Riley Palanca has broken creative ground in Canada. Last June 2016, the 26-year-old playwright, who immigrated from the Philippines in 2013, had his first full-length production staged in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Palanca’s Beats Around the Bush, a tale of complicated relationships set in Manila, played for three nights.
Writing for The Telegram, a St. John’s paper, arts writer Gloria Hickey observed that Palanca “clearly has a flair for contemporary spoken word”.
“It was wonderful to be swept up in the melody of the language and sentiment,” Hickey wrote about Beats Around the Bush.
The reviewer also noted that it will be the “poetic script” that she will remember most.
Palanca took up theatre and creative writing in the University of the Philippines.
Canadian Filipino Net corresponded with Palanca, and he shared that Beats Around the Bush is basically a “love story”.
A work that explores the lives of four gay couples, Beats Around the Bush opened days after the Orlando massacre. In that incident, a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Florida.
“We wanted to forward narratives that were outside the traditional queer scope, such as the typical coming out of the closet story or even the social inequity and discrimination tropes,” Palanca said.
He also said that the play was staged in an unconventional performance space.
“We were really trying to go for more of a cutting-edge, non-traditional feel so instead of using conventional theatre spaces, we collaborated with the Factory, an artist-oriented bar downtown,” Palanca said. “To be surrounded by art and to be the first play that showed in that space was an amazing experience.”
Palanca also disclosed that he’s working on a script about the Maguindanao massacre, a 2009 incident in southern Philippines when 58 people, including 32 media practitioners, were killed.
“We have no scheduled show dates yet,” Palanca said. “In the meanwhile, I am moving from Newfoundland to Montreal and I am looking to get my previous works staged on the Quebec stage. Of course, Beats is a priority.”