MY FIRST THEATER EXPERIENCE
Today, I got to talk in front of the junior students in our college about my experience in our theater class last year. I told them the worst and best things that happened to me while I was in the process of writing the script of our theater play. I felt like I wasn’t able to tell them everything I wanted to say that’s why I am creating this blog so that I could share more of my experience with them and to the other people who are also interested to know.
So, during the whole process, there are only five questions that guided me to survive it with grace.
THE QUESTIONS THAT LED TO SUCCESS
- The first big question was, “To be or not to be a writer?”
Our theater professor asked us to choose where we would like to belong. Is it in the directors group, writers, actors or with the production team. It was no quick decision for me. I actually ignored it at first, for days, because I have this thing where I like to decide at the last minute on the belief that it always comes out as a good decision when I do it that way. That technique works perfectly for me because when I do that I tend to decide with my instincts and my actual feelings. I tend to choose what my heart really wants and back then I heard it shout, “I WANT TO BE A WRITER!”
On that day of the decision making, I was early for class that’s why I went out for a while. I bumped into one of my classmates, Adele. We’re not very close but we’re undeniably friends and we have so much in common when it comes to our interests. We got to talk for a while on our way back to our classroom. She opened up to me that she also wants to become a writer but she doesn’t have enough confidence in herself. On that moment, I also figured out why I am really delaying my decision. It’s just that I still don’t have enough confidence too. I was waiting for my bottle of confidence to get filled up. Well, on that talk with Adele, almost half of that bottle got filled because she told me to pursue being a writer and she said she thinks I can do it! That was a great boost up Adele!
However, my bottle is still not full yet and I’m still looking for someone to fill it up. I felt pathetic that time because I could not fill it up myself. That’s when Pau came and helped me feel less pitiful. She was on the other side of the classroom and she shouted to me, “Come on let’s just try! If it’s not for us, then okay, it’s not for us!” Pauline also wants to be a writer and seeing her have no doubts made me say to myself, “Whatever will be, will be.” I am also thankful to my circle of friends namely, Racel, Chenette and Jerald who at the last minute of signing up, pushed me to go for what I really want and they even said that they believe that I have it in me. Well all of these people are the reason why I took the first big step in becoming a writer.
- The second big question was, “What story should I write?”
I think it was fear and pressure that blocked away all the good stories that I could possibly think of. You see, that water in the bottle of confidence is really difficult to maintain when there’s a hole in the middle of it. It will never be full that way. There will only be a certain level that you can fill because of that fucking hole. I feared the outcome already when I haven’t even built my story. I tried and tried to think of a concept but each time I have always said that, “This would not work.” It was still just an idea and I already did not give it a chance to prove that it could be a beautiful story. I have been so critical and paranoid. That’s why nothing good came out of it. That’s also what my professor made me realize. All our ideas and concept for the story should be consulted and approved first by Ma’am Gabello, our Theater professor, before we could write the whole script. You bet, all of our story lines were not approved and it came to the point where we were all so drained and we cannot come up with a good story line that’s why Ma’am Gabello was already the one who provided us with a story concept we could work on. The other writers managed to get their story lines approved but many of us, including me, got help from Ma’am Gabello. That was probably the start of my long battle for confidence again.
Our play by the way was competing against nine other plays which are all included in what we call THE PLM INTENSITY PLAYFEST. That’s a really tough battle for confidence indeed.
- The third big question was, “Would everyone like the script that I wrote?”
No. Not everyone. That’s impossible. There would always be someone who would not approve of what you have done or created. I know now that I should just accept that fact and just shake it off but I had a difficult time before I realized that. This is how it went:
Well, you see, I’m not the only writer in our group. Jerald Barrientos, my good pal, was supposed to be my partner. We were supposed to co-write the script. Actually what was in my mind was that, he would write the whole script and I will just be the one to give some ideas, criticisms, and I will also be the one to edit it or maybe add things that would make it better. I was giving him the freedom to do all the creativeness because I really believed that he is so good in this. We agreed that he would write the first draft. The submission day for the first draft came nearer and I was already so frantic because he still haven’t sent me anything. I was supposed to edit it before we submit it! Then Saturday came and the drafts will be collected soon and Jerald came late. When I saw him I expected that he already finished the script since as I said……he came late. I really thought that he finished it overnight! But to my shock, he only managed to give me six pages with a font size of 16! No solid character, no middle, no climax, no ending! Nothing significant! He barely finished the introduction of the story. I felt miserable. The other groups had already finished their scripts with 25 and more pages. I did not have any choice but to continue the script by myself because Jerald didn’t feel well that time. With the short time I had before the submission, I managed to add five more pages that is why we submitted 11 pages of first draft all in all. Can you believe that? How unprofessional.
Few days later our professor talked to us and she almost said that among all the groups, we submitted the worst script. My bottle of confidence drained that moment. I was already close to suggesting to Ma’am Gabello that she could just dissolve our group. But my group mates told me that it was too late to do that. The other groups have established themselves already. If we dissolve ourselves, it will already be difficult to fit in the other groups and besides my closest friends argued that I cannot let my other group mates down. So that was it. I decided to continue it and do it all by myself because apparently Jerald lost every bit of strength and eagerness to continue it. I FUCKING DID IT ALONE.
I spent the whole Cinemalaya week just to finish the script and I was so depressed because I had a very limited time to watch the entries in Cinemalaya. I only managed to watch two. Anyway, so I finished the script in 7 days and when I showed it to my group mates I felt really disappointed! That Saturday I printed a copy of 35 pages of script and none of them was eager enough to read it. Some read a few pages and did not say anything appreciative at all. Some did not really bothered to read it. One of them actually read the whole script and said that it was nice. Well at least there was one. But I was also not happy with his reaction because I did not felt that it was real that time (I was wrong apparently). We presented the script to Ma’am Gabello and she especially liked a certain part in it but she asked to change the ending. We got home at 11 o’clock from the consultation. I remember that I felt very very tired that night.
So the rehearsals started and I already noticed that some of my group mates (I won’t name them anymore) did not like the script. They think that the audience would not like it because, “It is a very smart script, the target audience won’t be able to relate with it.” I mean WHAT THE HECK? SO YOU THINK PLMAYERS ARE STUPID? They were even saying that the script of the other groups were really good. They were saying it in front of me like saying that they think it was better and they want to join the other group. There was never an open argument between me and those members but I know what they really think and felt that time.
A lot of overheard comments really did hurt me as a writer. I heard people say that this blah blah group should be the last play to be shown because it’s the best, you know save the best for the last; and come to think of it, we are the last play (We got the last place because of draw lots) and to me she’s saying that our play is not good enough to be the last play. I wouldn’t go over all the comments that really made me so depressed during those days. There was a time when I felt so miserable that I literally cried the whole way home! But I already learned how to ignore those things. Those comments won’t determine the quality of something they haven’t even seen. They should’ve waited to see our play before they said things, ya’ know.
- The fourth big question was, “Could we really bring this story to life?”
It was not easy. But we did it. There were a lot of misunderstandings, hopeless moments, production mistakes and doubts. We changed our Director many times. First it was supposed to be Jerald but like in writing, he also lost his courage. Then Janna replaced him, but she also felt like she could not do this then until we ended up to Arianne. She is a very strong, kind and hardworking woman. Believe it or not she was pregnant during those times and she handled all the stress very well. Arianne was the last person I expected who would finally take the responsibility but still I was so thankful she did.
Then the play came nearer and our production was very demanding. We are the only play in which there are two set ups that is why it was an extra work for us. That was maybe my fault because the script I created required two set ups but nevertheless that factor was one of the things that made our play extra unique and incredible.
Okay. A week before the play, we still haven’t had our rehearsal with the presence and guidance of Ma’am Gabello because she was busy doing the rehearsals with the other groups. That was maybe the disadvantage of being the last group to perform, our professor obviously had to help the other groups first. The other groups actually had mutltiple rehearsals with Ma’am Gabello and we? We had one chance. But I was proud that we manage to rehearse perfectly well by our own. Okay. So the day before the play came and it was our technical rehearsal. Did you know what happened? Ma’am Gabello did not like our entire stage design that’s why we had to change the entire thing for less than a day. Can you imagine that? We have prepared for that design for two or three weeks and we had to change it all in just a few hours. How dramatic! Anyway we still managed to do it the way our professor wants it. So cheers! Here comes the first and final performance!
- The last big question was that, “Would the audience like it? Would all our hard work be all worth it?”
That day, early in the morning we are still so busy in doing all the last minutes changes for the stage design. We were all nervous and restless on that last few hours before the show. Then our parents came, our relatives, our friends. They all came to support us. That made me extra nervous. I admit I already have a thinking that time that our play won’t be as successful as the others. I thought it would just be………..okay……”just another play.”
Then here comes our time. We were peeking at the audience and there were very few compared to the last play before us. That made me sad. But actually it’s not that few. It was a still a good crowd to get our work presented to. So for the first few minutes since the start of the play, I was just outside of the auditorium. I was so afraid to see the reaction of the crowd. It was very wrong of me to think that they would not like it at all. But then you know what? I started hearing loud cheers and I got curious. I was not able to stop myself anymore from entering the auditorium. I entered and I sat down and I watched a lot of people cheer and shout and love every line I wrote in that story. It was a priceless moment.
Finally, the last line was said and the lights dimmed and the loud cheer was very deafening. The PANGHIMGAS TEAM were now being called one by one on the stage and when I finally came up, I was overwhelmed by the huge support and love that I received. After that a lot of our friends and schoolmates came up on stage and hugged and congratulated me. I didn’t know what occurred to me but I cried. I just did and it felt very good.
By the way, the whole PLM INTENSITY PLAYFEST had an awarding and our group won five awards. Most Intense Director, Most Intense Playwright, Most Intense Actor, Most Intense Lighting and guess what? Most Intense Play!
This would be one of my greatest and most unforgettable experiences in my life. I’m dead sure.
I hope I made you feel something worthwhile with what I wrote; like you felt inspired, happy or encouraged. Thank you for sharing with my experience by reading all of these. I’ll try to write shorter next time. Bye!