By Catherine Zou (17A01B)
Photos by Erika Poh (17S03P)
I am a Player.
This has meant many things: fact-checking reviews of Players productions, being informed that I have a “theatrical quality”, and most importantly, being part of the yearly rush towards production. At this point of the year, conversations with fellow Players often revolve around the subject of ticket sales and publicity plans. With one week to go before production, our schedules orbit around rehearsals, publicity efforts, and set-building.
The CCA puts up a College Production every year, but this year’s set design for David Auburn’s Proof is, in the words of Choo Ian Kang (17A13A), “the most ambitious yet” — a fact that was quickly made apparent walking into the Performing Arts Centre on Saturday morning.
It was Bump-In Day, when all the sets are slated to be moved to the performance venue. Given the nature of the set design, much of the work could only take place at the PAC itself. At 8AM, the stage was completely empty. The team of seventeen was to construct a house, and string up a fixture comprised of mathematical symbols, all by the end of the day.
Progress was slower than expected; it was only at 1.30PM that skeleton of this set started to take shape — the supporting columns had just been erected, and the fixtures were slowly starting to resemble the designs of the Sets team. “At first we thought it was difficult. As it turns out, it was impossible,” said Ong Yan Chun (17S06A).
And he is right — wielding a soldering iron or drilling massive wooden panels is not usually part of the job scope of most CCAs. The Sets team has had to go out of their comfort zones and pick up new skills, from drilling to wiring circuitry, just to make their designs come alive. During production time, being in Players means picking up skills far beyond just acting, from carpentry to sewing to IT literacy. The sheer amount of tasks involved means that there is always a job to do. Yet this work is undeniably fun, even as it is driven by the urgency to complete everything quickly.
When one thinks of theatre, acting is usually the first association that comes to mind. And rightly so, because the most immediate experience of theatre is created by the emotional pull of the actors. Mahirah bte Latiff (17S03B) explains that although Players might be associated with the “super stylised and abstract”, Proof is at heart a naturalist play. It centres around Catherine, played by Robyn Wong (18A01B), who struggles to prove that she, not her deceased father, had been the one to write the titular proof. Getting the acting right is difficult: “At this point I basically eat, sleep, and breathe theatre”, says Robyn. “My days consist of waking up for school, listening to my recorded version of the script on the MRT, attending classes while memorising lines in between them, then attending CCA, and then going back home to look at the script again.”
But the larger process involves not just acting, but a tremendous amount of coordination. “The focus,” says Izzul, who acts as Catherine’s father, “is no longer on us and it’s really just about how the play is going to come together with Lights and Sounds.”
Saturday’s Bump-In Day is just an indication of the work this takes: the actors had come to coordinate their acting with the lights, while the publicity department had arrived to take footage of the set-building and conduct livestreams.
In the words of Kavya Sundar (17S03D), “theatre…is actually quite like a sport. We train hard. Teamwork and synergy is imperative for a good performance of any scale. We focus so much on energy that we are just as emotionally and mentally drained as we are physically at the end of it all.”
— It is easy to see the kind of exhaustion Kavya speaks of. After over 12 hours of work, Bump-In Day ended at 10PM on Saturday night. “When we came, the sky was dark, and when we eventually leave, the sky will still be dark,” sighs Yan Chun.
There is still much to do before the show begins, with ticket sales being the greatest preoccupation. In response to the slow ticket sales, Izzul says that he understands how for some, “going to a play is a daunting thing”. Mahirah, too, agreed that people “are often worried that they won’t be able to get the ‘meaning’ of the play.”
Nonetheless, each member has reiterated that the play this year is both naturalistic and painstakingly put together. More than this, Hidayat Malik (17S06B) says that he hopes “people could catch this not just because we worked so hard.” Ultimately, what drives every Player is the fact that “we sincerely want to share the beauty of what we have created with everyone and to include them in this magical process that is theatre-making.”
College Productions: Proof will be conducting ticket sales in the canteen from Monday onwards. Tickets are going at $10 for performances on 12th and 13th May (Friday and Saturday), 7.30PM at the PAC. They can also be ordered online at tinyurl.com/proof17.
You can find out more about the production on Facebook.
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