In 2015, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) Associate Director Nona Sheppard and Vocal Coach Tom Wakeley came to the Philippines for the second time to lead an acting techniques workshop at PETA Theater Center Studios, Quezon City. The workshop brought together 23 actors and actresses, theatre, film and television professionals to create dramatic experiences with the power of transforming lives.
The opportunity for Filipino actors to undergo world-class training was a collaboration between RADA and the Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA), in partnership with the British Council Philippines.
For six days, workshop participants underwent practical exercises allowing all to explore techniques and methods used in performing Shakespeare material. They worked on The Tempest, recognising that Filipino audiences related to the story because of the theme of forgiveness and generosity in the face of adversity. Underlying themes of the supernatural and superstition are also both deeply imbued in the text and in Filipino folklore.
Participants discovered techniques in learning the rhythm of the blank verse, employing language and word stress, “inhabiting” and motivating the text, and giving and receiving cues.
The workshop exercises highlighted the artistry involved in breathing life into the characters. 'I think the most valuable things I learned were adding "actions" to speeches to help us get the meaning across without being so concerned about the individual words, and "breathing with the mind", which means breathing without being so concerned about every muscle involved', said Amber Hao, a participant from Davao.
John Maloney, a professor from Tainan University in Taiwan noted that the environment played a big role in the success of the workshop, 'The atmosphere was very generous and safe. I think everyone felt able to take risks and make discoveries'.
In true theatre fashion, in her final speech to participants (the 'last act' of the course), Nona Sheppard said that the only thing we could do as artists was mend what was destroyed by calamity by reliving traumatic experiences through theatre. Theatre has traditionally been an apparatus for change in society, and it made sense to 'weave' experiences of calamity and destruction into The Tempest.
After the week-long workshop, Sheppard, along with British Council representatives and PETA artist-teachers, headed to Tacloban to facilitate a story-telling workshop for partner communities. The opportunity to connect with local communities will enable the team to collaborate and devise a production based on experiences of typhoon-stricken Leyte.