Seven year itch for Virgin Labfest

Yay! My article on the seventh Virgin Labfest (2011) was used by Philippine Daily Inquirer for its June 20, 2011 issue.
Seven-year itch for Virgin Labfest
By Walter Ang

Virgin Labfest 2010's "Higit Pa Dito"
will be "revisited" for Virgin Labfest 2011
Now on its seventh year, Virgin Labfest, a festival that focuses on staging new plays, is breaking tradition. Instead of presenting four sets of trilogies, it will present only three sets.  As an alternate, and a logical progression, it will now stage one full-length (two-act) play in lieu of the fourth set.

The fifth set, which "revisits" three selected productions from the previous labfest, remains.  This year's revisited set includes "Ondoy" by Remi Velasco, "Balun-balunan, Bingi-bingihan" by Debbie Tan, and "Higit Pa Dito" by Allan Lopez.

The labfest has always gone by its tagline of being "a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life 'untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged' plays" and its popularity has grown throughout the years for both audiences and aspiring playwrights.

Quantity and quality
VL founder and artistic director Rody Vera received 107 submissions this year, 24 of which are full length plays.

"I think the popularity of Labfest is brought about by the fact that playwrights or writers who want to try their hand at playwriting have found a rare venue to have their works staged and produced," he says.

"If you build it, they will come. I'm not saying all the works submitted are overwhelmingly great and skilled but we have to see this all in perspective-many people out there will say there are no good playwrights around but if we have a venue where playwrights are allowed to fail, sooner or later, the good ones will emerge."

This year marks entries from plays from both established and amateur playwrights who are being included in the Labfest for the first-time.  Vera is also experimenting on not giving themed-titles to the sets.

The line-up includes, Set 1: "Bawal Tumawid, Nakamamatay" by Joey Paras, "Kafatiran" by Ricardo Novenario, "Mga Lobo Tulad ng Buwan" by Pat Valera;

Set 2: "Opera" by Floy Quintos, "Kinaumagahan" by Rachelle Rodriguez and Winnielyn Fajilan, "Kawala" by Rae Red;

Set 3: "Requiem" by Christian Vallez, "The Valley Mission Care" by Russel Legaspi, and "Streetlight Manifesto" by Mixcaela Villalon.

The full length work to be featured is "Isang Gabi Bago Magbukas ang Portrait of the Artist as Filipino ni Nick Joaquin" by Carlo Pacolor Garcia.

Garcia's "Ang Mga Halimaw" and "Bakit Wala Nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas" have been featured in past Labfests.  "Isang Gabi" is about a theater group that encounters a bloody corpse backstage the night before their show opens.

Other full length plays that will receive staged readings include "Chiaroscuro" by Lito Casaje, "Hermano Puli" by Layeta Bucoy, and "House of Candles" by Nicolas Pichay.

New, new, new
Last year's "Balunbalunan, Bingibingian."
VL was initiated by Vera through Writer's Bloc, an independent organization of established and aspiring playwrights that he heads, in partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino.  Later on, the Cultural Center of the Philippines became a co-organizer.  This year, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts is providing partial funding.

Vera is keen on maintaining an emphasis towards eyeing what is "new."  "We're hoping to include a devised work this year so that audiences can see that there are different ways of 'playwriting,'" he says, referring to the practice where a script is created by a group from improvisation work.

"They say seven years counts as one full cycle. I'm thinking of expanding the concept and advocacy of VL and that might mean taking a back seat.  I'm seriously thinking of passing the baton to others so, allowing new eyes and tastes, so that VL will grow and take on a different character, ambience, texture."

He's also interested in developing similar initiatives in other regions.  "Imagine if we can do this in Visayas and Mindanao!"

Playwrights galore
Last year, VL launched its anthology of featured plays.  This year, "Telon: Mga Dula," the first anthology of Telon Playwrights Circle, will be launched.  A seminal playwrights group, Telon was formed in 1983 by the late Rene Villanueva. 

Telon members who have become prominent writers and artists include Nicolas Pichay, Luna Sicat-Cleto, Rolando Dela Cruz, Auraeus Solito, Jun Lana and Romulo "Joey" Baquiran.

"Three of the plays in this collection have been produced at the Virgin Labfest. Four of the anthologized playwrights are members of Writers Bloc," says the book's editor Tim Dacanay.  "Five of the seven plays have won either a Gawad CCP or Palanca award. The book's introduction is by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera."

The plays include (one-acts) "Kaaway sa Sulod" by Rene Villanueva and Rolando Dela Cruz; "Maternal" by Luna Sicat-Cleto, "Gamugamo sa Kanto ng East Avenue" by Dela Cruz; and "Serbis" by Elmar Ingles; and (full lengths) "Koloring Koloraw: Kuwentong Akabaw" by Nicolas B. Pichay, "Teatro Porvenir" by Tim Dacanay, and "Baby B." by Rene Villanueva.

Virgin Labfest 2011 runs June 29-July 10 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.  Call 832-1125.

Also published online:


Bonus! Here is the line-up for the 7th Virgin Labfest at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute.
June 29 to July 10, 2011

29 WED




10 SUN



"Labfest Revisited" Set
JUNE 29, 3pm/8pm; JULY 7, 8pm; JULY 8, 3pm

by Allan Lopez
directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio
Featuring: Cris Pasturan, Angelina Kanapi
Bing, a single mother, leaves her two grown children to live on her own.  Still grappling with uncertainty, she moves in her new apartment with the help of her son Kael.  In the deceptively simple conversation between mother and son, ambiguous and seemingly random recollections paint a portrait of a woman trying to rediscover strength, and the drive to revisit her long abandoned desire.

by Remi Velasco
directed by Ed Lacson, Jr.
Featuring: Cai Cortez, Jelson Bay
If you were trapped on your rooftop with nothing but only your wimp husband or  nagging wife in the middle of the tragic typhoon Ondoy, what would you wish for? Mercy demanded for an annulment while Obet wanted only his son to stay and Mercy to be booted out of “roof.” The storm begins, the battle begins. The couple’s struggle to save their lives was awkwardly turned into a fight, crystallizing their own family “storm” – their chronic, even futile problems. But when Ondoy subsided, who will be booted out?

by Debbie Ann Tan
directed by Issa Lopez
Featuring: Bembol Roco, Missy Maramara, Paul Jake Paule
Gilbeys and Brandy, 20 years apart are husband and wife, pimp and whore who love each other dearly.  Brandy with her repertoire of roles as nurse, baker, cook or tutor does her trade with perfunctory ease that brings to the table Gilbey’s sole diet: chicken gizzard.  However, life gets more difficult.  They decide to take in a boarder, someone who could help them in this covert trade as well.

Enter Whiskey,a virile lad who looks and acts nice. The couple take him in as a bedspacer.  They eventually reveal their trade to Whiskey and insinuate an offer to work for them as a “plumber.” But three is always a crowd. But Gilbeys and Brandys love for each other runs deep.  A love that links the matter of eating chicken gizzards.

JULY 3, 3pm/8pm; JULY 9, 8pm; JULY 10, 3pm

by Rachelle Rodriguez and Wennielyn Fajilan
directed by Riki Benedicto
Featuring:  Via Antonio, Noel Escondo
How will Liz and Red make their relationship work if time is not on their side? 6:00 AM—that’s the only time they see each other… and the moment does not last long. Liz, a nurse, is on her way to morning duty while Red, a call center agent, is just coming home from graveyard shift. Conversations, make-outs, jealousies, fights and make-ups happen during this short span of the early morn. Every day, they are left with no other choice but to continue these hanging vernal issues – the morning after.

written and directed by Christian Vallez
Featuring: Joel Parcon, Frankie Pascua
Alvin and Mina go back to their ancestral home for the NCCA's tribute to their dying father who is a National Artist for Music. As Alvin settles down in his old bedroom, Mina enters and asks if she can sleep in his room. She could not sleep because of the Music being played in the house. Mina thinks it sick that their father is having a "funeral" even before he is dead and that his having cancer was just an excuse to get them to go home. Alvin could not understand her resentment towards their father. As Alvin tries to hide his feelings towards his adopted sister, Mina tries to sleep away the demons of their family's past in the comfort and solace of her brother's room.

by Ricardo Novenario
directed by JK Anicoche
Featuring: Acey Aguilar, Abner Delina, Jerald Napoles, Marco Viana
Kafatiran is a story of love and freedom. At the dawn of the Philippine revolution, another revolution is brewing. Deep within the ranks of the Katipunan is a special faction composed of young men who are smart, art-loving, and sometimes a bit too mild-mannered. Young Antonino Corpus wants to join this special faction and goes through some tests to know if he does belong into this group. Unfortunately, the night of Antonino’s recruitment is also the night that sparks the Philippine revolution and the recruitment house is surrounded by several guardia civil. Should they leave the place where they are free to be themselves so that they can attain true freedom? Should they finally come out?

SET B (Full-length play)
JUNE 30, 3pm/8pm; JULY 6, 3pm; JULY 8, 8pm

by Carlo Pacolor Garcia
directed by Paul Santiago
Featuring: Angelina Kanapi, Che Ramos, Christian Bautista, Roeder CamaƱag, Lao Rodriguez, Olive Nieto, Chromewell Cosio, Kathlyn Castillo, Acey Aguilar, Yong Tapang, Roli Inocencio, Skyzx Labastilla, Russel Legaspi, Irene Delarmente, Joel Saracho
Just another typical night at the theater: the director’s mad, stage manager’s losing his wit, and the actors are, well, acting up—until one by one, they all start dying. Then the fun suddenly begins: who’s out to get a bunch of old and forgotten stars trying to get another break; why here and why now, why The Portrait; perhaps a prank,a pure coincidence; or has the past finally decided to play cat and mouse? It was a dark and stormy night, indeed, and everyone’s a suspect. Look sharp, find your light, and break a leg!

JULY 1, 3pm/8pm; JULY 9, 3pm; JULY 10, 8pm

by Mixkaela Villalon
directed by Ed Lacson, Jr.
Featuring: Paolo O’Hara, Adrienne Vergara, Bong Cabrera, Ness Roque
Every night, a streetlight is the lone witness to the meetings between two hired killers responsible for the string of murders in a particular area in Manila— and every day, dead bodies are left underneath it for a police detective to find, and a young journalist to investigate and report. Streetlight Manifesto tackles the subjective nature of truth and justice, and frames the discussion on dignity of work amidst the backdrop of Manila’s business casual culture of violence. But for every day the investigation remains unresolved, the body count continues to rise.

by Rae Red
directed by Paolo O’Hara
Featuring: Cris Pasturan, Regina de Vera, Jerry O’Hara, Peewee O’Hara, Tess Jamias, Jelson Bay, George de Jesus
A famous actor and his snobby manager
A posh, religious husband and wife
A promiscuous gold digger
A mysterious priest
And an innocent young woman
Seen through the eyes of a puzzled elevator boy, “KAWALA” tells the story of intertwined lives in a condominium and how they affect an important life choiceof a confused employee.

by Floy Quintos
directed by Jomari Jose
Featuring: Ana Abad Santos, Frances Makil Ignacio,  Jonathan Tadioan
Miranda Beloto, wife of Governor Bingo Beloto is obsessed with the idea of bringing to her impoverished province the first staging of a full length opera.  As she prepares to face her corrupt, insensitive husband, she must also deal with the pressure from her own manipulative mother.  It seems that Miranda’s foolhardy vision of beauty is all she can cling to in the face of so much brutality.  Or is she herself a crucial part of the cycle of corruption?

JULY 2, 3pm/8pm; JULY 6, 8pm; JULY 7, 3pm

writtend and directed by Pat Valera
Featuring: Mary Jane Alejo, Katte Sabata, Chic San Agustin
A mother, wife and daughter remain in the realm of resistance to seek justice. Each has lost a loved one from the tragic sinking of MV Princess of the Stars where 773 people died. One of the worst maritime disasters in recent years, the vessel sank because of the shipping line’s insistence to sail amidst a looming typhoon.

Three years since the sinking, the women persist. However, they slowly forget. Time consumes them, great powers offer bribes, the cost of the struggle becomes insurmountable. Most of all, the memory of pain stabs each time it is remembered. Some succumb to the solace of oblivion, leaving the seemingly endless battle while some remain amidst certain pain and uncertain answers.  This is an elegy for all those lost at sea and their relatives left behind.

written and directed by Joey Paras
Featuring: Leo Rialp, Kiki Baento, Mark Jones Simbit, Vera Capiral, Bham Sumooc, Eva Madera, Giovanni Cadag, Paolo Ballesteros, Floid Zulueta, Biboy Ramirez
It is February 14, Valentine`s Day. Eva is trapped in a bus stop along EDSA. Desperately trying to get a cab to make it to her father`s burial in La Loma, she asks passersby how she could make it to her destination. She sees an easy access to make it to the other lane ---an opening in the middle of the highway that bears this sign: BAWAL TUMAWID, NAKAMAMATAY.  In the meantime, Eva meets a stranger ...

by Russel Legaspi
directed by Missy Maramara
Featuring: Siegfried Sepulveda, Mayen Estanero, Richard Cunanan
An Old Man, Francisco finds himself stuck between the comfortable landscape of a Nursing institute and the Promise he holds dearly to be with his love. A promise he intends to keep even if it means he dies trying.

Three full-length plays will have staged reading performances at the Bulwagang Amado Hernandez  (Conference Room) at the CCP. ONE PERFORMANCE NIGHT EACH ONLY.

by Lito Casaje
directed by Dennis Marasigan
JULY 1, 6pm
Chiaroscuro, which in Latin and art parlance means the contradiction of light and shade, posits a universal worldview that life is likewise full of human contradictions. This Chekhovian play also paints the world of the Malate visual artists and the challenges they face in their struggle for economic survival vis-a-vis their unrelenting pursuit to perfect their craft. It also essays the universal theme on the artist’s option to compromise his art in exchange for commercial satisfaction, or rather, is the kind of compromise merely an option or a painful necessity for one to survive?

by Nicolas Pichay
directed by Jose Estrella
July 7, 6pm
The House of Candles is set in Manila and New York.  It is an exploration of the consequences brought about by extreme personal desires.  It is a rumination on the topography of progeny and legacy; problematizes the act of creation.  The play is a first draft of a work-in-progress.

by Layeta Bucoy
directd by Tuxqs Rutaquio
music by Vincent de Jesus
July 9, 6pm
After being executed by the guardias civiles in the Tayabas Plaza, the body of Apolinario dela Cruz aka Hermano Puli was dismembered and hang all over Tayabas. The different ways by which some members of the Cofradia cope with the death of their leader are reflected in their individual “interaction” with Hermano Puli’s disunited body parts: from Pausto’s outright rejection of one of the basic tenets of the Cofradia, Matea’s unwavering faith in the resurrection of Hermano Puli, Rosa’s plan of trekking to Mt. Banahaw to string together Hermano Puli’s body pieces, and to Juana’s desire to snatch the Hermano’s hanging foot.

What do you think of this line-up? Share your comments.

1 comment :

Kikay Overload said...

Interesting ung "Kinaumagahan". Applicable saken..ehehehe