Severino Reyes's late 19th century zarzuela titled Walang Sugat is currently enjoying a run at the Tanghalang Pilipino in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Filipino designer James Reyes, the late writer, director, and playwright's great-grandson, was tasked to design the costumes for the most recent mounting of the Tagalog-language play, which is set during the Philippine revolution and depicts the oppression suffered by Filipinos under the Spanish colonization, as well as the love story of a Katipunan revolutionary.
This is not the first time James has been involved with Tanghalang Pilipino, having done consultation work with them early this year. (He has also previously designed for Ballet Philippines). When one of the actors of Walang Sugat mentioned that a reenactment was in the works for this year, James mentioned his familial ties to the Father of Philippine Zarzuela. "She later told Tanghalang Pilipino's Artistic Director, Nanding Josef, about this. He got excited and wanted me to be part of the production. His idea was to bring two generations of Reyeses together in one production, a historic fête in theater," James tells us.
"It was overwhelming to me in the beginning because never in my wildest ideas [did I imagine that] I [would] be designing for CCP, and now, for my great-grandfather!" James enthuses. "What was really scary for me, though, was I had to create new costumes for the leads, while the rest of the cast would be wearing masterpieces by Salvador Bernal (National Artist for Theater Design)! With the help of Tanghalang Pilipino's costume and wardrobe department, I was able to study and research on how to make the baro't saya (specifically from the 1890s) for theater. It was a great learning experience for me because this is the first time I designed and created baro't sayas."
Designing for his great-grandfather's play is definitely an honor for James. He describes the experience as "very inspiring." "In fact, I may design an entire collection based on this," he reveals.
Walang Sugat is directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna, and will open tonight, Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 8PM in Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater. Shows will run until August 26. For play dates and more information, call Tanghalang Pilipino office at (632) 832-1125 locals 1620 or 1621 or 0917-7500107 or call TicketWorld at (02) 891-999 or visit www.tanghalangpilipino.org.ph.