Since its inception in 2005, Virgin Labfest—a laboratory festival of untried and untested one-act plays written by emerging and established Filipino playwrights—has attracted its own growing audience.
Proof to this growth are the tickets that sold like hotcakes in recent editions. Try buying them now at the start of Virgin Labfest’s three-week run and you’ll find it difficult to do so.
As with its appeal to returning and new audiences, Virgin Labfest’s stars continue to be its playwrights.
Through its 12-year run, the prestigious festival-cum-competition has not only had established and award-winning playwrights but more so new blood that is hoping to kick-start or affirm their careers in this competitive field.
Among this year’s “virgin playwrights,” as the festival fondly calls its first timers, are Virgin Labfest fellowship graduates Alexandra May Cordoso and Soc delos Reyes, and web content writer Rick Patriaca.
Cordoso told The Sunday Times Magazine that she felt the collaborative spirit of theater now that she is part of the main competition.
“This is different because during our fellowship, we were required to write a seven-page play, which is like only 10-minutes when performed on a stage reading. Pero dito, iba talaga ang preparation because it’s already a production.
“Mas nafi-feel ko yung pagiging collaborative ng theater. You’re going to be pushed to go beyond your own circles, meet new people and work with people that have their own insights na rin sa play mo,” the UP Diliman student told The Sunday Times Magazine.
“For me it’s really a privilege to be part of this year’s lineup. Nakaka-affirm din siya sa akin as someone who’s starting out as a playwright because this early nakapasok na ako sa Virgin Lab,” she added.
Dahan-Dahan ang Paglubog ng Araw playwright, and another writing fellow, delos Reyes affirmed Cordoso’s earlier statement on transitioning from fellowship to the main competition.
“I guess the fellowship was less stressful and more of a learning experience compared today where we’ve churned out a full production. I am very thankful for the opportunity since it’s my fourth time to submit a script, tapos ngayon lang ako naka-pasok ng main competition.
“At the same time, I fell pressured since medyo malaki na rin yung tradition ng Labfest and a lot of writers that I look up to, and sometimes even the actors that I look up to, have gone done the Labfest,” delos Reyes shared.
Asked what inspired them to write their particular entries, Patriaca gamely answered first and said, “I’ve been a fan of comedy and satire so most of the plays I’ve writtena are of the genres. That’s why I am so excited to work with Chris Martinez [his play’s director]because he’s like the master of Filipino satire and I’ve been a fan of his works. I am definitely thrilled.”
Patriaca’s entry is Hapagkainan, a black satirical comedy that depicts a dinner conversation of a dysfunctional Filipino family whose 16-year-old female member confesses her unexpected pregnancy.
Cordoso, on the other hand, revealed that her admiration for creative writer Ian Rosal Cosocot led her to adapt his short story on stage.
“The first time I read his work, I was really impressed. Tapos nakita ko na sobrang rich pala ng folklore here especially in places outside Manila. Also, I’m from the province myself so parang sabi ko this would be a great way para ma-pique yung interest ng tao sa local folklore as well as works written by authors of this country,” related the playwright whose entry, Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epefanio, centers on the Negros tale of Epefania, a girl with a foolish heart and a tinge of magic.
For delos Reyes, the play was inspired by his interest in rites of passage.
“Interested akong gumawa ng play na around 18-years old na adult and bata pa at the same time plus I wanted to write a play with a strong female character,” delos Reyes said.
The virgin playwrights’ work Dahan-dahang ang Paglubog ng Araw centers on the story of Maya, a high school senior who deals with the realities of taking care of her cancer-stricken father.
Finally, The Sunday Times Magazine asked the three what would be their audience’s takeaway after seeing each of their plays.
“My target audience are the young people and I want them to understand that while love is a beautiful thing, love is magical; love isn’t everything. Moreover, I want them to have an interest in local written works and folklore,” Cordoso shared.
“For me, mas gusto ko lang siguro ma-englighten yung audience about grief and depression, kasi I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about those two,” delos Reyes answered.
Lastly, Patriaca said he would simply want his audience to “enjoy and laugh.”
Virgin Labfest 12, with the theme “Binyag” is ongoing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines until July 17. For more information, visit culturalcenter.gov.ph