Transforming Theater for the Oppressed: Community Theater as Urban Poor Discourse in Sining Kadamay’s Gapok

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

In March 2017, the issue of urban poor housing was exposed on a national scale when thousands of members of the urban poor group Kadamay forcibly occupied nearly 6,000 abandoned housing units meant for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in Pandi, Bulacan. Kadamay members were accused of being mendicant anarchists by their critics, while their supporters lauded their determination in demanding, and winning, their rights to housing. While the issue polarized Philippine society, it is evident that the Occupy Pandi movement revitalized urban poor discourse, and brought back to the fore the contradictions between the promises of the city and the prevalence of poverty and lack of opportunity for the majority of its inhabitants, those belonging to the urban poor sector. This paper aims to contribute towards this discussion by attempting to present urban poor mentalities as formulated by the members of the urban poor themselves, and how they have manifested through art. Among the various member organizations of Kadamay is the cultural group Sining Kadamay or SiKad. Initially formed by Kadamay to serve as its cultural arm, SiKad grew into an organization-member of Kadamay. While Sikad has several art programs, this paper will focus on its theater program, the Teatro Mulong Sandoval, and its one-act play Gapok. Set in an urban poor community threatened by poverty and demolition, what makes Gapok unique is its intimacy, not just in content but also in terms of space, as the play was designed to be performed in urban poor communities, and transform its audience from spectators to spectactors. The paper will scrutinize the dynamics of the art production in Gapok, how accurately it reflects the discourses that the urban poor engage in, and the role of the urban poor in (trans)forming art to serve their sector.


Keywords

informal settlers, community theater, protest art, neoliberalism, Metro Manila

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)