Dani Lyons and Marty, played by Rebecca Coates and Luigi Quesada, are roommates at pediatric oncology


“The theater is one of the greatest forms of artistic expression known to man,” shares The Sandbox Collective managing artistic director Toff de Venecia. “On a wider scale, you have the performing arts genre as a whole where theater prides itself in being one of its most established pillars.” While the most tenured, it also risks being one of the oldest and most antiquated. “The theater has been around since the time of Oedipus and the Greeks. There is a tendency for it to look or feel old, or worse, tired.”


In light of new, emergent markets and trends, and our increasingly cosmopolitan audiences, how does one kick-start this process of renewal and enlightenment? How can you make the old feel new again, keeping young audiences and the 20-something millennial in greater consideration? Furthermore, how can you bring back those who have long since given up on the theater? How can you give theater its sexy back?


This is something that Toff, as a young theater director and former theater critic, has constantly ruminated on through his nine years of being in the industry. “As a theater observer and practitioner, I revel in a community that faces this dilemma head on everyday.” He adds, “It’s also been a challenge, maneuvering yourself in an industry where opportunities to showcase your work on a broader scale aren’t dime a dozen, especially if you’re young.”


Theater stalwart Peter Brook talks about a kind of deadly theater, brought about by a turn to realism and consumerism. He talks about revitalizing it, making it “holy” again, by infusing it with new energy and new artistic forms – a sort of East Meets West that the likes of Ariane Mnouchkine, Jerzy Grotowski, Julie Taymor, and even locally, Dexter Santos, the Red Turnips, and Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s JK Anicoche have championed through their work, in order to change the game in their own respective fields.


Then again, with movements happening across various fields in which young creatives are all of a sudden being empowered to create, age has become just another number. “The film industry has found a sudden resurgence with the upswing of Cinemalaya and a turn to indie. Everyday, young visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, DJs, designers, photographers, and actors are rising from the woodwork and changing the game in their respective fields. Why not do the same for the theater?”


Enter: The Sandbox Collective, Manila’s newest performing arts collective, committed to the procurement and development of new, groundbreaking and cutting-edge theatrical work. “When Anna [Santamaria] and I decided to put up this new endeavor, together with the loving support of Santi, Robbie, Mio, Jonjon, Carlos and the 9 Works Theatrical family, this was a gauntlet we constantly had to throw upon ourselves.”

Operations director Anna Santamaria adds, “By experimenting with new technologies, embracing the different humanities, and applying out-of-the-box styles and ideologies in our exploration of classic and modern texts, The Sandbox Collective remains committed to its goals of developing our local audiences, finding new artistic voices, and contributing to a keen and diversified theater ecology within the local performing arts scene.”


The collective’s yearly programming consists of the following:
1) Re:Imagine, a unique and off-kilter exploration of an existing show from Broadway, Off-Broadway, or The West End, possibly even a Filipino original that’s been previously staged in Manila; 2) Blueprint, a The Sandbox Collective original, created in partnership with new artistic voices; and 3) The Imaginarium, a multi-arts festival that aims to develop, re-introduce, and present new, groundbreaking and cutting-edge theatrical work.


This year, under Re:Imagine, the Sandbox Collective will be staging the Off-Broadway musical “Dani Girl,” which follows the story of nine year-old Dani Lyons who is battling with leukemia. As a result of her chemo, she loses all of her hair. But far from sitting back and letting her condition take over her, she goes on an imaginary quest to find her hair and find the answer to the question, “Why is cancer?”


Under Blueprint, Toff reveals that an original is currently under works, which is set to debut in 2015.


By year’s end, The Sandbox Collective will be holding a thematic multi-arts festival called The Imaginarium, which aims to present a bevy of classic and modern existentialist text, presented in the style of theatre of the absurd. “Theater is our main focus,” Toff shares, “but expect to witness creations and collaborations that exact from various fields.”


Anna adds, “Since one of our core values is audience development, we’ll be introducing our ENGAGE program, which we have devised to expand the many ways by which we can interact with our audiences outside of our shows.”


Where audiences can stay and pick the minds of the cast and creative team after certain performances and be let into their creative process. For Dani Girl, it will be curated by production dramaturge Giselle Garcia, in partnership with the CSB Arts Management program.

A pre-show activity that can help guide the audience’s experience and expectation of the show for discussion purposes. It will be available before certain performances.


Sneak a peek into what goes on behind the curtains. This is subject to availability and advanced reservation.

Part of The Sandbox Collective’s mission is to make the theater affordable for its young audiences. Enjoy substantial discounts on orchestra and loge seats for select performances. Schedule available at

Who doesn’t like fieldtrips? Enjoy discounts and free tickets to certain performances by gathering
huge groups and bringing them to the theater.

“Part of our mission is to keep the conversation going with our audiences, even after they have left the theater,” shares Toff. “This year, we will be partnering with young theater director Ed Lacson Jr., director of Glenn Sevilla Mas’ ‘Games People Play’ for a reading of a riveting piece by a British playwright in the style of theatre of the absurd.”

For more info about The Sandbox Collective, please contact 585-6909 or 0917-8996680. Follow us on Facebook: /TheSandboxCollective, Twitter: @TheSandboxCo, and Instagram: @TheSandboxCo. You may also visit
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Dani Girl
is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
About The Sandbox Collective

Founded by 20-something theater director Toff de Venecia with the help of 9 Works Theatrical’s Anna Santamaria, The Sandbox Collective is a Manila-based performing arts collective, committed to the procurement and development of new, groundbreaking, and cutting-edge theatrical work. Through its yearly programming, The Sandbox Collective aims to facilitate the growth of new artistic voices, stimulate the development of our local audiences, and contribute to a keen and diversified theatre ecology within the local performing arts scene.

About Dani Girl
Dani Girl follows the story of nine year-old Dani Lyons, a precocious nine year-old girl whose cancer has returned after three years of being in remission. She loses her hair as a result of chemo. But instead of sitting back and letting her condition take over her, she goes on a quest to find her hair and find the answer to the question, “Why is cancer?”


Told from a child’s point of view, this new musical by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond  explores universally salient themes such as life in the face of death, hope amidst despair and the peerless power of a child’s imagination.


The musical will be directed by The Sandbox Collective Managing Artistic Director Toff de Venecia and will run from July 11 to 27, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Makati. For ticket and fundraising inquiries, please contact 585-6909 or 0917-8996680. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999.

Critics weigh in on Dani Girl

“When you go to this musical, open your mind and your heart and, kinda like Never Never Land, you’re there.”THE COLUMN


Many of the tunes are melodic and hummable, something missing in too many new musicals… DANI GIRL is good for the soul.”THEATERJONES


“Not every fairy tale has a happily ever after, but that doesn’t make the laughs and hope experienced in this musical any less real.”THEATERMANIA

By The LaSallian

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