Virgin Labfest remains ‘fresh’ on 11th year

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A scene from Jose Garcia’s ‘Birtwal’

A scene from Jose Garcia’s ‘Birtwal’

It is hip, hot, and refreshing. This is how Chris Millado, vice president and artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) described the annual festival of untried, untested, and unstaged plays, popularly known as the Virgin Labfest.

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Now on its 11th year, Virgin Labfest is bigger than ever as it is set to run for three weeks instead of the usual two—an answer to the sold-out shows of the past seasons. The theater festival opened on June 24 and will run through July 12, at CCP’s Tanghalang Huse Batute and Bulwagang Amado Hernandez. Scheduled for staging is a host of 12 plays, three stage readings, and four fragments, which were selected out of 156 entries.

Aptly dubbed “Sariwa” for 2015, Virgin Labfest remains fresh because of one simple reason: There are no rules on any aspect of the production. The only limit for “virgin” playwrights is the challenge to squeeze their story telling in 45 minutes on the stage. There is little censorship too and ideas can definitely run wild.

Incest, domestic abuse, and abortion are only a few of the taboos Labfest playwrights dared discuss in the past. There was even partial nudity in some acts, which were only shown to age-appropriate audiences. And of course, to balance out dark and sexy scenes, fun and quirky storylines are also always part of the lineup.

This year, the festival’s first musical will be staged via Macho Dancer: A Musical by Nicolas Pichay, followed by a magical time travel piece depicted through Job Pagsibigan’s When Sam Met Jo.

While some of the featured playwrights for the year have exhibited in the festival before, there is handful of new blood that have also made the cut.

Among the newbies are Juan Miguel Severo with Hintayan ng Langit; Genevieve Asenjo with Ang Nanay Kong Ex-NPA (in collaboration with three-time participant Em Mendez); Jerome Ignacio with Kublihan; Alvin Molina with An Expected; and Jose Marie Sanchez with Talo ang Walang Alam.

The talented playwrights selected were granted the privilege of collaborating with the likes of Jade Castro, Ian Segarra, George de Jesus, Law Fajardo, Rody Vera, Ralph Peña, Guelan Luarca, Raffy Tejada, Audie Gemora, Ed Lacson, Issa Lopez, Roobak Valle, Dennis Marasigan and Melvin Lee.

Completing the line-up of plays are Maynard Manansala’s Dalawang Gabi, Layeta Bucoy’s Uod, Butete, at Si Myrna, Herlyn Gail Alegre’s Huling Huli, Jose Garcia’s Birtwal, Eljay Castro Deldoc’s Si Maria Isabella at Ang Guryon ng mga Tala.

Revisited plays will also be shown including Raymund Reyes’ Ang Naghihingalo, Kevin Tabora’s Mapagbirong Haplos, and Eljay Castro Deldoc’s Ang Goldfish ni Professor Dimaandal.

Tickets are priced at P300 with festival passes at P1,200. For further inquiries, please call the CCP Production Management Services Division at 832-1125 locals 1606 to 1607, or visit the website at www.culturalcenter.gov.ph.

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