CCP reinvents ways of engaging audiences during hard times

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THE Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has been transitioning to the digital platform as live shows and programs have been suspended until the end of the year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unique quality of our art form is its liveness,… and the way it interacts with live audiences. But until we find a way to contain the virus, then we really have to be actively creative about how we engage with the audiences,” CCP Vice-President and Artistic Director Chris B. Millado said in a Zoom press conference on April 30.

“The [CCP] management has decided that all venues are going to be close to the end of the year because we are very reliant on the lifting of the quarantine period. We would need at least three more [months] after [the] return to work order to formalize operations of any physical venue and normalizing operations that can also mean that we are allowed to organize large gatherings,” he added.

Mr. Millado noted in his presentation the impact of COVID-19 has had on the arts and culture sector and its impact on the CCP programs. He also discussed the upcoming programs the management has lined up in response to it.

Due to the enhanced community quarantine, there has been an enormous loss of livelihood in the arts and culture sector. In the CCP alone, at least 800 events including outreach programs and festivals have been canceled. At least 3,000 artists, cultural workers, and production staff have been affected. At least 800,000 potential audience members have been lost due to the cancellation or shows and programs throughout the country. And at least P90 million in potential revenue has been lost — box office and ticket sales, as well as the sale of the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art (2018), and venue rentals.

Other businesses in the CCP complex have also been badly affected, including those at the Harbour Square strip mall. As Mr. Millado noted, “most of its traffic usually depends on the shows going on at the CCP.”

As implied by the Bayanihan: Heal as One Act, government institutions, which includes the CCP, are called to realign their budgets in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

As a strategy, the CCP aims to use alternative modes of engagement, and protect the artists’ livelihoods through priority areas.

The first component is the Arts and Culture Online which includes video streaming HD recordings of shows online; creating virtual reality tours of CCP galleries, museums, and exhibits; and partnering with institutions, NGOs, and large scale communication networks for education fundraising.

The second is Live Arts on Lockdown which includes projects such as the 2020 Virgin Labfest online, and upcycling recorded programs by incorporating live interviews and annotations.

Third is Arts for Therapy with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) collaborating with the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where musicians play music for frontliners and patients through the use of digital tablets.

Lastly, there is Capacity Building in which they will formulate a module for the upskilling of artists and cultural workers in arts therapy, digital communications and technology.

As part of the CCP’s online engagement, the CCP Online YouTube channel ( is currently streaming Ballet Philippines’ Firebird and Other Ballets, while the play Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, written by Carlo Vergara and directed by Chris Martinez for Virgin Labfest 9, premieres on May 7, 3 p.m., and the concert Triple Threats: Everything in Bituin, featuring actress-singer Bituin Escalante, premieres on May 9, 3 p.m.

“We [have] now reached at least hundred 20,000 engagements online. So I think it shows how much demand there is in terms of online technologies,” Mr. Millado said.

Meanwhile, CCP resident company Tanghalang Pilipino launched #PansamanTanghalan on its official YouTube channel ( which is currently streaming musical numbers from Balag at Angud, an original Filipino musical on the life of the revolutionary Filipino artist Junyee.

The 16th edition of the Virgin Labfest theater festival, titled VLF 2020 KAPIT: Lab in the Time of Covid, will be streamed online and run from June 10 to 28. It will feature nine new plays, three revisited plays, and six staged readings, all streamed online.

“The Virgin Labfest is here, and it remains strong and able to adjust to new realities. The festival has a firm fan base which has filled the CCP theaters year in and year out. Let’s continue to tell our stories on the virtual stage,” VLF festival director JK Anicoche said in a press release.

CCP Sales and Promotions Manager Gemma Marco noted during the Zoom press conference that a “minimal [ticket] price” is being proposed for the upcoming festival.

The CCP’s online technical team has partnered with the CCP Film Division for the online staging of the plays.

“We see this as an opportunity to make the public aware of the presence of our digital online content,” Mr. Millado said. “Hopefully after the COVID-19 recovery period is over we can then focus on the worldwide web as a platform.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman