PETA's The Tempest Reimagined draws on parallels with Yolanda experience

by Mari-An Santos
Dec 4, 2016
Bodjie Pascua stars in PETA's The Tempest Reimagined, which is set on a Philippine island hit by Yolanda. 

How can a Shakespeare play written in England in the 1600s be in any way related to the events on and following 2013 in the area ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)?

This is the daunting--but not impossible--task that resulted in the production of PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined co-written by Nona Shepphard of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Liza Magtoto, who penned the highly successful Rak of Aegis.

PETA’s modern adaptation is a true collaboration, working with the Philippine cast and production team are Hongkong-based Production Designer Marsha Roddy, Lighting Designer Tsuguo Izumi, Vocal Coach Robin Aronson, and Shepphard herself at the helm. The production is in partnership with The British Council and Japan Foundation, and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).

BUILDING BRIDGES, LINKING STORIES. The Tempest is a tragicomedy by William Shakespeare, believed to be the last play that he wrote alone. The tragicomedy in PETA’s version is set on a Philippine island hit by Yolanda. It weaves together real stories from survivors of Typhoon Yolanda with the original Shakespeare text.

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Even prior to Typhoon Yolanda, PETA had been working on a project called Lingap Sining to collaborate with local artists through the Palo Cultural Arts Association in Leyte, teaching community Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) through a cultural campaign.   As soon as able, they went back post-typhoon, saw the devastation for themselves, and heard the stories firsthand and raw from the survivors.

“They’re saying Yolanda is the new normal. If this is true, there’s no other way except for the whole community to move as one solid team to prepare, to know what to do so that this will never again happen with such loss of life,” says CB Garrucho, PETA president who also plays the lead character Prospero, a wizard in exile.

Shepphard herself went to Leyte and heard the stories of anguish and desperation in 2014. “I was also struck by the resilience of the people there.” The writing process, to weave the stories together with the classic tragicomedy, was a challenge. But 2016 coincides with the British Council program “Shakespeare Lives,” globally commemorating the bard’s 400th death anniversary and the impact of his contributions.

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Through Tempest Reimagined, Shepphard says, “After all, we are all human and humans have not changed in over four hundred years--we need fresh water and food and shelter; we have the same hopes and dreams and fears, whether we are from Elizabethan England or modern Tacloban. The big difference is that we have made our world a far, far more dangerous place.”

The dialogue is a careful mix of Filipino and English--with the stories of the survivors kept in the Philippine language. Writer Liza Magtoto says: “Not only did we have to present [the survivors'] stories but to take in the theme of disaster risk reduction, which sounded more like material for a pamphlet than a dramatic one.  That was part of the challenge: how to be theatrical and less didactic without losing that message and the Shakespeare.”

WOMEN REPRESENT. There is also a shift in gender roles for some characters, but it being 2016, Shepphard sees no problem with such fluidity, carefully considered. “In this show, I tried to make it very equal. In the script, the royal family is mainly men. I’m very conscious of making sure women have an equal voice in theater. You always want to try to get more women into it.”

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The cast also includes Renante Bustamante, Yeyin Dela Cruz, Meann Espinosa, Topper Fabregas, Gio Gahol, Neomi Gonzales, Gab Pangilinan, Ian Segarra, Jenny Jamora, John Moran, Bodjie Pascua, Gabe Mercado, Norbs Portales, Brian Sy, and Jack Yabut.

This is PETA’s lead-up to its golden anniversary that will be celebrated in 2017.

For tickets to The Tempest Reimagined, visit or call Tel. No. 891-9999.

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Bodjie Pascua stars in PETA's The Tempest Reimagined, which is set on a Philippine island hit by Yolanda. 
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