Virologues features 19 monologues musing about the virus and its effects on humanity

THE PANDEMIC may have torn people apart from each other, but in many ways it has also brought people together as in the case of Virologues, an online play featuring 19 monologues musing about the virus and its effects on humanity, which brought together an amateur troupe of actors and poets from several countries (and several time zones).

The play is called by its creators as an “oral history of the pandemic through a curated set of monologues,” according to Bong Figueroa, who wrote many of the monologues, in a press release.

It was created after the alumni of Artistang Artlets presented their first online play, Sundowning, in August.

Artistang Artlets is the resident theater group of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas.

Sundowning is a one-act play based on UST alumnus Jay Espano’s short film and tells the story of a man suffering from dementia. The play was streamed live via Zoom and despite not knowing much about technology much less about putting a play online it was a successful endeavor.

Virologues, is a series of monologues written by Bong Figueroa and a team of eight writers, meant to encapsulate the experience of the pandemic.

The play will be performed twice: On Oct. 31, 10 a.m,. and again on Nov. 1, 10 a.m., via the Facebook page of AA LAb.

“It’s the story of humanity. Virologues is a collection of sentiments that we feel are sentiments of a lot of people, not just here in the Philippines, but the world,” Mr. Figueroa told BusinessWorld during an interview with the troupe on Oct. 15 via Zoom.

“We never had one great shared misery of our time and this is it. This is the story of us,” he added.

The play has three parts: the introduction (Pagpapakilala), the reminder (Pagpapaalala), and the spread (Paghahasik).

Most of the monologues run for one to two minutes while some may last for more than that. Each runs through a gamut of emotions: from denial, to anger, to mockery, to despair, and to unwilling acceptance. And there’s a rap monologue thrown in for good measure.

What is impressive about Virologues is how a cast and crew of more than 30 people performing in different parts of the world (the Philippines, the US, and Oceania) managed to put together a seamless performance where each monologue has its own theme, its own background, and its own sound effects.

But what was more impressive is how the actors were able to be in character while constantly having to make sure they were keeping eye contact with the camera.

“It took a bit of getting used to, because acting for an online play is so different,” Rivka Nagtalon, one of the actors from Sundowning, noted during the interview.

“You had to make sure you’re always looking at the camera and, unlike on the real stage where you can get cues from your co-actors if you forget your lines, in an online play, you really have to remember your lines perfectly,” she explained.

“One can say that our small crew is pushing the limits of what is possible, and exploring digital theater in the global stage,” Mr. Figueroa said in the release.

Virologues is playing on Oct. 31, 10 a.m. and on Nov. 1, 10 a.m., via the AA Lab Facebook page at — ZB Chua