By Kiara Nicole Pillai (18A01B), Chairperson
Being in Raffles Players is like going for a huge buffet while you’re on a diet. You know you’ll only have five helpings at most, four of which will be servings of vegetables. And you’re proud of yourself, and you feel great, looking around at everyone else who doesn’t have as much self-discipline as you do. But then, one thing leads to another, and you’ve somehow consumed half your weight in chocolate cake – and yet, somehow, you can’t bring yourself to care, because it was the best dessert spread in your entire life.
Welcome to Raffles Players. If you saw our open house noticeboard, you might have been sold by the sign that said: “CCA Hours: Wednesday, 3-5pm”. What a great deal, right? Fulfilling that artistic need, while being able to keep your JC life on track because CCA is only once a week for two hours right? NOPE. The truth is, during production season, in order to produce Broadway-ready masterpieces, the average player ends up staying back till 8 each day just to make things work. And to put this into perspective, we have 4 Productions a year.
Dramafest is an inter-house competition organised by the outgoing Players batch. It is the only Players event to include non-Player participation, and features a fifteen-minute play put up by each house. Last year, each house was also assigned a prop like a ladder, a mirror, or a mannequin, that had to be incorporated into the play.
As the first Production of the year, Dramafest is a great way to get acquainted with the art form, and try one’s hand at acting, directing, or crewing. The competitive element only makes the performances improve in quality. It can also be a great way to get acquainted with seniors and batchmates from Players before CCA even officially begins. All in all, Dramafest a great place to create, explore and learn, especially if you’re planning to join Players but have not had the experience of participating in a production before.
Of course, seeing as Dramafest is a biennial event, Players will be working on SYF in the place of Dramafest. SYF is another biennial event, with the Players devising their best fifteen-minute pieces against other schools across the nations. These pieces often include very stylistic choices in terms of movement and can make for the most eye-catching, beautiful pieces. It can be a great experience to dive into a very modern, abstracted means of telling stories, and a great way to learn how to tell these stories through one’s body, besides solely relying on the voice.
College Production is when things really begin to get tough. This full-scale production is staged in the Performing Arts Centre, and no holds are barred in terms of costume, set design and production value in general.
If you came for this year’s college production: Proof, you may have seen the incredible display of hanging numbers and math symbols that filled half of the stage. Or perhaps what struck your eye was the to-scale, actual house that we built. It is indeed a daunting challenge, to put on Productions meant for teams of hundreds to tackle. Hence, this production really relies on each and every member of the CCA pulling their weight no matter what committee they’re in, from the tireless stage managers who report on every rehearsal to publicity churning out as much material as possible, to the cast who has to memorise two-over hours’ worth of dialogue, and every other committee. Each player can take on responsibilities equivalent to that of a few 9-5 professional theatre practitioners. It is however, a great experience in learning what being in a professional theatre troupe might be like. And even though by the end of it we feel like death, the end product and the love for our CCA makes it completely worth it.
Also, it really makes up for all the CCAs you didn’t manage to join – it incorporates aspects from AVU, all the music and dance CCAs, sports when it comes to the physical training required to possess energy on stage, photography for publicity, art club for all our designs, and so so much more.
Lit Night is a completely free-of-charge event organised for the entire batch of literature students. In 2017, the J1 Players put on two productions as part of the celebration.
The first production, Ravanayana, was written by a senior of the graduating batch of Players from 2016, Isaiah Lee. This show was a real challenge with its heavy dialogue, its extraordinary attention to detail, and its complex cultural baggage. Using 17 rostrums to portray the golden city of Lanka, the play was successful in evoking tears and sympathy for the historically antagonised Ravana’s plight. This play really shaped the J1 batch and prepared them for any and all future challenges because, as they like to joke, “If you can do Rava, you can do anything.”
The second production was a Noose-like comedy sketch written by Robyn and Kiara, and involved most of the J1 batch presenting iconic Singaporean bits of culture such as fear surrounding Yishun and the haze. It culminated in the entire batch dancing to The Pandan Song, which Robyn composed.
Hence, it can definitely be said that performing for Lit Night is an invaluable experience for batch bonding. Every player can attest to it actually, that nothing forges relationships like acting together, because it just creates an inexplicable bond between people. Furthermore, it’s also for a great cause – keeping good art accessible to all.
J1 Production is definitely when the skills build-up really culminates for the J1 batch – they have the opportunity to come up with their own production entirely from scratch. Of all the productions, the process of J1 Production allows for the most freedom in expression and choice of performances, and is really an experience that brings the batch together.
This year’s J1 batch put up three shows: Omelas, The Universal Language, and No Parking on Odd Days. They titled the triple bill One-Two-Many, and the three vastly different plays were all huge hits with audiences. The wide range shows that really, the sky’s the limit, and though challenging, the opportunity to produce from scratch a story that everyone wants to tell can be one of the best Players experiences.
With all these exhilaratingly exciting productions going on throughout the year, it is a valid assumption to make that a lot, if not most, of our training is through experience in productions. However, this is where our sessions on Wednesday from 3-5pm come in. On most of these Wednesdays, Raffles Players is fortunate enough to train with industry professionals such as Ms Sharda Harrison and Ms Claire Devine, who really help us with building our skills in devising theatre. These sessions can often get quite physical, and despite Players being about “emotional, artsy stuff”, none of us ever leave these sessions without being completely drained yet completely fulfilled.
Some of the skills we learnt include (but are not limited to): Scriptwriting, Viewpoints (of physical theatre), specific movement pieces, how to be in touch with one’s body and physicality, technical skills (i.e. projection, pitch, vocal variation, etc) and improvisation. Being able to learn these from professionals who are familiar with them and are eager to share is indeed a privilege.
Do I join Players?
And now we’ve come to this portion of the article, where you’ve read about what we do, and how we do it, and understandably, this can evoke a variety of emotions within you. Maybe the amount of commitment makes you nervous, or the idea of working on such projects fills you with a lot of joy or excitement. Nevertheless, the question still remains: Should I join Players?
Well, what we are looking for in Players is passion. By passion, we mean enthusiasm to take part in both training and productions, an openness to trying and failing and learning and creating, perseverance through tedious and hard performances. This is because Players is not the biggest CCA, and yet we still try to reach as many people as possible, to tell stories that mean the most to us. As such, we really, really need passionate people who are willing to try their best to tell stories they want to tell. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you don’t have experience, or if you’re shy – we really want to welcome as many of you as we possibly can, no matter who you are.
So, if you think you might want to try your hand at telling stories, or being part of the process behind it, do sign up for Players!
Auditions will be held in February 2018 and will involve a number of sections including (though this may vary): monologue reading, group activities and an interview. However, do not panic, we promise that the process can be very very fun, and that we’ll do our best to make you comfortable.
Also, what we’ll be looking at during the audition includes (but is not limited to): Vocal Expression, Physical Expression, Openness to group activities, an interest in Players.