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.

 

Tales of Wonder II: Coming soon!

We had our first of three all-day Saturday practices gearing up for “Tales of Wonder II” coming to penangpac December 1-3. We’ve been rehearsing since August, and today, for the first time, we put the entire show together. It’s a mix of 11 different original sketches themed around the joy and magic of Christmas. “Tales of Wonder” debuted last December and the response was so overwhelming that we decided to do another Christmas show. It’s been a blast putting this together. Here’s a glimpse into the opening of the show, “Tales of Wonder: A Drama Medley,” which highlights what’s it like to be a kid at Christmas.

snowflakes

A wonderful narrative piece about a girl in the first snow fall of the season.

sledding

A boy and his sled. And three pesky girls.

truthaboutsantaclaus

The big talk. Three parents telling the truth about Santa, but can they overcome the power of a child’s imagination?

Photos from the Show

Thanks to Jonathan Steffen for these shots from dress rehearsal for “How to Build a Dictator.”  We had 23 students for our dress rehearsal as opposed to 142 for the real show. But they were a lively bunch. I had a blast getting on stage and acting for one of my first times ever. Here’s a glimpse of our show:

Push and Pull controlling the audience.
Push and Pull controlling the audience.
The advertisement.
The advertisement.
The starer.
The starer.
Today's headlines.
Today’s headlines.
The seducer.
The seducer.
Testimonial.
Testimonial.

jstef-sep2016-8435

The revealing.
The revealing.
I'm ready to introduce our new leader.
I’m ready to introduce our new leader.
Selfies with the audience.
Selfies with the audience.
Q & A
Q & A
Here I am, in the zone.
Here I am, in the zone.
The party.
The party.
Our passionate announcer.
Our passionate announcer.

Script Chosen for Short & Sweet Theatre KL 2016

My script, Alone in a Bar, was chosen to take part in the 2016 KL Short & Sweet Theatre Festival. It will be directed by Vinna Law. I won’t have a hand in production, but I hope to get to KL and see it this fall. The script is a little different for me, about a broken man who, day after day, sits and cries himself into a stupor without ever saying a word. On this particular day, things get interesting. A little dark for me, perhaps. But I had fun writing it. Hope it turns out well!

ss 2016 2 ss 2016 1

 

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.

Experiencing the Finale

Experiencing the Finale

Last night was the finale of the limited three-show run world premiere run of “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”

It was everything I had hoped for and more.

First off, the crowd. It was a sell-out! I give it an “A”! Excellent, engaged crowd that got the raucous, rolling laughter going back and forth all over the theatre. It may have been the best crowd that any of my shows ever experienced – even to the point of being a little over the top. But that’s okay. It’s much better than the alternative.

The acting. I give it an “A”. These young actors were superb. A few flubbed lines here and there that the audience wouldn’t even have noticed. Their recoveries were smooth. They performed with such passion and life that the audience couldn’t help but love them. I’m so proud of all of them.

Tech. “A” – We finally nailed it. This was a taxing show for a variety of reasons. 106 lighting cues. Nearly 50 sound cues. Follow-spot.  Tracking 11 microphones. Lots of moving parts. The first show we saw some of the challenges manifest themselves on-stage with some uneven and loud sounds. But this final performance was perfect. A great blend of sound, wonderful scene transitions. Everything was executed perfectly, performed by 4 your techies who never get enough credit.

The story. Well, yes, I am biased since I wrote it. But I am very pleased at the interpretation and the way the actors communicated the story. And based on the audience’s response, it was a huge success.

I hope other theatre troupes will try out the script sometime. It’s challenging yet very fun with all kinds of interesting themes woven through it.

This was such a fantastic night that I’m sorry it’s over.

But with any worthwhile endeavor, it was worth the hundreds of hours of dedication to pull it off.

So now, what’s next?

Oh yeah, now I need to write a new Christmas show for the RLT Players. A writer’s job is never done!

 

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.