The Cultural Center of the Philippines recently announced the final list of 12 new plays for Virgin Labfest 11 and three other plays to be revisited from last year. The laboratory festival will be held from June 24 to July 12 at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater) and Bulwagang Amado Hernandez.
The VLF, which has earned a solid reputation for its provocative line-up of untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged productions, aims to promote new and exciting plays and to pave the way for emerging and established Filipino playwrights. Established in 2005, the annual event is a joint venture of the CCP, Tanghalang Pilipino and Writers’ Bloc, Inc. in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
The new plays for VLF 11 are Maynard Manansala’s Dalawang Gabi, Job Pagsibigan’s When Sam Met Jo, Layeta Bucoy’s Uod, Butete at si Myrna, Herlyn Gail Alegre’s Huling Huli, Genevieve Asenjo’s and Em Mendez’s Ang Nanay Kong Ex-NPA, Nicolas Pichay’s Macho Dancer: A Musical, Jerome Ignacio’s Kublihan, Juan Miguel Severo’s Hintayan ng Langit, Jose Garcia’s Birtwal, Eljay Castro Deldoc’s Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala, Joe Mari Sanchez’s Talo ang Walang Alam, and Alvin Molina’s An Expected.
Directing the selected plays this year are Jade Castro, Ian Segarra, George De Jesus, Lawrence Fajardo, Rody Vera, Ralph Peña, Guelan Luarca, Raffy Tejada, Audie Gemora, Ed Lacson, Alvin Yapan, and Roobak Valle, respectively.
Castro, a film and television director known for the 2007 Cinemalaya Special Jury Prize winner Endo starring Gawad Urian Best Actor awardee Jason Abalos, and the blockbuster film Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington starring Martin Escudero, will try theater for the first time as he directs Manansala’s Dalawang Gabi this year. Manansala, a faculty member of Miriam College, co-wrote Bago Ilibing with U.Z. Eliserio last year.
Writer Pagsibigan returns to the VLF with When Sam Met Jo, collaborating this year with PETA’s FnL director Segarra. He previously wrote Palanca in My Mind directed by Valle in 2006, May Bumubulong directed by Christian Bautista in 2007, Uuwi na ang Nanay Kong si Darna directed by Catherine Racsag in 2008 and restaged in 2009, and MPC (Mababang Paaralan ng Caniogan) performed by the Sipat Lawin Ensemble in 2009.
VLF regulars Bucoy and De Jesus team up this year for the former’s Uod, Butete at si Myrna. Bucoy, a member of Writer’s Bloc and Tokyo Rinkogun Theater’s Philippine Bedtime Stories, wrote Sa Pagitan Ng Dalawang Kahong Liham for the festival last year.
The playwright-director tandem of Alegre and Fajardo is back at the VLF with Huling Huli. Fajardo previously directed Alegre’s one-act play Imbisibol, about undocumented and overstaying Filipinos in Japan, at the festival two years ago and its restaging last year. They collaborated with scriptwriter John Paul Bedia to turn the play into a full-length film this year for the first Sinag Maynila film festival, where they swept all the major awards.
Asenjo, an Honorary Writing Fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and an Associate Professor at the De La Salle University-Manila, co-writes Ang Nanay Kong Ex-NPA with Em Mendez, who previously wrote Ambong Abo and Ang Unang Regla ni John for VLF in 2013. Palanca Hall of Fame awardee Vera directs their material.
Multi-awarded playwright and Palanca Hall of Famer Pichay fields Macho Dancer: A Musical as his entry in this year’s Virgin Labfest. He collaborates with balikbayan director Peña, founding member and current Artistic Director of the Ma-Yi Theater Company, an Obie and Drama Desk-winning Asian-American theatre group based in New York City.
Ateneo ENTABLADO coordinator Ignacio writes Kublihan for VLF 11 with Luarca, a fellow Atenean, as director. The latter wrote Ang Mga Kuneho for VLF 9 and acted, directed, and translated classic plays for Ateneo’s Teatro Baguntao and Tanghalang Ateneo.
Spoken word artist Severo, who recently became viral with his performance Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko Para Sa ‘Yo, reveals another aspect of his talented self by writing Hintayan ng Langit for VLF. Tejada, who helmed an adaptation of Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-Hair Woman for De La Salle University’s Harlequin Theatre Guild, directs Severo’s play.
After directing Liza Magtoto’s Anonymous last year, multi-talented stage, television and film actor, producer, and director Gemora is back at the helm of Garcia’s Birtwal this year.
Deldoc, who made the audience laugh their hearts out last year with his wacky Ang Goldfish ni Professor Dimaandal, has a new entry, Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala, at the VLF this year. Lacson, a young director who recently helmed Tanghalang Ateneo’s Middle Finger and Glenn Sevilla Mas’ Games People Play, collaborates with Deldoc.
Award-winning filmmaker and fictionist Yapan, who directed Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe, Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa, and Debosyon for Cinemalaya, is another first-time or theatre director as he helms Sanchez’s Talo ang Walang Alam for VLF 11.
Valle, who has helmed several plays in the past VLF editions, directs Molina’s An Expected. Molina co-wrote and directed the award-winning Ang Paglalakbay ni Andres sa Underworld for DLS-College of Saint Benilde’s annual theatre competition Crossroads.
To be restaged and revisited this year are Raymund Reyes’ Ang Naghihingalo, Kevin Tabora’s Mapagbirong Haplos, and Deldoc’s Ang Goldfish ni Professor Dimaandal from VLF 10 with Dennis Marasigan, Melvin Lee, and Valle again as directors, respectively.
Also part of the VLF this year are staged readings of Vicente Groyon’s Ang Tugon ni Conchita, Rossielle Manicad’s The Wedding Planners, and Carlo Vergara’s Mula sa Kulimliman, and Fragments, site-specific excerpts of new works, by Tanghalang Ateneo.
For schedules and ticket inquiries, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704 or 832-1125 local 1405 (CCP Box Office) or 1803 (CCP Sales and Promotions Division), Ticket World Manila at 891-9999, or visit any Ticket World outlet. Tickets are priced at 300 pesos per set with festival passes at 1,200 pesos each.