52 | Gratitude.

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At MBS for Phantom of the Opera w/ Jean.

Right, so I’ve been dormant for way too long. But perhaps dormant is the wrong word to use. It’s more of.. swamped. Buried six feet under a pile of appointments and work. Let’s see what I had in the past month.

  1. Charis, gugu & guzhang came back from Beijing for a few days – met up with them and took them around as usual!
  2. Caught a bunch of plays x
  3. Had three (THREE!) ongoing projects concurrently. How am I even alive?
  4. Missed 2 coffee Fridays at Flock 😦
  5. Finally met up with my playwrights at a physical theatre workshop over the weekend!
  6. Grew addicted to Chinese Idol.
  7. Changed Korean class – I’m now with the Sunday class and it’s such a joy to go to class now 🙂
  8. Began an obsession with everything ethnic in China – including Tibet – and am reminded how I am a sucker for languages.
  9. Realized how liberating TEDtalks are for me and added them to my list of holiday documentaries to enjoy!
  10. Asides from academics, got shortlisted for a scholarship and joined DHRMP chapter as well!

So, let’s talk about my obsession with languages, because recently that has been my preoccupation. Why am I so taken with languages, especially exotic ones? What is it about those languages that I like? Why do I get so invariably upset when a language is undermined? I found some answers in this quote:

A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed, a thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities.
– Wade Davis (TEDtalks) Dreams from Endangered Cultures

I agree with this wholesale. A language is much, much more than merely a means of communication. A language is the manifestation of culture, the embodiment of a people’s spirit. When you destroy a language, you are destroying a society. Language is ubiquitous in any and every society, so what right do we have to trample on other peoples’ languages just because they are a minority?

I also realize that perhaps one of the reasons I like languages is because they give me a glimpse of a people completely different from who I am. For example, the tribes and ethnic minorities. I’ve always been very taken with them, and although I haven’t figured out why exactly, I daresay it’s not too far from the point that they lead such different lives. When we learn to appreciate differences between two entities, a whole new world unfolds between that for you to explore.

Enough raving about languages. One other thing that I have to discuss: my takeaways from each play I’ve caught over the past month or so.

Optic Trilogy by Alfian Sa’at: I know that this is all planned for and methodically calculated, but really, I can relate to the feeling of it being more than a coincidence when certain things happen. People always say I like to pretend I know lots of people but I feel this heady sense of joy when I make connections between people in my life. It’s like everything just clicks into place for me. All the more reason to believe that our meetings aren’t by coincidence. I mean, out of the billions of people spread out over the continents, across all the possibilities of missing each other in the crowd, falling out, character differences – we still managed to meet the ones we love and leave footprints in their life as we trudge on together.. isn’t that already close to magical?

Dreamplay: Asian Boys Vol. 1 by Alfian Sa’at: This is one play I hadn’t planned on watching, but after watching Optic Trilogy, compounded by the number of good reviews, I couldn’t not catch it. In fact, I bought matinee tickets (I usually hate matinee shows) and I didn’t regret it at all. I really think Alfian Sa’at is a master craftsman at linking it all back together. He never really loses sight of his central theme and ties everything back tightly, yet manages to make it witty and enlightening at the same time. How even? I guess most times playwriting is practice, but sometimes it’s a gift one has.

Machine by Tan Tarn How (Orangedot Productions): I took front row seats and never did I regret it. Having Julian Low walk in and take his bows in front of me was all worth it but I digress. This was certainly a very sexy production and Tan Tarn How’s original script was already very riveting on its own. I will always admire naturalist playwrights because the amount of backstory and planning involved in these plays is tedious and arduous to say the least, and suffice it to say that planning in detail in not my forte. I didn’t really like this production though, due to the staging of it. For the first 20 minutes or so, the actors were speaking so softly that I couldn’t hear (I was in the first row) and they lost me for a bit there. Nevertheless, it’s always good to see old works revived with a spunky new outlook!

In the Curve of the Wanton Sea (Seven-Headed Dragon): I didn’t know what to make of this one. Not because I don’t like it, but because I had to really sit on it and think about what those themes meant to me before I was able to really appreciate the show. Come to think of it, I really enjoyed it. The mix of mediums, even using movement in the show, was something I really liked. Also, I liked the multilingualism (I am such a sucker for multilingual plays) and because I really enjoy experimental works, this production had lots to love. On a sidenote, the staging was amazing. The set was beautiful and the projections left me dumbfounded. Sometimes I think the use of multimedia in a play can be a cop-out, but this one actually added to the aesthetic value of the entire play. Certainly going to catch Part 2!
PS: Because Najib Soiman lectures at SP, every time I watch his performances, I get very very tempted to change course. /sigh Pity I don’t – or really, can’t – act to save my life!

The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber (directed by Harold Prince): Story aside, I love the stagecraft! Set designer totally deserves pay raise tenfold. I really like Claire Lyon’s portrayal of Christine was amazing and Brad Little as Phantom was a double-edged sword – I felt that he didn’t have the power or thickness in his voice, but later he really brought out Phantom’s psychosis really well. It was unsettling even in my seat! Main thoughts after show would be that I am intrigued by the idea of ugliness. What makes the Phantom of the Opera so ugly, his deformity or his mental instability? Why is Christine able to show compassion to her captor again and again? Why does she turn back to give the Phantom his ring, although she could have hightailed it with Raoul? In my mind, I kind of compare Raoul with Fiyero of Wicked, and the difference between them from what I see is that Fiyero is more willing to pull all the stops for Elphaba but with Raoul.. I don’t know, I don’t really like him. Let me think more on this. Hmm..

MOB1

Next, a thank you note to my MOB group:

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who takes the credit.”

Word.

In our group, it’s never mattered who takes credit for what. Successes are taken as a group and so are failures. I am so privileged to have been grouped with you all and I just want to thank you all for making at least one of my modules something I love.

From Carol’s teasings to Kaiyang’s jokes to Sua I mean, Syah’s joking around to Janice, oh, my cute cute Janice – how can I not love you all? I’m sure we all took something to keep from this one semester and hopefully we’ll be grouped together for our next term as well! 😉

MOB2

Tonight I’m dead drained but exceptionally thankful for everything that I’ve been through this past month. Soul-sucking, draining and disillusioning at times but no gain comes w/o pain, yes? 🙂 Plus, a big thank you to those who’ve actively been there for me this month – Jean, Weetiong, Rachel (in spirit because she’s practically vanished off my radar), Liansheng, Yogesh, my MOB group, Kai, and most of all my family, not least of whom my mom, who’s had to take care of me when I concuss on my bed every afternoon. Thank you all :’)

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