I could have been damn good at theatre. Not only did I have the penchant for acting, but I also have (still) a kick ass memory for remembering queues and line. I have been in couple of drama/theatre when I was in school. My favourite was the one which took over 2 years of preparation. This was whilst I was studying in HK, in Delia School of Canada (yea, mostly Canadian and Chinese expats). Our then drama teacher (a really wonderful empathetic soul) called Mr. Michael Blaney, was our instructor/guide/leader/mentor/friend and everything else in between during this time.
I guess most of us involved in the drama were of the same age (mostly 7th and 8th graders!). There was a brief audition (which I could pass with flying colors- hell the drama was in English and I can speak at least that language), followed by months and months and months of regular daily hourly practice. Mr. Blaney wanted us to feel and become the characters, and unfortunately for me this meant the greatest headache of all.
I played the character of an old Chinese man (can you believe that) who keeps rambling about the virtues of his age while condemning the vices of what he saw in front of him (of his grand kids-and friends and what not). The entire play revolved around 3 generations, myself (the oldest of the lot), the parents (played by some of my good friends) and the ‘dudes’ and ‘dudettes’ who didn't give a rats ass in the name of rebellion. The story was common day and didn’t differ much from perhaps everyday reality. The peer pressure, and the angst. The parents demands and the generation gap and of course the loony old man in the corner with his ramblings (fuck!)
So, I had the most lines to remember; cause after every act(parents or grand children-did not matter with whom the previous act ended with).. I had to go off the hook and ramble on for 5-10 odd minutes with great theatrical expressions about the pain I was experiencing even watching the youngsters and their failed attempts to live. Damn; there were months on end when we practiced the play top to bottom day in and out to get to the point where it was absolutely fluent in every persons head.
We arranged for a presentation at school on its annual day, and the play went better than planned. It was fabulous (to the best of my memory it lasted around 45 minutes odd- and mind you out of which 20 odd minutes was my own fucking rambling). We got rave reviews from our school teachers and Mr. Blaney was top of the pops (he had been recruited that year itself for teaching drama and being a class-room resident teacher- he was assuredly one of the most genuine people/teachers I have ever encountered). The cast too got a good clap and well deserved and it was onwards for some careless fun (without the daily practice routine).
This too did not last though, soon enough everyone of us was called by Mr. Blaney to undergo a verbal contract that we would again be able to put forth a show; all of us agreed of course, and we realized that we were to act in front of a public audience (not our school or any other), in one of HK’s kick ass theatre competing with other English language schools from HK/Mainland region. We undertook the damned task of picking up where we left off; taking off the rustic expressions and tones with the former refined states to which we had soared in the previous months. This time the training was more gruelling, cause we could not afford any mistakes at any cost.
The judgement day arrived, and we were given a spacious resting and changing room (my make up took quite some time- turning me into fairy white Chinese man with white hair, and a little paunch and what not!), and all of us were onto the stage once more. This was the first time I was in front of such a huge audience (perhaps over 1000 or 1500 people) who had paid money to see us in action. We were one of the few dramatics that evening; there were also some dance and stage shows and some other stuff which schools had come up with (we were told that other schools though English medium had not the endurance to make a proper formal play and I dont blame them, it took us nearly half a year of rigorous journey to complete the play to the sort of end we would have liked. All of us were polished and became almost the characters we were portraying, I say almost cause we were still adolescents at that time, and perhaps we hadn’t developed advanced skills (though to tooth my own horn, I did receive the best actor award and also accolades from my teacher personally- he told and confided that I did have the stuff to become a good actor later in my life!- something which i cherish and relish till date)
Theatre is fun to see, but yes; to evoke emotion (not from the crowd only) but firstly from yourself- there is a lot and I mean LOT of effort to be put in. Its something which we do everyday; the only difference is; we actually think that our day to day life is not a drama and that the world is not a stage.
Peace and love