Friday, August 28, 2009

Teachers' Day dinner interruptions

Usually at Teachers' Day dinner, our objective of enjoying our meal counters the MCs' objective of interrupting our enjoyment with silly games and activities to "enliven" the evening. At tonight's dinner, the role of the latter fell to me, Fen, YF and iLine, to deliver a programme based on the theme of the Oscars.

To be honest, we weren't all that prepared for the task even though we'd agreed to it months ago. The scripting mostly comprised a flurry of hasty email back-and-forths based on a rough guideline of the programme and coordinating MC patter in English and Mandarin. We were still scripting lines right up to our sequence run -- I wouldn't call it a rehearsal 'cos we were only running lines and not working out movement, traffic patterns, transitions and technical coordination.

Adding to the nerve-wracking situation were the many dynamic changes in programe, including a formal toast by the VIPs that was not previously scheduled. And although the programme was going faster than expected we were instructed to hurry up even faster. We ended up saying goodbye to everybody before dessert! I think that was win-win for all of us. Heh.

But this is the job of the MC. It's not theatre where there's time to figure things out and plan for contingencies (and even then things still do screw up). For us MCs, we ran lines for the formal bits of programme -- it's the formal bits that are the most scary 'cos it's unseemly to mess up people's names and titles --and here, reading off cuecards became an absolute necessity for me. My runs without cuecards were disastrous.

But rehearsals apart, most of our air-time was ad lib, going with the flow and trying our best to converse coherently between Fen and myself in two separate languages. Oddly enough, I felt more relaxed with the ad libs than the formal bits. It was fun to run the games and introduce the performances 'cos then I could focus on what was necessary rather than fret over not getting it wrong.

Fen and I had a great table to retreat to in between stage appearances. Thanks for keeping food for us, encouraging us with chatter, playing our games, impromptu rehearsing the formal toast with me, and doing some behind-the-scenes running that was necessary to keep the programme flowing smoothly. My on-stage tribute to you guys was sincere, if inadvertently cut short by an over-enthu Fen.

MC'ing for a combined three schools needed more prep time. There were many niggling mechanical problems, gaffed lines, moments of awkward tongue-tiedness, nervous voices cracking, for a functional but unpolished product. Nevertheless, we had excellent tech support in Events Architects who improv'ed effortlessly with us yet were very understated and nearly invisible the whole time. Their presence covered up a lot of sins.

Overall, I think we did ok. Not great, but a serviceable job despite our nerves and inexperience. It helped a lot that the audience was as generous as it was.

And now, I'm going to take a whole weekend off. Zzzzz...

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