Saturday, September 17, 2005


xin hui yi leng

A possible translation for that can be disheartened, but I don't think I'm really feeling that disheartened, I'm feeling a lot more than disheartened. Add in some disappointment, and a tinge of loss, and the feeling of giving up all hope. Yes, that will be xin hui yi leng. Translating that literally, my heart has turned grey, and my thoughts all cold and numbed. I'm feeling just about that. So much so that I'm really tempted to just give up and forget about everything. Forget about all that I've held so steadfastly upon for a good whole eight years.

This affair started when I was in Secondary 1, in Dunman High School. I had a choice between two, and I was torn between them. Chinese Drama Society and English Drama Society. In the end, I chose Chinese Drama Society because, it was more well established in the school, received better funding and annually held a production at Kallang Theatre. I was comfortable with either language, although I must say I was better conversing in English at that time, but I thought language wouldn't matter, it is the drama that we were doing, the theatre. I looked forward to that. I couldn't wait to be taking the stage, be it as an actress or behind the stage as a crew. I was really excited. I knew that was what I wanted.

Things weren't as rosy as it seemed then. In Dunman High, the Chinese Drama Society was spilt into two major groups, Drama and Dance. I was sent to dance, mainly because I was a girl, quite flexible, and the dance group lacked members. I still wanted to do drama. In the end, I struggled to cope with both dance and drama, but I wasn't happy. Yes, I liked dancing, but I preferred drama, but because of my commitments to dance, I wasn't able to do as much drama as I wished.

Secondary 1.
I remembered being given a rather important role in dance, and was put in a group with a couple of seniors because I was tall, and comparatively more flexible. But because of that, I didn't manage to be part of the production team. Unlike the other members, I wasn't slated a backstage role. I was disappointed. But I had to accept that because of my commitments to dance. Yes, the dance was fun, but there was something lacking.

Secondary 2.
Another year which disappointed me. Again, it was because of my commitments to dance that I failed to be able to take part in a role, of any sort in drama. Even the backstage role which I was slated in was something related to dance. I did make up. Not that I don't like doing make up, it was just that I felt that I wasn't doing something that I set out to do right from the start. I started regret joing dance, not because I didn't like it, but because it wasn't what I preferred.

Secondary 3.
This year our Chinese Drama group took part in a schoolwide production, Kaleidoscope. Dance took part, but not drama. Instead drama put up a mini performance in the school hall. That was my first chance taking the stage with the drama people. By the way, I too had took the stage for Kaleidoscope, I did makeup and there too, but that's not the point. I can't remember how I got the role for that short play. I think it was because the seniors knew how much I wanted to really take part in a performance with the drama group.

It was not easy preparing for that play. I put in al my effort and time. I acted as an angel to this protagonist. It wasn't my cup of tea, but it was fun. And I got to wear a very nice costume. But the disappointment was still about the scale of the performance. The turnout rate was neligible. I thought I would rather be doing an assembly performance and get a larger audience, but still I was doing what I like, so there was no complains from me.

In the same year, I went for a camp organised by the NUS Chinese Studies and some clan association. It was supposed to be a Chinese Cultural camp. But we did some acting in it. I snagged the best actress award. And my group snagged the best group award. I have my group leader to thank. Hong Limin. He was a leader who led by pushing us, he took control of everything and only wanted the best from us. It was great. The greater part was the short play we put up. Other groups played with cross dressing and crude jokes, but our group didn't. I think I was the only actress who didn't cross dress and played a memorable role. I guess that was my reason for winning.

I didn't get to join the camp by chance. There was only four places per school. I got the chance to join that camp as part of a dance member. A senior opened up this space and asked who wanted to join. I wanted. And so did another dance friend of mine. My memory of that incident remains as clear as it was how it felt to me. The senior was biased against me and had wanted to give the chance to the other person who wanted to go. But luckily another senior suggested that me and the other should sissors paper stone, then let the winner have the chance for the camp. I was lucky.

At the end of that year, there was another camp. A Chinese Drama camp organised by national Arts Theatre. Some of the people in my drama group had gone the year before and thought the best out of it. I went. But this time there wasn't a fight, we were given enough places to go. It was my first time working with an actual theatre group. I like my group in this camp too. We cliqued well. We put in all our efforts in learning and acting. But the night of the showcase performance, our group remained mediocre. It wasn't that we were bad, but we weren't the best. We were good, just not good enough. In the prize giving session, our group remained elusive. Not a single prize when our group was good. I remember the disappointment on all our faces. It sucked.

I was given a chance to play a rather important role in our showcase performance. It didn't come easy, as usual. I wasn't that impressive to my tutor in the beginning. I was shy, quiet, and not your usual over the top actress, but in one exercise, my tutor changed her mind. It was a scene of receiving a phone call. According to my tutor, I managed to chow a change in emotions very well. And it was due to tha exercise that she cast me in the role for that showcase performance. Till this day, I remember that exercise as one which gave me the confidence to carry on with my drama. I know that I am good

Secondary 4.
I continued helping National Arts Theatre on an ad-hoc basis. With them, I did front of house, and some backstage help. I spoke to the boss of the theatre during my stint there and got to know other theatre people. But maybe it was my nature that I'm not the kind who'd thick-skinly get to know everyone that I didn't remain in close contat with anyone there. It's also because maybe our friendship couldn't stand the test of time. This remains one of my regrets.

Back in Dunman High, our annual performance was to be held in Jubilee hall this year. I was obviously dancing. But I wanted to act too. There was this music play new kind of theatre form that we were dying to test out. The director of the play wanted to incorporate us dancers into the play because we all along didn't really have the chance to do much acting. She originally wanted us dancers to play the role of this group of office workers.

I should be glad that I was given the chance to act, but I wanted more than being stuck in some ensemble role. I knew that being labelled as a dancer wouldn't get me far in my passion in drama. I spoke to the director. I told her I wanted to try out for the role as a mother. She told me that I looked like a confident office worker that was why she casted me as such. But I was persistent, and she granted me an audition, together with the others she'd selected to act as the mother. I won the audition in the end. It wasn't much of a competition actually. It was pretty obvious that I was better than the others. Anyway, that was really an opportunity that changed my whole life in the Chinese Drama Society.

In the Society, usually drama people and dance people didn't get the chance to interact much, especially with the juniors, but because of my new found role, I got the chance to get to know a lot more about the juniors there. Because of the long hours of rehearsals, I got pretty close to this junior of mine and I consider that junior to be one of my favourites. We still kept in contact after I left the school, and even till last year we still contacted each other occasionally. It's really a pity that our friendship couldn't stand the test of time. Was it my fault? I don't know.

In that production, I too took up backstage role, but my role was limited again to the dance affiliated role of costumes. It wasn't much fun to me as I took my job as it is. Because of my commitment to drama, I didn't get the chance to get to know more about the other dance juniors. It ws just a matter or prioritising, I can't have everything.

Then I graduated from Dunman High.

In my first three months, I went to Victoria Junior College. I did Theatre Studies there. Finally, I was examining theatre not just as a practical, but also it's theory. I learnt a lot in my brief three months there, a lot more that I learnt for four years in Dunman High. They were professionals that I was meeting. Even the seniors, their life was theatre. I was in awe. I wanted my life to be like that too. As I mentioned before, I was more comfortable in the English language rather than the Chinese, so this was the first time I was doing something I felt so much for in my preferred tongue. I was happy. Plain happy. But happy times did not last. I succumbed to the failings of my results. I did not manage to stay in VJ after the first three months.

In VJ, I also went to audition for a role with their Chinese Society. A senior there had caught my act the year before as a mother and liked my performance so he recommended me for a role there. But the tutor with VJ's Chinese Society did not like my Chinese. He told be bluntly that there is a gap between my command of the Chinese language and the other actors who were all Chinese Nationals. I think it was since that that I really despised the PRCs. It wasn't my fault that I was bad, but it was them who made me look bad. And that tutor hadn't given me a chance to redeem myself at all. I feel sorry to that senior who recommended me, his trust in me was misplaced.

After the fiasco with VJ, I wanted to just drop out of the junior college system. I considered my options, and La Salle was a pretty attractive option. English Drama full time seemed really appealling. I too had gone and watched some of their performances they they put up and I like the kind of stuff that they were doing. My family was against it. My dad told me to at least get my A Levels, then drama can be put on hold. He promised me that if I really wanted to pursue a degree in drama, I do it after my A Levels, he'll send me to Australia, I can do whatever I wanted there. With that thought, I relented.

I went to Temasek Junior College. I joined their Chinese Cultural Club. I was lucky that I managed to snag this role in the school's Mardi Gras event. I had no complains about the seniors there. Most of them were experienced having been in Chinese Drama since from Secondary School. Most were from Anglican High which I knew about the reputation. I wasn't unhappy working under them.

Later in the year, we had classes taught by Guo Qingliang. I learnt a lot from him and slowly I regained my interest in the Chinese part of drama. I also got the opportunity to go on an attachment with Dramabox during my holidays and came close to professional theatre once again. I learnt a lot about the workings in a theatre company. I interacted a lot with the people working in the production Fugitive. I talked a lot with Angeline Soh, the Assistant Stage Manager who was a VJ TSD Alumni, and talked to the costume desinger about the differences between Chinese and English drama scene locally. I also got to talk a lot to those who were doing drama only because it was Chinese. Through them, I identified my path in which I wanted to proceed.

For out annual Temasek Nite, I applied to do lights but was rejected. They thought that I was more of a publicity person because I was loud mouthed and enthusiatic. I was also stabbed by someone I thought I could trust. Office politics. Not something I was adequate about. I also attempted in scriptwriting. But it didn't get through because of a personal animosity with someone there. This brings back to my earlier story of the junior I was close with back in Dunman High. Sick and tired of these personal grudges and bickering, I stuck to my publicity role and appealled to help out with lights too cos of my knowledge in it.

I was the lights designer for the long play in the production. And headed the publicity team in poster design and some simple marketing. It was a fun experience, and brought me closer to the juniors, in both my lights teams and my pub team. I tried to steer myself away from the bickerings and the personal unhappiness of everybody there, and other than that I was very happy. I was so busy in the month leading towards that production that I lost 8kg. I'll never forget that production. I regained the body that I once so prided. I was myself all over again.

Even after my graduation, I manged to stay in contact with my juniors and even went back to help them out a couple of times. I watched them rehearse and everything, albeit away from those peskies who too went back. I remained parallel from them, but I was happy. I wasn't idling my time away.

Then came my big decision. Australia or NUS. I decided NUS. The only reason I chose NUS is because of my results. I did very well for my A Levels. Exceeding my expectations. Before I received my results I had a agreement with my dad, if I couldn't get into NUS, I'd head off for Australia doing Theatre and Drama, some performing arts course, but when I received my results, I knew NUS was the next plausible option. Unlike some of my classmates who had to go through interviews to get into NUS FASS, I got my place early and guaranteed. I was so set out for that that that was my only choice I filled in. If I didn't get it, very impossible, I'd head straight to Australia, no need for second thoughts.

In NUS, there were two Chinese Drama choices which I can choose from. With the Chinese Society or with CFA. I chose the one with CFA because I'd meet personal animosities with the Chinese Society, and also because I was tired of doing things like dance or literature or other things not related to drama. When I first joined Chinese Drama with CFA, I was a bit disappointed. It seemed to be that it was a PRC dominated thing and was very amateur. But after talking to the seniors there, my fears were slowly displaced. I saw their passion for drama. And that got me going.

I helped out in their production beginning this year as a sound crew member and really learnt a lot from my Laoban, but as the cycle goes, the seniors will one day step down, and we will have to take up the reins of continuing the club.

At first I was very psyched up in my new role. I had a swanky title, Media Resouces and Logistics Manager. I thought that this group of fellow members I was working with would be people I could work with. We share similar interests. We knew each other before we got together. But as time goes on, it is clear that my idea of Chinese Drama and theirs is totally different. This resulted in my title.

The first time i felt this way was during our debate on what is our focus. Is it Chinese DRAMA or CHINESE drama? Everyone except me agreed that if this was merely a drama group, they wouldn't have joined, it was only because this was a chinese group that they joined. I saw the first cracks of rifts between us. I'm just a simple girl who wants to do drama, I don't care if it's English or Chinese. Although sometimes I think that I might be happier doing English drama, it is also due to the bureaucracies of English drama that made me come to love the Chinese drama that I'm with for eight years counting.

The came more blows. The Chinese Drama committee agreed that they were not experienced and did not see themselves as in a position to guide the juniors. That really did me in.That wasn't the mentality that I wanted to have in the first place.

Slowly examining my fellow committee members, I really have nothing to say about them. Everything that I want to say has all dissloved in my grey heart and cold thoughts. Out of the eight of us, only one person was with drama for as long a time as me. but even himself cannot maych my credentials with experienced schools in the Chinese Drama scene for the amount of time, and neither did he go for camps and attachments. Yes, some of them might have taken Theatre Studies as a module in NUS, but as a senior from VJ's TSD said, you can't really learn much in NUS. It's totally different.

Five of them only started doing drama last year. One was with drama since JC. And this inadequacy spilled so obviously with the current intake of Chinese Drama freshies. One said, "We cannot teach the freshies stuff because we don't know much ourselves." So this is what they think, they don't know much. Actually, I can just take over everything and run the show myself, I know, at least I know my stuff about drama, but I didn't do anything about it. I've been talking lesser and lesser during meetings, because I really have no heart to see anything else already. If this is such, then so be it.

I was talking to the only other experienced member in the committee. He said, "As time goes on, the more I want to hold on the drama, I find myself losing it. I find that since joining Chinese Drama's committee, I'm doing more and more administrative work and I found myself straying further and further from the stage."

I might have just pushed myself through this last year with Chinese Drama, but after yesterday's committee meeting, I gave up all hope of enthusiasm. They agreed that they were amateur, and wanted to go into the cycle of school productions.

In the school Chinese Drama scene, the one heading the pack now is Hwa Chong. Not other school can come close to HC in terms of experience and results. I don't want to be compared to HC, now that I'm in NUS. I want to be compared with the theatre companies and not with schools. I can say, I have more experience than anybody in HC, so why do I want to be put on par with them? This doesn't tally. But then again, comparing the other committee members, I have to admit that save for one, the others really cannot match up to HC.

This really wasn't what I wanted when I first started out.
This wasn't what I was assured with when I first started out.
Where can I go in search of my own sky?

I have come to dread the February production. UCC Theatre or not, I know what I'm going to see is not something I want to see.

PS: I can't believe this turned out to be a 3 579 word entry. But every single word comes out fromthe bottom of my heart. If I have wronged anyone, I'm taking no blame cos if you think I've wronged you, then I really feel that you should be wronged. I don't want to be stingy with my flinches. I'm too tired to think anymore. I just want everything to just go by. Maybe right from the start Chinese Drama was a wrong choice. I should have just went in straight to English Drama and slowly work up the ranks. At least then I know where my orders are coming from. I can say very honestly here, in terms of drama, I only give one person somewhat of respect and he's not even my president. sucks... I feel sucky about this myself, but there's really nothing I can do about it myself...

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