THE Philippine Playrights joined in Indonesia's Women on Stage, highlighting the Asian and Australian Women on Dramatic Reading and Culture as part of Cambodian Living Arts -ASEF's Culture over Coffee Programme.

Women On Stage, a non-profit organization founded by an Indonesian woman playwright, Herlina Syarifudin, and this organization based in Indonesia, supported by Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), brought together playwrights from the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia via online for an Asian and Australian Women on Dramatic Reading and Culture as part of CLA's Culture Over Coffee Programme last October 29 to 30, 2021.

The artist shared excerpts of their plays and discussed their work to understand and acknowledge both commonalities and different perspective writing and explore the possibility of future collaborations and performances of each other's work.

There is no universal theater despite many plays being able to reach beyond the context in which they were written, often works are initially written for specific audiences with specific understandings of the world and distinctive experiences. This event gave the six playwrights to share their work to an audience outside of their home countries.

Women on Stage/ Culture over Coffee event brought together artists with various backgrounds, including emerging writers and more experienced performers and theater directors, presenting work that reflects the different world they live in and raising questions.

From Indonesia, Herlina Syarifudin, artistic director of Keluarga Teater and founder of Women on Stage, is an experienced playwright, performer, educator, and director. She presents her work "Namaku Nama" - "My Name is Name," which intertwines Javanese cultural traditions and mythologies that significantly impact women.

This play focuses on the inter-generational suffering of women from grandmother to mother to daughter. Also from Indonesia, based in Kendal, Central Java, emerging writer and arts activist and educator Venny Zega presents her new work "Lontong Opor," traditional Indonesian curry with rice cakes) about "mudik," which means going back to one's birthplace as an Indonesian Muslim culture during the Islamic holiday, Eid al-Fitri ( which occurs at the end of the fasting month). She explores how the pandemic has drastically affected the situation and how people adapted their traditions to meet their needs.

Maria Theresa C. Belleza, a cultural worker, and freelance production manager, and secretary-general of Women Playwrights International - Philippines and experienced mentor who flies between Negors and Manilla as well as other places in the Philippines, nurturing and supporting emerging artists. She was the Head of the Secretariat of the 6th Women Playwright International Festival in the Philippines in 2003. Her work has been presented three times at Women Playwrights International in South Africa, Chile. One of her works will be entirely produced at the Women Playwrights International in Montreal later this year. She will present her work "The Mango Tree," a work in progress that relates the story of worker ants that live in a colony in a mango tree, reflecting on collective consciousness by following orders. It was initially written Phillipino and titled "Ang Pun ng Mannga" and first read at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines Women's Month in March 2019.

The event is proud to host two new emerging writers and directors from Performance Laboratory Incorporated on the island of Negros Occidental, in the Philippines, which is about 700 km from Manilla. Noel Pahyupan presents "End Scene," where a director and playwright's personal and professional lives get intertwined; he is Negros based actor, director, emerging playwright, and member of the Performance Laboratory. This work is the outcome of the Fellowship award with CCP Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship 15 2019 at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines.

Venisa Buenflor, a cultural worker and Negros based Theater actor, director, emerging playwright, and member of the Performance Laboratory Incorporated. She presents a new play, "Ang Biyah Ni Gregory" (The Journey of Gregory), taking up the theme of young people and their concerns as two siblings reflect on their triumphs, expectations, fiascos, and regrets and the choices they made.

From Australia, but based in Indonesia for 30 years and a director/ actor/ traditional dancer, Kerensa Dewantoro "Jengkol: Jangan Jengkel," ( Jengkol{local food}: don't be mad.) in her excerpts is exploring the issues of misinterpretations and cultural misunderstandings within different versions of Islam; and the stereotypes moving in both directions between Islam and the West. She will also be raising questions regarding identity and who has the right to write about issues.

The importance of gatherings such as these for networking amongst artists is evident because Herlina Syarifudin, Kerensa Dewantoro, and Maria Theresa C. Belleza (Tessa) can connect and meet due to the opportunity presented by Women Playwrights International. Herlina Syarifudin and Tessa met at Women Playwrights International Conference (WPIC 2015) in Cape Town, South Africa. It is hoped that this event, Culture Over Coffee, will lead to more regional connections between artists to showcase their work, reach new audiences and see their work through the eyes of others in the region rather than a euro-centric view of playwrighting.