VIRGIN LABFEST 3, the year’s most anticipated festival of new and untested, unpublished and unstaged plays, runs from June 28 until July 8 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This year, the festival features the premiere of 18 new one-act plays plus staged readings of full-length plays, directed and acted by artists from some of the country’s most respected performing companies.
The third edition of the Virgin Labfest boasts a repertoire of 15 short plays in five trilogies as the main exhibition. One of the trilogies features contributions of playwrights from Thailand, Singapore, and Japan. Another independently produced trilogy of plays has been added to the festival, bringing a total of 18 short plays to be performed at the CCP. Full-length plays will also be featured in a series of dramatic readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.
The first set, International Night, is a compilation of plays by foreign playwrights, an innovation for this year’s festival.
He-Me-She-It by Narumol Thammapruksa and directed by Jaime del Mundo is a poetic improvisation about a strange newcomer who both influences and terrifies the members of an undisclosed remote town.
Lizard by Haresh Sharma, directed by Nicolas Pichay, is a surreal and violent depiction of a Singaporean household whose scheming, double-dealing, and at times cruel transactions negotiated with each other makes for intense living-room drama.
Yoji Sakate’s Noh Play, Three Sisters, directed by Jose Estrella, is a moving ghost story and a touching memorial to the ravages of war and the significant resonance of War in Theater. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 28 (3:00 PM and 8:00 PM), July 7 (8:00 PM) and July 8 (3:00 PM)
The second set, Madadramang Pamilya is household drama but definitely not telenovela fare. Skeletons in the closet, in-house rebellions, and family decisions that just have to be made. Debbie Ann Tan’s Teroristang Labandera, directed by Yoshi Toshihisa, is a funny and yet disturbing tearing down of class and racial stereotypes. This comedy may be saying more than just being wacky.
Bagahe by J. Dennis Teodosio and directed by Rito Asilo is a short, intense conversation between a son and his dying father, who are torn by the need to migrate and the need to define home.
Looking for Darna by Lani Montreal and directed by Khryss Adalia is about three generations of women painfully coming to terms with a reality that renders many women helpless and silent. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 29 (3:00 PM and 8:00 PM), July 5 (3:00 PM) and July 8 (8:00 PM)
The third set, XX AND X: Babala: Hindi Pang-Isip Bata, is the most unsettling and disturbing compilation of the season. We enjoin you come in with an open mind and expect the unexpected, to widen your understanding. Séance by Auggie Arcenas and directed by Erick Castro is a quiet yet intense confrontation between a fortune teller and her customer that becomes a battle of wits and a revelation of small cruelties and hypocrisies.
Allan Lopez’ Kasaysayan, directed by Victor Villareal, is a macabre rendering of capitalist barbarism and a gruesome exploration of the weird, horrible ways of the bourgeoisie set in the fictional future.
My Padir is an OCW, written by George Vail Kabristante and directed by Issa Lopez, is about an aging transvestite’s bizarre association with a young dancer who harbors a family secret. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, June 30 (3:00 PM and 8:00 PM), July 5 (8:00 PM) and July 6 (3:00 PM)
Ang Pagdadagalaga at Iba Pang Rebelasyon provides another take on forbidden loves, sexual desire and the fruits it reaps, both good and evil. It is also three variations on a theme: Spring’s awakening! Kuyom by Argel Tuason and directed by John Abul is about a young boy’s exposure to exploitation and cruelty, which becomes more complicated by the environment he finds himself in, a world of gay impersonators.
Three Unsent Letters, written by Arlo De Guzman and directed by Rody Vera, is an epistolary drama about a man’s awakening to love and betrayal. Letters that have not been sent become monologues of despair and a sense of renewal at the same time.
Ellas Inosentes by Layeta Bucoy and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio is about two sisters whose innocent conversation and well-intentioned observations of a household not quite their own reveals the violence and inhumanity of the adults around them. Tanghalang Huseng Batute, July 1 (3:00 PM / 8:00 PM), July 6 (8:00 PM) and July 7 (3:00 PM).
Children’s Plays are at the Bulwagang Amado Hernandez on June 29 (3:00 PM), June 30 (10:00 AM and 3:00 PM) and July 1 (3:00 PM). Rene Villanueva’s Bertdey ni Guido, performed by the Dulaang Sipat Lawin Ensemble and directed by George de Jesus III, offers a wonderful juvenile perspective of the relationship between the personal and the political, made more marvelous with music and dance.
Mga Obra ni Maestra, written and directed by Niel De Mesa and performed by the Koine Theater Foundation, is a hilarious and biting play about three young children with superpowers who are heavily conflicted between saving the world and fulfilling the grueling, tedious domestic duties that their parents have ordered them to do.
James Cansanay’s Kung Pwede Sanang Ipagpalit ang Tatay, directed by Catherine Racsag is a strange but fascinating fable about a young boy who mistakenly traded his father for a toy.
Identity and Politics is at the Bulwagang Amado Hernandez on July 6 (8:00 PM), July 7 (3:00 PM and 8:00 PM) and July 8 (3:00 PM). May Bumubulong by Job Pagsibigan and directed by Christian Bautista is about two brothers battling for the right to claim property and lineage, revealing the fragile and uncertain state of anyone’s identity.
Pobreng Alindahaw by J. Dennis Teodosio and directed by Delfin Ilao is a short but hilarious allegory that starts off like a folktale for children, but the issues laid down by two dragonflies and a butterfly turn this otherwise comic fantasy into a serious look into one’s personality.
Rogelio Braga’s Sa Pagdating ng Barbaro, directed by Nick Olanka and performed by the UP Repertory Company, is about a small town that witnesses a suicide, an open secret military operation in a Muslim community nearby, the coming of a stranger with a suitcase that contains a secret, which no one will ever know, and a woman’s numerous white lies.
The Best of Virgin Labfest 2 brings back the award-winning Palanca On My Mind by Job Pagsibigan, directed by Roobak Valle, and audience favorite Hubad by Liza Magtoto directed by Denisa Reyes, Tanghalang Huseng Batute, July 3 (8:00 PM) and July 4 (3:00 / 8:00 PM).
Public Readings of full-length plays will be at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino at 7:00 PM: Glen Mas’ Games People Play (June 29), Rene Villanueva’s Baby B. (June 30), Tim Dacanay’s Teatro Porvenir (July 6) Huling Salubong by Malou Jacob (July 7).
There will also be Platform Events at the Bulwagang Carlos Francisco at 5:45 PM from June 28 to July 1 and July 5-8) featuring the playwrights and directors as they discuss their works and interact with the public. Breakout performances in cabaret style will also be performed nightly at the CCP Silangan Hall.
The Virgin Labfest is a joint venture of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas), Tanghalang Pilipino, Writers Bloc, Inc., and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) with the generous support of the Japan Foundation Manila.
Since 2005, the festival has witnessed the works of stage directors Tuxqs Rutaquio, Denisa Reyes, Herbert Go, Phil Noble, Victor Villareal and Roobak Valle, among others.
Professional actors like Neil Ryan Sese, Irma Adlawan-Marasigan, Nonie Buencamino, Mailes Kanapi, Tess Jamias and Marj Lorico have supported the festival with their theatrical talent and dedication.
Even new actors have been discovered with the performances of the Dulaang Sipat Lawin Ensemble, the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors’ Company, actors from PETA, Gantimpala Foundation, as well as freelance professionals and even student theater artists.
Dynamic, creative, experimental, at times edgy, always provocative, the Virgin Labfest has served as the venue for coming together to explore new visions, expressions and discourses, and an exciting celebration of Philippine Theater.
Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P200 for plays to be shown at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute and Bulwagang Amado Hernandez, and Pay-What-You-Can for play readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.