Local Shakespeares, Shakespearean Locales

This is an excerpt from Dr. Judy Ick's "Local Shakespeares, Shakespearean Locales" (1999) published in Public Policy, the journal of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies. The research explores the discrepant geographies of the American colonial enterprise in the Philippines focusing particularly on cross-cultural adaptations of Shakespearean performances in the Philippines.

Access the full paper here.


The performance history of Shakespeare in the Philippines is a concrete measure of the Bard's popularity in its educational institutions. In 1910, As You Like It was performed by students of the Philippine Normal School (Jamias 1962). In the same year, students at the Ateneo De Manila staged The Merchant of Venice (Bernad 1977).

In 1911, the Pyramus and Thisbe scene from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and excerpts from Julius Caesar were staged by students at the Silliman Institute in Dumaguete (Carson 1965). In the following year, the students at Silliman staged a full-length version of The Merchant of Venice ( Carson 1965 & 1913). The same play was also performed by an all-female cast at St Theresa's College in Manila in 1924 (Bernad 1977).

The Ateneo de Manila presented a number of Shakespearean plays through the colonial years: Richard III in 1917, Julius Caesar in 1921 and 1930, Macbeth in 1923, and King Lear in 1933 (Bernad 1977).

In Dumaguete, the Silliman Institute had an even more spectacular record of Shakespearean performance. In the second decade of colonial rule alone, Silliman produced versions of Merchant of Venice in 1912, Julius Caesar in 1911 and 1916, Macbeth in 1914, Othello in 1915, and Hamlet in 1918.

The Philippines is the only country in the world which may be termed English-speaking which has never enjoyed a production of a Shakespeare play outside the walls of a school. (Edades 1955)

Curiously absent from the list is the University of the Philippines (UP). Supposedly the flagship institution of American colonial education, the scarcity of Shakespearean performances in the State University is rather puzzling. In terms of its deployment of Shakespeare in enhancing and creating its academic and cultural landscape, UP suffers in comparison with Silliman, another decidedly American institution. Furthermore, the disparities in Shakespearean performances between these institutions point to the fact that the enactment of colonial education policies produced uneven results. There is greater variety in the cultural landscape than simplistic versions of the colonial process allow. Interestingly, the supposedly universal Shakespeare apparently has very specific local applications.


References

Bernad, Miguel S.J. (1977) Dramatics at the Ateneo de Manila: A History of Three Decades, 1921-1952. Ateneo Alumni Association, Manila .
Carpenter, Frank G. (1926) Through the Philippines and Hawaii, .. with more than 100 illustrations from original photographs.. University of Michigan Library's Southeast Asia collection.
Ick, Judy Celine. (1999) Local Shakespeares, Shakespearean Locales. UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Public Policy 3, no.1: 64-81.
Silliman University Archives