TEATRO Tomasino experienced a steep decline in its audience as it struggled through its latest production, “Agnoia,” which ran Jan. 16-19 at the Benavides Auditorium.

In nearly all of the 12 shows of the production, the official theater organization of UST enjoyed a mere some 50 members in the audience, according to artistic director Ingrid Villamarin, an English language studies senior.

“[Theater on campus] has not gone that far, if I were to be honest,” Villamarin told the Varsitarian. “We try to keep our material relevant to today’s issues and we do our best to publicize the productions, yet we still have trouble reeling in the Thomasian crowd.”

Teatro produces two major productions and two minor productions annually.

For its second production this season, Teatro staged “Agnoia,” Palanca winner Liza Magtoto’s adaptation of Eli Rueda Guies III short story, “Horoscope.”

Teatro Tomasino presents “Agnoia,” its second production for its 41st season, last Jan. 16 at the Benavides Auditorium of Junior High School Building. (Photo by Jazmin D. Tabuena/The Varsitarian)

Directed by Teatro alumnus Lendro Enore, the play tackles the uncertain character of destiny and predetermined futures.

“[I think] people should be more comfortable with the unpredictability of life,” Magtoto said.

Teatro’s first production for this season, “Singhap,” was mounted last semester. It consisted of three short plays (by Aureus Solito, Cheska Marfori, and Jerome Ignacio) tackling sexuality and identity.

“Teatro Tomasino has always been an avenue for expressing timely social, political, and historical issues,” said Villamarin. “Thus, the plays are dependent on what [we think] currently needs to be addressed.”

Scripts of theater organizations go through a screening process at the Office for Student Affairs (OSA), which may veto materials deemed too risqué or not fit for campus viewing.

Clergy crucified by Duterte and the Catholics they serve

Mikaela Tagaylo, president of Mediartrix, said that they didn’t experience any issues with OSA in the themes of Mediatrix.

“However, we are careful to handle themes on sexuality as UST is a Catholic university . . . and also, political themes,” she said.

But apparently, OSA has been more accommodating or less negative toward risqué or more adventurous dramatic materials. The more pressing concerns are the high costs of production, aggravated by the “excessive charges” by UST authorities for the use of venues, and dwindling ticket sales.

There’s also a difficulty in reserving theater venues because of “lengthy bureaucratic processes.”

Sheer lack of venues bedevils campus theater productions likewise.

At one time, all bookings at the Education Auditiorium had been eaten up by the College of Commerce, so Teatro had to stage its productions lately at the UST Pay High School.

Noted was the dwindling number of audio-visual halls where theater productions could be staged.

In fact, two such halls in the St. Raymund Building, where Commerce and the Faculty of Arts and Letters are housed, have been transformed into classrooms.

Arts and Letters, which has programs in communication arts and the humanities and where there is a college theater group, the long-running Artistang Artlets, has transformed its audio-visual hall into classrooms.

Moreover, UST administration charges student organizations for the use of the venues, giving minimal discount.

“We are a student-run [organization]; we are barely able to break even the expenses – which include set, script and venue – it takes for one production with the meager amount we make from the tickets,” Villamarin said.

Clergy crucified by Duterte and the Catholics they serve

“We resort to different means such as sponsorship and support from the alumni so that we could earn back our expenses,” said Tagaylo.

The rent for the venues on campus pose the biggest problem, according to Villamarin

“While maybe asking for all fees to be waived might feel like a stretch, a significant discount is of great help… It goes without saying that a performance venue can and will determine whether we’ll have a show or not,” added Villamarin.

Jonas Garcia, artistic director of Artistang Artlets, said that the administration must provide adequate venues for the performing arts.

“This is a sad reality in a university filled with amphitheaters and auditoriums,” he said. “It seems as though the facilities are being used for purposes that are not really in line with the function of such auditoriums.”

“We face difficulties in the ‘e-reserve’… at some point, we would find it necessary to bargain for event dates with [several organizations]. It’s a tedious process,” said Tagaylo.

The expense and difficulty to reserve venues inside the campus is not a foreign experience to most of the student organizations in the University, especially active ones.

The Varsitarian tried to get the side of the OSA, but it didn’t reply.
Rehearsal space also becomes an issue, none of these organizations have their own permanent spaces or studios on campus.

“We only ever have the [Quadricentennial Pavillion or Quadricentennial Park] as our rehearsal area and it’s quite difficult to create a conducive environment for rehearsals when there are a lot of external factors and noise to control and deal with,” Tagaylo said.

Clergy crucified by Duterte and the Catholics they serve

Villamarin also mentioned that the reach of the Teatro is an important factor in its hope for perpetuity.

“We used to get help from the faculty members; I think there was a time when the teachers gave incentives to students who watched our productions… we hope they’ll help in promoting plays like ours and plays of other theater guilds in the University,” she said.

Garcia lamented that theater community in UST seemed like they are “fighting for the art of theater” on their own.

“We also want to see the effort by the admin on helping us to at least mount the said productions. […] there has to be a more reliable and constant communications system for the theater activities inside UST.”

“We don’t do “art for art’s sake,” as many would assume; we do this to educate the Thomasian crowd… cases like this hinder cultural development and freedom of expression in UST because the freedom is not given freely by the administration itself,” Villamarin said. Lyon Ricardo III M. Lopez with reports from Katrina Isabel C. Gonzales, Jiselle Anne C. Casucian and Nolene Beatrice H. Crucillo


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