OUR realities are based on our decisions, but at the same time these come with uncontrollable consequences.

In Juliene Mendoza’s Virgin Labfest entry titled Multiverse, two estranged brothers — a writer and a recovering alcoholic — reunite and reconnect through their mutual love of comic books. They imagine how much better their relationship would have been in another reality.

“This is loosely based on the death of my [younger] brother two years ago,” the playwright told BusinessWold in a Zoom interview on May 20, noting that his brother’s passing was the first death in the immediate family.

Mr. Mendoza explained that the story presents what everybody goes through in the family when they lose a loved one, and how they come to terms with the loss.

Maraming kang gustong sabihin but sometimes reality happens at hindi mo na magagawa (There are many things you want to say, but sometimes reality happens and you no longer can),” he said. “As I was going through the grieving stage, naisip ko na isulat siya para ilagay ko doon lahat ng mga napro-proseso ko. So, para siyang therapy (As I was going through the grieving stage, I thought of putting all that I was processing into writing. So, it was like therapy).”

As seen from the play’s title, the story will present alternate universes or “what ifs” depending on the characters’ decisions. “Hindi din talaga mapipili yung reality mo, kasi bawat reality may kanya kanyang consequences din (You cannot really choose your reality since every reality has its corresponding consequences too),” Mr. Mendoza said.

“In the end, you’re left with accepting your own reality.”

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 16th edition of the Virgin Labfest, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ festival of new, unstaged one-act plays, is going online this year, with live streamed performances and readings, among others.

Multiverse, which debuted at last year’s Virgin Labfest as one of the staged readings, is moving to the virtual stage in this year’s festival.

Mr. Mendoza noted that Fitz Edward Bitaña, the play’s director, has many out of the box ideas. “Nadadagdagan siya ng ibang elements that you can’t help but include because it’s a different format,” he said, adding that they have added video materials to “to accentuate the scenes.”

The writer has been helping the production to adjust to the new medium. During rehearsals, the language of instruction has changed from stage directions (upstage, downstage, center stage) to camera directions (camera right, left, and center, close up, and wide shot). The production’s stage manager has taken on the role of a technical editor who also assists in camera framing and angles.

“The challenges are more technology-based rather than content-based.” Mr. Mendoza said.

Playing the three siblings in the play are Iggi Siasoco, Peter Vino Mabalot, and Jessette Namin.

Multiverse will stream live on June 14, 8 p.m., and on June 26, 8 p.m.

Aside from the plays and staged readings, viewers can also catch the VLF Playwright’s Fair online with this year’s playwrights talking about their work on June 11-14, 17-20, 25-27 at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Virgin Labfest 2020 Writing Fellowship Program will culminate in an online staged reading of the fellows’ works on June 28 at 2 and 5 p.m.

For more details and show schedules, visit https://www.facebook.com/culturalcenterofthephilippines/ and https://www.facebook.com/thevirginlabfest/. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman