Theatre has always been one of my passions, whether it is watching or performing. A couple of weeks ago, a local independent theatre group known as Sipat Lawin Ensemble asked me to help them promote, market, and do PR for a festival they had put together. They are calling it the “Karnabal. A Definition Defying Festival.” (Note: Writing in the present tense because as I type this up, it is Day 2 of the festival.)
This got me really excited. Many cultures have the carnival tradition, but the Philippines doesn’t. So when I was told that there was going to be a carnival and that it was going to be inside Intramuros, the beautiful walled city of Manila, I couldn’t wait to be involved in every way possible.
As we discussed how to market the event in the short amount of time we were given, I realised that the vision of this festival was different. The National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) had given Sipat Lawin a grant to conduct the festival within the city with the two main performance spaces being NCCA and The Manila Collectible. For five days, multiple performances are going to take place in these performance spaces. Many times, performances will be simultaneous which means festival goers will need to choose what they want to watch.
Centred on performances, I soon realised that though there is going to be a parade on the last day of the festival, this event is going to be very different from my idea of what a carnival should be. More than a party, it is a celebration of theatre, national talent, and more importantly a collection of performances that are reactions to what has happened, what is happening, and what may happen to our country given the status quo.
At first–though I love the idea of theatre being a tool for artists to speak up about the current political, economic, and/or social climate–I felt like there was a disjoint between what they are trying to achieve and what people might expect when they hear the word “carnival.”
And then I watched the peformances. And then the goosebumps. And then I saw how everything came together.
Historically, carnivals were celebrations done before the Lenten season. It was a last hurrah of sorts, allowing people to say goodbye to certain things before they begin their Lenten sacrifices. But they also represented an “an overturning of daily life” (Wikipedia.com) and I think that THAT is what Sipat Lawin and the rest of these artists and theatre groups have been able to capture. These are performances that make you think, that show you how life is overturned and how it’s being overturned, and that ask you hard questions like: what are you doing about it?
And that was just Day 1. Imagine what they have in store from today (Thursday) ’til Sunday.
View the full schedule of performances here: Karnabal Festival.