Annotation: Dan Bacalzo’s “Dogeaters” (2001)

Peer-Review: 0

Bacalzo, Dan. “Dogeaters.” Rev. of Dogeaters, dir. Michael Greif. Theatre Journal 53.4 (2001): 642-643. Print.

Bacalzo notes how in The Public Theater, New York production of Dogeaters, Hagedorn transforms Nestor Noralez and Barbara Villanueva, who are only minor characters in the original novel, into “perky talk show hosts. They introduce key players in the drama, as well as provide historical background for those in the audience unfamiliar with the history of Philippine politics” (print 1). But Bacalzo emphasizes that these narrators do not only fulfill the practical, functional role of situating the audience into the world of the play but they also tease out “the book’s preoccupation with movies and show business to create a purely theatrical mode of telling the story” (print 1). In my own paper I am interested in further exploring the possible political advantages of the dramatic as opposed to the novelistic form. Bacalzo calls attention to one scene where Noralez and Villanueva interview “the French Jesuit priest Jean Mallat, who is appearing on their show to promote his new book about the Philippines” (print 1). This moment powerfully alludes to imperialism, Orientalist documentation of Third World histories and the capitalist dimensions of those practices. Bacalzo suggests that the play revolves around the story of “Rio Gonzaga, a Filipina-American returning to her native land to attend her grandmother’s funeral” and Joey Sand’s tale “an action-adventure story, filled with danger, death, and revolution” (print 2). He asserts that their contrasting outsider-insider positions offer an interesting, nuanced portrait of Manila.

Bacalzo also notes a significant difference between Hagedorn’s novel, where she “took great pains…not to identify President Marcos and his wife by name, instead referring to them as simply the President and First Lady” but made “numerous mentions of Imelda Marcos” in her stage adaptation. I intend to examine this point further and situate it in the history of Filipino street protest theatre. I wonder whether the overt naming of Imelda Marcos speaks to the politicized nature of that dramatic art form. Bacalzo additionally describes interesting features of the stage design, where slide projections…hel[p] to distinguish changes in locale” and “an industrial catwalk with multiple levels” serves as the overall set (print 2).

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Annotation: Nayan Shah’s “Staging Dogeaters”

Peer-Review: 0

Okay so I am shifting gears a little bit and am now working on another project where I analyze the publication/textual history of Jessica Hagedorn’s 1990 novel Dogeaters, which she later adapts into a play. I am interested in examining the specific revisions she makes as she re-fashions her original text into a dramatic form. The production history of the play also reveals interesting changes in Hagedorn’s stage text from its premier performance in San Diego, then New York and finally Manila. So basically expect a lot more annotations about Dogeaters-the novel and play ^^

Shah, Nayan. “Staging Dogeaters.” Rev. of Dogeaters, dir. Michael Greif. Journal of Asian American Studies 2.2 (1999): 218-220. Print.

Shah reviews Michael Greif’s 1998 theatrical production of Dogeaters, Jessica Hagedorn’s stage adaptation of her 1990 novel by the same name. Shah notes that the performance at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse features the perspective of two major characters, Rio Gonzaga and Joey Sands: “The plot shuffles between 1959 as thirteen-year-old Rio experiences her parents tumultuous separation and 1982 the year when Joey becomes an unwitting witness to the assassination of opposition leader Senator Domingo Avila” (218). While the original novel displays a nonlinear structure, Shah asserts that in her stage adaptation, Hagedorn fully utilizes the advantages of the dramatic art form to further accentuate the overlapping of time and space. Shah specifically calls attention to how the play’s “montages of multiple scenes on stage with the actors speaking almost simultaneously…produces the effect of contradictory, coupled and de-coupled worlds,” reinforcing Hagedorn’s vision of history as not a simple chain of cause-and-effect (219).

Shah also describes how the performance highlights the intersections between “Catholic ritual and film fantasy” as characters fashion their identities through an exploration of their souls and their bodies, where spiritual and sexual experimentation “combine to produce a raw and emotionally intense collage of human expression” (220). Shah further notes the important function of gossip as a mode of communication and information transmission in the play. He asserts that gossip emerges as an informal, counter-discourse to the official discourse of the state. While “[g]ay men and women respond to gossip playfully, and creatively interpret its contents…elites respond to gossip as accusations to be denied and disposed of” (220).

Shah concludes his review by emphasizing how “Hagedorn refuses to turn the contradictory, chaotic, and funky beauty of the Philippines into digestible entertainment,” how she deliberately makes it difficult for her audiences to consume so that it will not be easily commodified (220). Yet reviews such as “Ordinary Living in a Mardi Gras of Corruption” by Bruce Weber, while written in response to a later production of Dogeaters in New York, suggests that Hagedorn’s play is not only commodified but also exoticized in a disturbingly Orientalist way. Weber asserts that for the audience, Dogeaters “is as titillating as a great vacation that leads you willingly into danger,” accentuating throughout the article, the strange “exotic, strange” features of 1982 Manila. In my essay I am interested in exploring the digestibility of Hagedorn’s play, the politics of deliberately writing a play that is difficult to consume—many reviewers have noted how the play is too complex, convoluted, etc—and what happens when it becomes subject to Orientalist consumption.