MANILA -- There's a young, tall, fair, pretty lady in kimono dress who told me she's doing "burlesque."
"Did I hear it right?" I asked her, with the excitement of a regular theatergoer eager to discover something new.
She said it's part of her "bodabil" performance.
A "Filipinized term" for vaudeville, a theatrical form of mass entertainment that the Americans brought to Manila shores before World War II, I could only think of the "bodabil" usually associated with Katy dela Cruz, Atang dela Rama, even the late Dolphy, Bayani Casimiro, Togo and Pogo, among others.
Burlesque, upon quick Google search, I discover, is an earlier version of vaudeville, something like its great-grandmother from the clubs in Paris.
But we're at Pineapple Lab, an art hub on Rafael Palma Street in Barangay Poblacion, Makati City for the launch of Fringe Manila 2019. The lady in kimono dress who will do "bodabil," is just one of the nearly 200 names of individuals and groups to watch out for.
Now on its fifth year, the multi-arts festival promises a wider range of performances, exhibits, stage plays, one-man shows, yes burlesque and bodabil, anything that would make you say, "Wat da F!"
Marie Antoinette Noir. Handout
Kakki Teodoro in 'Every Brilliant Thing.' Handout
Puppet Theatre Manila. Handout
The audience at the press launch. Handout
"Fringe is all about freedom. There are no limits for people from all walks of life. For artists in all levels of their development, Fringe is for them, " said Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan, founding festival director and "punong-abala" since it started in 2015.
This year's Fringe Manila opens Thursday, February 7, and runs until March 3.
"From staged readings, works-in-progress, we have them. We partner with major theater companies. We are open to anyone, as long as you meet the deadline. Pero OK lang kahit hindi, the more the merrier," he added.
There was a question if the audience changed since 2015, the same way hipsters are now corporate slaves, supervising millennials. Pamintuan was proud to say they have developed not only artists but audiences to take risks, to see shows they don't normally see.
"Those who go to Solaire, Resorts World, PETA-Phinma Theater, CCP Main Theater, where the big productions are held, they wanna see something else. Punta naman tayo sa mga maliliit na coffee shops, baka may palabas. Para kakaiba naman," he said.
And there have been audiences from abroad. There are even some artists who have Filipino blood who returned to the land of their parents' birth. For example, he cited the case of Canadian-Filipino artist Jodinand Aguillon. He grew up and used to be based in Toronto. When he experienced Fringe Manila in 2016, he never left. Now he's Fringe Manila 2019's creative producer.
"Over the past three years, we have lots of audiences and artists from North America, from Toronto and other parts of the world. We've created diverse audiences," Pamintuan said.
Coincidentally, the festival happens during the country's celebration of the National Arts Month.
"We have these artists who are pushing boundaries in these trying times, when speaking up could mean danger. And we've come a long way, not only for Fringe but for other emerging artists," he said.
And we better believe him. Prior to the Manila stint, he's been venue manager in Fringe New York in 2012. There, he got the idea of bringing it here.
"Nag-stalk ako ng mga artists. They are getting annoyed, and vice versa," he said in jest. "What we have is a growing community."
For schedules, visit www.fringemanila.com.