State of the Stage 2022: Manila’s Upcoming Theater Scene


Lara Maigue and Arman Ferrer in Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag; Original photo by Erickson Dela Cruz

While 2021 still gave us a predominantly dormant year where live theater with real-life audiences are concerned, the country’s theater practitioners have done their best to adapt, giving audiences a semblance of the theater experience.

2021 in Review

From pro-shot shows, to newly developed musicals, to newly-opened theater venues, to adaptations of theater titles into different mediums, and even to the first couple of shows that opened its doors to live audiences–the tenacity of the theater industry made the previous year relatively jam-packed.


Some of 2021’s highlights include PETA streaming a remastered pro-shot recording of the Rak of Aegis 2019 run early this year. The company also filmed their early 2020 production, Under My Skin, to stream.

Speaking of past shows made available online, the Virgin Labfest streamed a large selection of one-act plays from its past roster. Repertory Philippines also streamed its original production, The Quest for the Adarna, their English adaptation of the Filipino folklore which was staged in 2019, and PETA streamed past musicals Care Divas, William, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang, 1896, and Si Juan Tamad, ang Diyablo, at ang Limang Milyong Boto. Trumpets Inc. made past productions of Widows, Orphans, and Wildebeests and Joseph the Dreamer starring Gary Valenciano available online.

As for local ballet companies, Ballet Philippines also streamed past productions, like Swan Lake, Simoun, and Giselle, among many others. Ballet Manila streamed Lisa Macuja Elizalde’s Princess Trilogy, and Philippine Ballet Theatre streamed its 2019 production of the company’s holiday favorite The Nutcracker.

New local shows were also developed, mounted, and streamed this year. One had been the NCCA’s brand new musical in Lapulapu: Ang Datu ng Mactan staged in the newly-restored Metropolitan Theater, which also later on mounted its own inaugural show to mark its reopening.

Foreign works were also locally adapted and filmed to stream. Repertory Philippines offered up a newly-mounted production of the musical, The Great Christmas Cookie Bake Off while the Company of Actors in Streamlined Theatre (C.A.S.T.) shot and streamed a local version of Sam Steiner’s Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons.

Some companies also tried their hand at other mediums this year such as Tanghalang Pilipino streaming an online web series adaptation of its musical Lukot-lukot, Bilog-bilog. The team behind musical Mula sa Buwan also created the musical narrative series Still that is currently streaming on the platform, Viu. 

The year also wrapped up with live performances that invited live audiences at 50% capacity. There was CCP’s one-night-only A Christmas Celebration ballet event, Resorts World Manila and Full House Theater Company taking a stab at a hybrid release by staging the Ang Muling El Bimbo: AHEB Homecoming Concert for a live audience as well as offering a recording of the show soon after to stream online, and the Philippine Stagers Foundation staging two original plays, Aki Ari and Parlorista, for two nights at the company’s new Black Box Theater.

There were also countless other theatrical performances and workshops offered online throughout the year that made the most out of online tools and platforms like Zoom, Facebook live, YouTube, Kumu, and others. 

The Year Ahead

With 2021 ending with a few shows that did have live audiences and as quarantine measures slowly ease, the outlook for Manila’s theater calendar is a little more optimistic than last year’s forecast

We asked representatives from the country’s professional theater companies what they have planned for 2022. As conditions continue to be uncertain due to the pandemic, everyone is proceeding with caution.

Restaging Past Shows

Pat Valera of Black Box Productions says that if conditions permit, they plan to re-stage one of their company’s past productions sometime in June or July. Seeing as the company has only staged Mula sa Buwan and Dekada ‘70, audiences can expect that it can be either of the two.

9 Works Theatrical, Managing Director and Executive Producer Santi Santamaria says that if Covid-19 conditions continue to improve next year, they’re planning to mount a production sometime mid-next year. 

The last we heard from the company is that they had plans to stage a yet-untitled Rico Blanco musical as well as a local staging of The Bodyguard, but nothing is definite for the company’s comeback production. 

Fullhouse Asia Production Studios has also announced a restaging of the musical Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag by July 2022.

Hybrid is the New Normal

Ballet Manila’s CEO and Artistic Director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde shares that they will be staging a gala with a live audience (with options for online streaming) by the end of January 2022 to launch the new Aliw Theater

The Virgin Labfest (VLF) founder Rody Vera shares that they have “plans A to C” when it comes to bringing back the festival. If the situation permits, plan A is to do a hybrid showing of the festival where the one-acts will be staged with live audiences at 50% capacity for three weeks then a delayed stream of the shows soon after.

“Plan B is to have a live streaming of opening and closing shows of each play with no audiences and recorded streaming of the staged productions.” shares Vera. “Plan C is just to have a streaming of plays filmed as staged and hold the festival online again for less than the usual 3 weeks.” 

The target run for the 2022 festival is June 14-July 3 and the roster of selected plays and playwrights have already been announced.

For the newly-restored Metropolitan Theater (the MET), starting January, they will be streaming Tuloy ang Palabas sa MET, a monthly showcase of the different performing groups in the country. They have shot four episodes so far. For the 5th episode, they might film it with a live audience as well as offer a livestream option.

Robust Offerings

For Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), Artistic Director Nanding Josef and Associate Artistic Director and new VLF Co-Festival Director Marco Viaña share that if conditions allow, they plan to stage Layeta Bucoy’s Doc Resurreccion, Gagamutin ang Bayan with a live audience at the CCP. 

The show will be directed by Dennis Marasigan, featuring Marco Viaña, Jonathan Tadiaoan and the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company. They also plan to stage Rody Vera’s Anak Datu, a play based on the story written by National Artist Abdulmari Imao, with a live audience also at the CCP from August to September 22, to be directed by Chris Millado.

As for their previously-announced Southborder musical, Josef says that it has been postponed indefinitely due to budget constraints.

They also plan to stream the second season of TP’s children’s Radio-TV program with DZRH, Tara Peeps, from November to December 2022, and mount a devised theater production featuring TP’s Actors Company, to be directed by Guelan Luarca, sometime next year.

For Repertory Philippines (REP), president Mindy Perez-Rubio says that if conditions permit, they plan to stage the previously announced staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel with a live audience in December at the Onstage Theater of Greenbelt 1. 

They will also continue to conduct online theater workshops through Zoom every month. If the government relaxes health protocols, REP might embark on face-to-face workshops from May through July.

Streams are Staying

REP also plans to re-stream The Quest for the Adarna in March and The Great Christmas Cookie Bake Off from November to December next year. 

PETA’s Artistic Director, Maribel Legarda also said that PETA has a vault of productions that are available for exclusive streaming and private booking. Schools or other organizations can set up private streams for shows like William, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang, 1896, Under My Skin, and even hit musicals like Care Divas and Rak of Aegis.

She adds that PETA will also continue to offer its online classes for kids, teens, and adults. They’re also exploring new programs, projects and possibly having hybrid productions (combining live and digital engagements) and workshops in the near future.

Other Planned Returns

For Trumpets Inc., Co-Founder Audie Gemora says that they will be rolling out readings and plays with a small cast taped live for online streaming.

For Upstart Productions, Artistic Director Joel Trinidad says “We want to celebrate the 10th anniversary we didn’t get to celebrate in 2020! And once things are safe again, we want to go back to what Upstart was created for in the first place: original works!”

Ronilo Jaynario, Artistic Director of Philippine Ballet Theatre (PBT), says, “2022 will be PBT’s redemption year creating new traditions, new ideas and new collaborations. It is too early to discuss our projects but definitely it will be a reinvention of our norm.”

A Cautious Comeback

Heavy caveats that depend on pandemic conditions aside, it’s thrilling to hear that most of our theater companies are revving back not only to return to the stage, but to perform for their beloved live audiences at the soonest, safest possible times.

While there are still so many uncertainties in terms of live audiences, one thing is already true: theater has returned.

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