THE “Shorts & Briefs” is one of the highlight activities of the Theater Arts program here at Meridian International College (MINT College). It’s been running for four years already. It is a festival of freshly written one-act plays to be performed and directed by MINT’s former and current students.
For three years, I usually find myself playing the part of the spectator. But this time, I challenged myself to break out from the norm and took on the role of a director again. Being a theater enthusiast, the earliest memory I had of being involved with thespians was when I actively volunteer to direct skits for class presentations in elementary.
I admit that my Multimedia Arts background didn’t prepare me that much for what was to come. For one, I didn’t expect that those live shows that I enjoy for a few hours could take grueling months to prepare.
Everything was new to me. It took me a while to adjust, but I was all game for it. From choosing a good script, to casting the perfect actors, to rehearsals, to technical light and sound directions and everything in between. However, what challenged me the most was the lingo—TDR? Italian Run? Tech scripts? Bloodbath? What do you mean ‘stage right’ is left and ‘stage left’ is right? Who would’ve thought that theater could get this chaotic behind the curtains?
There were nine plays total to be presented. We began the months of preparation with the directors preoccupied in polishing their own respective plays for the first 30 days.
It was only until the first technical dress rehearsal that we met as a whole team. I felt a different vibe from everyone as we ran through each play. It was definitely the kind of show I would be excited for, but there was still that nagging feeling of whether our audience would feel the same. This year, we challenged ourselves in showing plays that reflect being liberated, brave, and playful (malaya, matapang, maharot).
The opening night came, and my directorial journey began with unavoidable mishaps. The lights and sounds weren’t working properly, schedules were delayed, and everyone got jittery as we experience such. Despite the rough first run, it didn’t dampen my spirit to showcase the play I chose to direct.
The first night was a full house. Before the show started, I suddenly got anxious to show my work to everyone at MINT. This is my directorial debut and I wasn’t sure if I did a good job. Then, as the lights went up, all of my worries disappeared in the shadows as the spotlights hit my actors as they took the audience along for a crazy ride on a disastrous first date that is “Soulmates” (written by Scott Mullen). As I watched the plot unfold, it was awesome to see everyone giggling and chuckling at this comedic one-act.
This year’s stage was a rollercoaster of emotions. We began with “A Night in Rotonda” (written by Patrick Patriarca and directed by Justin Ellamil), which was a very grounded tug-of-war between beliefs and desires in love. “Ten Minutes” (written and directed by Von Gatillo) was an immersive story about selfish decisions of three people as they decide on who gets to live and die. “Soulmates” (written by Scott Mullen), which I directed, was a comedic storm of a terrible first date paired with an entire bottle of wine.
For the next set, “Hardcore!!!” entered (written and directed by Paul Evangelista) with its courageous portrayal. This play truly blew off everyone’s mind, including mine. It was followed by “Dakeep” (written and directed by Nikki Corrales) which was a seemingly harmless monologue of a vlogger that touched the subject of obsession through visual metaphors. “Aftermath” (written by Eric Grogan and directed by Joam de Guzman) was gripping with multiple stabs in the heart that would leave you unsure if you wanted to root for the couple or not. “The Prayer” (written and directed by Dana Blaze) was as intimate as one can get into the dark mind and soul of someone fighting an inner battle they would never win. “I Will Not Die Tonight” (written and directed by Noah del Rosario) closes this with a triumph of a performance grounded in dark humor.
Reserved for the weekends were the musicals-in-progress “Today” and “Pak Café” (written and directed by Karl Jingco) which traversed through stories of hope and new beginnings told in a powerful solo and a selection of OPM hits. Light and playful, this set made sure everyone would go home with a happy heart.
As I work behind-the-scenes, I realized how theater isn’t just about the stage. It’s a community of passionate people, whose perfectly orchestrated actions made this event a great run. It was a real gift to see how these people excel in their craft. My most cherished moment would always be when we’re huddled in a small room as we assist each other in terms of makeup, costumes, set design and we take turns in presenting our respective plays. In different ways, whether it’s big or small, I noticed how we brought out the best in each other.
When I signed up to be a director for this year’s Shorts & Briefs, I wasn’t expecting to feel attached, not just to the play I handled, but also to the people I worked with. Two whole months—filled with weekly rehearsals and a two week-worth of shows—filled me with melancholy when the last curtain call was casted.
The whole project was ‘short and brief,’ but it was all worth it. W
AIA ARKONCEL is a 4th year Multimedia Arts student in MINT College. She is currently the head of MMA Creatives and likes to connect the world through design and other art forms.
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