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VLF 2020 Playwrights

VLF 2020: Tales From Three Playwrights

These Virgin Labfest playwrights talk about their inspiration for their written stories, the important messages they need to tell, and more!

Virgin Labfest (VLF), the annual festival of untried, unstaged, and untested one act plays will continue its 16th run from June 10 to 28 this year.

Dubbed as VLF 2020 KAPIT: Lab in the Time of Covid (A Virtual Labfest Lockdown Edition), the festival will be held online to adapt to the extraordinary situation that we’re currently in.

After getting the insights of the VLF directors on making this Lockdown Edition a reality, we also got to ask some questions to three of the participating VLF playwrights.

Here, they talk about their inspiration for their written stories, the important messages they need to tell, and more! Check them out below:


Multiverse is penned by Julienne Mendoza with the direction of Fitz Edward Bitana. It follows the writer Peter and his younger brother Bobby, who is a recovering alcoholic. Through comic books and conversations about alternate realities, the estranged siblings finally reconnect.

Image: The Cultural Center of the Philippines on Facebook

On the inspiration of ‘Multiverse’

Julienne Mendoza: The subject matter of Multiverse is loosely based on the death of my younger brother who passed away in January 2018. It’s my way of processing my thoughts and feelings toward this tragedy.

In a way, it’s an imagined conversation with him and a projection of an alternate reality where things could have been different. I hope that through this play, the audience will be able to somehow process their own thoughts and feelings in coping with the loss of loved ones.

Its interpretation on a virtual stage

Mendoza: I have collaborated with a young brilliant director Fitz Bitana. I have total faith in his vision. Of course, the digital presentation will be a big challenge for all of us at the VLF, but along with these challenges come opportunities to break new ground in the field of theater.

If this is the new normal, creative people will need to open up to these changes and new ways of doing things. But at the core of all these technical innovations will remain the heart of any play which is the story. A play no matter how elaborate the presentation should always come back to its most basic element. Humanity.

The importance of its message

Mendoza: In this strange time, It is more important than ever to share our human experiences through song and story to maintain our sanity and humanity. With connectivity, we are finding new intangible ways to connect and communicate.

It’s ironic that we are learning to share real experiences thru virtual activities. We are realizing the importance of the essentials of life and slowly shedding our superficiality. We are learning to prioritize things that really matter in life: To love. To fight. For family. For country.  The New Reality.

Papaano Turuan ang Babae Humawak ng Baril

Papaano Turuan ang Babae Humawak ng Baril is a play written by Daryl Pasion with the direction of Erica Estacio. It centers around the pregnant Liling who welcomes her partner, Oka, home after his encounter with the NPA. What’s supposed to be a sweet homecoming is doused by Oka’s impossible request to his wife.

Image: The Cultural Center of the Philippines on Facebook

On the inspiration of ‘Papaano Turuan ang Babae Humawak ng Baril

Daryl Pasion (Translated): The inspiration for the story begins with the image of a woman: a pregnant woman with a gun in her hand. How cruel is a society that pushes her towards violence? It all begins with that image of a woman who can kill and give life at the same time.

This play is aggressive. It pushes us to the boundaries of our morality and principles, suspending the beliefs that we hold onto. I expect that the audiences will not easily accept the truth that this play will throw at them. There are many factors to be given thought.

Its interpretation on a virtual stage

Pasion: Everything was blank at first. I didn’t have any idea how this play will be portrayed with this new platform. But with our director Erika Estacio, I start to see how it will take form with the use of technology.

The importance of its message

Pasion: Since we cannot go out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a limit to what we see with our eyes. This is the time when our hindered sight gives way to a stronger sense of hearing– for news and informations, opinions on social media, stories with our families and friends. This is the time to tell stories.

Mongoloida’s Casa De Pun

Mongoloida’s Casa De Pun is part of the staged readings category. It is from Claro De Los Reyes and Guelan Luarca. It explores the Philippine racial identity through the Afro-Filipina Enrica and her “confrontation” with a transnational cast of historical figures.

Image: The Cultural Center of the Philippines on Facebook

On the inspiration of ‘Mongoloida’s Casa De Pun

De Los Reyes: I think the question “What is a Filipino?” is in some fashion an unanswerable question yet I believe Filipinos, and Filipinos in diaspora (like myself), will interpret and answer this question differently, based on what they have been exposed to in their lives. Writing this play, I wanted to explore Filipino cultural phenomena that are widely embraced and those that are obscured or rejected, and why? 

Recently I’ve gotten interested in theories around generational trauma and the idea that trauma can be passed on through DNA through multiple generations of descendants. This interest led me to dig into the histories of violence that haunt Philippine history, and I wanted to explore its lasting influence. As I began writing, I remembered Adrienne Kennedy’s play “Funny House of a Negro” which was written during the civil rights era of America. The play’s experimental exploration of African and African American racial politics offered me an inspirational model for my play. Its haunting theatricality creates a type of anachronistic collage that I found hypnotizing, and I strove to craft “Mongoloida’s Casa De Pun” in that fashion. 

In terms of how an audience may resonate with my play, to be honest I am not sure of this. My hope is that the play poses to audiences unexpected and destabilizing questions that can perhaps challenge linear patterns of thinking around history & identity.

Its interpretation on a virtual stage

De Los Reyes: First of all, I am ecstatic that VLF has chosen to adapt creatively and move forward during this time. As you know live theatre usually demands an immediate connection between audiences and performers but serendipitously, in the case of my play and its experimental nature, I believe that the non-traditional and virtual methods being employed may perhaps enhance its presentation. “Mongoloida’s Casa de Pun” was written with the knowledge that the experimental theatre is largely a niche theatre genre, but I really do feel that perhaps this virtual version of VLF may amplify my plays accessibility to broader audiences. In other words, I’m excited to see how this experiment performs.

The importance of its message

De Los Reyes: Stories have always been the backbone of communication, and during these trying times sharing stories can offer audiences levity and relief by engaging their imaginations. It is also vital to share stories that engage critical thought during this time when feelings of uncertainty and instability may overwhelm individuals to relinquish their ability to effect changes in their circumstance.

These are only three plays out of the 18 works that you can watch online starting June 10. You can avail all of these plays with the Regular Series Package priced P100, click here to purchase the package.

There is also the Premium Series Package priced P200, which includes LAB UP CLOSE: Interviews with Playwrights and Directors, & Designers; LAB SCENES: BTS Footage; and other exciting content along with the 18 featured plays. Purchase it here.

The VLF is an annual festival of plays organized by the Cultural Center of The Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, and Writer’s Bloc Inc. For more information and updates, visit the Cultural Center of The Philippines website and follow The Virgin Labfest on Facebook.

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