Theater is life happening right before the eyes. As such, well-written scripts and stage directions are the backbone of all successful plays and arguably the most important tools in effective storytelling.
This coming November 7 to 18, 2023, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), through its Artist Training Division, will embark on yet another quest to help local playwrights improve their craft through the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program in the Visayas Year 2, a two-week mentorship program on the study and practice of dramatic writing for the stage, organized in partnership with The Writer’s Bloc and The Performance Laboratory, Inc.
Following the basic curriculum observed by the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program in Manila, eight writing fellows from the regions will be trained by multi-award-winning playwright Glenn Sevilla Mas through hybrid (online and onsite) sessions at the Negros Museum in Bacolod.
Andy Abellar, Ursula David, Jalene Dumancas, and Kym Gelvero are among this year’s budding playwrights accepted into the program. All based in the Visayas region, these upcoming fellows submitted promising works that demonstrated their talent in bringing stories to life using their regional dialects.
For Abellar, whose relationship with theater “is like a childhood friend of mine” that developed into something more during his high school years, playwriting is a meaningful and powerful art form able to tackle social issues that need to be addressed. As an active member of the Kanlaon Theater Guild, Abellar understands “how much power a storyteller could hold in advocating for their cause.” He shared: “To be honest, the technicalities of writing drain me. I have to gather a lot of energy to finish a script. But the idea of delivering my cause through this medium drives me to write more. As a theater artist, having a script that holds a powerful message surpasses the tiresome trainings and productions. At the end of every performance, it is always a satisfaction knowing that you have inspired even just one or two people.”
David, the co-founder of the independent non-profit production team DuLaab, likewise believes that “arts and theater are not merely a design or performance” but rather means “to touch the lives of many” through eye-opening masterpieces that carry value and deeper meaning. She acknowledges that the performing arts, and by virtue, playwriting, “has a longstanding impact on our culture, for the art itself of an artist is a reflection of their identity and their own unique perspective towards the world.”
Dumancas agreed: “[The arts and theater] is not only about entertainment, but a creative way of sharing your message or voice to the world, a way to vent out your emotions and mind. Arts are the embodiments of human nature, and its beauty is what keeps us alive and breathing.” She cites her membership at the Kanlaon Theater Guild as a catalyst for helping her tap into her passion for creative writing. “The beauty of creating a reality or what I think is reality for me is what made me want to be a playwright. It creates a story on what is untold for most other people.”
For Gelvero, a recent education graduate with a penchant for writing poems in candlelit rooms, “it’s the strong feeling that I have so many stories to tell, so many experiences to share, and so many imaginations to bring to life” that encouraged her to pursue the art of playwriting. She shared that while she believes “society is reflected in art,” only “the artist makes it personal.”
These four Writing Fellows regard their acceptance into the writing fellowship program as an opportunity to explore greater horizons outside of their usual domains. Abellar shared that “the writing fellowship program is a great platform to give voice to aspiring writers like me in delivering our work and cause in a broader space.” This sentiment is echoed by Ursula, who hopes that “[the program] will become our arena to grow as playwrights and for us to have a harmonious and fruitful experience.”
Besides sharing the above idealistic expectations with the other fellows, Dumancas and Gelvero are also looking forward to learning more about the technical aspects of playwriting during the upcoming program. “[The program will] hopefully help me create a bigger mindset and imagination on how to create and build a world when it comes to writing pieces,” said Dumancas.
Being accepted into the program, Gelvero hopes to “establish in me the core foundations of writing plays, the points to consider, what to do, what to avoid. It will also be a good practice and application.”
In line with this, the fellows are looking forward to seeing their works performed in a staged reading at the end of the program, on November 18, 5pm, at the Negros Museum in Bacolod. But until then, the four fellows are currently preparing to face new challenges in their careers as aspiring writers.