STAGE TUBE: OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA: the Breakthrough Komedya Plays at CCP Today

By Precious Lee Cundangan

Manila, Philippines, November 17, 2012 - Dulaang UP brings to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (via the Fourth National Theater Festival) "Orosman at Zafira," one of the theater company's breakthrough productions today, November 18 at 3 p.m.

"Orosman at Zafira" combines the conventions of a komedya (moro-moro) with contemporary, alternative twists that today's theatergoers can relate to. Komedya, a popular theatrical form during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, focuses on the conflicts between Christians and Muslims. 

This fourth restaging of "Orosman at Zafira," directed by University of the Philippines (UP) professor Dexter Santos; and penned by the Father of Tagalog Poetry, Francisco Balagtas, retains certain aspects of the komedya such as having a live band (orchestra), which plays traditional curacha and marcha music, mixed with transdance and world music for this production. 

Theatrical devices such as the loa (narrator) and the battalya, a dance inspired by the pasodoble, are also infused into the play.

"Orosman at Zafira" tells the story of three tribes: the Marruecos, the Duquelas, and the Tedenst. As conspiracy and doubt enshroud the feast for the pachas (tribal leaders) given by Mahamud, the sultan of the Marruecos, Boulasem, the Tedenst's chieftain, disrupts the celebration by committing treachery and by murdering Mahamud, which prompts the war among the tribes.  Caught in the middle of the war are star-crossed lovers Orosman, son of Boulasem, and Zafira, daughter of Mahamud.

Balagtas, who created three-dimensional characters and provided a feminist slant by way of female protagonists Gulnara and Zafira, breaks the Komedya formula by making the pointlessness of war as the theme of "Orosman at Zafira." Just like Balagtas, Santos' staging of "Orosman at Zafira" revels in those aspects and enhances them to create this one of a kind contemporary theatrical production.

Adding to the larger-than-life characters, the three tribes are presented with specific locality, ethnicity, and marcha movement:  The Marruecos are from Northern Luzon, whose movements were based on the rituals of Albaab; the Duquelas are from Palawan, whose movements were inspired by the "golden turtle dance"; and the Tedenst are from Mindanao, whose movements were influenced by the rituals of the Manobo.

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