“But I don’t think you asked for much..” Obviously Cold by The Answering Machine.
I hate this. Below, I have posted my newly done reflection for the Merchant of Venice staging a few weeks back. I have to hand this in next week, but get this; they said the maximum number of words is 1000 words. I’ve written 1545 words. See my problem? I can’t help if I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to write about. Plus, I hate the language I use when I write my reflections. They’re so… skema. *Sighs* Oh well, here it is. Now I just have to chop off 545 words off of this. Has anyone seen my chainsaw?
On the 28th of May 2009, we presented our assignments to our lecturers. But this was no ordinary assignment. In this one, we were required to stage a play based on William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, which was part of our syllabus at the institute’s King’s Hall. But before I get to the actual day, I think it would be appropriate for me to write about the goings-on before the staging.
When we first received the assignment, I was quite eager to do the dramatisation, as I was in the Institute’s theatre club, and I liked being on stage, so that was a big plus for me in this assignment. We were told to divide ourselves into groups. We were to be assessed in those groups. We drew lots to determine our groups. My early opinion on my group was that it was going to be hard working with this group. This was because two of them were part of the organizing committee for the adaptation, and I must admit that I had doubts whether some of the members were able to speak in public, let alone on a stage. As if that were not enough, I was also appointed the MC for the dramatisation. All things being equal, I had no qualms about taking on that responsibility. But as it turned out, my team was the first group to take to the stage after drawing turns. This was a problem because after I had to address the crowd, I had to rush backstage and get changed as quickly as I could and go on stage right away. I put that worry aside as I still had more than a month to solve that little problem.
I took the responsibility of writing the script and also directing for our group. We held a few discussions to determine what our performance was going to be about. We finally came to a consensus that we were going to concentrate on the theme of mercy. I tried not to stray far from the initial story, but incorporated some humourous parts of my own so that it won’t turn out boring. I wrote all the scenes but the last one. This was because at the time I had some other work to sort out, so I let the others write the final scene. When I reviewed the last scene, I made a few corrections to their rendition and the script was done. As soon as we got the green light from the lecturers, we started with our practice. Upon reflection, I now realize that even if our lecturers said the script was good, I did not ask for my team’s opinion. Maybe they even had suggestions to make it better. So, in the future, I should consult my team before moving forward with a project.
As I was in the theatre club, I had some knowledge regarding theatre; therefore I passed some of that knowledge to my group members. During our practice sessions, I taught them how to breathe correctly through the diaphragm, to help them with their voice projection. But even after teaching them to project their voices correctly, some still had a hard time speaking up. I also taught them a very important rule of the stage, which is to always face the crowd. Quite a few did not know this, and I explained to them it was important because it helped the crowd hear what you are saying as well as letting the crowd see your facial expression. That takes us to the next thing I taught, or tried to teach them, which was facial expression. I tried to explain to them that, on the stage, all expressions must be exaggerated so that the crowd can see your expression and movement clearly. But some were a little too shy to really exaggerate anything.
After practicing several times, we were struck by an event that left us shocked. A friend of mine, Azlan, found out that some of the lines that some of us have been saying were detrimental to our “aqidah” (our faith in God), which were the lines in which we confessed ourselves as being Jews and/or Christians. To get confirmation of this piece of information, to find out whether we were really damaging our “aqidah”, we went to see an Ustaz in the Islam Department. He confirmed our suspicion, so we immediately contacted Mr. Ganesan and told him of our discovery and asked him whether we could change our lines. He said it was alright, so we moved on with changing the lines. In these turn of events, I learned that I had to be careful about what I said and always consult a more knowledgeable person. In this way, we won’t get the wrong information and overreact over something that’s not even correct.
After changing a few lines here and there on our script, we moved on with the practices sessions, and the girls even started with the costume making. They took our measurements and set out to buy the materials. I have to compliment my team mates on this, because they did a good job in making the costumes. Mine was a blue strapless dress. It would have looked beautiful on a girl, but because I was wearing it, it was not that appealing to onlookers. But there was a problem. They could not finish making the costumes before the last practice session; therefore we practiced without the costumes. This made our costume changes during the staging short on practice. We were to discover the consequences of that soon, which was during the dramatization day itself.
Then the big day came. The atmosphere in the hall was hectic as everyone was preparing to go on stage. They were trying on their costumes, putting on make up, rehearsing their lines and a whole lot of other activities. It was good to see everyone in good spirit for the staging. We started a little bit behind schedule due to some technical difficulties. Being the master of the ceremony, I addressed the audience and all the attending lecturers and gave a short briefing on what the evening was all about.
The first group to take to the stage was my group, so I rushed backstage and hastened into my costume because my scene was the second one. As soon as I put the costume on, I was quite bemused to see that I had put on the costume inside out. I had no time to correct my mistake as I had to go on stage immediately, so I went and amusing everyone by wearing an inside out dress. When I went backstage again, I quickly corrected my mistake with the help of my team mates. I now realise that I have to rehearse even the small things, such as putting on a costume, so that I won’t mess it up when it really matters. Aside from that, I think my group did a great job for the staging. I’m quite proud of them for doing a good job, and we showed good teamwork as we helped each other out tremendously on and off stage.
After our performance, we went off stage and enjoyed everyone else’s performances. To be honest, even though we did a good job, I still think that my group’s performance was one of the lesser interesting ones that evening. This was because all the other groups did a splendid job and showed their creativity on stage. I must say that I was really impressed with everyone’s performance, as they really showed that they were capable of fantastic performances. The best performance, in my opinion, was Azlan’s group’s performance. I congratulate them for making such an interesting play. They also incorporated singing and even rapping into their performance, which was really out of the ordinary, I must say.
It was a good experience for me, as I learned a lot of things along the way. I learned that staging a play is not that simple, and required a lot of work and cooperation from everyone in the team. No one can afford to sleep on the job and just be a passenger. Our lecturers have told us to look out for these passengers, but luckily there weren’t any. Everyone played their part in making this dramatization a success. I also learned that some of my friends had good acting talents, and really stood out on stage, even though they do not stand out off stage. I also had my first experience in being a director, and let me tell you, it is no walk in the park, especially when you’re working with people who have never been on stage before this. I had to teach them many things and direct their movements and acting to suit the play. I now understand why directing is not an easy job. I hope I can direct more in the future, as even though it was tough, I enjoyed it.
In conclusion, the whole dramatization of “An Evening With Shakespeare” was a thoroughly enjoyable and educating experience for me. Even though there were a few bumps along the road, but they were nothing we could not handle. I applaud my cohort for doing a marvellous job.