and helps to better understand Europe and its culture, from the plays played in ancient Greece to the current online performances,” says EU Ambassador Luc Véron. “Teatro Europa provides a platform for artistic Filipino youth to share their talents in acting, directing and production design.”

Aside from that, it is also a testament to the Filipino artist’s capacity to perform even when challenged. Speaking in behalf of their respective theater groups, representatives from various schools have talked about the difficulties they faced in preparing for this year’s Teatro Europa. For example, there’s Reign Emmanuelle Geronimo of the UE Drama Company. She talked about scheduling difficulties and online rehearsals done by their company at midnight to take advantage of more stable internet connections. It’s this kind of dedication that allowed such theater companies to proceed in 2020 and–according to the festival’s organizers– yield encouraging results.

Last year, Teatro Europa debuted and, as far as founders were concerned, it was a success. They managed to push through with seven plays and they managed to rake in around 300,000 viewers. That, of course, happened during a time when the world had more restrictions. And now that it’s objectively easier to move—to put up shows and bring people together—it may be at least intriguing to see how this theater festival will play out.

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