Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Stage

I just came back from Saya Sebatang Pensel, part of StoryFest 2012.

I took the kind offer from Pang because I have always wanted to understand more closely the process that involves performers on stage, or in front of cameras.

I have been in the media for close to nine years and I spent the first five years covering mostly performing arts, but I haven't done anything on stage. Not properly.

Saya Sebatang Pensel gave the perfect space to experiment, as we were only expected to read our writings. Theatrics, props, were all optional.

After a few rewrites, I decided to chuck the text out and rely on a series of stickman sketches as some sort of crude presentation slides. The story is true, and I went through it, so I know every detail. I did not need to memorise anything, just what happened and some lines I wrote in the previous, discarded pieces.

So I completed the sketches with some help last night, and woke up today to go to the dentist. Needed to get my teeth cleaned, because sometimes, the cause of my slurred speech is due to me trying to hide nicotine and tar stains on my teeth.

I had them cleaned, then thought, what the hell - I got a haircut as well.

And then a massage.

Went home and resolved some emotional issues by listening to some songs, went to PJ Live Arts and was prepared to be a dick.

You see, the feedback from the sole rehearsal was that while the story is fine, my delivery sucked. I needed to work on that, so I decided to get into some kind of character.

The story is about me trying to be rich by getting money from the Government using my Malayness. While it is not me, I needed to be one of those entitled Malays. One of those Malays who believe that everything should just fall on their laps because they are Malay. That one. I needed to be a douchebag. For the delivery.

So I dialed it up and became a needy, justifying character.

The first delivery during a last rehearsal was good, in fact, is my own favourite performance of myself. Still rough, still raw, but the energy was correct. I even went down and left the director to haul shit on stage, because I'm entitled. Hahaha. Nah, I just forgot.

Then, after some cigarettes and sitting down with a supposedly nervous Zedeck Siew, the show began.

Zedeck went first, and he did not show any of the nerves he was whining about before. I was second.

I was very self-conscious about my slurred speech, so I slowed the tempo down in the beginning, but it then picked up. I really have little memory of what went on stage, as it all felt automatic. I remember thinking whether people understood what I was saying. Were they laughing at the right cue? And how did the fact that I don't drive drew some 'ooohhhs'? Are they assuming I have a driver or some shit?

It was over and I went to sit down. All these recollections, vague.

Zainah Anwar, of Sisters in Islam, did wayyyy better than during rehearsal. I think the crowd fed her energy and she was not holding back.

Liyana Dizzy went up and delivered what I considered the best piece - a manifestation of ambition as pets/monsters.

Zedeck went up again and delivered his second piece, demonstrating his own experience on stage. The fucker had me believing he was nervous.

Then, it was Jerome Kugan, who discarded his text and decided to tell a story of his own, right on the spot.

Bernice Chauly showed her own professional creds with a polished reading of a polished piece.

Then Zedeck went up a third time, completing his trilogy.

What I have gleaned is that as with work, there is no need to panic, or be nervous, even though I was. And you have to trust everything else and everyone else to function without you.

I also saw energy projection at work in a very unique way. I noticed energy projection in meetings, presentations, etc. But with my stuff, I usually do not do the projecting. I respond to whatever is necessary, but you can change the tone of a whole night by simple projection.

To get rid of jitters, and to get in the right frame of mind, I had to embody some sort of character, and it was one of a jerk. My piece was not one for people to relate to. They could hardly put themselves in my shoes. Not really.

My task was not to get them to be empathic, or to understand. It was merely to look at funny scenes and ideas, and enjoy them.

Zainah got good response because a lot of people could relate to her piece. Liyana's is excellent writing, but some don't understand it. Which is why Bunohan is not making a killing at the box office, I presume.

And people are just wowed by Bernice's strong skills and experience. Zedeck is a pretty boy.

I believe that this exercise helps me understand a lot more about stuff. I believe writing, performing, are all just forms of communication. All this while, I have been focusing on what is on paper. The words. The style, the flow has always been whatever works for the piece.

The stage sheds light into other things. Non-verbal cues, tone and other stuff that is not in the written work. It has always been there in any writing, but having an opportunity to see and experience it is extremely beneficial.

I thank everyone involved for doing this and allowing me to see the intricacies. I also had fun.