VLF 19 Set C: Dancing Around the Gray Areas of Humanities

As the adage says, life is not always black or white. Sometimes, certain circumstances lead to gray areas where it’s difficult to judge what is right and what is wrong, what decision to make, and how the decision could affect the situation. Virgin Labfest 19 steps into these gray areas in Set C: Pu-Tim, where stories explore unclear ethical boundaries and social territories. VLF Set C features Joshua Lim So’s PAGKAPIT SA HANGINAra Jenika Vinzon’s LIPISTIK AT PULBURA, and Chesie Galvez-Cariño’s THE FOXTROT.

The relative of a dying patient finds out that the doctor and his nurses are limiting her father's oxygen supply in PAGKAPIT SA HANGIN. According to playwright So, he learned of the ethical dilemmas frontliners face as medical professionals during his research on the COVID-19 pandemic. “I made considerable changes from what actually happened. At the end of the day, the research needed to transform into characters and tell a story,” shared So. 

Director Jose Estrella was immediately drawn to the provocative situation presented in the play. “It shows ordinary human beings in terrible circumstances,” said Estrella. 

Despite being forced into a gray situation, the characters have to decide what they think is the best course of action. “The play is set during the pandemic, but it's not really about the pandemic. It's about human lives,” said So.

In LIPISTIK AT PULBURA, a censor for the Japanese plans to unearth Erlinda, her guerilla fighter friend. With incomplete historical records, playwright Vinzon related her fear of forgetting to the existence of Erlinda from Bataan. After writing and sharing Erlinda’s story, she eventually realized that she was asking the wrong question. “It was more important to ask why her story needs to be told,” pointed out Vinzon. 

Director Charles Yee was captivated by the play’s world-building and the challenge it poses. For him, the characters challenge themselves by not wallowing in the gray area they find themselves in. “The play is trying to be critical of itself. It is not settling with what it is trying to say,” said Yee.

Vinzon also explored the ethical dimension of storytelling. She asked, “Up to what extent, can we embellish stories [of war] so that people will listen?”

THE FOXTROT is the story of a middle-aged matron of substantial means and her respectable dance instructor while rehearsing for an amateur ballroom dance competition. Growing up, Galvez-Cariño used to go dancing with her mother and aunt. She would hear stories of dancers falling in love with their instructors. “It is about the temptation, the power structure. In life, you kind of know what you are not supposed to do but you play. Sometimes, you go out of the main steps and improvise,” said Galvez-Cariño. 

For director Paul Alexander Morales, dancing became the main character’s happy place. It transformed into a language only the characters can speak and understand. “The characters are enjoying the dance despite the emotional entanglement. They are fighting and courting through this language,” said Morales.

Galvez-Cariño always thought of the gray areas of life to be interesting. “Different points of view are possible to be seen. There are layers,” said the playwright.

Since 2005, the Virgin LabFest has been a venue for stories that challenge the social norm, mirror realities, and celebrate humanities through the experimental works by new and professional playwrights, produced on stage by theater collaborators. For its 19th edition, the VLF remains the only laboratory for untried, untested, and unstaged one-act plays.

Marking its territory in the Philippine theater landscape, VLF has produced original materials, giving both new and old playwrights the chance to improve upon the critiques they receive. It is also a convention of passion, recharging artists by loaning them inspiration for their next work. It is co-presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino Foundation Inc., and The Writer's Bloc. 

Following the theme Pintog, VLF 19 runs from June 12 to 30, 2024, at the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (CCP Blackbox Theater). Shows are scheduled at 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm. Regular tickets are available at Php600 and Premium tickets are priced Php800 via Ticketworld and CCP Box Office. Regular Festival Passes are priced at Php2,400, while Premium Festival Passes are at Php3,200; available at the CCP Box Office.

For more details on the festival schedule and ticket prices, visit the official social media accounts of CCP, Tanghalang Pilipino, and Writers’ Bloc on Facebook, X, Instagram, and TikTok.

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