After a successful run of Rak of Aegis Online, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) announces another streaming play to cap 2021. This time, PETA revamps Rody Vera’s provocative, relevant, and heart-wrenching anthology drama on HIV, Under My Skin, directed by Melvin Lee, from the stage to the screen, together with esteemed advocacy organizations The Red Whistle and LoveYourself, and UNILAB, Inc., PETA’s major co-presenter.
Under My Skin was PETA’s last live performance at the PETA Theater Center before the lockdown in 2020 happened – just two weeks shy of the show’s closing. The play is inspired by real people and events, and it accurately depicts the realities, triumphs, and struggles of people living with HIV, while navigating an important conversation about acceptance and tolerance. The show introduces us to a number of characters – Jonathan, Greg, Syd, and Mario whose relationships are tested when Jonathan gets infected; Dino, an HIV-positive teen whose status is discovered through a contraction of tuberculosis; Mary Rose, a mother who unknowingly passed down the virus to her son after getting it from her husband; a gay beauty parlor employee experiencing work-related discrimination, and more. Their stories of love, pain, and acceptance are revealed through Dr. Almonte, who is studying the spread of the devastating virus.
Although Under My Skin and many other plays were forced to close on such short notice, PETA had always been hopeful that the curtains would rise again, and that Under My Skin would soon have the opportunity to pick up where it left off. In January 2021, this hope came to fruition, as PETA was able to gather the cast and staff of Under My Skin for a closed-door filming of the play.
PETA Executive Director Beng Santos-Cabangon says that Under My Skin hopes to continue what it has set out to achieve, providing a space where various HIV-advocacy groups can unite and strengthen their cause, with art and theater at the centerpiece. “We believe that Under My Skin Online can continue to serve as a platform for probing conversations and reflections as well as bringing attention to and engaging the public on the issue of HIV and AIDS. Converting the production into the film medium would allow for more people to see it – and bring to the spotlight the advocacy,” says Santos-Cabangon.
“Amidst the COVID- 19 pandemic, we should be relentless in our efforts to address the problem of access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment. It is our hope that this endeavor will contribute in generating greater public awareness and concern, building a caring community and somehow helping eradicate stigma and discrimination,” she adds.
Now is also the time to generate urgent conversations about HIV and AIDS – especially since there has been a “21% increase in new infection brought about by the decrease in HIV prevention coverage and increase in treatment gap,” according to the 2021 data of the Department of Health. LoveYourself founder and executive director Ronivin Pagtakhan says that as the pandemic continues to evolve, we continue to adapt in the name of the HIV advocacy. “LoveYourself has allocated resources to shift our services online including refill for treatment medicines with XPress, self-screening with SelfCare, and setting up regular appointments for health check up with Booking as we contribute to ensuring equitable access of HIV-related services for key populations in the country,” says Ronivin. “We are glad to partner once again with the wonderful people at PETA to make Under My Skin accessible online for greater awareness as this initiative amplifies our advocacy’s voice towards ending the HIV epidemic.”
The Red Whistle also continues to respond to the HIV epidemic by addressing the need for a change in mindset. “Theater has the ability to move people to understand the issue more. We need to shift perspectives around HIV-related stigma and change attitudes towards our sexual health,” says The Red Whistle Executive Director Benedict Bernabe.
“If we want to change people’s minds, we need to tug on their heartstrings first. This is why the arts is an important and necessary component—especially during this pandemic—not just for awareness and education, but also for behavior change in the HIV advocacy.”
Under My Skin is now reborn for a new platform. In a time when the arts push to thrive amidst all the restrictions of lockdown, PETA embraces the migration of performances from live to virtual. Although it may take some time before things return to normal and the curtains rise once again, PETA, along with its partners, strive to make a new kind of stage in this virtual era, where we will continue to make meaningful theater.
Under My Skin is written by Rody Vera and directed by Melvin Lee. The online streaming cast features
Cherry Pie Picache, Eko Baquial, Gio Gahol, Mike Liwag, Jarred Jaicten, Kitsi Pagaspas, Dylan Ray Talon, Dudz Teraña, She Maala, Bene Manaois, Erold Enriquez, Jason Barcial, Joseph Madriaga, Rach Gimpes, Reggie Ondevilla, Roy Dahildahil, Gerard Dy, and Ekis Gimenez.
Under My Skin runs on November 26 to 28, and November 30 – December 5, 2021. Tickets are available at Php 180 for Livestream, and Php 250 for Video on Demand tickets via www.ticket2me.net, bit.ly/undermyskinonline, or through any of the Under My Skin Online showbuyers. For bulk sales, and more sales information, contact Mitch Go at 0917-5391112.