Friday, May 02, 2014

A show of their own

The NYght must be hands down the most popular of events on campus. An hour before auditorium doors open there is already a line. The noise and excitement only gets more frenetic the closer we get to curtain-up, and stays throughout the performances until final curtain. And even then, the celebrations continue as the exhausted contestants meet with their fans at the stage apron. Selfies and glitter abound.

Only on a night like this do we get to see the kids letting their hair down, determined to have a good time. This is the talent contest of the year, not to be missed because somebody inevitably knows somebody appearing on stage, belting out their own versions of the latest hits and showing off slick dance moves -- displaying an unexpected mobility going by how they usually slouch at their desks during tutorial time.

The importance of this event is not to be underestimated. First, it is their one and only opportunity to showcase their raw, unpolished talent. This is talent they can truly call their own, unsullied by any teaching or instruction provided by the best coaches money can buy. Their efforts are self-taught, their coordination; compositions; arrangements; and rehearsals all worked on in their own time rather than predetermined through adult supervision. This is student ownership in the truest sense of the word, and it's wonderful to see the whole thing come together.

This is not to say that the staff are completely hands-off. Staff manage the event but the content and substance are provided by the kids themselves. In this environment, the audience is entirely supportive and encouraging. Hiccups in the individual performances such as going off-key; the inevitable technical faults and delays; lapses of concentration; and the awkwardness of stage-fright are taken in good humour; while the audience is ever ready to forgive, showing their support with rhythmic clapping; generous applause; and enthusiastic singing along, buoying each performer's confidence enough to gracefully finish the set.

I've never, in other campus events, seen students rallying for each other to this extent. In other events, the knowledge that the performance has been stamped and approved by trainers and coaches raises expectations a lot and the house becomes less forgiving. In sporting events, the audience are led to chant artificially composed cheers according to a forced 3, 2, 1 togetherness. But on the NYght, it's wild; chaotic; friendly-competitive -- and yet it also reflects the kids' strongest support for one another in the entire school calendar. The performances may not in themselves be perfect, but that imperfection brings out the perfectness of the unity within the student body. This is the students' show, so let's keep it that way. Always.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Encouragement from a horse

Meh. Getting flack from upstairs about our choice for Dad in 'The Car'. So the kid was nervous and flubbed a couple of lines. Also, our choice of play was "too local" and probably wouldn't resonate with the 'foreign' judges. That, they say, is likely to devalue our assessment, jeopardising our chances at the top tier. Solution: conscript a better speaker for roles in our plays. The advice is, of course, well-intentioned, but certainly targeted at a very different goal from the one I am aiming at.

What is it with leadership? The higher they climb, the shorter-term the vision. There is no use in teaching the unwilling when there are those eager to learn, but would never get the chance to learn if winning was our top priority. Reminder: we're not here to chase accolades, we're here to encourage a life-long love of the art.

What was most encouraging for me at yesterday's performance was when a member of the audience stopped me for a little chat. She revealed that she was a long-ago member of the NYeDC and if I remembered her. I could not. She looked so different from the girl I knew when she was performing in our 'Animal Farm' in 200x. But when she mentioned her name, I immediately knew her role as Clover, the horse. Today, she is with the Arts Education branch of the NAC.

To me, that is a better success story for our little Drama CCA than achieving a high placement in a meaningless competition, which is no longer even identifying itself as a competition.

Run up to Drama Night

One milestone for the year finally crossed. The Drama Club made its Festival presentation today. It was an excerpt from local playwright, Verena Tay's, 'The Car'.

The eponymous car has survived a few decades, a very unusual feat for a car in S'pore. Because of the prohibitive COE tax, cars usually get scrapped after at most 10 years.

This car has seen a lot of the changes that S'pore has undergone, but more importantly, has seen the little girl grow to adulthood. Oddly enough, her major life experiences seem centered around the car, so he is a quite a repository of family history. If I were the girl, I wouldn't wrestle so much with the idea of having him scrapped. I would sell him to the Pawn Stars and probably get more money out of it.

Personally, I think the kids performed well at today's presentation. Their characters were quite real, their portrayals quite believable. Flubbed lines are par for the course, and I wish the recoveries could have been smoother, but we can't worry about that now.

Drama Night is just around the corner. That's gonna be an even bigger hurdle than the Festival presentation. No rest for the wicked.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Proxy of the Year

In a first, I (as Civics Tutor) get to read the citation for the Student of the Year in front of the most august College Day assembly. In another first, the Student of the Year has fallen ill and is unable to attend the ceremony in person. To make a perfect three of firsts, I get to receive the award for Student of the Year on her behalf. No, I've never been Student of the Year before, so yeah, it's a first.

When I delivered the award to the Student of the Year this afternoon, I got a chocolate cake and durian cake for my trouble. Awesome! Will place the chocolate cake in the staff room so my colleagues can help themselves to the token of appreciation from the Student of the Year. The durian cake, well, it had to be cut up and partially consumed in order to fit into my somewhat overstuffed fridge. It is no longer presentable, but is still edible. Trust me.