Like all creative endeavors, playwriting is an art form that develops through constant practice and exposure to new experiences.
For Alessandro Kennz Nioda, a fictionist poet from Cagayan de Oro City, the desire to “become a better writer” pushed him to submit his application to the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program in the Visayas Year 2, a two-week mentorship program by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) that opens opportunities for aspiring playwrights to learn more about the craft.
Nioda is one of the eight writing fellows granted the opportunity to be mentored by multi-award-winning playwright Glenn Sevilla Mas. He, along with seven fellow playwrights from the regions, will be attending lectures, participating in writing activities, undergoing script critiquing sessions, and interacting with known playwrights and directors from the Virgin Labfest from November 7 to 18, 2023 through hybrid (online and onsite) sessions at the Negros Museum in Bacolod.
“I think workshops are a good way to engage with fellow artists who have the same passion as you. This writing fellowship program is particularly focused on drama, which I can say is my main literary genre,” said Nioda. He shared that he wants to improve his craft and learn more about how to create a more engaging and enriching experience for audiences.
Crystal Puying, a student performing artist who is interested in exploring the world of writing and production behind the curtains, similarly decided to apply for the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program “to learn the fundamentals of writing a script, the script structure, and how to deal with writer’s block.”
Puying had an affinity for writing Wattpad stories in her younger years. Although she claims that she’s “not good with words” at present, Puying still bravely decided to participate in the fellowship program as she believes “this fellowship would help me process and turn my vision into words. Most importantly, this will provide me with access to mentorship and guidance from experienced playwrights. This is essential for me to develop my skills and learn from the best.”
Apart from enhancing writers’ capabilities in the technical sense, the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program also exists to foster a community where aspiring and veteran playwrights alike can exchange ideas and collaborate with one another, an experience that Yehudi Santillan III looks forward to from the program.
Santillan, a senior Creative Writing student at Silliman University, hopes to “meet and make friends with people who are enthusiastic and passionate about this craft. Grow together with peers. Learn from mentors who will be able to critique and guide through their experiences in writing.”
Richard Tolosa, Jr., a third-year Psychology student at the University of St. La Salle Bacolod, also perceives the mentorship as an “incredible opportunity with a bounty of knowledge.” Tolosa wants to make stories that people can relate to, “something that could touch the hearts of the audience. Writing is empowering, especially if you don’t have the courage to speak.”
For the four fellows mentioned above, participating in the Visayas leg of the VLF Writing Fellowship Program is regarded as a great and “life-changing opportunity” to expand their horizons. Besides acquiring new skills and techniques in playwriting, the fellows will also be able to develop deeper connections with people and society as they go through a series of activities designed to elevate their writing prowess.
For the past years, the Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program has continuously been equipping new generations of writers with the necessary skills and experiences not just with playwriting, but with theater production in general as well. This November, the program’s writing fellows will be immersed in the Virgin Labfest Visayas: Lab-as, the regional edition of CCP’s largest theater festival of untried, untested, and unstaged one-act plays, as part of their mentorship.
The program will culminate in a Showcase featuring stage readings of the fellows’ works to be held at the Negros Museum on November 18, 2023 (5 PM).
As the CCP mobilizes its artistic programs, it aims to expand its reach and creative collaborations with Filipinos in every corner of the country. This creates bridges to properly represent the different cultural geography of the regions, thus making the Center’s artistic programs more accessible to the public.
The Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship Program in Visayas Year 2 is presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, through its Artist Training Division, in partnership with The Writer’s Bloc and The Performance Laboratory, Inc.