COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
It is quite a small world indeed when right after the presentation of the Broadway musical “West Side Story” last June 21, 2009 at the Balyuan amphitheater I got the chance to talk with the multi-awarded playwright and stage director Al Claude Evangelio. It was then when I learned that he is a friend of my late brother Dan Cardillo who taught at the UP Tacloban College. Both are fraternity brothers and contemporaries in their college days at Silliman University.
Our small talk centered on the theater arts and how it is difficult for this field to develop with the lack of government support. Evangelio who hails from Biliran was even speaking from his experience in Cebu, a more dynamic place for theater performances, of where he is currently based. Then he told of the very short period in which the West Side Story was rehearsed, about two to three weeks and that the last thirty-three hours was very tight for him, refining and finalizing the finishing touches of the musical.
But Evangelio was fascinated with the Balyuan amphitheater, as a right place for the musical Phantom of the Opera to be staged. He said it is his obsession to direct that world-renowned musical, for it has never been staged here in our country, and that he has talents from Cebu to do the major parts. He likes the design of the Balyuan amphitheater with its wide circular stage, and with its seating capacity of around a thousand and five hundred people as not so big and not so small.
The amphitheater indeed at Balyuan has become a remarkable place for theater performances. What I like most is the fresh air for I can’t stand for long in enclosed spaces for I’d easily suffocate. Now without the tower in its center, the round stage below has widened into a big space for dance and drama, and I am reminded of the Greek plays of the old being performed in amphitheaters. With eight hundred plastic seats installed at the lower rows, the fixture has lent a more formal atmosphere to the open air arena and thus fit for the more formal stage presentations.
When the amphitheater was undergoing renovation, I liked looking at the platinum beams without the tension cloth cover. I just like the design, the illusion of curved steel suspended on air, like a giant modern sculpture. I used to marvel at this sight during afternoons on my way to the tennis court. But the place really needs a roof so it can be used when there’s a downpour of rain or when the sun is at its hottest.
When the tension cloth roofing was put in place, my giant sculpture vanished. It is replaced by a spaceship-like structure with that lavender lights when viewed from a distance at night. And it was on the night of the 21st of June when I first sat in this beautifully refurbished amphitheater to enjoy a show, the fresh cool air, and even the lights of the boats anchored at CancabatoBay. Two more nights I went back to watch a show during the Tacloban City fiesta celebration.
I hope Al Claude Evangelio’s dream of staging the Phantom of the Opera at the Balyuan amphitheater will become a reality. It only needs the support of concerned individuals and institutions but most especially government support for the arts. That would entail long-range planning and raising funds to finance such a big project. But if ever realized, it would be a grand musical production the Visayas region will ever have.