Friday, December 28, 2018

Remembering 2018 (Part 2)

To read Part 1, click here.


The first week of July was the first week of me working as a Branding Executive at IDTG Asia. I joined a small team of 4 people who managed the social media pages of a handful of brands, and was in charge of writing the copy for whatever content they had to publish. I also wrote press releases, came up with pitches and helped out with IRL events the clients needed help with. Most days I was at a desk, staring at my laptop, trying to come up with words to post as Facebook and Instagram captions. Sometimes I’d get to go out of the office to help setup booths for people to try out a client’s products, while taking pictures and Instastories of what was going on.

I felt incompetent at this job as well. Almost as much as I felt when I first started teaching. I didn’t feel like I was writing at all satisfactorily, and I felt like I was letting everybody down. The people who were working there were nice people, and they were patient with me. So much more patient than I was with myself. Additionally, through this job I learned that I didn’t really like social media all that much. I liked writing, but writing for other people’s products didn’t really give me the sense of satisfaction that I was looking for in my life, the sense of satisfaction that I had every intention of looking for when I decided to resign as a teacher. Maybe it was because it was the kind of writing that I was undertaking that didn’t jive well with me, or maybe it was plain incompetence on my part. I started dreading going to work pretty early on in the process, because I felt like I had to go through yet another day of what a failure I was.

Towards the end of the second week of working there, I received a call from the director of Theatrethreesixty, an English theatre company who was well established within the local theatre scene. Chris asked me if I wanted to act for him in a play that would be staged a month later. The first thought that ran through my head was “I have to resign from my job,” followed by “say yes, Anwar,” and I said yes to Chris. 

I took some time to mull over whether or not I wanted to resign from IDTG, because I didn’t want to make a reckless decision. I knew that rehearsals would take up a lot of time, and memorising my lines couldn’t be done at rehearsals. I knew that I had to put time aside outside of rehearsals (probably three or four hours a day) just for memorising my lines, and I couldn’t do that at work, since my workdays were pretty packed with writing copy. And I  knew I needed a sufficient amount of sleep, or else my mental health would completely go out of the window. So I had a decision to make.

It was during a client’s event that Friday that I became sure of my decision. I was doing copywriting work at a Gloria Jean’s at Dataran Maybank, waiting for the client’s event to wrap up, when a friend of my brother’s ran into me and sat down to chat with me. I wasn’t too familiar with the dude, but I was feeling talkative, since I had a lot going through my mind regarding whether or not I wanted to resign. I don’t know how, but while talking his ear off about it, I stumbled upon a sentence that went something along the lines of “kalau aku nak buat kerja yang aku tak suka untuk dapat duit, baik aku continue jadi cikgu ja.” That sentence kinda hit me like a tonne of bricks, and I became sure about wanting to resign after that. 

The following week was my last week at IDTG Asia. I worked there for three weeks and a half in total, and my boss Shane was great, but I had to say goodbye in order to pursue what I resigned teaching to pursue, which was acting. I took the IDTG job to put food on the table, but I wanted to act to feed my soul (try not to cringe challenge 2018). 

We started rehearsing Cikgu Disiplin Sekolah Aku (written by Khairunazwan Rodzy and Khairi Anwar) in the second half of July. I played the character Agus Darman, an iron-fisted headmaster who would stop at nothing to ensure that his high high academic standards are met by all the students at his school. I got to reunite with Roro on this project, as she was acting in it as well, alongside Andy Poon, Amirul Syakir, Tria Aziz (replacing Nana, who faced vocal problems halfway through rehearsals) and Acad (replacing Anwar Pisang, who had unavoidable day-job duties halfway through rehearsals).

When rehearsals started, I became glad that I didn’t have a day-job anymore, since it meant that I could commit more time and energy to delving into my character and making sure that I memorised my lines. I needed every minute of it (and probably even more). We rehearsed at Lot’ng for a little bit, then moved to a space in Mont Kiara to make space for another play that was going to be using Lot’ng for two weeks.

Pasca Sini played at ROTTW’s Soundstage, their annual battle of the bands thing, and this year it was held at Publika’s Black Box. We played one recorded song and an unrecorded one, and I think I underrehearsed that new song, so I didn’t play as well as I wanted to in that show. We didn’t get through to the final, which is fine. It was a cool experience for us nonetheless, to be a part of an ROTTW show was a big deal for us and we are grateful for the opportunity.

This month also saw the end of the weekly First Time Director Workshop’s classes. From here on out, we only had one more task to get done, which was stage a full-length (hour-long) play as a director. I started looking for a script and found one that I liked on the internet called Tape by Stephen Belber, and proceeded to worry about whether or not I’d be able to obtain permission to stage it from the playwright, since he was all the way in the US. I also worried if it was going to cost a lot, since script royalties are a thing (and rightfully so). 

Besides that, I signed up for another weekly Revolution Stage workshop, called the First Time Playwright Workshop, under the tutelage of Cikgu Siti Jasmina. I signed up because it’s always been one of my dreams to be a scriptwriter, so I thought this weekly class would help me towards achieving that dream. It started in the second half of July, and was more formal than the directing workshop we had attended with Abang Wan. With Abang Wan, we sat in a circle on the floor, munching nuts and chocolate while Abang Wan or other were talking. With Cikgu Siti, we sat on chairs with tables and had notebooks and homework and all that, which was different, but cool nonetheless.


I started August by going to a preview of a play that was going on at Lot’ng called “House Of Usher” and after that play ended, I was stopped outside the black box by Axyr, who was one of the ensemble cast members of the play. He asked me if I wanted to act in a Short & Sweet play that he was directing, and I immediately said yes with no further questions your honour, since I had always wanted to be a part of S&S ever since I learned about it in 2013 in Penang (I just never knew how to join), so that was a pleasant surprise. 

Rehearsals started at the end of the month, and I found out that the ten-minute play was called Cin(t)a Buta, written by Lenny Wan, and I joined fellow cast members Vithal Narula, Asher Au and later Nicole Kiew in shaping the play for the short play competition that would be held in October at KLPAC.

Cikgu Disiplin Sekolah Aku was staged from the 16th to the 26th of August (with a three day break in-between). It was a great experience, playing Agus in this play. I’ve made friends with the cast and Chris, the director. The stage managers Farisha and Wyman were also very good at their jobs throughout the rehearsal and staging process, I felt really taken care of. They were also very patient with my lame attempts at jokes, so for that I am grateful. I thank the whole CDSA team for allowing me to be a part of the journey of telling the story.

At the end of the month, I acted in a short film written and directed by Diffan Norman. I don’t think I can disclose much about the project just yet, since it’s not out yet, so I’ll just wait until it’s been published to talk in further detail about it. I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Diffan for having me on set and being so great in the process. I felt that I was in such competent hands and around such distinguished company, I am honoured to have been a part of it.

Pasca Sini organised and played in a gig at Live Fact, Kota Damansara. There weren’t as many people in the audience as we would have liked, but it was the first time I played with a new guitar (a white Cort KX5), which I bought because I felt like I needed a guitar that had humbuckers (instead of the single coil on the Squier Tele I’d been using) to play the new Pasca Sini song that were being cooked up for the new album (or even the old songs, for that matter). Senang sikit nak main lagu drop C.


In the first week of September, I was involved in my first MingThing video, where I sat at a table with Ming Han and Harvinth and we just talked about our struggles with racism in Malaysia. I particularly talked about how I felt like I was still had racist tendencies because of the way that I was raised and taught to see the world, but that I was working towards noticing these tendencies of mine better and calling myself out whenever I did or said or even thought of anything that was prejudicial or racist. They made the video as part of a larger Youtube campaign called Creators For Change. Click here if you want to see the finished video.

I went to watch a Californian band called Movements play at ATAS by BijanFX, and it was loads of fun. I had been listening to their debut album Feel Something for about a month at that point, and was able to singalong to most of the songs they played. By the end of the show, I was absolutely drenched in sweat and went back home a happy emo boi.

On the 18th, I started my job as a video producer at Thelaki. About two months before this, I had sent my resumé to FlyFM after seeing a poster of theirs on Twitter that was looking for online content creators. A couple of weeks after not hearing from FlyFM, I got a call from Alif, who said he had found my resumé in the FlyFM pile and wondered if I would be interested in the project that he was heading at Media Prima Radio Network instead (I would later find out this was Thelaki). 

I continued to stay in touch with Alif and met up with him a couple of times in the following weeks. He told me about what they wanted to do, which was start up a new online media brand that made content for a specific section of society, and that they were interested in hiring me to be a part of the team. I agreed to taking on the job because it was what I had been doing for a while now (video making), so I felt like I could do it. Plus, this time I got to work in a team, which was something that I had always wanted to do. Plus, I was being paid. 

I reported for duty at Sri Pentas and was able to shoot my first video with them towards the end of the month (click here to watch that video). I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that a theatre friend of mine, Maryam was interning there in the same building. It was nice to immediately have a friend to go out to lunch and make lame jokes with. I continued to bother her at random times of the day until she ended her internship in December. I continue to work at Thelaki to this day. A big thank you to Alif, Zura and Adam for taking me in, and thank you to Maryam for tolerating me.


By the start of October, I had already settled on a script that I was going to stage for my final task for the First Time Workshop, which was The Optic Trilogy. This was after attempting to gain permission to three other scripts for this purpose. I decided against using Tape by Stephen Belber because I had no idea how to reach Mr Belber, and apparently neither did Google. I tried asking permission to stage Jit Murad’s Visits after buying a book of his collected play scripts, but after receiving no reply in two weeks, I started looking for a different script. I then tried my luck asking Adiwijaya Iskandar if I could stage his script Mixtape For Maz, but he said that it was already in the works to be staged at around the same time as I wanted to stage it, so he couldn’t give me permission to stage it. I then borrowed a couple of books of collected scripts by a Singaporean playwright called Alfian Sa’at, and really liked The Optic Trilogy. I sent him an email, and to my relief, he allowed me to stage it.

I casted Amelia Chen and Alfred Loh to play the two roles in the play, and we had two reading sessions before Amelia pulled out because she wasn’t too comfortable with playing the role. I respect her decision, and I thanked her for telling me up front as straight forwardly as she did. Alfred suggested I approach Amanda Ang for the role, as he had been working with her consistently in the past couple of years, so I reached out to her and I was thankful that she said yes. I also met my very first Stage Manager as a director, and her name was Fifa. She didn’t have a lot of experience in theatre, but was willing to work hard and do her best, so I was happy to have her on. We would resume rehearsals in November.

On the 10th, I performed improv comedy in front of an audience for the first time in my life.  I was invited by Mozek to do it at The Joke Factory as part of their weekly show Making Shit up, and even though I had my doubts, I said yes. I watched Who’s Line Is It Anyway all the time when I was a kid, but I never thought that one day I’d be able to do something very similar on stage, alongside Harith Iskander no less. I started having the desire to do improv comedy when I started listening to the podcasts Improv4humans and Comedy Bang! Bang! back in 2014, and I was able to perform improvised drama a few times in 2017 as a part of TheatreMob thanks to Umar. I was finally able to do improv comedy in 2018, and I’ve continued to be accepted on The Joke Factory stage every other Wednesday since, so I am very thankful to Mozek for inviting me to do it in the first place, Harith Iskander for continuing to put me up on stage, and all the real comedians for saying yes to my on-stage shenanigans. 

I also acted in my second short film of the year in a short that was written and directed by Ashraff Mokhtar. This one is also not out yet, so I hesitate to talk about it in too much length, but I do want to thank Ashraff for having me and Taka in the short film. Any opportunity for me to be in front of the camera playing characters is one that I take with a lot of gratitude, so thank you Ashraff.

We staged Cin(t)a Buta at KL Performing Arts Centre on the 24th to the 27th. It was my first time performing there, and it’s been one of my ambitions to act there, so it was a big deal to me. We even made it to the gala night, which was the finals where the top ten of nineteen plays got to perform one last night before the winners were announced. Even though we didn’t win anything, it was a valuable experience to have, and I’d like to thank Axyr, Vit, Asher and Nicole again for having me in the play.


November was primarily a month of rehearsing for The Optic Trilogy. Amanda was kind enough to let us use her living room as a rehearsal space, and she always had fruits to serve us during the rehearsals. The rehearsal process itself was a relatively pleasant one for me. Watching Amanda and Alfred work on their magic night after night was a delight, and added to it was a script that I really liked, so every time we rehearsed I got to watch a nice show. Fifa was a great help too, and I could rely on her for most things.

I was also given an opportunity to be a DJ for FlyFM for two weeks in this month. I was to fill in for Hafiz who was going on leave, and I was to do the morning show alongside Guibo and Ili. I remember wanting to be a radio DJ since I was a teenager who was listening to JJ and Rudy on HitzFM back in the day, so I was excited for it. I ended up making a video of this experience, so click here if you’d like to watch that one.

Besides that, I also got invited to deliver two talks, one in UniKL MIIT all by myself, and the other in IIUM with my wife. The UniKL one was real nice because I felt like it was so chill, and they laughed at some of my jokes, so that was cool. I was answering questions from the audience, which is my favourite thing to do at talks, so I felt like I was being helpful (felt ja la). The IIUM one was part of their Humanity Night, and we prepared for it and had slides and everything. I think we ended up having fun on stage, so that was cool.

Pasca Sini also performed at Gaslight Cafe, Bukit Damansara as part of their Goodnight Gaslight series, which was a string of shows to usher the closing of Gaslight Cafe, a very cafe that has been very receptive and supportive of the local performing arts scene, whether it be poetry or music. We played with Jetcetera, and to a crowd that was sitting down, which felt a little weird, but people seemed to be able to bob their heads to our music, so at least there’s that.


The Optic Trilogy was staged at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre from the 7th to the 9th of December. I was satisfied with the show, as the audience seemed really receptive towards it. They laughed when jokes were made, and some eyes watered when it came to the more sombre parts. Alfred and Amanda did a great job, and Fifa was just wonderfully helpful in all the ways in which one could be helpful. She recruited Zikri to operate the lights, Ron to jaga the audio, and Alziq and Kechik to be the stage hands. I am very thankful to the whole team for everything they’ve done to successfully put up The Optic Trilogy on the stage and in front of audiences. On the last day, I wrote letters to Alfred, Amanda and Fifa, telling them how grateful I am to have had them be part of the journey. I have now directed a whole hour-long play, and those three people made that process such a joy.

At Ripple (formerly known as Media Prima Radio Network) there are monthly meetings that all the employees of the company has to attend called town-halls, and in the December town-hall, Thelaki (plus Esther, the music producer) got a special recognition award from the CEO, Seelan Paul for our work in making a rap battle video for a client (Jabatan Zakat Selangor). That felt nice, because I wrote the video, the lyrics to the song and performed half of it. The whole team deserved it though, as Mirza was the one who shot, directed and edited the video, Helmie put his vocals on it, Ijal acted in it, Mok lent his voice in it, Esther provided the beat and Alif green-lit the whole thing. Thank you to everyone in Thelaki for being awesome. If you’d like to see the video, click here.

So that was my 2018 wrap up. On a more personal note, I’d like to thank my wife for being patient with me during this topsy-turvy year. I have departed from stable ground into unsure territory, and she could not be more supportive. She’s the real MVP for that, and I will continue to support her in her pursuits towards world domination as well.

I’d also like to give a shoutout to all the directors that have now graduated from Revolution Stage’s First Time Director Workshop: Kak Dzeelfa, Adit, Lea, Za, Siti, Qiu, and Bung Remi. Thank you for being a wonderful bunch of people, and I hope the friendships we have formed continue for years to come. I know that I’ll certainly make an effort to go check out all of your future artistic endeavours.

Here’s to 2019.


No comments: