William: Mystery behind the Name

RON CAPINDING’S rap-musical “William” showcases the blend of Shakespearean literature and Philippine culture. The play introduces five junior high school students pondering on the questions, “Who is William Shakespeare?” and “Why are his writings considered important?”

The students are stock characters, portraying stereotypical teenage high school students represented by a specific color. Blue signifies Erwin, the socially-awkward boy, because of his shyness and lack of individuality as he seems to blend with the walls, unnoticed by his friends. Sophia, the pretty and popular girl but considerably shallow, has pink as her distinctive color, lively and attached to sophisticated things. TJ, the obnoxious jock, is characterized with green to represent his envious personality. Yellow describes Estela, the undesirable honor student, to emphasize her self-doubt and lack of courage to forgive. Lastly, Richard, the gay student leader, wears red to depict his contained rage begging to be freed.

The way the play mirrors the flaws of Philippine education becomes evident, including the lack of appreciation for literature because of family feuds, social problems and other concerns. It also traces influence from commedia dell’arte, displaying how the actors perfected their roles using character improvisation. For instance, the actor of Ms. Martinez is able to play with her solo act excellently, straying a little from the plot and breaking the fourth wall as an improvised acting technique to serve as transition to the final act. There are also minor actors playing multiple roles, including an actor who plays three different fatherly roles to Estela, TJ and Sophia.

The plot expands on the characters’ lives as they find the answer to the questions themselves by relating their personal experiences to Shakespearean dramas and identifying themselves with a certain play character to resolve conventional conflicts on family, love and friendship. After a breathtaking musical performance to signal the nearing end of the play, the characters accomplished to be dynamic despite the stereotypes.

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) celebrates their 48th theater season by bringing back “William” on a one-time show at the FEU Auditorium last October 3, 2015. The play, which has been running for four years now, bagged several accolades in 2011, including Outstanding Play and Outstanding Direction in Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards. It also received the award for best full-length play in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Best of Theater. F

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