UNICEF, Tanghalang Pilipino Team Up for HIV/AIDS Awareness

Manila, Philippines, January 8, 2014--A memorable play is not always about spectacle or a gargantuan budget. A play can also be memorable when it makes a difference in the world.

Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), in partnership with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), is currently touring Layeta Bucoy's one-act play "Melanie," one of BroadwayWorld.com's most unforgettable plays of 2013.

In "Melanie," directed by TP's Assistant Artistic Director Tuxqs Rutaquio, the theater group re-introduces Brazilian theater practitioner Augusto Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed," which mainly promotes social and political change to an engaged audience.

BroadwayWorld.com recently sat down with Carmela Manuel, TP's company manager, who generously talked about the theater company's latest endeavor.

"This is the first time UNICEF, particularly its HIV/AIDS program unit, has collaborated with a theater group," said Manuel. "The key people involved believe that theater can complement what they have been doing to educate the people, especially the youth, about HIV/AIDS. And what's more powerful and visually enticing to young people than live theater?"

When UNICEF approached TP, the theater company immediately said yes because apart from perfecting its art, TP also wants to tackle issues that are relevant today.

According to Manuel, UNICEF chose the theater organization for two reasons: (1) the pilot project was set in Pasay City; TP's office is in the same area; and (2) UNICEF's partners are mostly government-affiliated organizations; TP is affiliated with the government-run Cultural Center of the Philippines.

A scene from MELANIE, a play by Layeta Bucoy. Photo by
Tanghalang Pilipino

For its part, TP has prepared a plan on how to effectively communicate UNICEF's key messages via the use of theater. Besides the 18-session workshop, covering three main topics: (1) Boal's "Theatre of the Oppressed," (2) an in-depth understanding of HIV/AIDS; and (3) psychodrama for therapy, TP also requires its actors to learn about effective pedagogy, incorporating various teaching strategies and tactics.

"Melanie" was first performed at the Philippine Sports Complex (PSC) in Pasay City in December 2013.

"Our main target audience is what we call the 'key affected population,' specifically 15 to 24 year olds in Pasay City," said Manuel.

"Fortunately, we recently received a good feedback from PSSI, a group in Pasay City that has asked us to perform for its celebration of National AIDS Day in December at Colegio de San Juan. PSSI said, 'You know what? We have been doing this for years: Teaching people about HIV/AIDS and condoms, but TP did it in one play.'" Manuel added, "The audience members were interacting and asking questions. So for us, that was good affirmation that we were doing something effective."

Besides staging "Melanie," TP will also implement community workshops--aimed at students, men having sex with other men, Catholic schools, and church youth groups--in three locations in Pasay City. According to Manuel, participants will undergo a theater workshop with six sessions. At the end of the workshop, participants will present their own 20-minute play inspired by what they learned in the "classroom."

Manuel pointed out, "So it's like a community effort.

"If it's just us--hindi eh--it would not be very effective. But if you would duplicate or triplicate the efforts among three groups, for instance, and these groups would work full time mobilizing the other groups in the area, I think that would be most effective."

If successful, TP and UNICEF would also reach out to other HIV/AIDS hotspots such as Quezon City, Caloocan City, Davao City, and Cebu City.

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From This Author Lee Cundangan

Lee studied AB Communication Arts at University of Santo Tomas and M.A. in Theater Arts at University of the Philippines-Diliman. She maintains two blogs; writes (read more...)

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