Living Without Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish (no more)

When I lived in Vietnam, back in the meager years after the U.S. lifted its embargo in 1994, I would, on occasion, have my neck snap while doing a double-take as I noticed an orange-colored package at a small shop. It was the Halloween orange, possibly better known as the Reeses’ orange, the type of orange that makes one’s mouth water with chocolate and peanut butter forlorn dreams for the luscious treats I missed so much. Every time, I mean every time, the turn of my neck meant nothing. It was a pumpkin-colored red herring – nothing more than a local treat which included no chocolate and no peanut butter.

I lived in Vietnam for ten years and NEVER once saw a Reeses product, forced to stock up on summer break.

And it wasn’t confined to Reeses. When I arrived in Vietnam is was still B.C. — before Coke. When we had our mid-year trip to Thailand, we would gorge on all the treats we couldn’t get there — McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, and the like of which my insides will never forgive me.

When we moved to Malaysia, it all felt so easy. All the fast food that wasn’t in Vietnam was readily available. The amount of available western products rose exponentially, except for those particular items like Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish.

In the last couple years of my time in Malaysia, Reeses started showing up in stores on occasion. I remember seeing the orange package one day but scoffed at the idea, not willing to be fooled into believing the impossible. But as I came closer, sure enough, Reeses Peanut Butter cups. I inconspicuously swatted the entire stack into my cart. I had them all! And that became the problem. I think other expats would buy out the stack every time a small shipment would arrive. Of course, the store wouldn’t buy more. Who are they to want to make a bigger profit.

But in all my years in Malaysia, they still never had Corn Chex or Swedish Fish.

Well, now I live in Saudia Arabia, among the Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish Fish. All the simple pleasures. All the forgotten delicacies are forgotten no longer. I’m living in the land of milk and honey. The land of plenty. The land of too much. Long gone are the days of scrounging the shelves for any special treats from my childhood.

Now that I can have them, anytime I want, I find that I don’t buy them.  I find the old wisdom to be true: the less you have of something, the more you will appreciate it.

Ohhhh, the good old days, when Reeses, Corn Chex, and Swedish fish guarded the lore-ridden gate of the mythical Xanadu. Now they live on my grocer’s shelves. How mundane!

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Farewell, Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac)! I will miss you!

At the conclusion of my last show at penangpac yesterday, I was highly honored by my friends there with this amazing parting gift. This was completely unexpected. I was bowled over by their thoughtfulness. I have grown my theatre arts background and experience at their famous stage 1 and stage 2 venues. So I thought, as a way of reminiscing, I’d list all the shows I had a part in since penangpac opened in 2011. It’s quite a list, and I completely enjoyed everyone of them.  But first a look at this amazing gift – a commemorative pewter Malaysian kris (asymmetrical dagger). It’s so awesome!

penangpac gift

So here’s my chronological, penangpac drama/musical list. I’m so grateful for everything.

  • November 2011 – Stage 2 – “Romans on the Couch-INTERACTIVE” (writer, director, producer)
  • November 2011 – Stage 1 – “Romans on the Couch” (writer, director, producer)
  • December 2011  – Stage 2 – “RLT Players’ present The Road Less Traveled” (first RLT show ever! – writer, director, producer)
  • May 2012 – Stage 1 – “Life with Stewart” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2012 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer)
  • November 2012 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Drive All Night) (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2013 – Stage 1 – “Grandparents’ War” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2013 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • November 2013 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Captured in Time & Space”
  • May 2014 – Stage 1 – “Boardwalk Melody: A Musical” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2014 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • November 2014 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “For All Generations” (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2015 – Stage 1 – “A Tad of Trouble: A Musical” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2015 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • December 2015 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Tales of Wonder”
  • May 2016 – Stage 1 – “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” (writer, director, producer)
  • September 2016 – Stage 2 – penangpac Black Box Experiments “How to Build a Dictator” (writer, actor, producer)
  • November 2016 – Stage 2 – Short & Sweet Theatre (writer, director)
  • December 2016 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “Tales of Wonder II” (writer, director, producer”
  • January 2017 – Stage 2 – “The Last Bastion: A Staged Reading” (writer, actor)
  • May 2017 – Stage 2 – RLT Players “A Collection of Our Best” (writer, director, producer)
  • May 2017 – Stage 1 – “RLT Musical Revue” (writer, director, producer)

Wow! That’s 22 theatrical productions I had the privilege of being part of at penangpac. I shall miss it all very much.

Thank you, penangpac! Hopefully we shall see each again one day.

 

 

The World Crashing Down: AKA – “My Show is This Week”

I’m a writer. I love writing.

I’m a director. I really enjoying directing.

I’m a producer. I like producing.

Yes, there’s a distinct step-down there. Writing and directing unleashes the creative demon inside me in very different ways. Producing, well, that’s where the stress comes from.

And this week, four and a half months  of preparation comes to fruition, which really feels like the world crashing down around me. Actually, I’m sitting by the ocean as I type and each of those waves reminds me of something else I must get done before the show date.

Here’s a last minute list:

seating arrrangment – in a black box modular setting and we are still working on configuration.

Promotion – yes, must sell those remaining seats. But  luckily, tickets are going quickly.

FOH – Front of House – oh, this reminds me that I need to arrange front of house staff for each shows. Oops! Forgot this one.

Wednesday is bump-in day. All props, set pieces need to be transported. Then the massive task of rigging and focusing following our lighting plan. Then mic set-up and sound check. Then cues! NO! CUES!!!! It takes so long. Then adjust lights because the director wasn’t thinking ahead and got a new idea once he saw the lights.

Arrange food for the team. This is important.

Transport too!

And then technical rehearsal, and then our ONE CHANCE on-site dress rehearsal. Yes, we only get to perform in the venue once before the show date. It’s a massive challenge.

This, and more, is what I’m staring at this week, thus world-crashing-in felt appropriate.

Producing drama is the most work I’ve ever in any one task. But don’t get me wrong. It’s also the most rewarding. I love it all.

It’s going to be a great week!

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Show-time!

Months of work is finally coming to a head. This past summer, I wrote the script for “Tales of Wonder II,” and I started rehearsing with the cast in August. It can, at times, get long and tedious, and the end goal can get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day preparations.

But then, it’s time. Excitement builds. Every little thing now matters, and the big things matter too – like bumping in, light rigging, front of house, ticketing issues, and display boards.

It’s worth it 100% to see these young actors take the stage, to see the audience walk in with anticipation, to see the wide-eyed delight on the kids when they hear the stories and fall in love with the entire experience. There’s nothing quite like putting on a live theatrical event.

Today, I started the process of setting up the display boards. I also checked in to see the progress on the staging. See below. Tomorrow morning, it’s lighting then sound, and by evening we’ll be painting the stage.

Wednesday is technical and dress rehearsal. Thursday – showtime!

If you are anywhere in the world close to us, you aren’t going to want to miss it.

New Show: 8 Days Away – “Tales of Wonder”

Tales of Wonder 2 is just 8 days away from its world premiere at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. I’m so excited for this show, and I’m so proud of these amazing young actors. Here’s a snippet of three of the original sketches I’ve written for the show.

mangertalk

Manger Talk is an adorable and poignant look at the morning after the birth of Jesus through the eyes of the animals. It’s funny. And it’s meaningful. And the hats are awesome.

christmasfix

I co-wrote this one with Lilian Li. It’s a funny sketch about 2 elves trying to help a terrible mall santa, but then there’s a heart-wrenching twist. I love to punch the audience in the stomach.

onacoldwinternight

In this sketch, a girl gets lost in the snow and she’s visited by three angels to try to keep her awake as her father looks for her.

More to come. If you’re in Penang, don’t miss it!

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Five Years End – Short & Sweet Theatre Penang

Last night was the awards ceremony at Short & Sweet Theatre Penang. I have been involved in all five years, and I was delighted to win the Festival Director’s Award last night for directing and writing the play “The Runaway Slave: A Christmas Story.”

festival-director

This will be my last S&S festival, at least in Penang. It’s been a lot of fun, especially working with my talented students over the year and to see them excel on the community stage. We’ve won a lot of awards of the year, and it’s been fun to reflect upon them during this last festival. I’m most proud of the remarkable string of Newcomer Awards my students have won over the years.

Kimberly Horton, most deservedly, won the award last night for her wonderful performance as Beatrice, a widow who stands up to defend a runaway slave girl. But look at these wins, all my students:

2016 Kimberly Horton

2014 Aaron Chand

2013 Ysabel Loh

2012 Jackie Ashkin

You’ll notice that 2015 is missing in the list. Well, that’s because the newcomer I had in my play last year, Lexi Zimbulis, actually went on to win the Best Actor Female award.

Yes, I’ve been fortunate to work with some talented young stars. Other awards my students have won over the years:

2014 Tesa Sasse – Best supporting Actor Female

2015 Ysabel Loh – Best Supporting Actor Female

2014 Ysabel Loh – Festival Director’s Award – Script – Best Performance

2015 Best Overall Performance – Lexi and Ysabel “Words to Say at the End of the World.”

2012 Audience Choice Award

On top of all of that, I pitch in 3 best script awards (2013, 2014, 2015) and 1 best director award (2015).

It’s a great festival for building and showcasing talent as well as for networking with other crazy theatre folks.

I’ll always look fondly upon Short & Sweet Theatre Penang and wish it the best as it moves forward and as I move on.

 

Visiting Malacca or Melaka

I recently took what might be my last trip to Malacca. I’ve visited there eight times (I think), and I’ve enjoyed it each time. It’s a great place to take in some history, learn about the Portuguese, Dutch, British and how they elbowed their way into the spice trade. They’ve done a fantastic job developing the river area in the old section, plus you get to visit the vibrant and fun Jonker Street. Here’s a few shots from my trip. Yes, I bought some gula Melaka.

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Malacca River. Great for night time walks or a river cruise.

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Dutch built church in Dutch square. You can attend a service on Sunday morning.

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Here’s my crazy students touring the replica Portuguese ship.

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Up close.

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The tomb of famous Malay folk legend Hang Jebat.

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A typical Malacca building.

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From the rooftop of Hangout Hotel. Jonker Street in full mode.

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St. Paul’s church, built by the Portuguese in 1511. This is a statue of St. Francis Xavier, who was interred her for a time.

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Inside St. Paul’s.

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Malacca city from St. Paul’s hill. The lone standing gate of the old fort, Afamosa, is in the foreground.