‘Labfest’ audience hungry for original, daring, brave stories

By Ibarra C. Mateo

Image © Cultural Center of the Philippines

THE audience’s “hunger for original, brave, daring stories” are among the factors that sustained the growth of the annual festival Virgin Labfest or VLF.

This according to Cultural Center of the Philippines Vice President and Artistic Director Chris B. Millado as he acknowledged that the early years of the VLF attracted mainstream performers.

VLF is now on its 14th year, with a theme “silip” or “to take a peek. It opened on June 27 and will run until July 15 at various CCP venues.

“Best of all, the VLF attracted and grew a large audience following. Those who had watched VLF in the years 1, 2, and 3 are now bringing their sons and daughters,” Millado, who is one of the artistic directors of VLF 2018, said.

“Appeal (of the VLF) is in the catch phrase staging of unpublished, untried, untested, and unstaged works. There is now a hunger for original, brave, and daring stories,” Millado said.

“As much as the playwrights are willing to take risks, we have audience who are also willing to take the same artistic risks as well. This is the appeal of the VLF. Now, we are having its 14th edition,” Millado said

Tuxqs Rutaquio, VLF 2018 dramaturg and festival director, said 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.”

“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,” Rutaquio said.

This year, Rutaquio said, “we chose 12 new plays, we remained true to the festival’s vision of de-virginizing playwrights alongside directors, actors, stage managers, and audiences.”

Rody Vera, co-founder of the VLF and executive director of The Writer’s Bloc, said there were about 150 entries for the 2018 VLF edition, from which 12 plays were selected for staging.

Vera named the six new playwrights this years: Dustin Celestino (Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida); Rolin Migyuel Obina (Mga Bata sa Selda 43); Anthony Kim Vergara (Ang Inyong mga Anak: Si Harold At Napoleon); JV Ibesate (Tulad ng Dati); Lino Balmes (Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok Sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren); and Tyron Casumpang (Marawi Musicale).

The “non-virgin” playwrights are; Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa (Labor Room); Juan Ekis (Ensayo); Allan Lopez (River Lethe); Sari Saysay (Ang Mga Propesyunal); Jose Dennis Teodosio (Rosas), and Carlo Vergara (Edgar Allan Hemingway).

The plays in the VLF Staged Reading category are: Jay Crisostomo (Without the Drama); Peter Zaragoza Mayshle (Dolorosa); John Lapus (Bagyolanda); and Dominic Lim (Asalto).

The 2018 Revisited Plays are: Eljay Castro Deldoc’s Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat; Adrian Ho’s Sincerity Biker’s Club; and Rick Patriarca’s Birdcage.

The CCP partners with its resident theater company Tanghalang Pilipino and The Writer’s Bloc, in staging the VLF.

The new plays are divided into four sets. Set A includes: “Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida,” written by Dustin Celestino and directed by Roobak Valle; “Mga Bata sa Selda 43,” written by Rolin Migyuel Cadallo Obina and directed by Ian Segarra; and “Ang Inyong mga Anak: Si Harold at Napoleon,” written by Anthony Kim Vergara and directed by Ricardo Magno.

For Set B has “Bagyolanda,” written by John Lapus and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio, “Ang Mga Propesyunal,” penned by Sari Saysay and directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, “Rosas” by playwright J. Dennis Teodosio, directed by Charles Yee, and “Edgar Allan Hemingway” by Carlo Vergara and directed by George de Jesus III.

Set C has “Labor Room” by Ma. Cecilia “Maki” dela Rosa, directed by Jose Estrella and Issa Manalo Lopez, “Ensayo” by Juan Ekis and directed by Eric Villanueva dela Cruz, and “Tulad ng Dati” by JV Ibesate and directed by Olive Nieto.

Set D is composed of “Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren” by playwright Lino Balmes and director Tess Jamias, “Marawi Musicale” by playwright Tyron Casumpang and director Ariel Yonzon, and “River Lethe” by playwright Allan Lopez and director Chris Martinez complete the list.

Three plays in the previous edition of the VLF will be remounted. These are: “Birdcage” written by Rick Patriarca and directed by Ian Segarra; “Sincerity Biker’s Club” by Adrian Ho and directed by Jenny Jamora; and “Pilipinas kong Mahal with all the Overcoat” by Eljay Castro Deldoc and directed by Roobak Valle and Tuxqs Rutaquio.

The Staged Readings feature “Without the Drama” by playwright Jay Crisostomo, directed by Renate Bustamante; and “Dolorosa” by playwright Peter Zaragoza Mayshle, directed by Chic San Agustin.

The main play features will be staged at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), while the VLF Revisited will be performed at Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater), and the Staged Readings will be at Tanghalang Amado V. Hernandez.

The Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program, a two-week mentorship program on the study and practice of dramatic writing for the stage, will also be held as part of the festival. The fellowship program aims to train young aspiring playwrights through a series of lectures, script critiquing, writing sessions and interactions with known playwrights, directors and selected actors.

Tickets are for sale at the CCP and all TicketWorld outlets. For ticketing information, please call the CCP Marketing Department at 832-3706 or 832-3704 or email the Sales and Promotions Division at ccpsalesandpromo@gmail.com.


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