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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Buon Giorno for Repertory Theater for Young Audiences for staging Pinocchio

Nurturing the imaginative minds of young audiences

Theater has an undeniable charm that has transcended eras. It has withstood wars and famines, it has documented the rise and fall of empires and regimes. It is a powerful cultural treasure that has been an important part of humanity’s development. In the past few years, theater has enjoyed a resurgence and more and more people troop to Broadway and West End to watch the best musicals and plays. But with the advent of modern technology, some of us seem to forget the beauty and mystique of the stage.

This year, Repertory Theater for Young Audiences (RTYA) artistic director, Joy Virata aims to enrich the lives and imagination of children with the restaging of the award-winning musical, Pinocchio, which premiered on August 16 and will continue to show until the end of the year at the OnStage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati.

“I am very happy that Pinocchio has had such a good response—not only by the sale of tickets and the reviews, but with the way the children react when they watch the show,” said Virata.  “Even the littlest ones are quiet and mesmerized. I hear them singing ‘Buon Giorno’ when they leave the theater.”

Pinocchio features several segments of audience participation where everyone is encouraged to learn the Italian words and songs. Theater, in general, develops a deep appreciation for the arts—music, dance, visual arts and literature—and creates an atmosphere of connectedness between the artists and audience like no other medium. As it exercises the creative ability to suspend disbelief, demanding one to overlook the limitations of the medium, theater also improves language comprehension and listening skills, and promotes the value of culture and people.

Pinocchio is not only a wonderful learning experience for children, it is also a visual marvel. One of Virata’s favorite things about the play is the beautiful set design of the Land of the Toys by Oliver Roxas and the light design of John Batalla. She also adores the costume designs of Liz Batoctoy and Ogie Reonal. Virata always manages to insert a bit of classical dance in her shows. “The dancing of the ballerina and the acrobatic moves of the clown are quite spectacular,” she said. “I also like the movement of Pinocchio when he is still a puppet on strings.”

Beginnings of Repertory Theater for Young Audiences

Aside from Pinocchio, RTYA has staged many plays since its establishment in the early nineties, including Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Seussical, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Snow White, Mulan, Annabel Broom the Unhappy Witch, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Alice in Wonderland. Pinocchio was picked this year because it was a RTYA favorite that hasn’t been done in a decade.

“One day, I saw some children waiting outside the theater for their parents who were watching an ‘adults only’ production,” explained Virata of the beginnings of RTYA. “I thought to myself why not provide children with their own theatre?”

Virata surfed the internet for plays and found one written by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy, the same writers of this theatrical adaptation of Pinocchio, for their company The Prince Street Players Ltd.  “I was particularly struck that their productions were of the same quality as professional, adult productions, and by their belief that this was what children deserved,” she said. The play was Sleeping Beauty, which had simple, catchy tunes, and was funny and short—the principles which have guided Virata’s choice of plays ever since.

“To make a long story short, the enthusiasm from the actors, artistic staff, and friends, that greeted RTYA was so great, I got carried away and ended up with a great set and marvelous costumes which ran way over my budget,” shared Virata. “But, the opening performance was a sell-out.  We had more walk-in sales than any production we have ever had. With only around 16 performances, I was able to recoup all the costs and more. And that’s how it started.  And it has been going on ever since.”

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