It’s lonely and scary up there

I’m having an unexpected break right now because we haven’t been able to sell tickets to our weekend matinees (3 pm show) so I have the afternoon off. We’ll only be staging the 8 pm shows for today and tomorrow.

It sounds sad and pathetic, but I’m secretly relieved. I was worried about not having enough energy to perform two shows a day because my performance is very, very, VERY emotionally draining. So, not having a 3 pm show will make it easier. I’m just slightly disappointed that I don’t get to test my limits. And I’m disappointed that only a handful of people will get to experience the result of all the hard work that the production team has put in over the last two months. But such is theatre in Singapore.

Anyway, I took a few pictures on Thursday, one day before opening night.

Very scary tall ladder.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ladder this tall. I feel really nervous when I see any of the crew members climb right to the top to fix lights. I’m already terrified enough climbing one of those regular step ladders that people have at home.

Producer, artistic director and crew members having a casual discussion.

Location is the now-defunct Q Bar at the Arts House. It’s one of the three spaces for our show. That long seat by the window is exactly where I was sitting when I was blogging from my DS Lite two days ago.

Poetry on the wall of the Arts House box office.

Will show pictures of the sets another time because I haven’t had time to photograph the finished sets.

Last night was opening night. I was the opening act.

All day, I walked around with butterflies in my stomach. As the time for the opening show drew nearer, the butterflies started to wage mutiny and feed on my blood and soul. All day, I tried to calm myself by distraction, slow breathing, self-psychoanalysis, running my lines through my head over and over again.

I was nervous because I felt that I still didn’t have a 100% hold on my performance. Because of the limited time we had for rehearsals, I haven’t successfully ironed out all the kinks.

Oh gosh, I feel nervous now just typing this out.

It’s a kind of crazy fear that makes me beat myself over the head repeatedly and ask myself why I put myself through this in the first place.

WTF were you thinking, you crazy bitch? *bonk*

I have no answer. I love performing so I must do it. Then why am I scared to death?

I tried to make myself believe that I was on a film set and it was just another day in my life doing a role for the camera. But I think my brain was too alert to be fooled.

It’s a very scary and lonely feeling to be standing alone on a stark, quiet stage under a flood of spotlights, dark figures seated in front of you, waiting patiently yet eagerly, demanding to be entertained, demanding that you make it worth their time sitting there to watch you.

Knowing that there’s no room for mistakes. No cuts, no take 2s.

It’s a horrible feeling, in fact.

Well, but only the starting is horrible. I started shaky because of all those thoughts running through my head which I tried to dispel but they simply hid at the recesses of my mind and nipped at me silently but consistently.

After the scary start, I could begin to enjoy performing.

I think I did okay. No major screw ups. I think my audience was reasonably satisfied with my performance.

I was satisfied. I know I can still improve a lot but I think I did the best I could under the circumstances.

On opening night, I had like 15 people in my audience. About 10 of them were part of the production team. Haha. Well, it’s a small production. Even bigger plays from bigger theatre companies have difficulty selling $25 tickets to a public bred on the fanfare and special effects of Hollywood movies, which cost only $9 for up to three hours of mindless, mainstream entertainment.

Anyway, I survived opening night! I couldn’t quite believe it. A few people said my performance touched them. I feel touched when I hear that. Funny.

And then I begin to stress again.

Can I do as well tonight? Or can I do better?

My nails suffered some abuse while I was cleaning up my set, dirtied after a full-dress rehearsal. My performance involves painting on a screen and we have to clean up the paint after each performance to get ready for the next.

During the cleaning, I tore one nail (although you can’t tell clearly from the picture because only the outer layer peeled off) and got black acrylic paint on another.

I suppose I could have tried to use thinner to clean the nail but I decided to leave it intact on a whim because it’s like a battle scar that holds sweet memories of victory and happiness.

See how it seems to have seeped into the nail.

Having supper at Lavender Food Square after the show.

Tickets are still available for tonight 8 pm and tomorrow night 8 pm. Just arrive slightly before and inquire at the Arts House box office foyer.

Don’t worry, theatre is like that

Still working on the project that’s making me psychotic.

I worked through the night and finished drafting version two of my script at 4:20 am this morning. Now waiting for feedback and revisions.

The show is happening in 10 days and I’m in two minds about publicising a performance for which I don’t even have a working script.

My mentor-director said, “Don’t worry. Theatre is like that.” And he went on to talk about plateaus and breakthroughs. “It’ll happen,” he said. “Trust that I won’t allow your performance to be bad.”

Uh… ok.

I hope for my sake that his skill will overcompensate my cluelessness.

I won’t ask anyone to buy tickets to watch my show because I cannot conscientiously sell a product that technically doesn’t exist yet. (I’m morally uptight that way, which makes me really suck at sales pitches.)

But here’s the flyer, anyway.

I may not have a saleable product yet, but I’m not the only performer. It’s a three-in-one show, so even if mine sucks (although I’m working on it not sucking), there are still two others which are worth watching.

You can get a discount if you mention my name (Shen Qiaoyun) in the email when you order tickets. Not sure how much, though.

If my muse doesn’t show up, I’m dead

Six weeks ago, I auditioned for a role in a theatre production. Three actors got the job and I was one of them. Woohoo. What a happy occasion because I hardly get theatre roles.

And then Jack jumped out of the box and punched me in the face.

I had to write my own script.

For a solo performance.

(The production is made up of three solo performances.)


An insane fear gripped me. Elation at getting the job evolved into a monster that gnawed at my intestines.

I may be a good writer, in general, and even have a passing knowledge of scriptwriting techniques, but I hardly think I’m qualified to write a script good enough for a paying crowd. (If I were, I would be churning them out and making money.)

And I hate monologues. I must have mentioned that somewhere in my blog before. Probably more than once. Monologues just kill me.

Of course, I tried not to show the fear. One must always appear confident and in control in front of one’s employers. But whether or not the fear is well-hidden is another matter altogether. Some directors are so perceptive they can see right through makeup, skin and bone, right into the marrow of your soul.

I was tempted to opt out of the production. But of course I didn’t.

I’ve done amazing things before. Like cough out a 3,000-word essay discussing the sanity of Jean-Paul Sartre in one night. And after performing amazing feats like that, I can never remember how they happened. They just did.

Humans are apparently capable of more than is apparent. So I’m always accepting projects beyond my apparent capability, hoping that my proverbial muse will possess me in the nick of time and do all the work and save my sorry skin.

So it was with this mindset that I accepted this scary project. It’s not every day I get a chance to perform in a theatre production. If I pass up this opportunity, I might as well make a quick phone call now and have myself measured for a nice Brazilian rosewood coffin.

After that, I stressed over it every chance I got. I mentally brainstormed ideas while jogging, I scribbled thoughts while commuting on the MRT, I emo-ed to the Goonfather on a daily basis about how stressed I was.

One month later, I finally completed my first draft.

Relief. Mixed with a bit of shame over how long it took me.

But you can’t imagine the relief.

I went for my first rehearsal today. It was part script discussion and reading, part acting training to work on areas I’m weak at.

My mentor-director gave me a lot of food for thought, a lot of ideas. I wish he could rewrite the script for me because he has all the tools and experience and know-how. But it’s my challenge and my responsibility so it seems he can’t do that.

Before today, I was really pleased with my script. But it’s like that. When you’re elated over completing a gargantuan task, it will always look like a pot of gold to you at the moment.

Now I think my script is junk because there were so many things I didn’t consider and so many ways in which it can be improved. Ok, it’s not totally junk. It has some good points but it’s not good enough to work, on the whole.

So, back to the stressing board. I mean drawing board. Writing board. Whatever.

I’m going batty nuts psycho because the performance is two weeks from now.

Hahahahahaa! (psychotic laughter)

Now would be a really good time to get hysterical for my muse to show up and perform a miracle. But the way things work, I think she will let me stew in my own sweat for a week first, and then jump in when I’m teetering over the edge of insanity from desperation and panic. Muses are like that. They like to screw with your mind. But I guess it’s better than if they don’t appear at all.

What the hell. I’m an actress but here I am stressing over being a playwright. Where is the justice?

Besides this project, I also concurrently have other projects and tasks to stress over. So I’m even stressing over which project to stress over first.

Can’t blame a girl for getting a bit psychotic.

Shakespeare coming out my ears

So, Stress Week is over and it’s now Feel Empty Week.

Especially since I pulled out all the stops to prepare for last Saturday’s Shakespeare audition.

I spent a day reading all the possible Shakespeare monologues to pick out my audition pieces, went online and sought advice from theatre practitioners, paid the National Library $21 so I could borrow Shakespeare videos to watch, borrowed books on performing Shakespeare to read and spent an entire week reading nothing but Shakespeare-related material, spent $203 to attend a Shakespeare workshop, refined my performance by taping and watching myself and slowly ironing out the kinks day by day.

One reason I put in so much effort for this audition was that I didn’t want to make a fool of myself since I’m quite new to theatre and I’ve forgotten how to play Shakespeare.

The other reason was that I wanted very much to get a part in the play. But I didn’t have any grand illusions that I would actually get anything. The main thing was still that I did not make a fool of myself and waste the auditioners’ time.

I don’t think I did very well at the audition but at least I don’t think my performance was cringe-worthy, either.

Half of me is very pleased with myself for having surmounted this intimidating task of taking my first step into the “elitist” realm of theatre. The other half of me is very disappointed that I didn’t impress the director enough. They didn’t call me back for the second round of auditions which was held yesterday.

Thus the feeling of emptiness. After putting in so much effort, nothing.

But I’m not saying I wasted my time or anything like that. Whatever hard work I did in the past week, I did also as preparation for future auditions to come. I’m just disappointed because it’s a play I really love and it would be swell to be a part of it.

Well, one good thing that came out of this is I got some nice photographs. I had to submit a recent photo for the audition so my friend, Danon, gave me an emergency photoshoot. His Workaholicness was kind enough to squeeze out a few hours of his precious time to shoot me.

Here’s one from the series. More later.


Opening shoot for Chinese drama tomorrow, TWELVE SCENES, all of them full of dialogue, even monologues. I think they’re trying to kill me OMGWTFBBQSAUCE.

Shoot also on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

Hadn’t had time to prepare much, what with my data entry job and other commerical jobs and trying to go to the gym every day (but not succeeding very well due to lack of time). I’ve been carrying around my gym bag with the same set of gym clothes (fresh ones lah) in it, for a week now.

That explains why I’ve been so quiet here.

Forgive me. Now I need to return to my script.

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Addendum: Wah lau they’re bringing forward three of my scenes from Sunday to tomorrow so I have to do FIFTEEN SCENES TOMORROW. WTFCRAZYLAH. I is not robot! Where got lidat one!! Liewz! O_o