The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) brings back its 2020 season-ender offering through online streaming. Read on for more details about this provocative, relevant, and heart-wrenching anthology drama

After its premiere run last year was abruptly halted by the city-wide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PETA took this chance to rework Rody Vera's provocative material specifically for the online platform.

The powerfully informative yet dramatic production that tackles the lives of different Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) from various walks of life has already garnered citations and accolades over the past awards season. This includes Outstanding Script, Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play, Outstanding (Original) Play, Outstanding Female Lead, Featured Performances for Male and Female, and more from the prestigious Gawad Buhay! Awards last year.

Director Melvin Lee recalled how the lockdown affected the play: "Nakakapanghinayang [It was disheartening]. In fact, I was in denial that the pandemic was happening. There were many good reviews and feedback and people were talking about it."

Read more: Where To Watch Stage Plays, Musicals: 18 Apps, Channels, And Websites For Theatre Lovers

By January 2021, PETA was able to gather the cast and staff of the play for closed-door filming. "We didn't have the luxury to shoot as much as we wanted. There was a curfew then, and we had to do a lot of pre-production work to prepare for the shoot and follow health protocols," shared Lee.

The director shared that the intention and the style of the play remain for its filmed on-stage version, but there were changes to be made to make it suitable for the new medium. "In live performances, you see the unfolding of a scene right in front of you, but you are coming from one position in the theatre," Lee explained. "Now that it is on video, you get closer to the scenes and actors because of all the types of shots . . . the scenes seem to get closer to you."

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Under My Skin is inspired by real people and events, and it accurately depicts the realities, triumphs, and struggles of PLHIV. It also navigates an important conversation about acceptance and tolerance through the central character of Dr Almonte. 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 parlour employee experiencing work-related discrimination, and more.

Read also: PETA's 52nd Season Ender Offering "Under My Skin" Calls For End of Stigma Against Persons Living with HIV

After the successful online run of Rak of Aegis, another one of PETA's critically-acclaimed masterpieces, executive director Beng Santos-Cabangon hopes that Under My Skin would continue what it has set out to achieve. Besides the outpour of support and appreciation from the general public, the play has become an avenue for various HIV advocacy groups to unite and strengthen their cause.

"Converting the production into the film medium would allow for more people to see it—and bring to the spotlight the advocacy," said Santos-Cabangan. "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 endeavour will contribute to generating public awareness and concern, building a caring community and somehow helping eradicate stigma and discrimination," she added.

Just like when it first premiered, Under My Skin is co-presented by esteemed advocacy organisations such as The Red Whistle, LoveYourself, and UNILAB Inc.

Under My Skin's return couldn't be more timely as Lee mentioned that while we are facing the global pandemic today, the number of HIV cases has also continued to increase. The spike in cases as Lee explained is because testing and treatment for HIV have become more difficult today. "It's one issue that we might think is well-discussed. We may even think that people are already well-informed about it, but when you look at the numbers, it shows that we still have more to do to spread awareness and education," Lee said.

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.

The play runs from November 26 to 28, and November 30 to December 5. Tickets are available at PHP180 for livestream, and PHP250 for Video on Demand tickets via ticket2me.net, or through any of the Under My Skin Online show buyers.

  • ImagesJaypee Martistaza
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