PETA Launches ACTING ON HIV Initiatives; UNDER MY SKIN Closes 52nd Season
With PETA's Acting on HIV campaign, they are steadfast in their goal of tackling sensitive topics through theater and the arts. They use theater as their medium to forward their advocacies and help the public to be educated, especially with shows like Under My Skin.
Manila, Philippines - The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) has launched Acting on HIV, the creative campaign to educate individuals and develop a supportive community, together with LoveYourself Inc. and The Red Whistle.
The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in Asia and the Pacific region. What used to be two HIV infections recorded daily in 2009 is now 36 cases per day. Knowing this, PETA has decided to launch its campaign to help eradicate the stigma around Persons Living With HIV (PLHIV) and humanize this taboo issue.
"It's the deep-rooted nature of the bias, of the stigma that is killing people, and that's hard to reach. I'm not saying we can do it with this one campaign, but I'm saying, it's a good place to start," said PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda.
As part of the campaign, closing the theater company's 52nd season is the production Under My Skin, written by Rody Vera and directed by Melvin Lee. It tells multiple stories of various Filipinos - an HIV-positive teenager, a mother, and a gay beauty parlor employee - introduced through the character of Dr. Gemma Almonte.
Dr. Almonte is an epidemiologist at the Department of Health who is studying the rapid increase and spread of HIV in the country. Instead of a society with ignorance and bias, she dreams of one with empathy and understanding to change the public's sensitivity to HIV.
"According to Melvin, he doesn't just want actors; he wants advocates who are acting on the behalf of the people who have HIV," said PETA President Cecilia Garrucho. The play will feature artists such as Cherry Pie Picache, Roselyn Perez, Miguel Almendras, Mike Liwag, Anthony Falcon, and more.
The show will run from 7 February to 15 March 2020 at the PETA Theater Center. With this play, PETA uses theater as a platform to discuss HIV and establish a safe space to do so. Partnering with LoveYourself Inc. and The Red Whistle shows the three groups' commitment to building a strong platform for HIV education in the Philippines. They recognize that the cause of the rising number of HIV cases in the country is the stigma around the issue and the lack of knowledge about it.
LoveYourself Inc.'s Program Manager Danvic Rosadiño said: "We believe that art expression is one of the effective ways to communicate social issues, especially health issues, particularly HIV-AIDS awareness."
The campaign itself, Acting on HIV, runs from December 2019 to March 2020. It has five different components, each with a unique and creative initiative to combat the stigma of HIV.
The first component is "Breaking the Fourth Wall," where PETA plans to hold talkback sessions after every show of Under My Skin. They want to encourage people to talk about this very topic that most of society deems to be too sensitive. They did talkback sessions with their 50th season-ender, 'Night, Mother, which talked about mental health and suicide. It is with sessions like these that the audience is presented with an avenue for dialogue.
Another component is "Sense and Sensibilities," which is an eight-hour workshop to develop compassion through the arts. The course will have various artistic activities to help the participants better understand HIV. The workshop will not be open to the public, and PETA will be tapping schools for potential youth leaders and advocates.
They also have "Walk the Talk," offering free HIV screening and counseling right outside the theatre. Audience members can choose to get screened before or after the performance. The "Ready, Set, Connect" component refers to the online EduSeries where they use social media as a platform to discuss the virus at length.
The last component, "State of the Art," is an HIV-AIDS exhibit in collaboration with The Red White featuring the Niccolo Cosme of Project Headshot Clinic. Their theme will be "Under My Skin," merging social relevance with social media. By taking photos of influential people and advocates, they hope to promote inclusion and further awareness about HIV. The headshots will be released on 1 December Sunday) right on time for World AIDS Day, with a launch party the night before on 30 November (Saturday) at Nectar Nightclub, Taguig.
The Red Whistle President Ben Bernabe said: "We always say that if you want to change people's minds, you have to change people's hearts first, and that is why we use the arts. To help them understand the reality of the situation so that hopefully, they change their hearts about their behavior and their attitude towards the problem, and eventually change their minds."
With PETA's Acting on HIV campaign, they are steadfast in their goal of tackling sensitive topics through theater and the arts. They use theater as their medium to forward their advocacies and help the public to be educated, especially with shows like Under My Skin. Each performance will have a talkback session that can educate people and even save lives.
Be sure to catch the show and all the other components of the creative campaign at PETA Theater Center, New Manila, Quezon City.
Photo: Carla Delgado