Virgin Labfest marks 5th year, launches book

Virgin Labfest marks 5th year, launches book
By Walter Ang
June 8, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Five years ago, playwright Rody Vera conceived the Virgin Labfest as "a venue for playwrights, directors and actors to bring to life `untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged' one-act plays." This year, it celebrates its longevity and opens its fifth year with the launch of an anthology of fifteen plays culled from the past four fests.

Vera selected and edited the plays for the book in consultation with former Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Dennis Marasigan. Playwrights featured in the book include established names such as F. Sionil Jose, Liza Magtoto, Nicolas Pichay and Floy Quintos together with a younger generation of playwrights such as Dennis Teodisio, Glenn Mas Sevilla, Layeta Bucoy, and Allan Lopez.

To be launched on June 24, the book is an appropriate and logical output for the festival as the labfest was created as a way to present the works of the Writers Bloc, an independent organization of established and aspiring playwrights headed by Vera. Plays are done in conjunction with Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

As has become the tradition, there will be five sets of one-act trilogies where each set deals with a central topic or unifying theme. This year's sets have titles that range from intriguing such as "It's Complicated (The Buhul-Buhol Trilogy)," "Life is a Trap (Three Plays in Search of Escape)," "The Family That _______s Together (Tatlong Dulang Walang Diyos)," to wickedly humorous such as "School of Life (Mga Dulang Walang Pinag-aralan)," and "Blood Sports (Trilohiyang Dinuguan )."

One additional set restages three plays from last year's fest, namely: Floy Quintos's Ang Kalungkutan ng mga Reyna; Rogelio Braga's Ang Bayot, Ang Meranao at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte; and Job Pagsibigan's Uuwi na ang Nanay kong si Darna.

Aside from the performances, there will be staged readings of works-in-progress, including a musical by Joel Trinidad that will eventually be produced by Repertory Philippines and devised improvisational comedy sessions by Silly People's Improv Theater (Spit). "Also included is a staged reading of Korean American Lloyd Suh's "American Hwangup," currently being staged in New York City by Filipino American theater group May-Yi Theater. It's receiving rave reviews," says Chris Millado, CCP Performing Arts Department head.

There will also be Talkback sessions with audiences for the first week of performances; and a creative playwriting workshop for high school students to be moderated by Glenn Mas Sevilla.

Brave new works
This year, the Virgin Labfest will be held concurrently with the fourth Wifibody Festival, an independent contemporary dance festival, and is preceeded by wordJam!, a Spoken Word Festival which opens June 10.

These three festivals in June are part of CCP's Brave New Works Festivals, a series which concludes in July with three more events: the 13 Artists Awards and Exhibition, opening on July 9; Musik Underkonstruktion, featuring new compositions for symphonies opening July 15; and the fifth Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, opening on July 17.

"The Brave New Works Festivals is part of CCP's 40th anniversary and exemplifies the CCP mandate of encouraging and showcasing original Filipino works. Through these festivals, CCP ushers in a deluge of provocative new works from poets, playwrights, choreographers, composers, visual artists and independent filmmakers," says Millado. "From June to July, audiences can experience groundbreaking productions in poetry-in-performance, modern theater, contemporary dance, new symphonic music, painting, sculpture, installation, multimedia and digital feature film."

With the Virgin Labfest, Wifibody Festival and Cinemalaya as three of the more well-known events, having gained ground from the past few years, it is the aim of Millado to cross-pollinate the different audiences for all of the shows included in Brave New Works.

Audiences will have a chance to explore new art forms they may not be familiar with and artists, on the other hand, are encouraged to work with each other across crafts. "It's working. Choreographer Denisa Reyes has staged a play in a previous Virgin Labfest and is now turning it into a movie for Cinemalaya. Paul Morales, himself steeped in theater, dance and film, is curating Wifibody and has done some movement choreography for the music being developed for Musik Underkonstruktion," says Millado.

Spoken word
wordJam! is curated by Herminio Beltran, Jr. and has three main performance dates every other Wednesday beginning June 10 with Lourd de Veyra's Radioactive Sago Project. Oral tradition and balagtasan will be featured on the first night together with their modern variation: rap poetry.

June 24 features protest poetry while July 1 presents a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender night of poetry featuring the works of J. Neil Garcia and Aida Santos, among others. "All performances will be held at Barbaribas Bar where people can relax after the work day, have a meal with beer and enjoy the sounds and meanings of the spoken word," says Millado. A special performance of poetry for children will be held on July 6 at the CCP Main Theater Lobby.

For details, call 832-1125 or log on to

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