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.

 

 

It’s not the words. It’s the emotion behind the words.

I was working with one of my actors on a pivotal scene in our upcoming play. She gives a short speech which spurs on some tremendous societal changes. Yes, it’s a few lines of dialogue which changes the story dramatically. It’s the crucial point in the play.

The actor had not been getting it. The speech she has been giving in rehearsal has been flat and unemotional. Today, I pulled her aside to correct it, and I started by saying: “It’s not the words. Don’t worry about what you are going to say. Work on how you prepare to say the words.”

First off, as a playwright, I was horrified at myself. Don’t worry about the words??? Am I crazy? But as a director, I needed to shift her away from the words because the words were hollow to her. I told her, if she can put herself in the right emotional state, then the words will flow appropriately and I won’t even have to tell her how to say the words. She will say them authentically.

So we put down the script, and we walked through the scene. We focused on the action, the moment, the setting, the character’s emotional connection to what had just happened. Then we designed a set of actions, a slow plodding walk, a purposeful turn, hands coming to her face. We dug deep into the feelings she had, the sadness she felt about what had happened. She forced herself to block our her surroundings and focus on the feeling in her chest.

She walked slowly into position, she raised her hands over her face, she put her head down, then lifted her eyes into the auditorium and started to speak. Her voice crackled, slight tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and she raised her voice strong and spoke the words – words which at the last rehearsal were flat and ineffective. Now they were purposeful, emotional, powerful, and perfect.

Young actors focus so much on the words, wondering how to say the lines. But a little exploration of the scene and some purposeful movement and trigger mechanisms can make the words flow naturally from the emotion and action of the actor. This is when the magic happens.

So, playwright, at times you have to take a back seat because the meaning of the words will only reach peak impact if they are said with the emotion and attitude of the actor.

Well done, young actor. And that was just one short rehearsal. I can’t wait to see the final result.

Coming Soon

Coming soon:

OurBestPosterBoard

Here’s a little graphic I put together about my upcoming show. It’s a collection of comedic and dramatic sketches I’ve written over the past seven years. My good friend Doug is directing Act I while I have the helm for Act II.

It’s going to be a bittersweet look back of what we have accomplished from an ensemble standpoint. Typically, RLT maxes out at 12 members, but we extended the casting for this very special show, and it’s worked out great. I have some directing insight I want to share on a later post. I’m finally figuring out what kind of director I am.

Oh, and look: Could that be our sometimes movie review guest columnist Inha Kim in the middle of that photo? Could be.

I can’t wait for this show: May 12-13 @ penangpac.

Theatre: The Open Art Form

I enjoyed giving a mini-lecture to my Intro to Theatre Arts class today about the topic, “What is theatre?”

Theatre is many things, but most importantly, it’s an open art form. The live audience makes it unique and ever-changing. The interaction with the audience makes every performance different. It can inspire the actor to achieve heights previously not achieved. It can deflate the actor when the audience is “dead” or when they don’t laugh at a crucial part or, even worse, when they laugh at a dramatic climax.

But it’s this interaction which thrills and elevates live theatre to terrific peaks.

One of the fascinating aspects of live theatre is that during the intermission, while the audience is mingling and chatting about the performance, the actors are indubitably back stage chatting about the audience. Is it a good audience?  Is it a bad audience? Are they catching the jokes? Were they brought to tears? What in the world is wrong with them? What can we do to get them more involved? Yesterday’s crowd was much better.

I’ve heard all of these and more about the audience during intermission. Actors are fragile beings in this way. They  need the encourage, support, and utter love from the audience. They crave it. They demand it. And if they don’t get it, their egos will never be the same (or at least until they have a better audience the next night.)

Live theatre inspires me, so I love to inspire students to try this completely wonderful art form. It’s a life-changing experience. It’s a unique open art form. It’s the stage, baby! Love it if you dare!

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!

rltposter2e

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.