The thought of Shakespeare with hip hop and rap was too interesting to pass up. Add to that the fact that the play William was written by Mr. Ron Capinding, high school teacher at the Ateneo de Manila who wrote one of the most entertaining Filipino textbooks that I have ever read -- Ikaw at ang Kawili-wiling Wika or simply called WAKI.

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So last Saturday, September 17, we caught the 3pm show of William. William is about a group of high school students who have a hard time understanding Shakespeare and who wonder, just like any other student, why they have to study Shakespeare at all. As the play unfolds, while the characters and the people in the audience do get to encounter and re-visit the works of Shakespeare, the story also focuses on something much bigger than Shakespeare and that would be significant human experiences and emotions like love, passion, and forgiveness.

If you think about it, literature only makes sense when it speaks to you or connects with you as a reader. In the case of William, the play works as it has a message for all in the audience -- it has a message for students, for children, and for parents. I took my nine-year old daughter to see it and this is how she described William: "I was prepared to get bored but I enjoyed it."

The story is enjoyable, with a perfect combination of dramatic and funny moments. The rap portions, however, were a bit difficult to listen to since the delivery was not too clear. The characters were likeable although sometimes a bit one dimensional -- but if you think about it, in real life, people do have a tendency to classify individuals into boxes or stereotypes. The props and the set were simple but effective and we were pleasantly surprised by the prom scene. The colorful prom costumes were very attractive.

The actors were excellent too. During the performance we caught, the actors were:

Norbs Portales as problem student/child TJ Domingo
Joan Tecson Bugcat as perfectionist Estella Marie Carandang
John Emmanoel B. Moran as student leader and the gay Richard
Inno Martin as the shy and "nobody" Erwin Castro
Anna Luna as the lotto winner's daughter, Sophia
Timee Gorecho as English Teacher Ms. Lutgarda Martinez
Elmer Cruz as the father of four different characters: TJ, Estella, Erwin, and Sophia

We thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Anna Luna who was funny, kikay, and touching, depending on what the scene called for; Timee Gorecho who was every bit of a teacher, speaking so clearly; and Elmer Cruz who was so versatile, he played father to four different characters -- with each father, having a different personality too. (At one point during the play, I actually told my husband jokingly: "Magkakapatid pala yung apat na estudyante? Isa lang ang tatay nila?)

We watched the play in a theater filled with students. While it was good to see big groups of students watching William, it was also quite irritating sometimes to hear them react inappropriately and noisily to some of the scenes when the characters performed portions from the works of Shakespeare. Oh well.

My favorite lines from the play were not from Shakespeare but from Mr. Capinding. Lines like: “Masyado pa akong bata para magkaroon ng silbe.” or “Mabigo ka muna bago ka sumuko.” We also enjoyed the song William, Ikaw Na with lyrics which went like this: “Tayo ang gumagawa ng sarili nating mga dula. Sa entablado ng buhay tayo ang lumilikha.” In the end, we realize that the play is not just about William. It is about you and I.

As for the teenaged girls in the audience, the play might as well have been entitled Erwin or Inno as they screamed their heads off when the shy and “nobody” Erwin took off his eyeglasses at the end of the play and looked like the Romeo that Juliet was looking for. After the show, the girls still kept screaming, prompting one elderly male in the audience to quip: “Where can you find screaming fans of Shakespeare?” To which my children quickly replied (although quietly to us and not to the elderly man): “They’re not screaming fans of Shakespeare. They’re screaming fans of Erwin.”

Even in the bathroom, after the show, the conversation of the girls was still about Erwin. About how this play made up for the boring show or performance that they had to catch at Camp Aguinaldo. I wondered then if the message of William was something that they had appreciated. I hoped that such was the case.

If you would like to catch William which is directed by Maribel Legarda, remaining performances are on September 23 to 25, with 10am and 3pm shows. Tickets sell for P350 (regular) and P500 (VIP/House Row). The VIP tickets are good since you will be in the middle portion, in an elevated section, and you will have a very good view of the stage. You will also not need to line up.

For the regular tickets, the section is quite cramped. You might also need to take the seats at the sides or on the second floor if you do not come early enough. You will also need to line up. The theatre opens 30 minutes before the show.

You can buy tickets online at the PETA website and then just claim the tickets at the marketing table. Parking is limited near the building or on the street or you can also park at Christ the King Seminary. The PETA people say there are shuttles which can take you from Christ the King Seminary to the theatre but were not too clear when we asked them repeatedly about the schedules and details so it may be better to just come early for the show. The PETA Theater is located at No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. It's a street near Christ the King Seminary and Quezon City Sports Club.

For more details about William and other plays and performances, please visit the PETA website

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, September 18, 2011] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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