Toff de Venecia has always lived in the world of make-believe. From being a child actor to working with the Ateneo Blue Repertory and 9 Works Theatrical to co-founding the homegrown theater group The Sandbox Collective, Toff lives a big part of his life in the theater, whether onstage or in front of it. When he is not directing or working behind the scenes in productions such as last year’s runaway hit, the millennial- studded No Filter, Toff can be found among the audiences of various performances around the globe. Here's a snippet of our Q&A with Toff this montth that might change your mindset when booking your next trip anywhere in the world.
Do you do a lot of pre-travel research? What kind of travel digs do you prefer?
I’m the kind who does all the research and preparations and then throws it out the window when I arrive at my destination. There’s magic to be harnessed in getting lost and discovering a place for yourself. But given the time constraints of travel (you’re there on borrowed time), it’s best to have certain parameters in the act of getting lost—else you just get lost, period. It’s an art form. And as long as the bathroom is good, I’m good.
What excites you about traveling to watch theater performances?
Well, one, the labor. When you bend over backwards for the sake of an experience, the reward is a hundred times sweeter. There was this one time I took a five-hour train ride just to catch a play. And another time I had to walk through a ghetto because I didn’t want to spend on Uber. I was so scared someone was going to jump out of nowhere and shoot me. But in the moment of traveling, braving the wild, I realized that I really do love what I do because I will travel at great lengths just to go and see it. Cue Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles.
New York, I’d say, ushers the kind of theater that most artists try to emulate. I’d say it’s more accessible and resonates more with our Filipino sensibility. A recent trip to London, however, showed me the places where theater could go. Their thinking there is so advanced, they go left when you see it as right. But wherever I go, even in countries where they don’t have English theater, like maybe Bangkok or Paris, I make it a point to go out of my way and see the work.
Where is the most unusual place you’ve been to see a play?
An abandoned mental hospital in Williamsburg. It was for an immersive theater piece called Then She Fell, which combines Alice in Wonderland with the life of Lewis Caroll and ruminations on the state of dreaming. Sleep No More at the McKitterick Hotel was also pretty memorable. Across six floors and 100 rooms of a fully curated and stylized hotel in the style of film noir, I uncovered the world of Macbeth. And probably the best was for a performance of Belarus Free Theatre’s Generation Jeans. They’re a theater company banned from performing their highly political work in Belarus, so what they do is text the audience an hour before the performance on where to meet. They were in London for a festival so I attended one of their shows; got the text an hour before to meet at the steps of St. James Church, and one by one, those who gathered were escorted to an underground parking lot for the performance. It was pretty scary but at that moment, I felt like I was part of something pretty special.
Read the rest of the feature in our March issue here.