Saturday, 24 January 2015

Home!

Back home! Was discharged yesterday, whew! Still feeling tired but am on the mend. Thanks for checking in, boys and girls! We hope to return to our regularly scheduled blog very soon!! :D


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Hospital Daze

Heyhey everyone. So right now I'm sitting and typing from my hospital bed at Damansara Specialist Centre, having been admitted on Tuesday afternoon for dengue fever, oy vey! The past few days have been an exhausting blur of blood tests and doctors' appointments. Saw the doctors here at the hospital twice before finally getting admitted (the first couple of docs didn't think my platelet count warranted any worry, grr arrgh!). To some degree it was a relief to finally have been admitted because the whole uncertainty of feeling unwell, followed by repeated blood tests, was starting to wear on me. Now here's hoping and praying that everything gets better!

As you might imagine this whole thing has thrown a spanner into the works in terms of my musical projects, so there's going to be plenty of catching-up to do once I'm discharged, which I hope will be very soon. It's exhausting trying to rest and recuperate, LOL!! Okay, I'm going to leave you now with some pics from over the past few days. Till later...!

The waiting area in the emergency room.
After blood tests, chill out at the Coffee Bean in the hospital lounge.
Drip.
WORST... ANGLE... EVAAAAHHH!!!!!!!
Ahh, much better.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Weddings, Emceeing and Cursed Mozzies

Hey everyone. Eeesh. has this been a rather bumpy start to the year. We'll get to that in a bit... first, let's recap what I got up to last weekend! Jan 10 was the wedding day of my dear friends Cat and Rik, which started early in the day with a church service at SFX, followed by a reception that evening at the Ritz-Carlton in KL.

My blurry shot of the couple at the altar!
I attended the reception with Joanne, an old friend from my former workplace The Edge (the media organisation, not my musical, arf), and while we were there we hung out with one of Rik's and Cat's friends from the Netherlands, Julien, who was a really fun guy. The best/most terrifying part of that evening was that I was also the emcee for the night, which, for a first-timer, was absolutely scary!! Still, as the evening went on, I found myself loosening up somewhat (also thanks to the "apple juice" – read: whiskey! – some of the others at the table ordered or me, LOL!). And by the end of the night, people were telling me I did a very good job, all things considered. So... yay, me! Here are pics!

Wedding wefie!
With Julien, Joanne and another friend, Eva.
The wedding 'shoe game'.
Why aren't I wearing formal shirt-and-tie more often?!
My emcees' aid: the microphone and 'apple juice'
The rest of the week was seemingly going well enough, with rehearsals at KLPAC and all that, but Mum had actually fallen sick on the Thursday prior to the wedding weekend. By Monday she was admitted to Damansara Specialist Hospital, after a lengthy wait that totalled about six hours while they ran blood tests and whatnot to determine that she had come down with dengue fever. So Mum was in the hospital from Monday until today, Friday, when she finally came home. She's still weak and fuzzy but the doctor says she's well enough, so yay!

Here's where it gets bumpier. On Wednesday, I found myself coming down with achy joints and a really bad fever. Today is Friday, and I'm still feeling grotty. Went to see the doctor yesterday and he says that if the fever persist by tomorrow morning, then I'd need to get some blood tests done too to see if I have contracted dengue fever. Oy vey!!!! Just when this is one of the busiest points in my career, too, with original musicals to write and rehearsals for others to be had. What poor timing!!

Anyway, so that's that for now, boys and girls. Tomorrow I'll find out if this is, indeed, dengue, and if it is, then it's my turn for a stay at the hospital. I hope and pray for the best and for a speedy recovery. Stay tuned for more updates...

Zak Attack!

Miscellaneous Zak Zebra-related stuff!


Rehearsal with Joanne (pic by her, too!)
Cast photo!
Japie, Japie, sitting in a tree...
Imma birdbrain.
Ronald the Rhino, who didn't make it into our Malaysian version of the show.
A little doodle I made during the Zak tech meeting....
A recent write-up on the show. Don't you love them poses?!
My article detailing the journey and history of Zak, as featured in 'Living Arts' magazine.

And just in case you were interested, here's what I wrote in the Living Arts article:

As part of my Mass Communication and English undergraduate degrees, I enrolled in a Children’s Theatre unit during the course of my studies at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. It was 2003 and the show was called Zak Zebra’s African Safari, written and directed by one Dr Jenny de Reuck.

The script was about a group of animals in Africa who have to band together, led by the titular Zak, when they learn that a devious big game hunter and his sidekick are on the prowl. The bad guys are in search of the ancient and revered crocodile, Komati, whose tears are a source of great power. At the same time, some sneaky hyena are lurking, posing another threat to the good creatures of the Savannah. What fun!

Straight away I was enamoured with the process, as Zak Zebra involved characters both human and non-human; bright and colourful costumes, makeup and backdrops; and a fun story that nevertheless had enough gravitas to allow for educational performance. It told of the importance of uniting in times of difficulty, and also spoke, subtly, about the plight of wildlife and the cruel roles of humans in endangering species around the world.

As is the case every year with Children’s Theatre at Murdoch, the students got to nominate the area of work they wanted to focus on. The majority of them would opt to act. Some would choose backstage work such as set design and construction, while others would take on production roles such as stage management.

The actors had to create anthropomorphised animal characters across the approximate 14 weeks of semester, during which workshops were conducted just once a week until the intensive week of rehearsals prior to the performance stretch. It was a lot of fun watching the actors stretch their skills to incorporate animal-esque characteristics — funny walks, strange voices and the like. Meanwhile, from costume design to publicity, everything had to be handled by the students in their respective departments, guided by Jenny and other Murdoch theatre staff.

That year, I, alongside several others, decided to form the band. Our role was to provide one of the most important elements — the musical landscape — which would complement the action and characters onstage through underscoring as well as song and dance. As a budding composer then, it was a style of music that was new to me. The music had to be playful, fun, cartoony, memorable; the songs had to be quirky, concise and charming.

I discovered, over the course of workshops and performances, that music is vital in any show for children. It keeps the young audience more focused on the goings-on — likely because they associate the characters with their theme music. The underscoring drives the action (as well as the performers!). And what young person doesn’t like songs?!

Zak Zebra would prove to be the starting point of a series of collaborations with Jenny that has spanned over a decade. From that inaugural production in 2003 until today, we have worked on close to 10 children’s theatre productions, with me serving as composer and, oftentimes, musical director and performer.

Performing for children is a very different experience from that for adults. There is the boundless energy that the young ones feed to the performers – and with it comes the unpredictability. As children’s theatre tends to be interactive, there could be a need for the actors to ‘control’ the crowd if, for instance, the children start laughing uncontrollably, or booing characters they don’t like, or shouting out raucously in response to questions or onstage action.

Sometimes, children might have been told by their parents or teachers to behave—leading to no reaction from them at all! Then there is the challenge of maintaining focus as a performer while a child is in tears in the front row out of fear of the villains... Such an enriching experience indeed!

I graduated in 2006 and returned to Malaysia but continued to contribute to the Murdoch shows in subsequent years, regularly flying back in to Perth to conduct musical workshops and guide the students through each production. In fact, Zak Zebra was restaged at Murdoch in as recently as 2013. So it was very serendipitous when Joe and Faridah spoke to me in early 2014 about launching a series of new children’s musicals at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Given that Zak Zebra was my first venture into theatre for young people, it was easy for me to decide on just the production to kick off the series… albeit with some changes.

Firstly, we’ve reduced the number of characters in our version, given that Jenny’s scripts take into account the number of enrolled student at university. Secondly, while the show is still set in Africa, some tweaks have been made to link it to Malaysia without changing the fundamental aspects of the script. How have we done this? Ah, you’ll just have to wait and see!

And so I’ve been able to see history repeat itself, in a sense, as our team of local performers have come together to put on this show, under the direction of Omar Ali and Mark Beau de Silva of The Actors Studio Academy @ KLPAC. Once again I have the joy of seeing actors stretching their skills in movement, acting, singing and overall stagecraft, enthusiastically taking on these over-the-top animal and human characters and working diligently to ensure that we have a show for Malaysian audiences of all ages.

Indeed, it’s a privilege to both be able to entertain children as well as provide a platform for performers of various skill levels to try their hand at theatre for young people. And this is only the beginning! More children’s theatre productions at KLPAC are in the pipeline, and my work with Jenny over the years ensures me a valuable resource to draw on for future productions, even as I continue to scout for material and ideas from other sources.

We hope to produce a minimum of two shows a year, with myself serving as primary composer for these works, and I could not be more grateful to Joe, Faridah and the team at KLPAC for their support and generosity.

So come February, join us as we traverse the vast landscape of the African Savannah… right here in Pentas 2! See you all then!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Zebras, Birds and Dolls!

Happy New Year, everybody! Okay, I'm a week late. It's 2015, can you believe it? I sure can! It's been a busy start to the new year, what with rehearsals kicking into high gear for the Malaysian debut of Zak Zebra, in addition to a project I've been commissioned to compose titled The Dollmaker's Daughter. The latter has a rather ambitious timeline: the first batch of nine songs are due by middle of the month (eek!), and the second batch of another nine by late Feb. All I can say is: stress. Busy as a mosquito in a nudist colony, as I'm fond of saying! But at the same time it's cool to have some work, which involves composing an entirely original score, editing script and lyrics (dramaturg mode on!), creating backing tracks, recording melody/vocal demos, as well as writing out lead sheets for the singers. Oy vey!!

Rehearsing with the Hyenas from Zak!
"Tell me, oh beautiful land...!"
It was Vale's birthday yesterday! Happy virthday, Bale!
What else has been happening? New Year's Eve was rather low-key, with me working on the music and foregoing festivities. On the 1st, I actually did something new and unusual: I met up with Juan and attended a Baha'i prayer meeting, which was a pleasant enough, if slightly awkward, experience since I'm neither prayerful much these days nor Baha'i. So having to meet new people and socialise within a faith group that I'm not a part of was interesting, to say the least!

The avian-themed centrepieces on the tables at the prayer session,
And oh yeah, on Sunday I met up with Beattie, Josie and Trevor, who were in KL for the festive period, and we got to have a lovely (albeit too brief) catch-up while dining on Thai seafood, yay!! As a bonus, I got to meet little Marie, Josie and Trev's darling baby daughter! Here's a pic of us, taken by Josie's brother Ben:
That's little Marie! And next to Beattie is her friend Steph! :)
I met up with them after making a detour to buy some items to contribute to victims of the recent floods on the east coast, and dropped them off at the donation drive in TTDI, which was a pretty awesome endeavour by ordinary citizens to help others. Quite a huge turnout indeed!
A segment of volunteers at the drop-off location.
Anyhoo, that's about all for now... I foresee that 2015 will likely see slower and less frequent updates on this blog as blogs are slowly becoming irrelevant, heheh... but I guess that's okay. It's time for bed soonish and an early start for more music-making in the AM. I leave you with a couple of sneak-peeks of music from Dollmaker that I've been working on... sssh, don't tell anyone I'm sharing these! Till next time!




Who's awesome? I AM!!!! :P