And I thought We Just Celebrated the New Year...
Hello. Been busy and sleepy lately. Sleep whenever there’s time. So what have I been up to.
Few days back, Bangsawan Workshop at Anderson Secondary School for Northern Cluster Higher Malay students ended. We ended with a full run though not with a full cast. Nevertheless I think it was an exciting run. Complete with syairs, gurindams, tableaux, silat and dance choreography. Students being students, they are not theatre trained therefore it is not a professional quality 8 minute bangsawan but I think it is enough to bring awareness to these secondary 2 students about bangsawan and to get them off their feet. Most importantly, to have fun with friends from various schools.
My constant dilemma for these kind of performance based workshops is, to either choose the best participants to be given roles or to compensate performance quality by giving everyone a chance. I always choose the latter. What do you think ? Unless of course it is a project specifically mentioned by the teachers that they want the best. If it is not mentioned, I prefer to give everyone a chance to play… because… if not, bila lagi? (when else?)
Tonight will be my last rehearsal with Pentas Karyawan for our upcoming production before we take a break for exams. This is the 1st time in my 5 years there that we had to cease rehearsals and trainings due to exams. Well that’s how life is now. I personally never believe that 2 rehearsals a week can make you fail your exams. You pass or fail your exams in the classrooms. It is the attitude and commitment since day 1 of school, not 1 day before exam. Therefore I think this year’s end of year production is a bit too rushy than previous editions. And also I have to take into account members going for holidays after the exams. Ok myself included. No not holiday… but reservist duties. Darn.
And so I took a chance with having a shot at trying to drastically improve their understanding and rehearsal standards by getting a group of friends to do a “rehearsal demonstration”. I really hope the members learnt and realise the expectations of them when they saw these actors “behave” during rehearsals.
I am grateful to still have friends who would help me out without questions. In fact they were very eager to help out. I didn’t think I still have friends to spend time doing free things in the name of old time’s sake. Thank you Yazid, Izad and Zaidi for agreeing to help out in a short notice. Would have Saiful to join in too but had to forego it after a relative’s passing.
I am quite excited for this upcoming production but also quite worried due to the very very little training hours. I really hope the members can catch up fast after the exams.
Do keep a look out for it. Promises to be a very different Pentas Karyawan presentation.
I went to watch a bangsawan performance the other day entitled Satria Menara Putih. It's a restaged performance. I remember Yazid performing this play many years ago. I didn't watch that one so I thought maybe I should catch it this time.
No I am not writing a review here. Don't worry. I have never believed in reviews. It has always been flawed by many factors. I shall not dwell on that here. You can always meet me and talk to me on why reviews are just for casual readings that are taken too seriously. I'm just going to give my thoughts on bangsawan in general here.
I personally am not a fan of bangsawan. I think it is backdated and boring and dead. But I applaud the effort to keep it alive as more and more Malay "things" are slowly being deleted from the system, having Bangsawan alive doesn't seem to be a bad thing. But to do that, you have to bring up its artistic and cultural standard. It must be "marketed" as Malay Opera on par with Chinese Opera and Indian Opera. Heck, it must also look and have the performance standard like an opera.
To have that, it should be treated like a professional art form. Professional actors and practitioners. Professional creative and administrative force. Currently it looks very amateurish, with amateur actors and production. I reiterate again, I am not reviewing Satria Menara Putih. I am saying about bangsawan in general as I have seen it for the past 20 years. (Yes I am not a "young practitioner". I've been around for ages but will always be considered young and naive as the kings and ministers of the malay arts palace forever see that their worth are far more superior and unmatchable and will never abdicate.)
To keep a drowning art alive, you have to keep it out of the water. You can't keep leaving it in the water and hope it will swim and stay alive. It will grow tired and start drowning again, hoping for someone to save it. Keep it out of the water. Its time has changed. Breathe new life into it. How? With good storylines, preferably Singapore based stories. Good directions and acting. Good production management. It doesn't even have to pay well but keep the production running properly all the way from the preparation to the rehearsals. At least for a start, learn how to start rehearsals on time and on schedule.
What do Alice, Captain America, Ironman, Robocop have in common? To keep them alive after being dead or almost dead? Yes. Technology. You want to keep something alive in this millennia, you have to embrace technology. It's ok to keep the language and costume and the proses and phrases and storylines from the last millennium. Really it is ok. I enjoy epic plays myself. But you have to embrace technology to keep it alive now. Use multimedia. Visuals, graphics, videos, animation. With USB everything is easier now compared to 2003. Make use of it. Moving lights, instant set changes. Music and sounds. Surround stereo playing dramatic hollywood movie worthy sounds and music. It is not impossible. It's easier to do now. There are apps for it!
And of course, my personal peeve. Directions and acting. I have been a semi professional actor in some part of my life. But I have always been trained to be a professional one. Singapore is a hard place to be a professional actor unless you look good or have connections. But being a semi professional one doesn't mean you can't behave like one. Come for rehearsals on time and on schedule. Practice and practise with your whole heart, body and soul. Don't give me money crap. You want money, you go work somewhere else. Be a full theatre actor inside and out. Not just play acting with fake expressions using just your face.
And directions. Directions have to be exciting. Standing and talking is boring. You have to satisfy the audience visual needs. You can't blame the audience for closing their eyes during the scenes. It's tiring to watch, and they won't miss much anyway. When they open their eyes, the actors are still at the same place talking. Therefore might as well listen than watch. The blockings, movements, stage directions must be vibrant to keep the audience at the edge of their seats throughout. Pace the actors' dialogue delivery and keep it interesting and logical. Their actions too. I don't get it... how can a queen takes a knife out with all intention to kill herself obvious for everyone to see (not to mention she said it in her lines that she's going to kill herself) with movement slow enough to feel like eternity and when she finally stabs herself, everyone acted shock. How could you be shocked? You saw it coming! And you had a lot (really a lot) of time to prevent it from happening. My goodness, direction was very bad for that one which I think is one of the many examples to learn from.
But unfortunately, these people always think that they're right. And when things don't go their way, they don't know why or blame other factors.
If only, I have the money and resources like them. I don't need extra. Just the same amount of money, the rehearsal space and time. Just the same. I get my own production and creative team. I get my own cast. I will get it done. I promise I'll do wonders. But I also foresee that the kings and ministers will still say it is lousy because I am a commoner and not part of the royals and aristocrats.
That is something I always feel "terkilan" about. If only I have the resources that they have, I will really make it worthy. But for now, I can only just blog about it and think what to eat later.
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).