Virgin Labfest 2012 has ten new plays, 4 'virgin' playwrights

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Yay! My article on the 8th Virgin Labfest (2012) was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's June 18, 2012 issue.

*The editors put down nine new plays for the headline, but I think it should be ten. But then math has always eluded me, kekeke.

Schedule and synopses of the plays can be read here.
Virgin Labfest 2012 has ten new plays, 4 'virgin' playwrights*
By Walter Ang

"Ang Unang Regla ni John"
This years' Virgin Labfest will present ten new works: three sets of one-act trilogies and one full-length (two-act) play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. (See line-up in sidebar.)

Now on its eight year, the labfest is "a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life 'untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged' plays."

Tuxqs Rutaquio is the new artistic director, taking over from Rody Vera, who founded the festival through Writer's Bloc, a playwright's group, and Tanghalang Pilipino, CCP's resident theater company.  This year's funding is partially provided by CCP and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

Young, new
"The labfest has grown in popularity and reputation throughout the years among audiences, teachers and theater artists," says Rutaquio.

"We've heard from groups from the regions who have made it an annual tradition to come to Manila to watch.  Some groups have been consulting with us to see if they can create a similar event in their region."

Submissions were screened and shortlisted by Rutaquio, Vera and actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino.  "We read all submission over the summer break.  Most show promise but still need work on technical aspects like structure. We plan on writing back the playwrights whose works weren't chosen for the festival this year with notes to give them advice."

He notes that submissions this year were mostly from playwrights in their late 20s. "This is a good sign. It means we have young playwrights out there who are creating works."

Out of the nine featured plays, four playwrights are virgin to the labfest: Em Mendez ("Ang Unang Regla ni John"), Guelan Luarca ("Kuneho"), Mar Anthony dela Cruz ("Hayop"), and Aizel Cabilan ("Pagsubli"), with dela Cruz and Cabilan having written their first plays ever.

"Isa Pang Soap Opera"
Out of the 77 submissions this year, 16 are full-length plays.  The festival started staging full-length plays last year and continues this year with "Totong Hilot" written by Jose Dennis Teodisio and directed by Roobak Valle.

Teodisio has had his works performed in all previous labfests, up to two per fest in some years, except last year, for a total of nine one-acts.  He is no longer allowed to submit one-acts to the fest.  "This is my 18th full-length play, but my first full-length for VL," says Teodisio. "I write plays because it's cathartic."

Rutaquio says, "Eventually, there are plans to stage more full-length plays and reduce the number of one-acts for the festival."

Revisiting, teaching
The festival usually features a set of trilogies from the previous year.  This year's "revisited" set includes: "Kawala" written by Rae Red and directed by Paolo O'Hara; "Evening at the Opera" by Floy Quintos, directed by Jomari Jose; and "Kafatiran" by Ricardo Novenario, directed by JK Anicoche.

There is no children's set this year due to lack of entries.

This year's festival resurrected its Playwriting Fellowship Program for college students taught by Glenn Mas with script writing workshop, lectures, discussions and script critiquing.

Selected lectures and discussions are open to the public.

"We were able to get funding this year for the program.  Hopefully it will become a permanent part of the festival in the future. The program is part of VL's desire to train young aspiring playwrights.  The festival has produced provocative and outstanding 'virgin' plays that have been recognized by the Palanca Awards for Literature."

Accepted applicants will be given access to this year's selected rehearsals as part of their mentorship and interactions with known playwrights, directors and selected actors.  The program concludes in a staged reading of the fellow's works on the last day of the fest.

The 8th Virgin Labfest (2012) runs June 27-July 8, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City. Call 8321125.

Schedule and synopses of the plays can be read here.

Also published online:

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