12 Plays, 1 Act, 1 Show: Your Guide To This Year’s Virgin Labfest
It’s that time of year again when playwrights put out their untried and untested—therefore virgin—works for the CCP stage. Brought to us by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Writer’s Bloc and Tanghalang Pilipino, the Virgin Labfest (VLF) will run from June 27 to July 15 at the CCP.
Through the years, VLF has been a platform for aspiring and seasoned playwrights to develop unique stories that would otherwise be buried in theatrical oblivion.
“I started as one of the directors in the first year of the festival and continued doing so until the 7th year,” says veteran theater hand Tuxqs Rutaquio who also acted in one early VLF entry, Floy Quintos' Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna. Now as festival director, Rutaquio enjoys reading the fresh entries and lends his experience and knowledge to the participants. “It is wonderful to note that many VLF playwrights went on to win in the annual Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and that several VLF plays were also adapted to the big screen with some of them being included in the seasons of different professional theatre companies,” he continues. “A number of actors and directors were also given citations in the annual end-of-the-year recap of Philippine Theater’s best performances.”
While there is a general theme for the submitted stories, VLF pretty much grants writers creative license.
“The festival has no criteria for the submissions hence each year, it has contributed to Philippine literature and theater with diverse, thought-provoking and significant works in the one-act format and it has also opened doors for emerging playwrights to work for professional theater companies. These are truly the testament to the success of the festival,” Rutaquio affirms to Metro.Style.
Now on its 14th year, The Virgin Labfest brings us 12 one-act plays that have been handpicked from a total of 150 submissions created around 2018’s central theme: ‘Silip’ (peek).
Here are the plays you can choose from.
1. Labor Room by Maki Dela Rosa
Maki dela Rosa is the sole female playwright to make it to this year’s list. In Labor Room, she tells a story about motherhood, loss, and hope, all within the confines of a – you guessed it – labor room. Directed by José Estrella.
2. Rosas by J. Dennis Teodosio
Directed by Charles Yee, Rosas is written by Virgin Labfest veteran Teodosio. It’s a poignant tale about how members of the gay community face the rigors of old age, as a heartfelt dedication to the late theater artist Soxie Topacio.
3. River Lethe by Allan Lopez
Lopez is a Virgin Labfest pioneer Lopez. Sex and death bring life to two terminal cancer patients in this new play as the two characters explore their unbridled desires in a motel room, as directed by Chris Martinez.
4. Edgar Allan Hemingway by Carlo Vergara
Edgar Allan Hemingway is the creation of graphic designer, illustrator, and VLF regular Carlo Vergara. Directed by George de Jesus III, it tells of a newly successful writer who unexpectedly finds fierce competition in a childhood friend.
5. Tulad ng Dati by JV Ibesate
Award-winning theater actor JV Ibesate pens Tulad Ng Dati, directed by Olive Nieto. It’s about two siblings who reunite after a long separation, only to be divided by their past secrets.
6. Ensayo by Juan Ekis
Written by Juan Ekis and directed by Erick Villanueva dela Cruz, Ensayo is the story of two actors in their 60s whose rehearsal for a stage kiss turns into something much more.
7. Mga Bata sa Selda 43 by Rolin Migyuel Cadallo Odina
Los Baños-based writer Rolin Migyuel Cadallo Odina gives us Mga Bata Sa Selda 43. Directed by Ian Segarra, it’s about two incarcerated children who believe that they were abducted by aliens, and must plan their escape.
8. Ang Mga Propesyunal by Sari Saysay
Hailing from Bicol, Sari Saysay writes Ang Mga Propesyunal, which tells of the senseless deaths of children, and the meaning of democracy and freedom of expression, as seen through children’s eyes. It’s directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna.
9. Marawi Musicale by Tyron Casumpang
Directed by Ariel Yonzon, Marawi Musicale is Casumpang’s take on man versus noise, a retelling of his experience in a Marawi shelter, where refugees learn that music is their safe haven from the gunshots, bombs, and air raids.
10. Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida by Dustin Celestino
Directed by Roobak Valle, this play asks the audience, “What makes a villain?” while telling the story of Jake, a typical antagonist who does good deeds, but not not necessarily by choice.
11. Amoy Pulbos Ang Mga Alabok sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren by Lino Balmes
Directed by Tess Jamias, Amoy Pulbos is about an impoverished couple who participates in a get-rich-quick TV show contest in the hopes of upgrading their lifestyle.
12. Ang Inyong Mga Anak: Si Harold at Si Napoleon by Anthony Kim Vergara
Directed by Ricardo Magno, this play is based on the true story of a murdered man. The show is a dialogue between a mother and son who each discover their core values as revealed by their political stances.
These 12 plays are also accompanied by four stage readings and three revisited plays from previous VLFs (Sincerity Biker’s Club, Birdcage, and River Lethe).
“Throughout the years, the VLF evolved from a festival of veteran, emerging, and newbie playwrights into one of each year’s much awaited theatrical events,” Rutaquio happily asserts. “It has solidified itself as a viable platform for the continuous development of playwrights by not only de-virginizing their plays but by first and foremost providing an avenue where their voice is given top priority by encouraging them to churn out plays according to their desires without the trappings of imposed themes or other concerns.”
“It is hard to compare this generation of playwrights from previous generations because each have contributed and adapted to the development of playwriting depending on the current times,” Rutaquio concludes.
This diversity of voice also makes VLF an ideal ground for new audiences who wish to get started on Philippine theater appreciation, since it allows you to select from a wide range of short plays that won’t eat up too much of your time.
All plays are divided into sets, all of which will run at 3pm and 8pm. The 12 plays will be held at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), while the revisited plays will run at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater).
Here are the dates for each set:
Set A (June 27, July 5, 6, 10, 11, 14, 15)
Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida, Mga Bata sa Selda 43, Ang Inyong Mga Anak: Si Harold at Si Napoleon
Set B (June 28, July 1, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15)
Ang Mga Propesyunal, Rosas, Edgar Allan Hemingway
Set C (June 29, July 1, 4, 7, 8, 12, 13)
Labor Room, Ensayo, Tulad ng Dati
Set D (June 30, July 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 14)
Set E (Revisited: June 29, 30, July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15)
Birdcage (Playwright: Rick Patriarca / Director: Ian Segarra); Sincerity Bikers’Club (Playwright: Adrian Ho / Director: Jenny Jamora); Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat (Playwright: Eljay Castro Deldoc / Director: Roobak Valle)
Meanwhile, the Staged Readings will be held at the Bulwagang Amado Hernandez at 6pm.
Set 1 (July 6)
Without the Drama (Jay Crisostomo); Dolorosa (Peter Zaragoza Mayshle)
Set 2 (July 13)
Bagyolanda (John Lapus); Asalto (Dominic Lim)
Set 3 (July 15)
Writing Fellowship Showcase
The book launch of VLF Playwrights will be held on June 30.