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Crying Takes Practice

I am working with two young actors for the upcoming Penang Short & Sweet Theatre festival. I am directing a script written by RLT member Jackie. The script is called “Noticed” about a girl who brings an eating disorder on herself by wanting to be thin and wanting to change her life.

As a director, I’m having fun bringing a new twist to the script in having both girls dealing with issues within themselves while dealing with the eating disorder with each other.

It’s a real emotional piece where I’m trying to get the actors to dig down deep and bring out the tears, frustration, and utter hopelessness of being in a situation where one ultimately does not like who she is.  If we can pull it off, it should be powerful.

This is definitely a stretching exercise for my young actors. I find that a lot of young actors tend not to do the hard scenes. Whether monologues or school plays or practice scenes, they tend to gravitate toward light fare – comedy. It’s an easy choice (though hard to do it well). Serious drama can so easily fall into insincere melo-drama if one’s not careful. So that’s why I find a serious script like “Noticed” to be somewhat refreshing, watching the actors try to figure out how to say a line just right, or how to place a hand on the other hand in order to coax a response.

The real challenge is to get them to cry, for real. Today we talked about personalization – bringing in a scenario from one’s own real life in order to replicate the essential feelings and responses you need on the stage – and substitution where you substitute one scenario (seeing your beloved cat lying dead on the ground, for instance) for another scenario where you need to cry or bring deep emotion.

It’s fun to see what they come up with. But it is a challenge to make them cry. After all, crying takes practice.

So if you are in Penang the week of September 11-14, I hope you’ll come out to the Short and Sweet Festival and catch “Noticed.”

Goodbye, Roti Canai

I just posted recently some pictures of the lovely, luscious, flaky, roti canai in Telok Bahang. Well, I’m very sad to hear the news from friend David Ray that is has just been shut down by Penang’s lightning speed development after 80 years in business.

We shall miss you roti.

Here’s the story: Goodbye Roti Canai!

And one final picture in case you missed it:

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Another Short Jaunt in Penang

If you know anything about Penang, you know that food is king. This is my favorite roti canai place on the island. A small shop in Telok Bahang called “Ibriham”. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Just perfect. Here he is making them:

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The finished product with some fresh ice lemon tea and some spicy curry sauce for dipping.2013-06-20 15.22.02Then we found this cool Hokkien cemetary out in the middle of no where.

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Exploring where you live. Have you done it?

You know the drill. How often do you act like a tourist in your own back yard? Not often. Since we are staying in Penang this summer, we decided to have a vacation day here. Why not pretend we are tourists visiting Georgetown and the surrounding area – because a lot of tourists come through here. What do they do? Here’s a short glimpse of our awesome day.  We have to have another because we didn’t even have time to do everything we wanted to.

Khoo Kongsi – Khoo Clan House – The impressive clan house right in the heart of Georgetown.

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Iron Art Work

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The awesome wall murals by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic.2013-06-19 14.27.40
2013-06-19 11.45.222013-06-19 14.32.04Also on our walking agenda but not pictured:

  • Chew Jetty  with great views of the strait separating Georgetown from Butterworth.
  • Cake and Ice Cream at China House
  • Art displays at Whiteaways
  • Little India for Roti and the girls got henna

There might be some surprising tourist gems in your backyard. Check them out!

About that ocean

This afternoon, I stood on the embankment looking out over the sea. Two individuals were talking, facing away from the expanse. The expanse which seems to widen minds and open the world to possibilities.

At that moment, standing on the bank in Penang, I felt an overwhelming sense that the world was so much bigger than it was when I was in high school, growing up in the slow-paced countryside of Butler County, PA.

The ocean makes me think I know more about life, about people, about cultures, about history than some others who haven’t been as fortunate to travel like I have. But whether I actually know more or not, I don’t know.

But my perspectives have so shifted that the tiny plot of land I knew as a kid, the one I hold dear to my heart, seems like a speck in time and a galaxy away from the open air breeze off the sea.

They are each different parts of me, and each part envies the other in ways that are not so obvious. Having the ocean view makes me understand how to put my upbringing into proper perspective. Having the ocean view makes me understand how different my children will be from me. Having the ocean view makes me glad that at one time I didn’t have the ocean view.

We all need perspective. The more, the better.

That’s all I have to say about that ocean.

The Big Election Day in Malaysia

The 13th general election is happening today in Malaysia – passions are high as this is the biggest election Malaysia has ever had.


The ruling coalition, Barison National (United Front), has controlled the Malaysian government since its independence from the British in 1957. But for the first time ever, the opposition has mounted a formidable challenge which might upset the ruling majority for the first time. Polls have shown the race too close to call.

The United Front is led by current Prime Minister Najib and the opposition coalition is fronted by the polarizing former deputy prime minister Anwar, who served several years in prison for alleged sexual misconduct of which he was later acquitted. Also in the opposition camp is the rocket party DAP who shocked many in the last election cycle by winning many seats including the governorship of Penang.

It will be an interesting night tonight and an interesting day tomorrow as we find out the winners and try to make sense of what it will mean for Malaysia’s future.

Whoever wins, it is apparent that the political ground of Malaysia has already shifted.


Final Writer’s Workshop in Penang

Tuesday @ 7 the Dalat Library is hosting me for the final installment of my writer’s series – this one on the publishing industry.

I’ll be highlighting the changing landscape of the industry and what I have learned (and am learning) as an indie author concerning self-publishing and promotion.

So if you are in Penang, come check it out! Should be a lot of fun.

Thoughts on Offering My Novel for Free

I live in Penang. If you have never visited Penang, it’s like food paradise. Delicious, cheap, “hawker” food stalls everywhere – Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai, etc… I already lament the day I have to leave, and I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

Penangites are rather stingy when it comes to paying for food. We want it cheap – and delicious – and the competition is STIFF. There are countless stalls and restaurants literally everywhere – it’s truly wonderful.  But it also means that MANY restaurants fail in such a dog-eat-dog environment. (No, Malaysians don’t eat dog, in case you thought that was a pun.)

I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, and whenever one does open here, I love to analyze its marketing to see if I think it will last. To make a restaurant work, you need lots of patrons, but with such competition, you need to pull in the skeptical locals who don’t know for sure if your $7 meal is any better than the $1.50 you could pay at the road-side hawker. I always tell my wife, “If that was my new restaurant, I’d be running blow-out specials for the first month!  Tuesday’s buy-one, get-one! Friday’s 30% off! Cut/Slash! Get the people in the door, then overwhelm them with high-quality, massive portions, and great service. Have them walk away saying ‘Wow. I have got to tell my friends about this place.'”

But alas, that never happens. At least not around here. New restaurants typically underwhelm and die out when folks realize they can get better tasting food at a fraction of the cost on the street. The restaurants never get the traffic they need and the crucial word-of-mouth necessary to make a difference.

Oh, I am supposed to be writing about my novel.

Well, this is exactly how I feel about offering my novel for free. First of all, is it easy to offer my novel for free?  No. I put a lot of work into it. I reached deep inside myself and tried to offer something significant – worthy to be purchased, and I firmly believe that “Beauty Rising” is worth at least $2.99. 🙂  But that’s not the point.

The point is to get traffic. There are different ways to do this. Reviews is one way, and I’m continually looking for independent reviewers for my novel. A few have reviewed it already and many more will do so over the next few months. Reviews are a solid way to give an audience some piece of mind about purchasing a book from an unknown author.

But a review isn’t always a sure bet, and it is hard to predict how much traction will come out of one awesome review.

There is, however, no substitute for putting the book into a reader’s hand. This is in essence the purpose of offering my book for free. I believe in my work, and I believe in my future work enough to entice readers into my fictional world. If they like it, hopefully I will have them for life. They will tell their friends. They will leave reviews. They will check out my blog, looking for the next release. That’s my goal, and that’s why I’m happy to offer my novel for free.

I hope you enjoy it as much as a $1.00 plate of Malay chicken rice. For two days, it was actually cheaper than chicken rice.