In Joe Salvatore’s Ethnoactor course, we worked intimately with a video clip of our choosing and developed a verbatim performance of it. The clip I chose to work with was the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech in Davao City on on the 5th of September 2016, before he left for the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos. In this excerpt, Duterte blisteringly criticizes the United States and emphasizes the Philippines’ sovereignty. This was a response to the then US President Barack Obama’s comments about the human rights violations, i.e., extrajudicial killing, being committed in Pres. Duterte’s “war against drugs.”
I have never supported and still do not support Rodrigo Duterte. That said, engaging in this project invited me to reflect on, articulate, and texture my position. Making an effort to copy his way of doing things, from gesture to breath, did not make Duterte any less detestable to me, but it did make me listen more closely to him. I had to confront that, as a postcolonial subject, I shared some of his views about America. As someone from Imperial Manila, I was made to confront my relationship with those from the southern part of the country. I go more in-depth into this in both my pre- and post-performance analysis, which I have included below.
My work in the Ethnoactor class was refined in the NYU Verbatim Performance Lab, where I am an associate artist. I have used the clip we’ve developed as part of the lab’s collective research into how verbatim performance can be used within educational and community spaces. You can read more about this year-long endeavor in Research Framework.