Spanish American War Play Hopes To Feature Realistic Naval Battle Effects
For Filipino playwright Dennis Posadas, part of the plan for his historical court martial Spanish American War drama The Court Martial of Almirante Montojo has always been to feature realistic special effects that would immerse the audience in the sounds and smells of battle. For him, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan opening, with its graphic bloody opening, gave some movie viewers a hint of what Normandy was like on June 6, 1944. "I wanted to do the same with the long forgotten May 1, 1898 Battle of Manila Bay, but in an off-Broadway theatre setting," Posadas said. For him that means loud bangs from air cannons, salt water sprays, smoke generators, flashing red lights, and the like.
"Without overdoing it and causing someone to have a heart attack, PTSD recurrence, or panic attack, it would be nice to have some mild special effects that at least bring the audience to a better understanding of the trials that many warriors, not just Almirante Montojo, have to go through and then have to submit to the bureaucratic inefficiencies and corruption of civilian life, in this case a court martial trial," Posadas said.
Almirante Patricio Montojo was the head of naval forces at Manila Bay who faced the American Navy headed by Admiral George Dewey. By the end of May 1, 1898, most of his old wooden ships had either been sunk or scuttled. "It was a total massacre for him, and it was compounded by lack of support from Madrid," Posadas said. Montojo was then tried for dereliction of duty in Madrid a few months after. Ironically, it was his former naval foe Dewey who came to his legal defense.
The play has themes of brotherhood in war, codes of conduct, and respect for civilians in a war zone, which are sometimes forgotten especially during these times of terrorism and armed conflict.
The Court Martial of Almirante Montojo was performed to a full house off-off-Broadway last December 8, 2018 at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre on West 45th Street. Posadas is currently raising funding for a few set of performances at the same theatre this 2019.
"We hope to honor all warriors, past and present, with this story," Posadas said.