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History of FEU Theater Guild

by Vien Villagarcia, IAS

Far Eastern University Dramatic Guild, which became the FEU Theater Guild (FTG), was founded by professor – director Sarah Kabigting Joaquin in 1934. Sarah K. Joaquin was a notable figure in Philippine theatre. She is one of the female pioneers in the field alongside with her friend and colleague, National Artist for Theater Daisy Hontiveros – Avellana. She also co-founded two professional theatre companies outside the campus – Barangay Theater Guild (BTG) in 1939, and Manila Theater Guild (MTG) in the 1950’s.

The guild first rehearsed in one of the theatres in Rizal Avenue. This was made possible because of Dr. Nicanor Reyes, FEU founder and first president. After a few months, the group moved in and began to hold meetings in a small social hall in an old building (a former cigarette factory) on Azcarraga Street. “Call Me Mike”, a comedy in three acts by Reach and Taggart, was the guild’s first production. It was directed by Sarah K. Joaquin and actor – director Alberto Cacnio. The play was staged in the Metro-Theatre, Manila in December 4, 1940. Despite the typhoon signal no. 4 during that time, the production was still hailed successful by the audience and Manila’s Dramatic Critics thus placed FEU’s name in the Manila theatre history. The success of “Call Me Mike” paved way for the realization of Joaquin’s dream for her guild – to acquire them a theatre. After receiving positive feedbacks, Dr. Reyes personally offered Joaquin a permanent venue for the group’s productions. Proof to that is the quotation Joaquin stated in her memoir “Of Laughter and Tears” which says, “Dr. Reyes already promised me that the plans for the big building include a real theatre, one that will have everything that a professional theatre has.”

War came to the country in 1941 thus stopped all school operations including that of the guild. During this period, the university served as barracks and torture chambers. It was in 1949 when the promise for a professional theatre was realized after Architect Pablo S. Antonio Sr. built the FEU Auditorium. When the guild resumed its operations after the war, it became one of the most active campus – based theatre organizations in Manila. It produced plays within and outside the campus, joined festivals, sponsored workshops, participated in fund-raising activities and collaborated with other theatre companies outside the university such as the Barangay Theater Guild. Among the most notable accomplishments of the group during its early years were: 1st place award in the Carlos Palanca inter-university play contest for its entry “The Boor” by Anton Chekhov; staging of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in its entirety and “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry for the first time in the Philippines; and being one of the campus – based theatre organizations in the country to be invited to perform abroad through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

As years passed by, FTG has been under the supervision of different advisers and artistic directors from the FEU faculty. One of the most prominent among them is Rustica Carpio – professional director, writer, professor, and actor for both theatre and film. By 2009, a professional theatre artist from outside the university began handling the guild. Edward “Dudz” Teraña of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) became FTG’s artistic director. It was during his supervision when major changes in the guild occurred which include the introduction of laboratory productions, four-year training for area specialization, and the separation of organizational and artistic committees. The group now operates on the system of having at least one major and one minor production per semester.

At present, FTG members are continuously being trained in different aspects of theatre performance such as creative musical theatre, creative dance theatre, acting, and directing; through every day theatre classes, workshops facilitated by the artistic director himself and/or other artists from PETA, off-campus workshops, and exposure to actual theatre productions. Members are also required to have their specialization in the different production areas like Events and Production Management, Production Design, Stage Management, and Technicals. Most of the well-acclaimed productions of the group are “Summer Dreamin’” by Rody Vera, “Pablemo” by Dudz Teraña, “Sala Sa Pito” by George De Jesus, “B(i)etter” by Dudz Teraña, “Ang Unang Aswang” by Rody Vera, “Dreamweavers” by Rody Vera, “Usapang X” by Dudz Teraña, and “Agnoia” by Liza Magtoto.