Hail, hail, the gang’s all here! The familiar perky line suits well to describe the coming Virgin Labfest play festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) starting June 28 until July 6.
Held annually and now on its lucky 13th year, the playfest is under the auspices of the Writers Bloc, a group of emerging and established playwrights mostly coming from Metro Manila.
Multi-awarded playwright and screenwriter Rody Vera with his colleagues in the writing profession including the dear departed Rene Villanueva with Nick Pichay, Liza Magtoto, Vince De Jesus, Alfonso Dacanay, et al. took it upon themselves to mentor in a workshop setting aspiring playwrights willing to submit their plays for critiquing.
Said workshop is being held regularly every other Sunday of the week from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the year. Outstanding plays that pass the evaluation at the workshop sessions are chosen as if from a harvest of untried, untested and unstaged plays for inclusion, hence the title Virgin Labfest.
Since its inception 13 years ago, the CCP has been most supportive in helping stage the annual labfest by providing the infrastructure and the works to make the production viable mostly from the efforts of the in-house directors of Tanghalang Pilipino with their talents breathing life into the characters of the chosen plays. The CCP also takes charge of the bulk of marketing and promotions, making the festival easily accessible to the student populace and the public at a reasonable cost.
What makes the Virgin Labfest unique is the notion of watching virgin plays coming to life even in its highly ephemeral form. The viewer then becomes an eyewitness in transposing the play at hand to become an organic, living, breathing spectacle.
If you allow some bit of indulgence, Caveat had at least three virgin plays staged in the first few years of the annual labfest including one on corruption of the local media which was featured for stage reading.
Watching one’s play come to life before your very own eyes is mind-blowing, a rare experience that is seldom afforded to even among well-known playwrights. For what use is a remarkable play when it lays buried like a fossilized text, unstaged and out to outlive yet the life of its creator?
Some of the well-known names now lording over film, TV, and theater have slugged it out dispassionately with the criticisms coming from the acid tongues of co-workshoppers and panelists as well at the Writers Bloc sessions. Among them are Jun Robles Lana, Chris Martinez, Floy Quintos, Elmer Gatchalian, Njel De Mesa, Vince Tañada, and Emmanuel Dela Cruz.
The main event of the labfest is this year’s batch of playwrights from the Writers Bloc whose works made it to the playfest. From among them, three names of outstanding playwrights and their works will prevail for restaging in next year’s Virgin Labfest.