Intersection of Meaning

I snapped this in Georgetown, Penang a while back. I suppose I was just be nostalgic. But what a meeting of forces.

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Kapitan is on Pitt Street.

Two of the best. One one street. Amazing.

Okay, explanation needed. Pitt – as in William Pitt – as in Pittsburgh, the city near and dear to me, a mere 25 miles from where I grew up. I have been a Pirates fan since 1976 when I discovered them on the radio at the age of 9. I’ve never looked back since. Modern Pittsburgh has grown into a wonderful city. I love going to PNC park in the summers whenever I get a chance.

So to find Pitt Street as the location of the famed Kapitan, wow! The stars have aligned. Kapitan is regarded as one of the best, if not best, Indian restaurant in Penang – and Penang has many wonderful Indian restaurants. Crispy chewy naan bread (mine with butter and garlic) to dip in chicken tikka butter masala. Or hey, why not some briyani rice. You can’t go wrong and you’ll walk away with a tone of flavorful overtones which will last a long time.

Two important impressions in my life – one on the palate – one on my memory and heart. And here they are together in the place where I’ve lived for eleven years.

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#19

This weekend, I’m producing my 19th full-length theatrical production in the past ten years. This one is called RLT Musical Revue, a compilation of the best musical moments and short musicals that I’ve produced in the past. It’s an eclectic and fun show, filled with talented singers, dancers, musicians, and actors. I’m so grateful for my brilliant co-director Christopher Ramos who actually knows music, while I simply pretend. But between us both, we’ve seen the show come together, a rough dress rehearsal last night notwithstanding, and I’m excited to see what will happen this Saturday. Two shows only. My last on in Penang. I’m going to miss it. Here are a few snippets which will be part of the show. (photos by Jonathan Steffen)

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A Short Narration #1

RLT  Musical Revue is a special show of musical theatre (May 20th) which highlights the songs and short musicals which I’ve written or co-written over the past eight years. It includes 21 pieces of varying lengths, including 3 short musicals of 10 minutes or less. To tie the show together, I’ve written a few narrative pieces which introduce certain segments of the performance. Here’s a short one entitled Sacrifices & Hope. It introduces one of my favorite pieces, the short musical “A Woman at War” which tells the story of Sarah, who fights World War II in her own way on the home front.

Sacrifices and Hope. Hope is a platitude which means nothing without sacrifice. Hope doesn’t bloom alone in a barren and frozen winter soil. Hope requires sacrifice. For who would trust in a man who isn’t willing to lay does his life for his love? Who would trust in a God who wouldn’t firsthand understand the pain and sorrow holding back the spring’s green growth? Hope grows in the soil of sacrifice, on the distant battlefront, on the lonely home front, in the dead cold mud of the first day of March. As sacrifice is planted, hope grows.

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Twenty Shows: A Ten Year Lookback

Go back eleven years and drama wasn’t even in my radar. It may not have been in my galaxy, and if it was, it certainly wasn’t connected with original drama.

Now, in 2017, looking backward I see that I have written (or co-written) and produced 19 original, full-length dramatic productions in the past ten years. Here’s my wall to (kind of) prove it:

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I painted 21 squares on my wall and randomly colored them with whatever colors of paint I had. Now I’m going back and printing out a poster from all of my productions and inviting all my students to sign in any square in which they participated in. It’s a way of recalling what we have accomplished as I head out of Penang for good this coming June.

It’s been a wild and crazy ride. Moments of joy, laughter, tears, and euphoria — some of it even on stage! It’s been so fun to see young actors develop their confidence and soar through a production to impact the audience in unexpected ways. It’s also been rewarding to develop my skills as a playwright. I’m not finished developing, not by a long shot, and in fact I know I will never be finished  growing and experimenting in my craft. I’m in it for the long haul because I thrive on creative ideas and the challenge of bringing them to life. So as I work on completing my drama wall in my classroom, let me list off the original productions I’ve had the privilege of writing and producing at my school. An asterisk* denotes a script I co-wrote with student writers.

2008 What I Wouldn’t Give for a Monkey Love Potion*

2009 A Tad of Trouble*

2010 Take Two*

2011 Spy Blue*

2011 Romans on the Couch

2011 RLT Players present The Road Less Traveled*

2012 Life with Stewart*

2012 RLT Players present Drive All Night (Back into your Arms)

2013 Grandparents’ War*

2013 RLT Players present Captured in Time & Space

2014 Boardwalk Melody: A Musical*

2014 RLT Players present For All Generations

2015 A Tad of Trouble: A Musical (updated and re-written)

2015 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder

2016 Secrets of the Magic Pool

2016 How to Build a Dictator: A Black Box Experimental Piece

2016 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder II

2017 RLT Players: A Collection of Our Best

2017 RLT Musical: A Journey Down the Road Less Traveled

2017 RLT Musical: Tales of Christmas

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Perhaps the Best Beef Dish in the World.

The Minangkabau are a people group from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. And man, do they know beef! They make, perhaps, the best beef dish in the world: beef rendang.

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Here in Penang, near my house, there’s a small lunch stand called Nasi Padang. Nasi means rice. Padang is a town in West Sumatra. Okay, you know where I’m going with this? This is real Minangkabau beef rendang, and it is absolutely out of this world. It’s expensive. Each piece is RM3 which is about 75 US cents. Okay, so I lied. It’s actually expensive for here, but it would be dirt cheap in a mall food court in America. It would also be the best tasting dish in any food court in North America.

First, let me explain that dish above. Top right is a tasty combination of Indian-spiced cabbage and bean sprouts. They’re terrific. Very top left is a wonderful egg omelet and botton left is the sauce to a great sweet-spicy chicken which is covering the rice. All of it is fantastic, but the true hero of this plate is center-bottom. That’s the three pieces of beef smothered in the most flavourful sauce you will ever taste.

For real beef rendang, they start with a plethora of spices and coconut and grind it all with a pestal and mortar. Liquid, oil, and other delightful items are added to the beef, and it’s slow-cooked for hours until all the liquid evaporates, and you are left with an extremely intense coconut and lemongrass flavor. I can’t properly describe it, because it simply explodes in your mouth. There’s nothing like it, and it coats the fall-to-pieces slow-cooked beef to create a perfect combination of bite and flavor. Oh my goodness! It’s tremendous.

There are many types of beef rendang. All of them good. There are many Malay-Indian restaurants and shops in Penang which make beef rendang. Most of them are liquidy and seems more like a curry. They still taste good, don’t get me wrong. But the original, the Minangkabau beef rendang is the standard. Maybe the world standard for a beef dish.

I love it so much. If you ever get a chance, do not miss it.

 

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