I was part of a theatre show in klpac. Plot twist – we opened on GE14.

When it was announced that GE14 was to take place on the now-historic date of May 9th 2018, the cast and crew of Dato Seri were unsure what to feel or expect with the knowledge that our show runs on the same week.

As if the fear of forgetting our Bahasa Istana-laden lines was not enough, we were now cautioned on possible riots in addition to ensuring our safety at all times too.

May 9th 2018 (Dress Rehearsal night)- also voting day!

Blue fingers were not part of the wardrobe design

Most of us in the cast and crew had just returned from our polling areas. I myself had just traveled back from Kajang after waiting in my millenial Saluran for almost four hours. Admittedly, I almost gave up during my third hour, but thankfully I persevered and made a decision to miss our pre-show dinner and requested an extended calltime to ensure I could cast my first ever vote in before making the drive back to KLPAC, Sentul.

One can say that the staging of Dato Seri was apt and very coincidental with GE14, but with it came its own set of challenges. While we were busy creating this chaotic yet beautiful landscape of Pertiwi (the fictional setting of Dato Seri), our minds were still elsewhere. After each scene we would rush back to our dressing rooms and ask those backstage about which state was won by which party.

“Who is leading?”

“Pakatan Harapan? Are you sure?”

“Okay jap, I have to go for my next scene”

May 10th, 2018 (Opening night)

Unsurprisingly, our director had pointed out the lack of focus in our dress rehearsal and urged us to not let the events happening IRL influence the ‘high stakes’ nature of the play – It was our opening night for Dato Seri and we must not let our guard down.

Well, that was the plan.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was still in limbo, patiently waiting to find out whether the Agong will ever meet Tun Mahathir in Istana Negara.

“Are you telling me Malaysian timing applies to the Agong too?”

And then, something magical happened that night.

To those who have attended any KLPAC shows in recent years, you would be aware of the pre-show announcement that requests the audience to stand up to sing “Negaraku’ beforehand. Usually, this request is met with baffled murmurs and, to some extent, cynical amusement as well. But that night, the moment Joe’s voice finished saying “- please stand up for the national anthem”, it was met with audible excitement.

Though we were hidden behind the thick black curtains backstage, the cast and crew could sense the electric energy that permeated Pentas 2. I have never heard an audience sing Negaraku with so much passion and, truthfully, I had to stop myself from tearing up because it was such a powerful moment –  I could not see it, but I could hear it and feel it: the Rakyat were so proud to sing Negaraku. T

There was renewed meaning to the lyrics that included the line “Rakyat hidup, Bersatu dan Maju” and upon completion, the audience clapped and cheered at this new sense of pride in light of the political revolution that was taking place not too far from our little theatre space. The sentiment game was so strong that night.

The pre-show Negaraku became my favourite moment every night, with each audience being more and more excited to sing Negaraku (on our second show night, some audience could even be heard saying “Yes!” when the announcement was made).

And then it happened.

It was 9.30 PM, almost the end of intermission when suddenly, random cheering was heard. First, it was just one person, then another, then the entirety of Pentas 2. It didn’t take us long to realise it had happened: Tun Mahathir had been officially sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, ending the 60 year rule of the coalition party, or as it is called now, the Opposition Party.

Audience member, Aida Azmi captured the moment at Pentas 2 when Tun M was sworn in.

It was terribly surreal and all we could do was cheer and shout from backstage, that is of course, until our stage manager, Benedict had to intervene to remind us that we are going on stage in 2 minutes. Oh yes, we had forgotten we still had a show to put on. Our characters were supposed to be in the middle of Darurat (the Emergency period) but we were all still reacting to the announcement of Malaysia’s new government.

Playwright and director of Dato Seri, Omar Ali shared his thoughts on that particular moment:

“That was a really crazy night. It was supposed to be a very intense moment in the show, with the great dictator or tyrant now being in power. However, it was the complete opposite with the energy that was caused by Tun M being sworn in just minutes before. There was so much relief and ease and I thought it impossible for the actors to ride over because the audience was in the mood to laugh and celebrate.”

Art imitating life, or…

As each day passed and stories about the previous administration started to unfold, the audience reception to Dato Seri also became more nuanced. Sometimes, the cast would come backstage and wonder why certain lines had received any/more reaction when it had not the days before.

For example, during a tense moment when it was announced that Raja Jayaputera had been murdered, the two Princes, Tengku Mahkota and Tengku Muda would share a moment of grief followed by a discussion of their next steps.

“Are you copying my style bruh? “

On our third show however, this scene caused a bout of laughter in the audience. A comedy fan myself, I could not identify why the audience found this particular moment so amusing (was it the rule of thirds, on the third night?!). It would later dawn on us that the reason why is because Tengku Muda would suggest that the brothers flee to Seberang & Kalimantan (in Indonesia), and it just so happens that news had broke earlier that day that our ex Prime Minister and First Lady were attempting similar travel plans.

Lead actress, Nadia Aqilah who played Datin Seri shared this on the unpredictable nature of the audience reception,

“I have learnt a lot from this play, and it has been interesting to see how I had to handle the random energy each night. But, I am lucky as well because there was a focus on Datin Seri’s character too, perhaps because she reminds them of someone.”

As a member of the cast, it has been such a curious experience for me to be part of a play like Dato Seri with the backdrop of GE14. Each night, I caught myself catching more parallels between what was happening in the play with what was coming into light in the real world *cough Tiga Nasib cough Bomoh cough*

TFW you find out the RAHMAN prophecy came true

“In terms of parallels, there is plenty. It makes the play tick, makes it so true to life and so relevant” said Dato Dr. Faridah Merican, who reprised her role as Bomoh and Doktor yet again alongside Ho Lee Ching and Mark Beau. “Dato Seri was current two years ago when we first staged it, due to the fear of what was happening to the country. And it is still so current now”.

Lead actor Redza Minhat, who played the titular character of Dato Seri, had this to say on what he resonated most with in this experience,

“I resonated most with the ending of the play, whereby it is the repetition of a cycle. Dato Seri would enter the play saying ‘Tak pernah ku lihat hari macam ‘ni; Terang gelap, baik buruk, datang sekali’ and this is repeated by the newly crowned King, Tengku Mahkota at the end of the play.

To me, with the current political climate, it is great that we have this new dawn for our country but we have to be careful to note that everything is a cycle”.

Wow, so emo.

Anyways, that’s that! Personally I am excited for what this means for the future of the performing arts, and I look forward to more exciting and bold productions in the coming months and year (PS. I am free for casting should anyone be inclined).

Hidup Teater Malaysia!

 

We got the cast of “Men in Heels” to design their dream heels. They were toe-riffic!

Look to the heel, young man. The sex is in the heel!” – Lola, Kinky Boots

There’s something irresistible about a pair of sexy stilettos, isn’t there? Their shape. Their texture. Their allure. Ooh la la. When danger is a-foot, what better to wear?

And who would know better about these fetishistic forms of female footwear than the cast of Men In Heels, the latest show at the Kuala Performing Performing Centre?

Directed by Joe Hasham, the show tells the tale of best friends Peter (Mark Beau de Silva), Ilya (Zhafir Muzani) and Bryan (Ivan Chan) who work hard to make it big in the city of KL, chasing their dreams to perform on the big stage. All the while looking fabulous in heels, too.

The cast (L-R): Zhafir Muzani, Ivan Chan, Mark Beau de Silva

But surely being in heels throughout the rehearsals must have given them some idea of what they would consider a perfect pair of stilettos for any lady (or gentleman) going for a night out on the town, right?

So we asked the three cast members of Men in Heels to design their ideal pair of high heels. No expense was too high…the three were free to create whatever they liked, and write the sales pitch!

And what can we say, the performers certainly bore their hearts and soles to create some amazing designs! These guys are definitely a shoe-in to be the next big things. Eat your heart out, Jimmy Choo!

KILLKEEL, aka THE YELLOW HEEL!™  by ivan chan 

Inspired by James Bond and The Bride from Kill Bill. Fun, dangerous and fabulous, how can you not like it?

So, let me tell you the truth about these heels, yellow will always be Fun. Firstly it’s soooo pop art, secondly you’ll be seen from miles away, so even if you are having a bad hair day or you’re not feeling the dress you’re wearing, you’ll always look fun and fashionable in your yellow heels.

As you all know, Safety is priority for spies like James Bond, you better be prepared when your safety is compromised. Kick your heel back and a pen knife will reveal itself! The perfect weapon for self-defense, use it wisely. 

And girls, we all know B.O is a no no, so when u can smell the funk, turn the petals clockwise to unleash Chanel number 5 . And lastly, the most imported state of the art feature of the yellow heel is, drum roll please, THE ROCKET LAUNCHER! This would catapult you and your wig  to fame, fabulosity and beyond. I mean Manolo who?  I swear if James Bond could wear heels, he would want a pair.

UNICORN GREY VELVET!™ – by mark beau de silva

Custom made Unicorn Grey Velvet is made with (ethically) harvested dead mares’ hooves! They form the perfect heel for magical strolls under the rainbow!
Comes adorned with a horn made of real quartz crystal to give the wearer luck and glamour!

 

 

 

 SUPERWOMEN HEELS!™ – by zhafir muzani


Always late to fetch your kids from school? 
Always late to reach your office ? 
Rushing to send your documents to the next building? 
Cannot run fast enough to catch dinner with your loved one? 
Well, worry no more! Superwomen heels obviously make your life easier!

Made from soft wire imported from Korea, it is suitable for your feet so your heels will follow your feet movement.

Its flexible ! The cutie wings will help you to fly 158 cm higher so you can go to your destination faster. Afraid to fly? You can choose the wheels mode. Just tap your heels 2 times, and the wheels will appear. If you want to keep it, tap 2 times again.

Worried that your makeup will be ruined after flying with cutie wings? Superwomen heels comes with a lipstick. You can choose 2 colours, light and dark. Just take off the back of the heels and you can use your lipstick!

Showtimes:

Men in Heels will be showing at Pentas 2, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre on the following dates

24th Feb, 1st – 3rd Mar, 8th – 10th Mar 2018 @ 8.30pm
25th Feb, 4th Mar & 11 Mar 2018 @3pm

You can buy tickets online or by calling the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000. Tickets are RM100 (Patron of The Arts VIP Seating – Minimum RM100, Limited – Only 30 Seats), RM55 (Regular Seating) and RM45 (Concession).

5 Theatre couples share what it’s like to be in a relationship ON and OFF the stage

Ah, love! Feelings of passion and passions of feeling. Often, a very dramatic thing to experience. And even more when it’s born from drama. Theatre drama, we mean.

At first thought, the theatre may sound like a WONDERFUL place for love. You spend lots of time in rehearsal with your partner, ‘building chemistry’ and hopefully acting a love scene or two.

Then again, the theatre may also be a TERRIBLE place for love. How can you tell real emotion in a place where everything is make believe? And who has energy for getting jiggy after countless hours of physical warm-ups and strenuous rehearsals?

So what’s love in the theatre really like? We decided to ask five theatre couples their experiences of performing arts romance.

Hana and Arief.

HANA NADIRA and ARIEF HAMIZAN

In a relationship for a year and a half

HANA ( actress in Tragedi Hamlet, Riwayat, The Swordfish and the Concubine): It’s surprisingly great! Haha. Surprising because, after my first break up, I vowed to never date anyone involved in the performing arts again. I thought the lesson was not to poop where you eat because the repercussions of it is awkward.

But of course, I ended up with an actor again, and it has turned out to be rewarding in every way. Not only does he understand what I’m talking about when ranting about work, there are also a lot of ideas exchanged between us, and immense support, mentally and emotionally, for each other’s work. Fully understanding the commitment and energy required makes it worth it in the end.

ARIEF (actor in The Pillowman, Tragedi Hamlet, The Swordfish and the Concubine): I can’t imagine anything better. Her thoughts inspire me, her work inspires me, her devotion to her craft inspires me. Working in the arts often means struggling with finances, creative frustration, and those awkward schedules where you’re only free after 11pm on Mondays and before 10am on weekends or something. But she understands it all.

To know that there’s someone with me on this strange, uncertain journey in the arts, and loves it as much as I do, is to remember why I’m even here in the first place.

Safia and Ivan in ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’.

SAFIA HANIFAH and IVAN CHAN ATIENZA

Married about two months

SAFIA (actress in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Marble Hearts, Mak Yong Titis Sakti):  We understand each other’s work and we don’t question the odd rehearsal timings.  There would also be times when we are needed in the theatre from morning to midnight (in the case of bump in and tech rehearsals). Having a partner in the same industry means he would be understanding towards this. It is also fun to be able to creatively share ideas and being on the same page when discussing work at home. I look forward to collaborate with him one day.

Challenges are when we have to travel for work, which means we have to be apart. This is hard especially in our case, we’ve only been married a month plus now.

IVAN (actor in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Pillowman, Tick Tick Boom): We would understand each other’s schedule. Safia and I are actors, and if I have problems expanding my creativity, I can have a conversation with my wife who is an excellent actor to help me develop ideas and ways to create a character. Furthermore, she’s an actor….she entertains me and I entertain her when we’re at home.

Challenges? I’m married to an actor. She is drama.

(l-r) Too and Chen.

ANRIE TOO AND MICHAEL CHEN

Married about four years

ANRIE (actress in Titus Andronicus, Rashomon, L5-7-44): It’s absolutely wonderful. To have someone who understands why you need to sacrifice personal dating time, spending it on rehearsals after an already long day at work. Also, having a partner who shares the same passion also means, we can work on our craft together to do better, encourage each other in ways to where only someone involved in the industry can understand – plus it’s nice to have a line-read partner at home!

The only challenge that comes to mind is that you have to be okay watching your partner kiss another person on stage – understand that it’s all part of the job and well, also because you expect the very same understanding from them as well.

Click on the image to check out Men in Heels, opening Feb 24th at klpac!

MICHAEL (actor in Tombiruo, Rashomon, Angels in America): It’s amazing to have a partner who is also in the performing arts! I cannot imagine any downside at all. My wife and I met at a dance workshop virtually 10 years ago. By then, both of us already had some experience performing individually, we watch new shows together and we still connect on those levels.

One of the common challenges with a ‘non-performing arts partner’ is the lack of time spent together during rehearsals for a show, which could take up several nights a week for a 3 month period. This would normally put a strain on a relationship. However, in our case, we understand that this happens and sometimes we get lucky to be performing in the same show.

https://newyorktheater.me/2016/11/12/falsettos-review-andrew-rannells-christian-borle-as-a-gay-couple/
Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells from the play ‘Falsettos’. Photo used for illustration purposes. Source: New York Theatre

JC* and KD*   (Names have been changed to protect privacy)

In a relationship for over 10 years

JC: Two heads. Two-pairs of eyes. Sometimes thinking about the same issues. Sometimes seeing a scene the same way: “This character can move the boxes and trap the others in the middle.” Sometimes not. Nothing surprising.

But on the days of ‘differences that matter to me’, I wish he’d disappear deep into the woodwork, choke on the sawdust and be silent. On some of these days, ‘the self’ I don’t want to be rears up, and my uncontrollable tongue takes over. Theatre folks who know us well, laugh at what I say. Then on the drive home from rehearsal, thick silence.

Eventually we debrief and then move on. I respect the amount of time he puts into studying, researching and thinking about a work before we pull in the actors. He even memorizes all the lines. So I concede.

Because outside of theatre we are quite similar. Neither of us is extravagant in our lifestyle. He likes to sit at the dinner table. I have ants in my pants. We are silly with each other. We laugh at each other’s stupid antics. Our shared values and interests, I feel, help cement our goal to make our productions successful–artistically and financially.

KD:  It means talking, arguing about and doing theatre 90% of our time together, whenever we are not in theatre. It means dinner conversations are all mostly on scenes we have rehearsed, shows we have watched, or the latest theatre gossip. It means going to sleep discussing what we can do for the next play, or greeting each other in the morning with funding ideas.

Sometimes because I know him so well, I have a much higher expectation of him. I am harsher, more critical and less patient. I have to remind myself not to rush to the results.

Looking at some theatre companies that have been around and active for a long time, I see that many are led by a couple. I think as a couple you strive harder to work out the differences, to push and support, to work as a team. True, there are days we want to kill each other. But there are more days when we realize: what a blessing it is to have someone to share your passion!

Joe and Faridah, probably checking out some cute cat video.

DATO’ FARIDAH MERICAN and JOE HASHAM

Married about 28 years

FARIDAH (actress in Sisa-Sisa, director of Uda & Dara, and Thunderstorm): Time together has flown by so fast we have not had a chance to be too unhappy with each other. Of course there are moments, maybe more of those moments when I was younger, at the beginning of our partnership when emotions were more difficult to control. But lets talk about these later years as they are much happier ones. The best is when our friends say you both are so always together. They are right. I would not want it any other way.

What do I wish for more though? That the handphone does not come out when we are enjoying a meal. Aghhh!

I know I value the few moments we can have together away from work, but it’s thrilling to be by Joe’s side when he is directing. I am a number one fan. I think he knows it too. Love you Joe.

JOE (actor in Sisa-Sisa, director of ‘The Betrayal‘ and  ‘Men in Heels‘):  Sometimes I want to scream. Having Faridah involved in the performing arts with me is glorious, most of the time, but can also be the most frustrating experience I am forced to endure.

On the upside: Faridah is my muse. She protects and guides me in so many ways. BUT, on the downside … she also infuriates me … to the point of distraction! Possibly because most of the time she is ‘right’.

Because we work together, at the same place, we are seldom apart. Some people might find that disturbing; I find it comforting.  There are many times where we would disagree … but that only helps to add spice and sparkle to our creative relationship.

 

[All submissions have been edited for clarity and length.]