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Eyes on Virgin Labfest 14

IT’S that time of the year when untried, untested and unstaged plays rule the theater scene.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in partnership with its resident theater company Tanghalang Pilipino and the Writer’s Bloc Inc., hosts the Virgin Labfest anew from June 27 to July 15 at various venues of the CCP.

The three-week festival promises to be a spectacular one, offering twelve new plays and four staged readings, and three revisited plays from last year’s festival all performed by outstanding thespians and directed by upcoming and established directors.

Taking “Silip” as its catchphrase, the festival offers a chance for writers to see their creative skills taken from page to stage.

Now on its 14th year, the annual theater festival picked 12 new featured one-act works, out of more than 150 manuscripts submitted. Each expresses the complexity of human experience and create dialogues on social issues.

As per tradition, the new plays are divided into four sets.

Set A

Set A includes: “Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida,” written by Dustin Celestino and directed by Roobak Valle; “Mga Bata sa Selda 43,” written by Rolin Migyuel Cadallo Obina and directed by Ian Segarra; and “Ang Inyong mga Anak: Si Harold at Napoleon,” written by Anthony Kim Vergara and directed by Ricardo Magno.

In Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida, Jake (Jay Gonzaga) is a violent, selfish and reckless villain.

Unfortunately, Jake doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and his behavior has consequences. Because Jake is a villain, people around him feel threatened, and these people look for ways to solve the problem that is Jake. Part origin story, part family drama, the play is a collection of conversations heard in the vicinity of a villain.

Also starring in the play are Lian Silverio, Earl Figuracion, Richard Manabat and JV Ibaste.

Mga Bata sa Selda 43, meanwhile, follows Philip (Tomas Santos) and his younger brother, Ino (JM Canlas), two ordinary and playful children from the slums who were kidnapped by aliens. Or so they thought. But their dreams of escaping the alien prison cell to be reunited with their mother and ailing grandmother were shattered when they met Ed (Rafa Tibayan).

Finally for Set A, there’s Ang Inyong mga Anak: Si Harold at Napoleon. In it, Harold was just about to leave the house after feeding her grandmother for another poetry gig and an out of the country trip when he opened up a conversation with his mother about Napoleon—a former college schoolmate who was recently brutally murdered in their province. The conversation then opens up a venue for powerful insights and revelations about the mother and son’s beliefs and political stand.

The play will start and end with poetry, which will further tackle the mother and son’s will to exist as an ordinary citizen or a steward of change.

Set B

For Set B, audience can look forward to “Ang Mga Propesyunal,” “Rosas” and “Edgar Allan Hemingway.”

Written by Sari Saysay and Carlos Siguion Reyna, Ang Mga Propesyunal is about Pia, a 10-year old professional journalist who is barred from covering Malacañang.

From here, she confronts reality and, along with her two friends, a doctor and a police officer, chooses to dwell in a make-believe realm of truth in order to investigate the predicaments of each other’s chosen profession while trying to discover facts about deaths—of innocent children, of freedom of expression, of democracy.

Rosas, written by J. Dennis Teodisio and directed by Charles Yee, see two old men awaiting for the sun to set in the Home for Aged.

As they reminisce, the past and the present unapologetically confront them, forcing them to reveal and admit their fears and longings, and eventually, leading them to face and accept their inevitable future. Before them, a bed of blooming roses bears as a silent witness.

Rosas is the last part of “Tatlong Bulaklak”, a trilogy of one-act plays. It is dedicated in memory of theater stalwart, Soxie Topacio.

In Edgar Allan Hemingway, by playwright Carlo Vergara and director George de Jesus 3rd, a young man achieves a feat that many writers could only dream of. Consequently, he is thrust into a hectic life of celebrity, one unabashedly embraced by his supportive lover.

But when a childhood friend shows up hoping to have a slice of the same success, an unexpected revelation brings about questions on ethics, survival, and freedom.

Set C

“Labor Room” by Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa, directed by Jose Estrella and Issa Mana.lo Lopez; “Ensayo” by Juan Ekis and directed by Eric Villanueva dela Cruz; and “Tulad ng Dati” by JV Ibesate and directed by Olive Nieto comprised Set C.

In Labor Room, three women meet in the busy labor room. As they watch delivering mothers come and go, they build a short friendship, that of strong confidence and genuine concern. Three women—one, having a baby, two facing the loss of one.All are giving birth to hope.

In Ensayo, Lolo Peds (60’s) anxiously waits for his acting partner Lola Tisha (60’s) so that they can rehearse the scene they are about to present in acting class. Tisha arrives late, protesting the script which contains a kissing scene. Tisha suspects Peds asked to rehearse sohe can get his way with her. Peds accuses Tisha of being unprofessional. As they work on the scene, they both discover that they’re in for a little more than just a rehearsal.

In Tulad ng Dati, the audience will see Neil, a former teacher convicted for raping his adolescent student, returning home from being imprisoned for twenty years and reuniting with his younger brother Norman.

Home is where many of the brothers’ secrets have been formed, that Norman wishes to forget. What supposedly is a happy reunion turns sour when past issues re-emerges, forcing the two to come face to face with their darkest, most disturbing secrets.

Set D

Finally, Set D includes “Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren” by playwright Lino Balmes and director Tess Jamias; “Marawi Musicale” by playwright Tyron Casumpang and director Ariel Yonzon; and “River Lethe” by playwright Allan Lopez and director Chris Martinez complete the list.

The first play features the story of live-in partners Chona and Ramil who will be seen arguing about their misfortune inside their house beneath a railroad.

Marawi Musicale, meanwhile, is set on September 24, 2017 or four months since Marawi City was attacked and invaded by the terrorist group Maute-ISIS.

While soldiers in Marawi fight the war against terrorists, a group of Christian and Muslim volunteers fight a war against hunger in an evacuation center located in a municipality right beside Marawi.

Last but not the least is River Lethe which features Abe and Mara, two cancer patients who just finished with their early morning chemotherapy sessions. Together, they check in before returning to their regular lives.

As with other editions, three plays in the previous edition of the VLF will be remounted. These are: “Birdcage” written by Rick Patriarca and directed by Ian Segarra; “Sincerity Biker’s Club” by Adrian Ho and directed by Jenny Jamora; and “Pilipinas kong Mahal with all the Overcoat” by Eljay Castro Deldoc and directed by Roobak Valle and Tuxqs Rutaquio.

The Staged Readings feature “Without the Drama” by playwright Jay Crisostomo, directed by Renate Bustamante; and “Dolorosa” by playwright Peter Zaragoza Mayshle, directed by Chic San Agustin.

The main play features will be staged at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), while the VLF Revisited will be performed at Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater) and the Staged Readings will be at Tanghalang Amado V. Hernandez.

Tickets to Virgin Labfest 14 are available at the CCP and all TicketWorld outlets.

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