Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The End Of An Era, and The Start of Something New, Something Bright

Hey all! So yesterday was my final day at work, and as of today, I'm officially unemployed! Yippee!! I say "yippee" with a touch of irony, of course; but then again, like I've mentioned, this frees me up to focus on FTL and other creative ventures, so it's not all bad!

Yesterday, the remaining TNG staff headed into the office for our very last day in the workspace, and it was kinda colon-apostrophe-left bracket as we made sure our desks were all cleared out and everything that needed discarding and removing was discarded and removed. One of the more poignant moments was when we had to wipe clean the whiteboard that contained messages that had been a source of working inspiration for the past two years. Oh, how we shed copious tears of sadness as we cleansed it all, our faces set like flint as we struggled bravely in the face of sheer despair, our hearts bleeding in a silent chorus of grief: Daaamn youuu whiteboard eraserrrr!! Here's a video tribute:


Here are more pics of us in the office. Click on them for bigger views:

The lovely 'Nutty' ladies: Pei Ling, Lainie, Jac and Jo-AnnLast day at my desk. Yes, that is a beard

Cleaning the whiteboardGetting ready to leave for the last time

Group shot in the elevator. This almost looks like the cast photo of a TV show, arf!

After we left work, we headed over to Boathouse in TTDI for dinner. Drinks, tapas, soups, main courses and dessert, plus lots of chats and laughter. The ambiance of the restaurant was lovely, albeit a tad too dark to produce nice photos, so here's just one pic:


Dinner was scrumdilliyicious (I had a tequila sunrise, crab chowder and chicken with Scotch gravy, i.e. alcoholic), and then afterwards, we headed over to my colleague (former colleague?? Sniffle!) Jo-Ann's home for further drinks, finger foods, and... oh, yeah, somewhere along the way we were supposed to greet Malaysia's Independence Day, but given how this country is increasingly going down the sinkhole, I'd say that the three minutes we spent on Jo-Ann's spacious balcony overlooking the cityscape of PJ and KL (and the neighbouring rooftops) as it was lit up by virtually nonexistent fireworks was more than sufficient time spent commemorating the occasion. Wow, I can't believe I just typed that entire sentence without having to go over it and make corrections. Sometimes I outdo myself, I really do. Arf.

Trying to see the fireworks. Spectacular display FAIL

So downing homemade mojitos made by Jo-Ann's hubby (whose name regrettably escapes me), we got into a long-winded and rather heated debate about ethics and the role of the journalist and the principle of private versus public interest. Oy. You know you're officially an adult when this is what passes for party conversation. Then there was the toasting of the company, with us former staff members quizzing our former boss and editor Jac on her proudest moments in The Nut Graph, what could have been done better, and how her love life has been affected by the amount of time and energy she's had to invest in the company. Yes, all the pertinent questions. We're nothing if not thorough in our interrogations on the key issues.


Yeah. I rock

Discussing something or other, something terribly important I can't recall

I swear, Pei Ling and Shanon on the couch weren't posing

Finally, before the night was over, we, the former TNG staff, were asked to reflect on our proudest moments being part of the company, and what we felt could've been done better. I said that one of my proudest achievements was for having had a part to play in the completion of the Found in Malaysia book (see previous post), in having to proof-read, edit, coordinate with the publisher, as well as obtain consent for the reproduction of interviewees' personal photos. Not really explosive stuff when you consider how my colleagues talked about having written exposes on the Malaysian "First Lady" and the New York Times; hard-hitting commentaries on the role of lawmakers in the country; and opinion pieces concerning, among others, environmental issues, the orbituarisation of deceased Rulers, the advent, pinnacle and decline of student activism in the 1960s, and political Islam... but hey, I'm the spell-checker and grammar-correcter, so I'm important.

As the night grows late, the bleary eyes emerge

The festivities ended at around 2am or so, and I drove back home and fell into a deep sleep, ready to face this day (which is now almost over), which comprised of further auditions (groan) for FTL to replace a cast member who sadly had to pull out at the last minute. We wish this cast member all the best, and we have to move on, too. Director Colin and I actually just finished with the auditions about half an hour ago, and if all goes well, I think I can finally, finally say, we've got our cast. Fingers incredibly tightly crossed. Because, after all, the first rehearsal is this coming Thursday, so... we better pray we have it all together.

In the meantime, I have to start preparing myself for the reorganisation of the rehearsal schedules because cast changes means timetable changes, which in turn means a protracted period of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling impending. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bid thee adieu, and good night, until next time. (Good Lord, an extremely loud firecracker just went off outside as I was typing this, a totally unexpected bang! Startledeth the hell outteth me. Fark.) Bye!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

First Rehearsals, New Phones and Pretty Books

Hey all! Last night we had our first rehearsal for Little Girl Lost, my entry into Short+Sweet Musical. It went pretty well; we did script reads and determined which cast member was going to play which character. Interestingly, my first choices were not what we ended up going with. In other words, the director and I decided to cast against type: just because we would have expected so-and-so to play this particular character because she looks and sounds the type, does it mean we have to cast her for that character? What if we shake it up a bit, go against expectations? And that's what we did. How exciting.

Apart from that, I'm trying to finish off some music scoring for FTL, aaaand trying to work out the rehearsal schedules, which, believe you me, is a challenge indeed when there are 14 people's availabilities to work around! All's going well for now, though I did receive some rather negative-ish news last night, but I won't worry about that until it's sorted. Which probably makes you wonder what's the point of typing it if I'm not going to elaborate, no? Just getting this fretting out of my system, bear with me, heheh.

Oooo, let me show you my new phone! Since my mobile phone died a week or so ago, I've been wondering if I could afford a new one. And then I realised I didn't have to, since I had accumulated enough credit card points to redeem a phone, yay!! So it's now arrived. It's a Nokia 2700 Classic, and for a "cheap" phone (in comparison to the more sophisticated items out there), it's quite a beaut, and it's got most of the features I need. So I'm quite happy with it so far, though it's only two days old at this stage, heheh! Here's a stock photo of the phone:


Yay!

Yesterday I went into the office for my second last office day at work. Yup, we're coming to the end, folks: Monday will be our final day in the office, and from September onwards, The Nut Graph is going to become a weekly publication. But it's all good for me, because I'll get to continue working on the site on a part-time basis, securing some money on the side while I focus on the theatre in a more full-time way.

Anyway, I went into the office and I picked up our Found in Malaysia book, which we've been working on for the past few months! Yup, TNG has released an honest-to-Jehovah book, all high-quality paper and all, of fifty(!) selected interviews from our popular FIM column on the site which asks respected personalities and celebrities their perspectives of what they think it means to be "Malaysian", without being too pedantic or cheesy about it, heh. (Guess who had to do the proofreading and amendment annotations for all 200+ pages of the book? Oy.) Here's the cover - it's quite beautiful, isn't it! Plus, if you look carefully, you'll see our very own Terry on the cover!! Look hard, boys and girls! ;)

Okay, I suppose that's about all for now. Gonna finish off the rest of today's work, and then I probably should try to get crackin' on those rehearsal schedules. Till next time... ciao!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bleargh!

Hey all! It's Friday already, and boy, am I feeling sicky! Started feeling sneezy and itchy-throaty last night, and it's just gotten worse this morning. But I'm not feeling too bad... am still aiming to work a half-day before getting some rest. Nothing much else to report, except that things with FTL are starting to heat up. Finally we've got our cast back together - a new cast, with at least 50% newcomers not on the list last year - and there have been some tension over the past few days in trying to organise schedules especially since I have Short + Sweet Musical coming up, but it's resolved now for the most part, so it's all good. These things happen; we deal with it and we move on.

Judi and I (check out her new blog!) have made a promise to go back on Cohen's, which I finished about a year ago, to try to lose some of these kilos that we've put back on over the past year. Yup, they said we could maintain our weight once we lost it, but honestly, I think it only works if you don't succumb to old habits such as emotional and binge eating. And I, for one, am such an emotional eater and binger. It sucks. "I can't deal with all this pressure!" Food. "I hate being single and alone!" Food. "YAY this is AWESOME news!" Food. "I want to curl up in front of the telly, smug and content!" Food. Okay, the last one is, perhaps, more along the lines of a bad habit, but it still applies: the need to supplement the feeling of bliss with some munchies. It happens. And it's not easy to just stop, with a flick of a switch. Unfortunately most people who have never had a weight problem don't really understand this: that it's not about wanting to snack; it's the feeling of being compelled to. Sometimes we're not even hungry. We eat anyway, to deal with the emotions. Like serial killers feel the urge to kill... we're serial eaters. And not the kind with milk, arf arf. Get it? Serial... cereal? BWAA HAAA. I'm lame. Anyway.

The point is, starting this week I'm putting in an extra hard effort (hehe extra hard) to stick to the diet for as long as possible. I started on Monday at about 88kgs (which, mind you, is 16kg heavier than when I ended the diet last year, though a large percentage of that, I reckon, was due to Sunday night's preposterous dinner, arf arf). Today, I'm down to 85.5kg, which is not too bad considering I fell off the wagon last night due to being unwell and feeling sorry for myself (see? Emo eating) and decided to polish off biscuits with two mugs of hot milky drinks, and I added glass noodles to my regular meal. But never mind. I'm trying again today. So the target weight loss for now is just 5.5kg - to reach 80kg - and then I'll set myself another 5kg goal, and another, and hopefully by Christmastime or before, I'll be back to 70kg, which is about where I was this time last year. Almost.

Okay, that's about all for now, boys and girls. Work calls; and then there's music and scheduling to be sorted out. Till later... byebye!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Stuffed to Bursting Point

Tonight, Terry brought my mum and me to a Chinese restaurant for dinner - his treat - and we decided to order five dishes with rice. Only thing is, we underestimated the portions at this restaurant, and ended up with a whole lot of food!!! The people at the tables around us even turned to gawk at us in disbelief. We tried calling Debs to join us for dinner, but she couldn't... and so the three of us ended up chowing down this ridiculously portioned meal. Every so often we felt the need to randomly exclaim stuff like, "Aiyoh! I hope our friends come and join us for dinner soon!" and "Haaaiyoh, these guys, why are they so late?? Don't think they're coming laaa!" Arf. The surprising thing is that we actually managed to finish all of it between the three of us... or maybe that's not so surprising! And we went for cake and coffees after! Oy!!!

That's garlic butter prawns; pork with ginger and salted fish; curried vegetables; stir fried greens and a mixed platter of meats. Oy.

Now more than ever I'm determined to return to the diet that I was on last year (could it have been nearly a year since I finished that weight-loss programme??) and try to lose some of these kilos that I've gained back over the months. Yup, the new plan is to try to shed some of these pounds in time for Christmas... and in time for FTL, arf. Wish me luck, everyone!!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Busy Little Bee...

Spent a bit of time today shifting things around in my study/studio to make things a little easier in terms of connecting the big keyboard with the computer. Also, I think I just needed a new "perspective", as much as perspective can be altered within a limited space. Oooh, that nearly sounded intellectual. Arf.

The best part of this new layout, I think, is that there's room in front of the little corner window-seat area, which allows me to have more of a view (of whatever limited view there is). Not like you can really see it in the pic below. It's the strip of light that's coming in from the right-hand corner. Previously, my desk was right up against that corner of the room, lined up against the right-hand-side wall. Unfortunately I don't think I have a pic of the old configuration... but never mind, new is better. Yay!!



More updates soon...

Saints, SIM cards and spontaneous singing sessions

Hey all! It's been a long day. Went into the office for the first time in over a week, arf arf. Yeah, now that things are starting to wind down at TNG, it's a little more relaxed, and coupled with the stuff Colin and I have been working on, I've been spending more time at home in recent days. After work today I headed off to KLPac to watch a local musical titled The Reluctant Saint. A very Catholic production about the life of St Alfonso. From a producer's perspective, there was a lot to be desired in the vocal quality of the performers, which is a shame because from the original, local score, I could hear moments that could've been brilliant instead of just okay. And from a musical perspective, again, there were moments that really made me go "ooooh" and almost get that goosebumpy feeling, but it never fully reached its potential. Which is a real pity.

Overall, I think the show suffers musically from too much similarity in tone and style - one too many ballad after the other, for example - and too little repetition of key motifs and themes. And when the music stops attempting to sound like Schoenberg or Wildhorn, those were the moments that really caught my ear. Overall, I'd say it was a good production for a church production with amateur performers and newcomers (performing on KLPac's big stage? Not an easy task, and quite an opportunity!) - not so good from a theatre producer and creator's humble perspective, but brimming with potential to be something much, much bigger and better than what it is. But I digress.

Yesterday was another day of work and auditions, including an impromptu middle-of-the-day audition with an acquaintance/friend who had borrowed my keyboard while I'd gone to Perth, and decided to repay me the favour by loaning me his mobile phone when mine went on the frizz. By the way, my mobile phone's on the frizz - the screen's shot to hell, either pure white with nothing else happening, or pure blankness. And while I was trying to fix it, switching my SIM card to another phone that my dad loaned me (which didn't work either!), I somehow went misplaced the damn SIM card. Oy!! This made me end up being unreachable for the whole day, and having to look high and low for it, wild-goose-chase-like, around the apartment. Turned out I'd stuffed it into the large plastic bag in the kitchen which I use to store other unused plastic bags. Must've had the SIM card in one hand and an empty plastic bag in the other... don't you hate it when that happens? Anyway.

Now I'm using my friend's mobile phone, which I'm grateful for, but it doesn't feel right, y'know? Oy. But at least I'm reachable again! When I found the SIM card, I put it into my mate's phone, watched it light up, and waited with bated breath all aquiver in anticipation for the numerous messages and voice mails that would surely have been left for me. Oh, what a thrill! Oh, the suspense!!! Cut to:

Nothing. No miss calls, no texts, nothing. Oh well. Nobody loves me. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm taking all this as a sign that I should get a new phone. But I'm not sure I can afford it, so... We see how laaah. Life goes on. Tra la la. One cherry.

Back to the story: yeah, I had an impromptu audition with my mate, who was really quite impressive in his tryout for one of the roles in FTL. Wish I could share more info on this, but I think I'll leave it here for now, since no decisions have been made on the casting yet. But my mate's tryout is pretty much the only one that I had the good sense to record because Colin wasn't here to listen to the audition... so at a more appropriate time, and if my mate permits, I'll share that recording here. Or I could just be naughty and post it up anyway. Bwaaa haa. BWAA hahahaahaaaaa!

Nah, I'll be good. For now... ;)

Okay, I'm gonna hit the sack now, sleepy sleepy and a bit delirious. Until next time!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

You've Got To Follow The Plaaaaaaannnnn!!! (Again)

So another weekend has gone by, and it's been quite a busy one! And now, for no real reason whatsoever, allow me to trace the trajectory of Follow The Light since Colin, the director, and I met a few months after my return from Perth. I met up with him in October 2006 with a proposal: to stage this Christmas musical with a non-religious, non-preachy slant. Colin was interested, and I still remember him telling me that the earliest he could do it would be in 2008. And I recall myself reacting thus: "2008?! That's more than a year and a half away!" Cut to: 2010, and we're still here, my friends. We're still here.

As you guys and girls (all two of you who read this blog) probably know, over the years, we've been working on the script and the music, with me doing major rewriting, chucking out old songs, writing entire new ones, altering existing numbers entirely. I've come to realise that I brought back with me a whole lot of idealism, but naivete about the politics of things. Not just politics to do with government, but politics concerning the way things work, the people you have to connect with, the corporations you have to approach. And of course, politics - related to government - does come into play as well, especially when you're dealing with a "Christian" subject in a country with Islam as its official religion. But more on this later.

Last year, we put a deadline on the staging of this project. We decided it would happen in December 2009. We'd been hunting around for a while, and - despite theatre companies who told us we were best working with a church, and churches telling us it didn't fit their mission because it wasn't an evangelistic piece - we finally found a producer who came on board in the first quarter of 2009. She left in around September 2009 when we realised we still needed funding, and partly because, due to some personal issues on her part, things had regrettably slipped through the cracks. So she left us, on amicable terms.

So in came a second producer in September, who had links to a major production company. By this point we'd secured the majority of our production team, and had auditioned the cast - it was pretty much settled, who was going to play which part. But reality kicked in, and we decided it was going to be too much of a rush, this late in the year, to put on the show in 2009. So to 2010 it was shelved. And in the meantime, said second producer had been offered a full-time position with this major production company, and subsequently this company was now interested in perhaps producing FTL under their banner, potentially relieving us of the responsibility of funding a budget that ran into six figures. What a boone! What a motivational boost!

Cut to: February 2010, when the company changed its mind due to developments on the socio-religio-political front and decided the timing wasn't good to tackle a "religious" project at this point. That's just one of the reasons they proffered; I'm sure there were others. I totally understand their position; it totally made sense from a business perspective, so I bear no ill-feelings about the whole thing. Heck, if anything I'm very appreciative that they were even interested in this project! I mean, who am I, this small fry, newbie-unknown, in a big pond? I just hope to have the opportunity to work with them in future. But yeah. Anyway.

So second producer, who by this stage had decided to remain with big company, had to step down. But not before agreeing to help us look for a new producer. So there were further discussions, meetings, etc with various people - and before we knew it, March had gone by, and April, and May, and whoo-boy, time's running out, isn't it?? In the meantime, some of the cast members we auditioned in 2009 had to pull out for reasons sundry. We understand, life happens, things change and developments take place, so it's all good. But it meant we had to embark on the whole process of auditioning people all over again. And for more than half of the entire cast. Oy.

May and June I was tied up with projects with the Perth gang. July Colin went on a much-needed break. And over the past couple of weeks, we've been reauditioning people. And it's already August 2010. Jeebus. Time really does fly, doesn't it? And as recently as a couple of weeks ago, we had new cast members deciding to join us, but then sadly they withdrew for reasons we can only speculate (albeit to what end?). Word on the grapevine is that the whole issue of us tackling a "Christian" subject could pose a problem to potential Muslim cast members due to the "sensitivities of the day". Thus some came, and some left - just in case they get looked down on, or worse, persecuted, for taking part in a production comprising thematic material that is contrary to one's personal beliefs. Only in Malaysia, my friends. Well. Preeminent in Malaysia, my friends. But to a degree, we understand. Everything's politicised these days. So we let it go, no hard feelings.

Thus the process has re-recommenced: this weekend has been tied up with more auditions with more interesting, talented and potential-laden people. Auditions are thrilling and/or tedious things. Having to test people's vocal ranges, gauge their skill and experience, listen to them sing, and having to bring them through the acting component. More often than not from the get-go you can tell whether they're suitable, but dammit, we can't be all Simon Cowell-like and tell them to leave one minute into the audition, can we? (Oh, I'm sure we could, but we're much too nice for that. Except for one guy who we turned away at the front door. It's a long story. We're still feeling bad about it. But moving on.)

The audition process averages 45 minutes per person. And this is what Colin and I have gone through this weekend, and it's tiring because we thought we'd be over this stage by now. Yet, the silver lining is this: right now, as I type this, I think we can cautiously say we just might have our cast. Again. And again.

So where does this leave us, what what's the point of all this? I'm not sure. I'm just trying to get my thoughts straight about this most strange, frustrating, and yet exciting process. Around the middle of the year, probably about the time I was doing the Children's Theatre stuff, my motivation and excitement for FTL had dwindled to about nothing. I'd felt ready to listen to the naysayers who'd told me, "Just let it go, Nick. Move on", and let it go and move on. But you know what? Sorry, naysayers. Right now there's a bit of fire being relit, and I'm thinking, we've come this far... let's go for it. Sure, at this stage the production "team" still basically consists of Colin and me. Sure, we don't have the money and sponsorship entirely in place yet. Sure, we haven't got the "dream" cast that we wanted, the "wish list" of performers that every production company comes up with but only the most successful / experienced / influential / connected / financially capable / lucky can get. But we have got a talented group of people, about a third of whom have been steadfastly supporting the project since last year despite the setbacks; and we've got damn good material, if I do say so myself (in spite of the abovementioned naysayers, suck it, all of you!), and... well... I suppose we have faith. To a greater or lesser degree. I'm feeling like this whole uphill battle has have to be for a reason, and a damn good one. I dunno why, call me an optimist (which is rare of me, isn't it?!) but I've got the feeling we're going to discover that reason real soon.

Many times I wonder how we managed to pull of that 2005 production of FTL. Yes, it was only a university-level show, but the components still apply: looking for the cast and crew, getting a production team, dealing with logistics and planning and budgets (which we had virtually zilch of), and rehearsing, bumping in, dealing with lights and sound in a theatre not equipped for a musical, dealing with dramas and divas and all that jazzz. Five years later you'd think it'll be easier. But no, as standard and expectations increase, so do the challenges. Hence, a bigger, better show means bigger challenges. And that's what we've got. But I dare say FTL 2005 was a success in spite of the odds. And I can only hold on to the conviction that FTL 2010 will reap even sweeter gains.

I leave you with this interesting blog post from 2005. I'm copying and pasting virtually the entire damn thing, even though you could easily click on this link to see it in its original form, arf, arf:

I've been heck-busy organising auditions, schedules, scripts, demos, etc for Follow the Light, and all in all, it has been a crazy task. Thank God I've got Judi, my dear friend Cat and my other housemate Carol helping me out and constantly giving me harsh painful slaps across the face each time I whinge about how this is all too much, I can't do this, I can't do this and they go "Shut up, asshole, you're going to suck it up and just f**king do it!" And with a stinging hot cheek flushed from the strike, I'd whimper, no, it's all toooo muuucchh and they'd throw me to the floor, grab my wrists and pin me down, pummelling me and shrieking, "Do it, BITCH! DO IT! DO IT!"

Okay, no, it's not like that. The name-calling, yea, but the hitting? Nah. Not without leather involved.

Anyway. We're quite on track, according to this Project Plan that we've come up with. Y'know life's scary when you've suddenly got to do things like devise project plans. Me. Nick. The king of disorganisation. But we are on track. I've got 14 out of my 15 cast members [...] I'm still hunting about for one last dude who can sing/act... so if anyone out there from Perth stumbles across this, give me a shout.

It's become a bigger project than I'd expected it to, too. I mean, think about it: 15 cast members. 13 musicians. A production team of 12. That's 40 people. Not big if you're a truly professional and (dare I say it) altogether experienced theatre producer, but.... *laughs blissfully with a tinge of apprehension*. Gosh, it's ironic -- the story has a young couple named Mary and Joe realising they are about to embark on something big; and I'm in no way comparing this project to the hugeness and significance of their experience (giving birth to the Son of God? Not in my line of work, no, sorry)... but... gosh, it's all quite whelming. Y'know. Like, over-whelming and under-whelming. In this case, it's a nice balance. It's whelming. I'm incredibly proud of what we have, and what we are, and what we might achieve, and it's all terribly exciting, but scary like hell.

It's dated 18 September 2005. We staged FTL that year from 22 November 2005. So all things considered, who knows? Maybe this time around, we're not doing too badly after all?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Belated Wishes!

Hey everyone! Nothing much been going on, hence the lack of updates. Just work, and... um... Yeah. Dealing with theatre stuff, but lots of things are up in the air still, so... nothing much to report yet on that front. Sigh.

Anyway, just thought I'd post a quick message to wish this blog a very, very happy sixth anniversary!! Whoohooo! I'm one day late - my first blog post ever was on 4 August 2004 (can you believe it?!)... but at least I remembered just in time! Yay!

That's about it for now. Will be back with more regularly updated updates soon, I'm sure. I can sense something big right round the corner. No idea what it is, but... it's gonna happen. Cheerio!