Guest writer and photographer: Angeli Sta. Maria-Escaño
The Learning Table held an event together with the cast and crew of Emma-the Musical on Sunday, 27 May 2018. Being a newly landed immigrant, I was wonderfully surprised to find a Filipino community here intent on keeping the younger generation passionate about their heritage through the performing arts. After all, the arts are an expression of emotion and the Philippine arts express pride in our culture. While the audience comprised mostly of young people watched, the cast and crew had an in-costume run through of the show.
As a new enthusiast of photography, I was thrilled to be allowed to practice my hobby during this event. I relished the experience with the cast, crew, and audience. But what truly surprised me was the vast range of emotions I captured in my still shots. Being set in the time of the Second World War, I expected that the story would mostly arouse sentiments of respect for our Filipino forefathers’ efforts to attain our freedom. I was amazed that the show evoked more primal emotions—raw, central, and timeless—artfully portrayed in a nexus of events surrounding the title character’s life.
The setting is introduced in a playful yet powerful opening song with the choreography creatively capturing snippets of a typical day. Innocent enthusiasm in the children paves the way to introduce Emma, the title character. You then enter scenes which give you a taste of romantic excitement that Filipinos uniquely capture (after all, our language even has a one-word term for it: kilig). And while you, as a spectator are riding this euphoric joy, you are suddenly thrown in for aspin. I was surprised to see abject terror bordering on paranoia in the eyes of the performers, which was proof of their commitment to their characters. You will feel boiling anger, annoyance, and a strange sense of desperation as the story progresses. At this point, you find yourself involved in this tale more than you envisaged. As the adrenaline recedes, metanoia stirs both confusion and anticipation. Youthful hope and resilience shines throughout this chronicle of Emma’s days, which echo the pride we have for our history.
Everyone was also treated to snacks sponsored by Loriz Bakery, Petiki Tirsa Kali, and Now Radio 102.3. The cast and crew answered questions from the audience. The variety of questions and feedback from the audience mirrored the range of the emotions of the musical. Questions from as simple as how long it took for them (the actors) to memorize their lines, to as heavy as how the production changed the outlook on each one’s Filipino heritage were asked. Most striking of all the questions was one of how deep the motivation was to portray this tale based on true events—the legacy o fa family from which this story sprung. Having once attended a writing workshop with the Philippine National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, the query reminded me of his words, “We write from life and call it literature, and literature lives because we are in it.” The Philippine arts are alive and well here in Alberta, and if, the emotions the musical are anything to go by, the arts are in full bloom.
Emma-The Musical will have its world debut on the 7th of July 2018 at the Myer Horowiz Theatre. Tickets can be purchased through ticketfly.com, the production’s Facebook page, or through any of the production crew. It is a beautiful tale that was wonderfully brought together in this production, which I recommend everyone to see.