Playwright Rody Vera on a lifetime of stories

They say that finding something you love doing is important because it would not feel like working for the rest of your life.
With over 40 years of playwriting experience, more than 70 plays and multiple awards under his name, award-winning playwright Rody Vera has found just that.

With over 40 years of playwriting experience, more than 70 plays and multiple awards under his name, award-winning playwright Rody Vera has found just that.

“Just do it,” Vera said, hopeful for the next generation of playwrights who want to see their work come to life. “There’s no other way but to write… and to read other plays. Then, you can know what can and what cannot happen on stage.”



Taking inspiration

Vera tries his best to maintain a positive and humorous outlook even though he uses some of his own experiences through his plays, cruel and disheartening some may be.

His full-length play Kung Paano Ko Pinatay si Diana Ross (1991), which bagged a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award, is a “coming-out play,” Vera reveals.

“It’s a gay play; it’s my coming-out play,” Vera said, noting that some parts of the play came from his own experiences.

His mother, a devotee, would pray over him since she was against his sexuality.  “It was hard, but I wrote about it,” he added.

Aside from personal experiences, Vera finds inspiration through people he looks up to — from Irish novelist James Joyce to National Artist Nick Joaquin.

With inspiration comes humor, and that’s how he incorporates a new layer of depth and dimension to his stories.

“When the character cries, the audience laughs, and when the character laughs, the audience cries,” Vera refers to Joyce, adding that this compelling contradiction is something he wants to achieve through his work.


Weaving stories together

“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” Vera noted, adding that some scripts would only look good on paper, but the outcome becomes entirely different once it plays out on stage.

Still, Vera encourages playwrights to always continue writing, finding inspiration and attending rehearsals since it also becomes a part of the writing process. “No one else knows the play more than the playwright himself.”

The process might take months or even years, but that’s where the outcome becomes sweeter and more fulfilling.

When developing the right script and weaving stories together, Vera believes that journalists can also be good storytellers.

“One of the best playwrights would be journalists (because) they listen to people talking, so they pick up the tone, the diction, the vocabulary,” he said.


Personal projects and beyond

Aside from his success as a playwright, Vera is also excited with how the Virgin Labfest, which he co-founded, is helping new writers.

Last June, Virgin Labfest marked its 18th year as it featured 12 “untried, untested and unstaged” plays from both young and veteran playwrights in the industry.

Looking back, Vera is pleased with how things turned out well. In 2005, both the Virgin Labfest and the Cinemalaya were launched, opening doors for aspiring playwrights and filmmakers and promoting the local film and theater scene to the mainstream public.

“We wanted to do something. We wanted to provide a venue for playwrights na ipalabas ang kanilang mga sinusulat (to have their plays produced). So, we decided, why don’t we give this a try?” Vera said, remembering how it was much more difficult for aspiring playwrights to look and eventually get accepted by theater companies in the past. “We give a chance to young playwrights who have never been given a chance by theater companies para magpalabas (to stage their plays).”

Beyond playwriting, Vera also admitted his love for singing.

Singing has become an integral part of him outside of theater. He used to be the artistic director of a singing group named Patatag, and now, he is working on a personal project.

“I’m recording songs that I sang during the pandemic,” Vera said, clearly enjoying the process of putting together an album — something new to enjoy.a