Tuesday, June 26, 2007

writing more + virgin labfest3

The older generation of writers remember a time when they didn't describe themselves so specifically. They simply wrote what they wanted (or what was needed) and treated themselves and their comrades-in-letters simply as writers - very much unlike today, where a kind of specialization, in terms of writerly taxonomy, seems to be prevalent. Nowadays, we have people who are almost strictly poets and who communicate chiefly with other poets in matters of craft and poetry appreciation. We have communities of authors who primarily develop stories for children, who push the growth and advancement of their field of interest. We have specialists in the short story, in folk/fairy tales (modern or otherwise), essayists (or writers of creative non-fiction), and so on.

It almost seems as if the lesson somehow ingrained over the years is "find what you're good at and stick to it". But apart from the entire artificial nature of the divide (artificial in that one seems to be discouraged to try something outside one's comfort zone or whatever it is one's writerly clique is writing), the argument for focus sounds reasonable. After all, in "real life" one goes to university to specialize in a trade, and mostly, we follow a career when we graduate. Or so we are led to believe, ideally (imagine the horror of our parents, when, after sending us to medical school and supporting us through the years of study, we decide, after everything, to become a web designer).

I think it is healthy to write in other modes, to develop new texts out of one's comfort zone, to try your hand at something else. Some would tell me, "I'd rather concentrate on prose - when I get right, then I'll write a novel or a poem or a play". But when do we get things "right"? The wait may take longer than one realizes. In my case, for the longest time, I considered myself "only" a playwright.

I started out writing plays. I love the flow of dialogue, the stricture of structure and how I get to bend things, the sense of immediacy and the two-tiered aspect to a play's birthing: first, the act of writing it; second, the act of staging it and making it more than just closet drama. In my college days, I gravitated toward people of similar interests and became an actor. After college, I worked with Lito Casaje in Dramatis Personae and with Bibot Amador in Repertory Philippines. Theater is magical, just like the act of writing.

As I grew older, I tried my hand at different things, to varying degrees of personal and aesthetic satisfaction: short stories, comic books, film, the novel, speculative fiction (sadly, I still cannot write a poem to save my life - but I did try). But I have always had a soft spot for drama, and I appreciate the work that modern Filipino dramatists are doing (the LitCritters, in fact, try to catch plays at Rep or the CCP from time to time). Philippine literature grows by the creative efforts of all its disciplines - in the same way that a single writer grows by writing different things in different modes.

So, go and try your hand at play, if you haven't.

And this is a perfect time to invite you to attend the Virgin Labfest3 at the CCP, put together by Allan Lopez and our friends in the Writers Bloc.

Now on its 3rd year, the Virgin Labfest opens this June 28 and will run until July 8, 2007 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Virgin Labfest (VLF), a festival of new plays (untried, untested, unpublished and unstaged) by both emerging and well-known playwrights, directors and actors, is now enthusiastically looked forward to by artists and audiences alike.

This year's festival boasts a repertoire of 15 short plays in five trilogies as the main exhibition list. One of the trilogies features contributions of playwrights from Thailand, Singapore and Japan. Another independently produced trilogy of plays has been added to the festival-totalling the entire festival to a treat of 18 short plays. Full-length plays will also be featured in a series of dramatic readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Tickets to the Virgin Labfest are at P200 (for plays to be shown at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute & Bulwagang Amado Hernandez) and "Pay What You Can" (for play readings at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino). For more details, please contact Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-3661, or the CCP Box Office at 832-3704.

Visit the website for schedules and details.

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