February 16, 2023 - For literature buffs, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) represents a powerful figure in modernist letters.
The famed English novelist and essayist is best known for works such as Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and A Room of One's Own.
Her influence also informs a new work by Montreal-based playwright Riley Palanca, which carries the provocative title Would Virginia Woolf Contemplate Suicide if She Were Filipino?
Canadian Filipino Net reached out to Palanca to explain the reference to Woolf, and the artist provided two reasons.
“One is because she is a queer literary icon. Other queer writers, such as Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) and Michael Cunningham (The Hours) have been inspired to create work about her,” Palanca stated.
“Second is Woolf was one of the first writers to discuss how different personal identities interact with each other. Famously, Woolf posed the question, if William Shakespeare had a female sister who was in every way as intelligent and incisive as he was, would she have received the same amount of success? This questioning of the intersections of one's identity is echoed in our play,” Palanca continued.
One may wonder what Would Virginia Woolf Contemplate Suicide if She Were Filipino is all about.
“At its core, this play is about a relationship. How can we navigate interactions with other people, how do we communicate effectively, set up boundaries, establish relations, argue, etc.,” Palanca said.
“I hope the play becomes a talking point for how we can fully self-actualize as social beings. With that said, we are very proud of how Pinoy this play is. Everything from the actors to the story to the jokes are rooted in Philippines culture,” Palanca noted.
So what impelled Palanca to write the play?
“As a Filipino immigrant, I was very curious about the experience of a Filipino born in Canada. I wanted to explore the differences and similarities between my experiences and those of a second-generation Filipino,” the artist said.
“I wanted to take talking points on gender, race, and class, and let them clash, and putting it in the context of a hook-up allowed us to explore differents facets of our vulnerabilities,” Palanca added.
Would Virginia Woolf Contemplate Suicide if She Were Filipino is a one-act play that tackles issues of intimacy, sexuality, and race through the eyes of two Filipinos in Montreal.
A media release noted that through the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the play had its premiere at the 2022 Montreal Fringe Festival where it won the Playwrights Guild of Canada award for “Most Promising English Text”.
Also, the play was runner-up for BroadwayWorld Montreal’s “Best New Play or Musical.”
Moreover, the work received an honourable mention at Infinitheatre’s Write-on-Q Competition, and a subsequent reading at the 2022 Pipeline Festival.
The play comes to Ottawa this February as an official selection for the 2023 undercurrents Festival. Held at the historic Arts Court Theatre, undercurrents is Ottawa Fringe’s curated winter festival showcasing contemporary theatre created by local, national, and international artists.
The script was written by Palanca under the name Revan Badingham III.
Dennis Gupa directs the play performed by Mark Hrynioch and Marc Ducusin.
Shane Nichol manages the stages. Photography is by Oyie Olivar. Joanna Malinis designed the poster.
February 16 (Thursday) – 9 p.m.
February 17 (Friday) – 7p.m. (with sign language interpretation)
February 18 (Saturday) – 4:30 p.m.
Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa
Canadian Filipino Net has previously report about Palanca and his art here: