All things fresh at Virgin Labfest » Manila Bulletin Entertainment


Since its inception in 2015, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) annual Virgin Labfest has been known to showcase “untried, untested, unstaged plays,” serving as primary venue for new (and even experienced) writers to see their creative scripts come alive on stage.


In a recent interview with Bulletin Entertainment, Ariel Yonzon, Manager of CCP’s Production and Exhibition department, said Virgin Labfest is exemplary of the extremely collaborative nature of theatre, wherein participants understand they are “significant cogs in a very big wheel.”

“The fellowship here is really different,” he said. “The participants got to learn with each other, get to share different content and share ideas. We are all colleagues.”

Virgin Labfest returns this year for its 13th edition. Asked what makes this year’s festival special, Ariel said: “Swerte daw ’yung number 13.”

He reiterated: “Eto ay special sapagkat muli na naman matutunghayan ng mga tao ang mga magagandang at kakaibang kwentong likha ng ating mga magagaling na mandudula.”

How it is done

With its overall theme “Wagas,” the three-week festival offers 12 unpublished and unstaged plays and five new stage reading, written by 21 virgin playwrights, and three revisited plays all performed by 76 theatre thespians and stalwarts; and directed by 20 upcoming and established directors.

'Boses Ng Masa' (

‘Boses Ng Masa’

Festival director Tuxqs Rutaquio revealed they chose the theme “Wagas” as a reminder of the unending legacy of the festival.

“It’s a statement on the endless possibilities for storytelling in theatre. It is like a reminder of forever. Ibig sabihin hindi kailanman matatapos ang festival na ito, patuloy lang ito sa pagsho-showcase ng magagandang likha,” he explained.

For this year’s Virgin Labfest, Tuxqs shared they received 192 manuscripts, each expressing the complexity of human experience and social issues.

“Actually wala kaming hininging theme,” the festival director revealed. “I can proudly say na napaka-diverse ng mga nasa lineup this year. Iba-iba ang tema, may coming of age, may love story, may social issues at may greed.”

The top 12 scripts were chosen by a selection committee.

“With regards naman as to who will direct the play, may mga listahan ako ng director. Then ipapasa ko sa kanila ’yung script, ’pag nagustuhan nila, kukunin. Kapag hindi, magpapabasa ako ng iba,” he shared.

On the lineup

The new plays are divided into four sets and Tuxqs admitted he had a hard time lining them up.

Ariel Yonzon (

Ariel Yonzon

“Kasi in one seating, three plays magkakasunod. So kailangan kong ayusin technicality-wise para hindi rin maging hassle sa paglilipat ng mga gamit, etc,” he explained.

Set A includes: “Loveteam,” written by Oggie Arcenas and directed by veteran actor-director Michael Williams; “Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat,” written by Eljay Castro Deldoc and directed by Roobak Valle; and “Birdcage,” written by Rick Patriarca and directed by Ian Segarra.

For Set B, audience can look forward to: “Ang Mga Puyong,” penned by Ryan Machado and directed by Ricardo Magno; “Hindi Ako Si Darna,” by playwrights Maynard Manansala and U Eliserio, directed by Andoy Ranay, and “Boses Ng Masa” by Joshua Lim So and directed by Guelan Luarca. Meanwhile, Set C is comprised of “Si Dr. Dolly Dalisay At Ang Mga Ladybugs” by Layeta Bucoy, directed by Jonathan Tadioan; “Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop” by Sari Saysay and directed by Topper Fabregas, and “Dear And Unhappy” by Carlo Vergara and directed by Ricky Villabona.

Tuxqs Rutaquio (Facebook)

Tuxqs Rutaquio (Facebook)

“Sincerity Biker’s Club” by playwright Adrian Ho and director Jenny Jamora; “Nothing But Dreams” by Dingdong Novenario and directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna; and “Ang Bahay Sa Gitna Ng Kawalan,” by Eliza Victoria and director George De Jesus complete the list.

On the other hand, Tuxqs revealed three plays in the 2016 edition of the VLF will be mounted again this year. The revisited plays include: “Ang Sugilanon Ng Kabiguan Ni Epefania” written by May Cardoso and directed by Charles Yee; “Ang Bata Sa Drum” by Dominique La Victoria and directed by Dudz Terana; and “Mula Sa Kulimliman” by Carlo Vergara and directed by Hazel Gutierrez.

'Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop' (

‘Ang Bata Sa Bus Stop’

Meanwhile, the staged readings will feature “Point And Click,” “Vertigo,” “Walang Forever Virus,” “Ang Paguulyanin Ni Olivia Mendoza,” and “Andiyan Lang.”

In partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino and the playwright group Writer’s Bloc Inc, Virgin Labfest happens from June 28 to July 16 at the CCP.

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