Sacred Heart School-Hijas de Jesus Foundation, with the collaboration of its alumni and parents’ associations, brought to the Cebuano audience at the opening of February Disney’s “Mulan” to celebrate its 60th year of existence of educating young girls. And what a most appropriate and relevant way of celebrating education and culture.
Elements of Chinese opera and culture were incorporated to this beloved Disney story. With this integration, the production not only pays homage to the rich Chinese traditions but more importantly exposes Cebuanos to traditional Chinese culture and conventions. With the production, Hijas also supports the efforts of promoting bilingual English-Chinese education. It was interesting to hear the characters say their lines in Chinese and then shift to English. We had a glimpse of Chinese Opera Conventions in acting, costumes, and makeup. The soldiers engage in Shaolin and Taichi moves to differentiate the two thoughts of fighting expressed in the song.
The famous line of Mulan – “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all” capsulated the person of Mulan, the heroine of the Disney film based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan and which story is permeated with the positive values of courage, loyalty, patriotism and devotion to family. This line should be a constant guide to young girls to transcend beyond looking pretty and thinking about themselves. And in our time when families are vulnerable to being dysfunctional, the story of Mulan inspires them to be courageous, loyal patriotic and devoted to their families.
“Mulan” has always been used in sessions on women empowerment. Constrained in the rigid structure of Confucian traditions regarding social relationships, young Mulan decided to bend (not break) tradition by disguising as a soldier to fight the invading Huns in order to save the family honor (her father was too old to fight). This she did despite the risk of death which was the punishment for girls disguising as men. But using her wiles, she saved the country from destruction, and she was duly recognized by the emperor whose commendations suggested changes in women’s role.
The production had a fantastic cast and they are all students, and it was fun and delightful watching the millenials perform and enjoying what they are doing. The production staff was composed of students and faculty, and it is one beautiful thing to happen in a school when everybody is involved in the production.
Watching “Mulan” brought me back to our college days at St. Theresa’s College when students were the ones in charge of the annual stage plays, particularly the Play Production class. Technology in the 1960s was not that advanced yet, so those assigned in the sound, lights and music had a grueling experience of looking for the right music, and we had to go to radio stations for assistance. Sound and lights crew had to ask the assistance of an accredited engineer. Costumes, props and accessories were done by the Play Production class. Among the musicals produced which I enjoyed most were “Mikado” and “Finian’s Rainbow.”
The directorial tandem of Allan Nazareno and Rudy Aviles once again boosts Cebuano talents. Directing Mulan by adapting the play by bringing the story back to its roots is not easy feat. Congratulations and Thank you for showing that nothing is impossible. It is also commendable that Allan and Rudy had also student directors for this is a good training ground for leadership and responsibility. The production of “Mulan” should serve as a wake up call to other schools with a huge auditorium and which used to produce good musical productions and serious plays way back in the 1960s to the 1980’s. Schools should brush up their performing arts groups especially in theater arts to develop the mine of talents in the school. In this way, the problems of the young can be addressed.
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