Friday, August 27, 2010

Break Out In Song

I was surfing Youtube and I saw this very interesting rendition of "If They Could See Me Now", a musical number from "Sweet Charity". Not that it was sung as a parody or blended into some unusual genres, but was performed by 40 over singers and dancers among unsuspecting members of the public. Call it a musical flash mob if you want! And it wasn't quite a cheesy free public performance; the quality of performance is actually quite good, complete with well-choreographed moves too.

This performance is presented by Break Out In Song, an arts project that, according to their official website, "pushes the boundaries of live theater as it dazzles unsuspecting audiences with free, spontaneous and fully staged Broadway musical numbers." Their website has not been updated for quite a while, but worth checking out, for those who likes musicals and public performances: Break Out In Song.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Professional" Email Etiquette

I'm frustrated with a certain organisation with regards to a certain application I had applied. Of course to protect MYSELF (not the organisation, I'm sorry to say), I shall not disclose the name of the organisation although I know some of my close friends and classmates/ friends would probably know which one I'm referring to.

You see, I applied for this thing, let's call it "ABC" (again to protect MYSELF) in May, and because it is almost August, I need to know the status of it so that I can do some contingency planning. Well this organisation never come back to me at all until now, although 1 of my classmate already knew her status. So I sent them an email on Monday afternoon through their general email account (I thought it might be better not to send to the personal email of the staff members for enquiries), asking if the results of "ABC" in general are out already. Note that I did not ask about MY own result. Then I waited, and that's where the agony started. Days passed and now half a working week has passed and still no news from them. Seriously, does it take a lot of time to reply "Yes, the results are out" or "I'm sorry, you still have to wait"? It's not even rocket science question or something of top confidentiality! Of course, they might be busy at their desk, but I'm sure at least with an automated "out-of-office" or "we'll-get-back-to-you-shortly" reply email might make them look more professional right? And to think they're part of a government body.

In desperation and frustration I've sent the exact same email this morning to 2 of the staff members, whom I had corresponded on this issue before, and see if they would respond. If they don't, then maybe I'll be convinced that there's no living beings in their office.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"High School Musical" Junior

It was only about 2 weeks ago that "Believe" had ended its run, and immediately I jumped into "High School Musical" Junior as a set and costume designer. Yes, it's that hit musical by Disney, but since the cast now comprised mainly of local primary school kids instead of teenage or adult actors, we went for the condensed "junior" version which is tailored to suit the technical capabilities of young performers and educational institutes. Of course, I didn't do up the costumes and set in barely 2 weeks. I was roped into this production a few months back, but I was too preoccupied with "Believe" back then, hence my main focus was on that musical, and toggle back and forth as and when needed. It was only after "Believe" closes that I can spend my entire energy into "High School Musical".

Working on this production is a huge challenge. Other than clashing with "Believe", the issue of how to transform these kids into convincing teenagers (with my set and costumes, of course) and yet not becoming too "matured" for their peers and their parents to enjoy is the primary concern. And then there's also venue constraints like limited wing and rear stage space for set parking and having only 2 flybars for scenery, and a budget that is not exactly a lot. Not forgetting also that "High School Musical" is such a hit that it became a tremendous stress trying to make justice to the musical when coming up with a set design. Fortunately, my design for the set turned out rather well on stage, and I'm rather satisfied. However, I can't say the same for my costumes, but I will just leave them for my subsequent posts.

In the meanwhile, I shall just post some of the random shots taken during bump-in.

One whole lorry of set flats!

From a two-tier steps...

... and then a wall with a door frame...

... and it progressed on...

... to the final complete set!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Believe" The Musical

The youth musical I've been working on for the past 7 months finally closed last weekend after 2 performances. This musical was titled "Believe" and has a plot that centers around problems faced by youths in present-day Singapore. It revolves around the life of a 14 year-old "problem kid" who managed to turn over a new leaf and got transferred to the Express stream through the help of his probation officer.

This musical is not exactly a big-scale production, but not that easy to design. With a limited budget and having a wide number of scenes ranging from LAN game shop to police headquarters and old Chinese cemetery, I had to revise my designs over and over again until a balance between artistic, aesthetic and practicality is achieved.

For the final design, I decided not to employ realistic representations of the various scenes due to budget constraints, and focussed more on creating a symbolic inner world of these "problem kids" on stage. With that, I came up with a relatively simple set consisting of two 60cm high runways that intersected each other and spanned across the entire stage, and a 1.4m high platform flushed with the intersection point of the two runways. The crossed runways is an abstraction and visualisation of crossed paths of which these youths had to make decisions as to what they want to do and where they want to go. The raised platform, on the other hand, is to suggest blindspots and bumps in life, and at the same time create more heights on an otherwise relatively plain stage. These set pieces remained permanent throughout the musical, and addition and removal of various furniture and set pieces will give a suggestion of locality.

I managed to design the set within the budget limit, and thank goodness everything went rather smoothly for my set. If I have had bigger budget, I could have a better designed set, as like what some of my friends and colleagues had commented, the stage looked a bit too bare. However, with my available budget for this production, I can only say I've done my best, and I'm rather satisfied with the outcome, just that the cross pattern marked out by the crossed runways didn't come out prominently due to the shallow slope of the auditorium.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Finally Got My Results

I went to check my letterbox after a schoolmate of mine posted the news of her going to graduate with First Class Honours. And thank goodness I managed to pass with rather satisfactory grades. In fact, as compared to last academic year, my grades improved by almost 10 percent. This is despite the fact I believe I did very poorly in one of the subjects (Production Management to be exact) in school. Luckily for me, Production Management is grouped with Stage Management into one single module, and I think I did rather good in that area, and hence I managed to salvage my grades for that module. And hence, I officially declare that I'm graduating with a Diploma in Technical Theatre! But that's not over yet; I'll still in college for another year to get my degree. So LASALLE, here I come, again!

On Resumes and CVs

So I have not updated my blog for quite a while. Indeed I have been rather busy lately as I'm currently juggling between 2 major theatre design projects and several assignments tasked by my opera troupe, therefore I simply have no time to blog. Another reason for not updating is sometimes I wonder if anyone reads my blog at all even. But anyway, here I am, updating it again after a month's break!

Not too long ago a friend of mine stated in Facebook that she got a message (not sure if it's SMS or email though) asking for her professional service (theatre) and asked her to submit her CV. That's it. No mention of what production they are in, and what company/ organisation they are. A few days ago, it was my turn. I got this email from this organisation saying that they wanted me to be part of their production to make set and/ or props, and asked for my CV. Almost exactly the same scenario as my friend, except that I was given their website for me to have a brief look at what they're all about. I have not replied them, because the way they correspond with me just puts me off. To be precise, I'm bemused by their "professional" communication method. It seems strange that they don't even introduce themselves and their organisation in their initial email. Who will know who you are if you don't do that crucial introduction? If you can't even be bothered to do that, I seriously doubt the sincerity in all these acts. After all, they are the one approaching me for service, not the other way round. Therefore, why should they demand I send them a CV for them to "approve" before they disclose further about the production they require me for? This friend of mine warned me to beware of shady companies/ syndicates/ organisations that might use my CV for unauthorised purposes. Well I'm not sure how "professional" this organisation is, but the way they correspond with me is enough to just junk the mail.

Sometimes, I just don't these people. Maybe they think that theatre people are all desperate for jobs and will do anything just to secure a contract. Damn these people!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Set and Costume Design for "Peter and Blue's Forest Adventure"

I have been wanting to blog this for a long time, but due to confidentiality reasons, I couldn't do so until today. So here goes...

Months back I took part in a competition by Singapore Dance Theatre to design for their upcoming ballet "Peter and Blue's Forest Adventure". As encouraged by my programme coordinator, I took part, and being "greedy", I took part not only in the set design category, I also attempted on costume as well, despite this subject is not being taught at all in school. Well, I don't know if I'm sheer lucky or not, but both my set and costume concepts were selected, and suddenly I became a set and costume designer for a professional production.

"Peter and Blue's Forest Adventure" is a new piece of ballet targeted at young children. It tells the story of Peter, a young boy, who went into the forest with his dog Blue and cat Calico to find fruits and flowers as a birthday present for his mother, and along the way he encountered numerous supernatural characters that offered their help. Hence in essence, this is a fairytale kind of ballet with a simple plot and many fanciful characters.

To cut short on all the theories of how I came up with my design concept, my design of the set is based on Art Nouveau. Of course I couldn't use a truly Art Nouveau kind of design for the stage, for it will be too intricate for small children to appreciate. Therefore, I went through several rounds of modification and simplification until what it is now. As for costumes, they generally follow the same Art Nouveau style as well, but fused with some elements of the 60s/ 70s "Flower Power" fashion and contemporary clothing, in order to give them a more brilliant and stylish look in which young children can better connect with. I'm not sure how the audience in general react to my set and costumes, but I'm glad enough that the choreographer, my programme leader and programme coordinator are very pleased with my work, especially this being my debut professional design work.

"Peter and Blue's Forest Adventure" closed yesterday afternoon after 2 previews and 6 performances. Now that the show has closed, I sort of started to miss it already. It's really a nice experience working with the company, and hopefully I have the chance to work with them in future.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Interesting Food Court Stall Titles

One thing I don't like about foodcourts are that food sold in most of them are usually so standard that it doesn't quite interest me in entering them. This evening, however, I passed by this foodcourt in Punggol and it attracted my attention.

No, the food sold inside are once again the conventional ones you can find almost anywhere. What interested me was the signages for each stall. Each stall has had 3 or 4 Chinese characters for their signs, like Chinese idioms, and at least one character in the phrase would sum up what the stall is selling, like yin xiang shen ke (印象深刻), which means literally "a deep impression" for Indian (yin du) food. And guess what was used for roasted duck rice (la ya fan or 腊鸭饭)? They used la bi xiao xin (蜡笔小新), which meant "Crayon Shinchan"!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Greek Easter

Yesterady morning my programme coordinator came into class with a tray of red eggs and I wondered who in our faculty was celebrating a new born baby's first month. Later on then I realised that the eggs was not celebrating that, but Easter - the Greek way (my programme coordinator is a native Greek by the way). Talk about cross culture similarities! Well this is the first time I ever came across a Greek Easter egg, and my programme coordinator took the trouble to explain all the festive practices that are related to their version of the Easter Egg, including the greeting words one has to say while giving or receiving the eggs, but I just couldn't register in my mind because, no pun intended, they're just too Greek to me! Anyway, here's the photograph I've taken of that egg, and wish all Christian readers out there Happy Easter!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Smooth E

What on earth is this Smooth E? Take a look at this trailer for a glimpse of what that is:

Still have no clue? Well watch these clips below and you shall know!

So now you know what Smooth E is? Well, not intending to sound like a pro-Thai, but I just think that the Thais are just too creative to incorporate dramatic elements and pun into their TV commercials, instead just going for the "just-read-the-facts" kind of boring advertisements.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Prediction of the Present From the Past

Are you able to predict what the world will be like 50 years from now? I personally can't, but I remembered when I was very young I once had to imagine what would the new millenium would be like as part of a drawing class in school. Come to think of it, many of my "predictions" back then are still not so achievable commercially as yet. Well, what do you think people in the 50s would think of how we would be living like now? Look at this video and you'll know:

So, how many things features in the video have already materialised?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Debut Performance in English

Today marks my first theatrical performance in English.

Well, it isn't really a theatrical production; it is actually a dramatised reading of a new play titled "Pink Kisses" written by my classmate. But then, since there's some bit of acting involved (with our scripts on hand though) and that it was performed in a theatrical space with real basic theatrical light, it can somewhat be called a theatrical performance nevertheless.

Come to think of it, I first stepped into the world of theatre as an actor 12 years ago (that is excluding the time I performed as an owl in a fairytale poem in Primary 5 and performing in a street-side Hokkien opera when I was 15) with a Chinese drama club, but it wasn't long before I called it quits (due to some conflicts with one of their senior members), and since then I had performed solely with my Hokkien opera troupe. Hence, this is my first contemporary performance after a 12-year absence.

There are a number of first-time experiences for me too: first time performing without any projection devices or amplifiers, first time involved in dramatised reading, first time stepping into the role as a "cast member" in my school's theatre space, first time working with directors outside my opera troupe as an actor. The experience was great, although I felt that I could have done better. Somehow, being no longer confined by the strict set of bodily gestures I am so used to in my Chinese opera performances, there were times I just wasn't sure how I should compose myself. Perhaps I'm just more suited to perform in Chinese opera, but then again, I won't dismiss the fact that I might get involved in other contemporary theatrical shows again in future. That's not to say I will give up Chinese opera, just that I always feel that it's always good to try a bit of everything, for there'll always be things to learn form in every aspects of theatre. That's what I feel is the best way to upgrade oneself artistically, instead of just focusing on things that is of direct relation to oneself.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Hokkien Song That Sounded Terribly Wrong

Recently there's a Hokkien song that I constantly hear over Rediffusion that caused me to get choked on my food, for it sounded terribly wrong, as if it's a vulgar song. Of course, I know well it is not the case, for such songs will definitely get banned by MDA (or whatever relevant authorities). But the words to the song really sounded like some very common Hokkien vulgarities that even after hearing it for so many times over and over again, I still found it very wrong. So, I went to did a search on this song using part of the lyrics as keywords, and I found out that this song is "Super Sales" (超级卖 in Chinese, see what I mean now?) by Cai Qiufeng. If you're still not convinced, have a listen at it:

To be honest, despite its weird-sounding nature, I quite like the song. Not only is the melody catchy, I like how it takes a more light-hearted and nonchalant approach to all the social problems in this present day Taiwan. But then again, I wonder if any of the people involved in the production of Cai's album realised this vulgarity-soundalike issue or not?