Saturday, July 23, 2016

The gentle art of fencing

Teaching kids to argue is like issuing each of them a personal sword and teaching them to fence. At first, they are all excited with the weapon in their hand. They wave it around, wildly slicing the air and make sound effects as they play with their new toy [it's NOT a toy].

When the excitement has died down and they are calmer, maybe they will start paying attention to the rules of the sport. The most important rule: stop looking at your opponent's sword. As fun as it may be, the score is not counted by the number of times you hear the sound of metal hitting metal.

In this game, you keep your eyes on the target. You win by stabbing your opponent through the heart.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last show of the season

[NYeDC in rehearsal at The Arts House]

Just when we thought we were done for the 2016 season, Sirius engineered an invite for NYeDC to perform at Celebrate Drama! 2016. The theme was "Celebrating Diversity", and it so happened that one of the items at Drama Night suited the bill. Not sure how the item entitled, "The Outsiders", fit the definition of "celebrate" but it was about the exclusion of foreign workers from the society they work in and for.

Our biggest problem was that in its original form, the script was very harsh in tone. While we tried to play it for laughs, our in-house audience saw little humour in it as the behaviour depicted was critical and accusatory of our local population. In rebooting the script, we initially struggled with feelings of being censored by our audience feedback. It was hurtful that this item, featuring one of our stronger scripts, was not as well-received as we hoped, and that to be allowed to perform it in public, we had to "balance" the treatment ad make it less insulting to to the people we meant to insult -- or at least to make them reflect on their treatment of foreign workers.

So, how to make the narrative more audience-friendly without watering down our authorial intent? First, we took out all specific location references and kept them to "foreign" and "local", suggesting the same situations could occur anywhere in the world. Then we gave the characters some psychological and emotional depth so that they no longer were playing out stereotypical scenarios to amuse one another (as in the original script), but rather to depict personal experiences and explore how the discriminated feel about being discriminated against. We kept the Singlish delivery because it sounded more real to the narrative.

Having taken audience feedback and reworking the parts that didn't work, we eventually devised a much stronger script than before. The item carried more weight and more authenticity. The situations were still absurd, but the intentions and emotional linkages were much clearer for both the performers and the audience.

And at the end, the one performing the closing monologue delivered with real emotion: the tears; the cracking voice; the breath pattern; the pauses; all real and nothing like we had ever seen her rehearse before. We couldn't have asked for a more powerful closure. Later, we asked her if the script really meant that much to her. And she said she was really feeling the weight of this performance... being the last one of the season! #oscarmoment

Anyway, such an exciting run for the 2015-6 batch of NYeDC members. The 2016-7 lot have big boots to fill.