MANILA – After months of focus group discussions and test performances, “A Game of Trolls: A Martial Law Musical for Millennials” will finally have its main run.
“A Game of Trolls” is presented by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) with support from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, and DAKILA: Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, and will run for the whole month of September at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.
The musical is written by Liza Magtoto and directed by Maribel Legarda, with music by Vincent de Jesus. It tells the story of Heck, an internet troll whose mother is a former martial law activist.
“We started in December [last year] with one show, then in April with four shows. Then finally, ito na ‘yung main run,” Legarda said during the media preview on Tuesday. “We’ve been working on this play for a year.”
But unlike its initial runs, the new “A Game of Trolls” tackles not only the martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but also extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
Legarda, who is also PETA’s artistic director, did not mince words as she lamented the current government’s “abuse of power.” “It’s getting so palasak already, hindi ba? If the government’s not vague about it, why should we be?” she asked.
“Oh my God, are they going to go after PETA? But we won the RM (Ramon Magsaysay Award),” she added in jest, referring to the award named after the seventh President of the Philippines that PETA won last month.
Turning serious, Legarda stressed the importance of reexamining history and always keeping the government in check.
“It’s just too much in your face. And what happened with the burial of Marcos is another example of how power is being used now,” she said. “We need to be critical of that use of power. It could be anybody in government right now… but there’s supposed to be a conversation about it.”
“A healthy society must talk about its problems. The last I heard, we’re a democracy, right?” she continued. “We should have this kind of conversation and not be afraid to ask questions. We’re all part of this country, not just the 16 million who voted for him (Duterte). I think we all have the right to speak. Let’s push the conversation, get educated, open up our minds to different discourses and understand them in a more sensible, less emotional kind of way.”
But despite their goal of starting a conversation among young viewers, Legarda said “A Game of Trolls” is, first and foremost, meant for entertainment, with the musical offering a mix of comedy and romance.
“We’ve discussed very difficult subjects like violence against women and reproductive health, but we bring a lot of comedic components because we don’t want to hammer down their heads… I don’t want to preach. We’re just trying to reach the people who aren’t in the same frame of mind as us and explain [martial law to them],” she said.
“We’ve tried our best to put together love, music, and funny stories, and hopefully make them come and enjoy the performance… But the [martial law] content is there, of course,” added Legarda, who also directed the hit PETA musical “Rak of Aegis.”
Magtoto, who wrote the musical, believes that they have responded well to the feedback they received from their millennial audience.
“They have preferences kung ano ang gusto nilang mapanood, at isa na doon ang love story… The millennials were able to get the message, and they encouraged each other na pag-aralan ang kasaysayan. I think we were effective, at least for that batch of audiences. Hopefully we can attract more people to watch the show,” she said.
The cast of “A Game of Trolls” includes Myke Solomon, TJ Valderama, Upeng Galang-Fernandez, Gail Guanlao-Billones, Vince Lim, Gold Villar-Lim, Lemuel Silvestre, Joseph Madriaga, Kiki Baento, Gilbert Onida, John Moran, Juan Miguel Severo, Norbs Portales, Roi Calilong, Jasper Jimenez, Ada Tayao, Lea Espallardo, Icee Po, Nieves Reyes, Dan Cabrera, Jason Barcial, and Justin Castillo.
For more details on show dates, click here.