Tanghalang Pilipino Stages Filipino Adaptation of Steinbeck's OF MICE AND MEN; Show Premieres 5 Oct.
Katsuri aims to bring light to the issue of last year's massacre of sugar workers from Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
Manila, Philippines - After the success of Tanghalang Pilipino's (TP) fourth staging of Mabining Mandirigma, the theater company is staging next Katsuri, Bibeth Orteza's Filipino adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
TP's goal has always been to educate the Filipino audience through theater and the arts. Katsuri is no different; it aims to bring light to the issue of last year's massacre of sugar workers from Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
"Katsuri" is the Hiligaynon word for "shrew." In English, the animal is known as the Negros Shrew (Crocidura negrina). They are not quite a rodent and not quite a mouse, which is a very fitting title to the play according to Orteza as the sugarcane farmers are almost rodent, almost mouse, and hardly human.
"I thought it resonates with what's going on today politically and on a more personal level that's why I was excited to do it," says Carlos Siguion-Reyna, the director of the play. He has most recently directed TP's Coriolano and this will be his first time to direct a drama.
The play tells the story of George and Toto, farmhands and long-time best friends. After running into trouble back in Hacienda Luisita, they go back to Negros Occidental to harvest sugar cane where they meet other sakadas.
The story talks about how they all fight for survival in Negros and overcome their struggles in life with their dreams keeping them hopeful for change. It also tackles human relationships in a time of hardships and shows how people yearn for connection.
The events in Negros cannot be ignored, which pushed Orteza to set the adaptation in Negros Occidental. She renamed the primary character "Lennie" to "Toto" to immortalize Toto Patigas through the piece and dedicate the play to him. Toto was an Escalante City councilor and human rights worker who was assassinated just earlier this year. She also felt the need to add Atorni, a character that was not in the original Steinback play, because the human rights lawyer who assisted the farmers after the Sagay massacre was shot dead as well.
"The truth had no choice. The truth was begging to be written in such manner," she says.
The role of the mentally-challenged Toto will be played by Jonathan Tadiaoan. He says about his role that mentally-challenged people are often dismissed when in fact they are just misunderstood, that what they're doing might not make sense to other people but it makes perfect sense to themselves.
Playing opposite him is Marco Viaña who plays George. In a world where everyone keeps to themselves, he says that the friendship between the two characters shows how important it is to have dreams, as well as companions who will help you achieve them.
The ensemble includes members of the TP Actors Company, namely Antonette Go, Lhorvie Nuevo, JV Ibesate, Doray Dayao, Ybes Bagadiong, Eunice Pacia, and Manok Nellas. To complete the cast, they have guest actors Fitz Bitana and Michael Williams, and TP's very own Artistic Director Nanding Josef.
Members of the cast have expressed how significant the play is in bringing attention to the realities of Negros, and that present political condition can be observed through the lens of the play. They find it challenging to truthfully represent them and their struggles, but through theater, they do their part of fighting for them.
Photos: Carla Delgado