Floy Quintos Reflects on ANG NAWALANG KAPATID; Show Runs Till 2/23

Manila, Philippines, February 12, 2014--Dulaang UP (DUP), University of the Philippines-based student theater organization, officially closes its 38th theater season by retooling a three-year-old children's play into a more complex theater piece. ANG NAWALANG KAPATID, a Filipinized musical adaptation of ancient India's most revered epic, The Mahabharata, runs until Sunday, February 23 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater (2nd floor Palma Hall), featuring the Dulaang UP Ensemble led by Teetin Villanueva, Vince Pajara, John Abella, and Ross Pesigan.

This new work tells the stories of the Kaurava and Pandava families, who are engaged in war against one another, and the young prince Karna (Pesigan), who is unaware that he is fighting his half-sibling Yudhisthira (Abella).

Book writer-lyricist Floy Quintos

The creative trio of book writer-lyricist Floy Quintos ("Collection"), composer Ceejay Javier ("Isang Panaginip na Fili"), and director-choreographer Dexter Santos ("Collection") are behind the production, which is aimed at bringing the timeless tale of The Mahabharata to a predominantly Filipino audience by probing the influence of Indian culture to the Filipinos' strong family ties.

Quintos shares his production notes with BroadwayWorld.com:

ANG NAWALANG KAPATID was written in 2010 for the Ateneo Children's Theater (ACT), and was produced the following year as the annual play of the Ateneo Grade School. As a musical for a young audience, it was an ambitious and very challenging project. The biggest challenge, then as now, was to tell the story of the epic in the clearest, simplest way possible. The ACT production featured the original score of Ceejay Javier, and was directed by JJ Ignacio. The fabulous set --inspired by the Ajanta Cave paintings--was designed by Joe Tecson with costumes by Eric Pineda. The current Dulaang UP production owes much to ACT and to Ateneo Grade School for allowing the use of the material, which has of course, been rewritten to allow for more of the complexities and key scenes of the epic.

Photo by Dino Dimar

Now, why The Mahabharata? There is a saying,"What is not found in The Mahabharata is not to be found anywhere else in the world." Truly. At its simplest, the epic is about the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, which began with a simple game of dice. But enriching the basic plot, like so many flourishes in an Indian bas-relief, are stories of Gods and men, seductions and betrayals, mysterious transformations, mythic animals, divine weapons, and political machinations. Remember that the lengthy treatise on kingship and the nobility of one's personhood, The Bhagavad Gita, is only a part of the whole Mahabharata.

I first became aware of the epic through Bhagahad Gita, then through the film by Peter Brooke (and the subsequent book documenting the production). Alas, I was too young to see the legendary production on which the film was based, which took two whole nights to perform and was set in stone quarry in Southern France.

So, what are the source materials for this adaptation? The definitive condensed translation of the epic is by the late William Buck. But research also led me to read more versions,from the historic roots of the epic to the simpler, but far more magical folk and tribal versions. I also looked at more contemporary versions like the novel "The Palace of Illusions" by Chitra Divakuruni, a contemporary work that re-interprets the epic from a feminist point of view. I must say I understood the basic plot a lot more when I read the children's versions as well as the comic book versions. All are radically different; all have their charm, their high points. Even the names of the characters change from version to version! The great Southeast Asian epics--our own Hudhud and Labaw Donggon, included--are like that. They live again with each re-telling, with each embellishment. These varied re-tellings made me understand--if not the whole story---the greatness of the epic. I have always believed that a great work of literature inspires other storytellers to create their own versions. Like fragments of a broken mirror, each piece reflects its own realities, however limited. But what insights each fragment reveals.

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