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Black Box Experimental is Coming! And I’m Acting!

We, my crazy drama group, had our first rehearsal this morning for our experimental black-box piece which is coming to the Penang Performing Arts Centre for 1 night only on September 6.

There are two earth-shattering things (for me) which make this very different. First off, even though I wrote it, I’m not directing it. Talented and young and award-winner actress Ysabel Loh is directing her first performance, and she did an amazing job this morning, as I knew she would. It was kind of fun for me to sit back and watch.

The second earth-shattering difference for this piece is that I’M ACTING!!! I’m one of those very strange people – I teach acting, but I’m not an actor. I just learned everything I know through writing and then directing. But this time, I’m on-stage. I had to go through the memorization process earlier this week to get down my lines, and I’ve had to do everything I tell my actors to do. Well, I must admit that I enjoyed it. So I’ll be making my acting debut in front of a paying audience. Pretty cool. It’s going to be a blast.

This is a UNIQUE and rather deep piece about what influences society. The audience is going to be totally confused, but it will be a ton of fun.

“How to Build a Dictator”

Written by Mark W Sasse

Directed by Ysabel Loh

Tuesday, September 6 @ 8:30 pm, penangpac Stage 2

Admission: 10RM at the door

black box

Black Box Experimental Theatre: Coming Soon!

An experimental, audience participation script that I wrote over Christmas has been chosen for production at the Penang Performing Arts Centre on September 6 as part of their Black Box Experimental series. I’ve hired my super-talented, former actress Yzzy Loh to direct the piece, and she came up with the first graphic poster for the event. Here it is. Really cool, isn’t it? It’s going to be a fun and interesting night! More info to come.

black box

On Video: Our Opening Night

May 13, 2016 – World Premiere of “The Secrets of the Magic Pool” at Penang Performing Arts Centre.

I finally got it up on Youtube. We had some technical sound issues that night, a little too much treble in some of the screaming parts. Unfortunately, we don’t have video of closing night, excellent sound, sold-out crowd. But, this one will do. It was a blast to put on, and I’m really proud of my young actors who pulled this off.  Here’s Act I.

So Excited! Opening Night – “The Secrets of the Magic Pool”

Venue: Penang Performing Arts Centre

May 13, 2016 – 8pm – WORLD PREMIERE of my new play “The Secrets of the Magic Pool”

16 months since I first thought of this concept.

11 months since I finished the first draft of the play.

8 months since the first workshop to read it and get feedback.

5 months since I published it on Amazon.

4 months since auditions.

1. 5 months since all lines were memorized.

1 day since dress rehearsal.

It’s been a great ride, and I’m so excited to see what shall happen tonight when the curtain comes up on a new play, never before seen.

I love producing original dramas!

Break a leg, everyone.

The Script

The Event

JStef-Apr2016-2777

The Purpose of Dress Rehearsals (REDUX)

Yesterday, I wrote this about our final rehearsal BEFORE dress rehearsal for my new show that opens at Penangpac on May13. Here were my last minute thoughts:

You come to the point when constraints within and constraints without shape the product of your show whether or not you are satisfied with it. Am I? Satisfied? I am delighted by my wonderful actors and the myriad of helpers who have done everything from costumes to sets to sound to lighting. I am completely satisfied with that. It’s time that truly tests my patience. It keeps clicking away whether ready or not. And so it’s time that I’m not satisfied with. It’s gotten the better of us. For now. But when dress rehearsal comes, even time can’t stop the exuberance and passion from within us. We shall offer our best to our paying customers and be happy that we left it all on the stage. 6 days until opening. “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”

So now, as dress rehearsal is here, on May 12, 2016, it made me think back to a post I wrote from two years ago. It still very much applies. My emotional roller coaster as director has finished. I’m going to sit back and enjoy.

 

THE PURPOSE OF DRESS REHEARSALS

I’ve been directing stage plays for seven years now. I’m no professional, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the years. Dress rehearsals are the emotional peak that every director has to scale before a new show. Once it arrives and the actors poke through the clouds and stand on that emotional peak, a director’s job is, in essence, over. Not officially, of course. There will still be production meetings before each subsequent show, but the main work is done. Everything now rests in the laps of the actors.

Dress rehearsals accomplish a few important items. First, there’s the technical aspects of the dress rehearsal that must be perfected. In our productions, oftentimes, dress rehearsal is the first and only time the actors performing at the actual venue. This is, of course, stressful because the stage is different. We are working with lighting we haven’t seen yet and it takes hours for the actors to get familiar and comfortable in their new surroundings. As a director, I have to make this happen, step by step walking through the set, the new blocking, and the lighting scheme with everyone. I’ll be at the venue for many hours with the tech crew prior to the casts arrival.

Once the technical aspects of the performance is clear, I have to encourage the cast that they can, indeed, do this. And this, for me, is the ultimate meaning of dress rehearsal. Its instilling in the cast the idea that the show is now theirs -they are in control – they can be successful – they are prepared for anything to happen. This last point is key. In live theatre, the unexpected can happen at anytime. Dress rehearsal is instilling in the cast that they can overcome any obstacle, be it a missed line, a broken prop, or smudged make-up. No matter what is thrown at them, the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where the electricity went off in the final act. Yes, it was awkward. But the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where actors completely blanked out on stage.

I’ve had shows where actors forgot to bring a crucial prop on to stage.

I’ve had shows where a singer started off-key, or a backdrop started to fall. In this particular case, a quick thinking person backstage stood on a chair and held up the backdrop in excruciating pain until the end of the show.

This is what dress rehearsals teach – no matter what, the actors and crew can handle it.

So I love it when dress rehearsals are finished because my job is done. I can sit in the audience and enjoy the show and the actors can relax and have fun on stage.

Here’s to dress rehearsal day! Our show opens tomorrow.

The Actors Speak #1

Here are some promo sheets I made for my upcoming show. I’m really excited about this one: “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”  The script is available for purchase HERE!

And now the thoughts of some of my incredibly talented actors.

ActorPromoBoards1ActorPromoBoards2 ActorPromoBoards3 ActorPromoBoards4

Review: Shakespeare Demystified – The Merchant of Venice (2016)

I was able to catch the KL Shakespeare Players with their new version of Shakespeare Demystified “The Merchant of Venice” on opening night at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. I’m very glad I did.

shakespeare demystified

Here they are after all the applause, before their post-show Q & A.

The show itself is in ingenious romp through the heart of the “Merchant of Venice” – demystifying it for the audience with pertinent, pre-scene narration which gives everyone a “heads-up” about what’s about to come. It’s a great way to watch Shakespeare – short, interesting spurts.

The acting was great, with Ivan Chan stealing the show in many scenes, playing Antonio and a host of other interesting characters with great vigor and physicality as proven by the amount of sweat he left on the floor.

But it wasn’t just Chan who shined. All of the acting was lively and humorous, and parts of it downright unexpected. I appreciated the Christian-Jew separation as defined by the Shakespeare era. It was enlightening to see how  the culture and religion clashes of yesteryear are, perhaps, not so different from those of today. Lim Soon Heng played a wonderfully rounded Shylock, and Lim Kien Lee’s direction provided the audience with a tight script and focused performance. I also enjoyed Lee’s decision for Shylock to wear a big, hideous mask, with massive stereotypical nose until he gives his famous speech about being no different from anyone else. It was a great symbolic reminder of how stereotypes serve no one but the enablers of racial discord.

“The Merchant of Venice” is playing all weekend at Penangpac before heading to Kuala Lumpur next week to continue its run. I highly recommend you run out and see it.

KL Shakespeare Players

Tickets via Penangpac

Theatre Review: Marble Hearts

I saw the new play “Marble Hearts” tonight at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. “Marble Hearts,” written and directed by U-En Ng, was really a tale of two halves for me. One I thoroughly enjoyed, the other that seemed to needlessly meander around too much for my taste. I’ll explain shortly.

“Marble Hearts” is a play based on the three daughters of King Lear – Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. It was written for the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death as a contemporary tale to delve into the daughters’ sordid deeds.

marble hearts 1

The set was sparse, performed in the small black-box theatre, which gave the audience little to focus on except the dialogue and actors themselves.

Let me start with what I really enjoyed. Act II was a gripping ending to the piece as the desperately conflicted Cordelia is being held in an insane asylum, treated by two doctors who look remarkably like her sisters. I won’t give it away why this is the case. Marina Tan stole the show in Act II as the head-shaven, insane Cordelia, going back and forth with several delightfully disturbed personalities, as the sordid business comes to a close with the doctors wanting to … well, I won’t tell you what they want to do. Act II was good theatre with sharply defined images of place, circumstance, plot, and dialogue.

Watching Act II made me wish the narrative flow of the play had been completely inverted. The one-hour Act 1 lacked the gripping visuals and vividness of Act 2. I would have liked to have seen the play start with the insane Cordelia in the mental home. This would have been an immediate connection with the audience, something that was lacking in the first part. The transformation between the mental facility (and maybe even a warped sense of time) would have presented some fun transitions and, I believe, enlivened the crowd more by having them guess along as to why Cordelia ended up in this way.

Most of the action in Act 1 was implied, the insaneness of King Lear, the craziness of their household being taken over by “knights,” the scandalous ladies being brought in to serve the needs of the “knights.” So much was going on, and we saw none of it. All of it far away, being talked about but not experienced by the audience. Re-written sequences with appearances by the “King” himself would have added much dramatic potential to the piece. Yes, it is about the sisters, but there’s no reason the king couldn’t have made an appearance. And even though it was a modern play, I felt like the time and place of Act 1 was not well defined. I couldn’t tell who their insane father was supposed to be in this modern world, and pointed jabs about immigrants and socio-economics did little to light the way for the audience.

But despite some of the weaknesses of Act I, Act ll was a vivid and gripping piece of theatre thanks to Tan’s wonderful performance. 

This review is strictly my opinion, but you should formulate your own. The show finishes this weekend. Please go check it out.

Show Link HERE!

marble hearts 2

 

Another Christmas Video

Here’s a video of one of my scripts performed by the RLT Players’ at the penangpac black box theatre, early December 2015.

This one is called “Tree Talk,” and it was definitely an audience favorite. It has a fun message for the holidays. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I leave you with my take on the historical event which happened in 1914. The British and German soldiers, on Christmas Eve, set aside their differences and shared some holiday cheer in the midst of a brutal world war. Here’s a performance by the RLT Players of my script called, “Christmas in the Trenches, 1914.” I hope you enjoy.