“As a young creative, it’s hard working in an industry where opportunities to showcase your work on a broader scale aren’t dime a dozen,” shares Toff de Venecia, Managing Artistic Director for The Sandbox Collective, Manila’s newest performing arts collective. “It is a dilemma that people like myself face head on everyday as we wait quietly in the wings and watch from the sidelines. Otherwise, we go and create these opportunities for ourselves – wherever the venue, whatever the form. I think with youth movements shifting in various fields – from film, fashion, photography, and visual arts, age has become just another number. It’s about time the same happened for the theater as well. It’s time the youth gave it its sexy back.”

Enter: The Sandbox Collective, Manila’s newest performing arts collective, committed to the procurement and development of new, groundbreaking and cutting-edge theatrical work. The brainchild of 20-something theater director Toff de Venecia as a result of his travels abroad, watching a lot of shows, and being an industry observer and practitioner himself for the past nine years, the collective has made it its mission to find new artistic voices, develop new audiences, and contribute to a keen and diversified theater ecology for the local performing arts scene.

For its launch production, The Sandbox Collective will be staging the musical “Dani Girl,” a provocative new piece by young American composers Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond. The songwriting duo won the 2010 Jonathan Larson grant, which was established by the American Theater Wing (producers of the Tony Awards) in the memory of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of RENT. The grant is given to promising young composers with the aim of infusing the theater with new, contemporary urban vitality.

“Dani Girl” follows the story of nine year-old Dani Lyons, a spirited girl whose cancer has resurfaced after three years of being in remission. She loses all of her hair due to chemo but instead of sitting back and letting her condition take over, she goes on an imaginary quest to find her hair and find the answer the question, “Why is cancer?”

Told from a child’s point of view, “Dani Girl,” a favorite in fringe festivals and regional theaters across Canada, Australia and the United States, explores universally salient themes such as life in the face of death, hope amidst despair, and the peerless power of a child’s imagination.

“We couldn’t think of a better show to launch The Sandbox Collective with,” explains the show’s director Toff de Venecia. “The themes are a bit dark – tackling issues of abandonment, suicide, the existence of God, cancer, death and the finiteness of life. But it approaches it with innocence and child-like wonderment – each issue being addressed within the context of Dani’s incredible journey.” It is a show, he says, that forces its audiences to think and not settle for the obvious, “theater for the brave, and a musical, I really believe, is good for the soul.”

For its maiden endeavor, The Sandbox Collective has assembled a mix of industry stalwarts and young, up and coming talent to bring the story of “Dani Girl” to life.

For starters, musical director Ejay Yatco who was the musical arranger and musical director of “Sa Wakas,” a Broadway World-nominated rock musical featuring the songs of OPM band Sugarfree. He also recently composed and conceptualized the music and lyrics for Ateneo Blue Repertory’s “Toilet: the Musical.”

For movement and choreography, Delphine Buencamino, a graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts and a recipient of the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts for theater. An all-around performer, she recently finished a six-month residency program in New York under the Asian Cultural Council for dance theater and physical theater.

For set design, Faust Peneyra, a graduate of the UP Diliman Theater Arts program, majoring in Scenic and Production Design. He also received his training at the prestigious Central St. Martins University of London and since then, has worked in over 100 productions in the Philippines. He currently teaches production design and technical direction at the ISF Academy in Hong Kong.

For costume design, Maronne Cruz, a theater actress who recently appeared in Resorts World Manila’s “Cinderella.” She has always been into clothes and costumes, having done costuming work for Ateneo Blue Repertory’s “13: the Musical” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” She also worked as a fashion illustrator for Michi Calica Sotto.

For lighting design, Meliton Roxas Jr., a freelance technical director and lighting designer who took up Theater Arts at UP Diliman. He is currently the resident technical director of Dulaang UP and a member of the faculty at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts.

For dramaturgy, Giselle Garcia, a faculty member of the Ateneo de Manila University who received her M.A. in Theater, Dramaturgy Concentration in Hunter College, City University of New York. She has worked in over 200 new plays by established and emerging playwrights at the Lark Play Development Center, the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, on Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Der Kaufman,” and Tanghalang Ateneo’s “Breakaway Antigone.”

For hair and makeup design, Myrene Santos, an affiliate artist for MAC Cosmetics where she does makeup for fashion shows of today’s top designers and fashion glossies. Her styleof makeup has always leaned towards the avant-garde and the theatrical – which she honed further with Maquillage Profesionnel. She is currently an instructor and school director for The Makeup Secrets School.

For direction, Toff de Venecia, a Broadway World-nominated theater director who has done extensive work with the Ateneo Blue Repertory. Past credits include “All Shook Up,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “13: The Musical,” “Company Call,” and “A New Brain.” He has also assistant directed for 9 Works Theatrical’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and Repertory Philippines’ “Wait Until Dark.” He is a columnist and assistant editor for The Philippine Star.

“We’re thrilled to be working with a good mix of industry stalwarts and new blood for this production,” shares Toff. “The conversations we have on the show are so exciting and refreshing, especially when a ‘eureka’ moment happens, brought about by the confluence of everyone’s energies and ideas. I’m hardly a director here; more of a facilitator to the team’s boundless creativity and imagination.”

The production team is headed by co-executive producers Anna Santamaria and Toff de Venecia, along with head stage manager Bym Buhain, production manager Julianne Ruizol, technical director Gerhard Daco, design director Maine Manalansan, photographers BJ Pascual and Shaira Luna, marketing manager GM Hernandez III, PR associate Issa Tuason, and administrative assistant Gaby Garcia.

“Dani Girl” will be making its Asian theatrical premiere via The Sandbox Collective.

The show will run for 15 performances from July 11-27, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. It also promises to be a tremendous and meaningful fundraising opportunity for you and your organization with a potential ROI (return of investment) of 109%.

For show-buying and ticket inquiries, please contact 585-6909 or 0917-8996680. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999. Follow The Sandbox Collective on FB: /thesandboxcollective; on Twitter @TheSandboxCo; and on Instagram @TheSandboxCo. You may also visit to find out more about our shows and our programming, including talkbacks, tours, group packages, and student discounts.

Dani Girl is presented by The Sandbox Collective, with special participation of My Apt. by Heima, and media partners: Chalk, Metro, Metro Society, Working Mom, MYX, The Lifestyle Network, JackCITY, MYX.PH, Green Giant FM, Focus Media, Business World, HerWord.Com, and The Manila Bulletin.

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Dani Girl is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

By The LaSallian

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