Text by Marz Aglipay
In the first week of March a number of theater productions were cut short in compliance with social distancing. This was a major concern for artists and production staffs’ welfare as the nature of their work deals with crowds. Bearing in mind that health experts predict that the COVID crisis may reach its peak on May and possibly taper down by July, effectively cripples the performing arts industry for 5 months.
In spite of this, Virgin Labfest (VLF) the Cultural Center of the Philippine’s flagship festival for experimental one-act plays, uploaded a video on their facebook page on Monday featuring its 2020 festival curator JK Anicoche who introduced this year’s festival line up.
This year VLF presents “a virtual labfest lockdown edition” emphasizing its jump to a digital platform where they continue to make good on their mission of telling socially relevant stories.
A VIRTUAL LABFEST
The decision to go virtual happened when Cinemalaya announced that it would not push through in August. In an interview with Anicoche, going virtual was encouraged by CCP’s artistic director Chris Millado. In the spirit of supporting the performing arts community, the theme “Kapit!” (Hold on) is the overarching theme this edition is anchoring itself on.
Anicoche reconvened VLF directors were asked if they would be up to the task of doing an online staging, considering that auditions and rehearsals have taken place virtually as soon as the Community Quarantine in Metro Manila took effect. This came with a promised that VLF would dedicate 2021 to staging the plays from this lockdown edition in theater.
Anicoche says that they have guidelines in place in creating a VLF experience. One chief guideline is to uphold the “liveness” of each story. Each one-act play will get 8 stagings with dedicated schedules. Although the plays can be streamed online it is not to be experienced like a video-on-demand service like Netflix. “These are live performances with dedicated schedules and will no longer be available after it has been staged.”
2020 LOCKDOWN LINE-UP
No changes were made for this year’s line-up. “Form is responsive to the times but we don’t ask the playwrights to change their story to the times. [The festival] found their stories timely and timeless. We think that these are important stories to tell” Anicoche says.
This year we will continue to see 9 new works namely: Tyron Casumpang’s “Blackpink” directed by Jethro Tenorio, Dustin Celestino’s “Doggy” directed by Roobak Valle, Jobert Grey Landeza’s “Titser Kit” directed by Adrienne Vergara, Norman Boquiren’s “Mayang Bubot Sa Tag-araw” directed by Mark Mirando, Juliene Mendoza;s “Multiverse” directed by Fitz Edward Bitana, Luis Nario’s “Gin Bilog” directed by James Harvey Estrada, Jay Crisostomo’s “Dapithapon” directed by Sig Pecho, Floyd Tiogangco’s “Pilot Episode” directed by Giancarlo Abrahan, and Daryl Pasion’s “Papaano Turuan ang Babae HUmawak ng Baril” directed by Erika Estacio; 3 restaged Virtual statings, 4 VLF Roundtable discussions, and the VLF Writing Program among other events within the festival.
The organizers are currently working with IT professionals as they explore which platforms they can best stream their content on. They are looking at Facebook as a top of the mind platform for plays made for general audiences and possibly Zoom to reach wider audiences. They are also studying how to best go about virtually staging sensitive material that are not for all audiences.
As of press time, no official statement was made with regards to ticket pricing for the VLF performances. “There are a lot of compassionate exchanges these days. I think this is true to all artists, na hindi namamatay ang passion. Yung passion to share. A lot of artist are sharing art for free instead of thinking about putting food on their table. I just hope there shall be more opportunities for remote work and that we have more institutional emergency support and subsidies for displaced artists so they may all continue creating and sharing.” says Anicoche.
Virgin Labfest is set to take place from June 10-28 2020.
*quotes have been editing for clarity and brevity