Storming the Heavens, Confronting the Heathens: From the Prophetic Landscape of the Theatre Stages Across Mindanao
Karl M. Gaspar
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Just before martial rule was declared in September 1972, a nascent Mindanao Theatre movement interfaced with the social activism that arose in the late 1960s. There was a strong push towards creative methods and approaches to evangelization. A number of church pastoral workers who have had some exposure to theatre and the arts began to explore this creative field, with the assistance of the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA). The imposition of martial rule changed the whole landscape of protest and resistance.The only institution which could dare to resist the dictatorship was the Church. Even at the risk of being arrested, tortured, and imprisoned, a growing number of church pastoral workers continued to mount theatrical pieces that were prophetic in denouncing the evils that came with the military dictatorship. To minimize outright military harassment, the church-based theatre groups interfaced their theatrical productions with “religious themes.” In these productions, theology and art converged. The actors stormed the heavens, invoking God’s intervention in the midst of severe injustice and oppression. They confronted the “heathens” of martial rule from the privileged postures of contemporary prophets. Even after martial rule, this theatre movement has persisted. This article attempts a theological reading of such a movement.

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