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For the Lab #2:Thoughts on the The Virgin Labfest Pandemic Edition

Virtual theater in its infancy stage can not be fully qualified and quantified in comparison with traditional theater. Context is key. We need to establish new frameworks for understanding and reading. It is a goldmine of useable data of new practice, new modes of making and new articulations of our ever dynamic and changing “landscapes”. Grounded in perf-history yet branching out with the help of available third world technology. It is not separate from its geo-political context as much as it is tied to contemporaneity and/or conditions of contemporary times. Keywords: pandemic, precarity, distancing, quarantine, digital, hyperlocal, digi-universal, etc. As the platform expands, one needs to secure various means to protect artists and audiences freedom of speech and ways of making. As there is no guide book yet or precedent for what we are working on, we begin developing protocols for security and engagement kept private and will be shared with everyone interested.

In inquiries of process it is best to acknowledge always the agency of makers in their participation and deliberateness of curation, participation and ways of creation. I do hope that we look at each works and practices not as reckless maneuverings in uncharted terrotories plainly done out of desire “to express” or “perform” but to look at these acts as informed, charged and in-full-agency and consent - fueled to take bungee dives into the yet unknown. It is my desire and hope that we don’t make assumptions that artists are not mindful and unthinking in the process. I have so much respect for works that I need to understand their proposition and see if it works before I compare notes with how it came across to me as viewer. Interested not just in mere interpretations but in propositions. Believe me, i am working with the most rooted and routed theatermakers who are articulate yet ready for respectful open conversations. Hush.. they embark in various rigorous processes of discourse and experimentation, finding new means and ways of collaborating despite limited distance and space. And hush hush, they’ve been working hard on finding ways to collectivise care - there’s a pandemic, you see. It is easier to react than start a conversation and respond to each other.

Art is neither a success nor a failure but countless attempts at breathing, making meaning, archiving, documenting and propelling action. Let’s go beyond talking about liking, not liking and hating. These works are springboard for continuing conversations of our understanding of the world. To dismiss plainly based on failure or success is the same as silencing propositions or voices in a democracy.

As an artist working on notions and conditions of mobility and gravity, i go as far as calling out anything universal as colonial. I go as far as not staging adaptations or even translations from now on of “contemporary/classics” because I prefer to speak nearby and *far beyond. We should not wait for imports of “models that work” from the west because whatever we start here and now is a valid innovation and/or practice-based theory as anywhere our colonial education prefer to call center. “Here, now” is as valid as “there, then”, only that “here, now” is more potent for all of us to “get there”. Where? We need to articulate better visions not just of art but of life, post-covid, post-quarantine and beyond. How do we develop new frameworks of reading, viewing, writing and making performance beyond the consumerist notions and ways of “consumptions”? Do we bottle air and call it bad quality air and throw it away or let it stink or smell or bring life and give life to anyone who breathes it? Exciting times as we are pressed to unlearn our assumptions and habit of what is possible and what makes good art almost synonymous to good bounless air, and great life.

I come from making theater with communities. The audiences become collaborators in the experience of the performance; do not forget we are also together in experiencing difficult times in this life. Let’s start deeper conversations and reach out to each other. Listen to one another and trust in the power of respect, compassion and kindness even in sharp discourse. We are still in a time of pandemic and the best that we can do is always talk about how we can support each other and make better.


Reminder: there is difference between well-informed and well-framed criticism and an attack/ insult/ plain bashing. As a learner and teacher of theater, we never learn from insults and attacks, we learn from thoughtful mentorship, informed and proactive exchanges, and allowing and supporting each other to fail and learn faster. Artists are human beings and most are intellectuals and not just mere service providers for your leisure. Connect with them in informed and respectful modes. Pasista na ang mundo, Tayo tayo pa ba.

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