It's been a while since I last blogged! Truly, I had good reasons for the silence, since I've been busy with drama school. I'm in my last term at Drama Studio London where I will be performing an ensemble performance of Tests by Paul Ableman at the New Diorama Theatre in a couple of weeks followed by the graduation show Children in Uniform by Christa Winsloe (English adaptation by Barbara Burnham) at the Tristan Bates Theatre in July. I should blog about this, and I will, but today's blog will be about (drum roll please)...
No More Lotus Flower!
It feels surreal, but I shall be bringing a one-woman show to the Camden Fringe Festival this summer! No More Lotus Flower! will be at the Camden People's Theatre, 26-30 August 7.30pm. Exciting!
It isn't easy being an East Asian actor. All too often there's white-washing in the media (at the moment it's Aloha, a film set in Hawaii with Emma Stone playing a quarter-Chinese character called Allison Ng... hey, at least they apologised...). Meanwhile, we tend to be side-lined into stereotypical roles, such as the submissive Asian woman also known as lotus flower.
No More Lotus Flower! aims to be a satirical and witty piece of theatre exposing the drawbacks of being a British East Asian actor in the UK today. Using various interviews I conducted with BEA actors and professionals in the field, I will be exploring the frustrations of the industry, the pitfalls of colour-blind casting and the need for change. It's an exciting project - I hope that it'll not only be entertaining, but a small eye-opener too.
You can buy tickets here:
A few weeks ago I spent an evening at an acting class with the London Actors' Hub, a company set up by fellow "Something There's That's Missing" actress Siu-see Hung and actress Evie Lockley.
As well as the acting classes, the London Actors' Hub provides a one-stop hub for actors looking for advice and training in the industry. There is a free eBook, The Actors' Survival Guide, available to download from their website, as well as a blog providing interesting and helpful information on a variety of subjects such as the Meisner Technique, knowing your casting and how to use digital tools for networking and building relationships.
I attended a four-hour evening workshop that was an intensive tour through Meisner and the four principles an actor can use in approaching text. The first half of the class was spent on the repetition exercise used in Meisner, an exercise that pushes an actor towards really focusing on their partner. The aim is, by focusing on your partner, to get out of your head and become fully present and in the moment so that reactions are real and truthful. We then progressed to using the Meisner technique with four principles. The first principle is an actor's preparation (that is, what has just happened to your character), the second is the objective (what you want from your partner), the third is the stakes (attached to the objective) and the fourth is known as the 'as if' principle (so that you respond to your partner as if they are a particular person). The workshop ended with work on monologues, which showed how the principles were an especially helpful way to add life, truthfulness and variety to a monologue.
We got through a lot in the evening, and the workshop was a perfect introduction to the Meisner technique and its application. The Meisner technique is not a technique easily and quickly learned, however, since it requires patience and literally repetition over long periods of time, so The London Actors' Hub now provides an eight-hour workshop (a better length of time in which to gain the full benefits of the class) as well as drop-in classes in which to keep flexing those Meisner muscles. Siu-see and Evie are both fun and extremely knowledgeable practitioners to work with, and you also feel you're in good hands since the acting classes have been designed by Aileen Gonsalves (the Head of Acting at Arts Ed, as well as the the director of the Youth Ensemble at the RSC, and founder of her own theatre company Butterfly Theatre Company). I also personally felt at home due to the company's links with Arts Ed drama school, a school that I would have loved to train at before I decided that a two-year course was a better option for me.
At the moment I'm currently training away at Drama Studio London, but I'm hoping to drop into a few of these classes in due course. I feel that they would be a perfect compliment to my own training, as well as quite a fun way to spend an evening.
You can visit the London Actors' Hub website here, as well as follow them on Facebook here.
We Flew Big
This summer I accomplished one of my bucket list items: being in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was amazing.
The show? "Something There That's Missing" with the international theatre company We Flew Big. STTM is a fantastical coming-of-age story surrounding Joy, who moves to London to write her first play, and adventure-seeking Mei Li who enters the supernatural Chinese Metaforest. There, she meets an eccentric orange hippo called Po and together they must battle a ferocious monster guarding a secret that could change everything.
I played Po. It was the first time I had done puppetry, and I was brought onto the project with two weeks to rehearse before we previewed in London at Theatre 503. I decided to move my focus away from the panic of whether I could pull this off (Po-pun intended) and focused on the rehearsals. Rehearsals with Anh Chu (the playwright as well as the actress playing Joy) and Siu-see Hung (fellow actress of multiple parts in the play, including the sweet Mei Li and comical Mom) began in earnest. Rehearsals were fun, energetic and extremely creative, due in no small part to Lydia Parker as director.
What can I say? Puppetry is amazing. I've always been astounded by how a puppet can come to life, and I remember being moved to tears from the opening sequence of The Lion King and being in fits of laughter from Avenue Q's colourful cast. I wanted to make Po, a medium-sized plushie converted into a makeshift puppet with a whole in the head through which I would operate his mouth, as lifelike as possible. During the first rehearsal we used an older version of Po (STTM has had a number of earlier versions and a previous Po was a very small puppet with moveable arms and head) and poor Po flopped around like an eel on drugs. However, it turns out that all it takes is some puppetry know-how (I received a "Puppetry 101" training session from the incredibly talented and original Po puppeteer Anna Marshall) and some bonding time with Po. As well as the all-important lip-synching, there are three areas you need to be aware of as a puppeteer: focus, gravity and breathing. To bring life to Po, he needs to "see" properly, he must have weight and move accordingly, and, essentially, he must breathe. Po and I began to bond, he developed his own character, and then he became a full-on cast member.
On the sixth day of my puppetry journey, I had Po at home to play and bond with and I recorded our session. I decided to edit this into a film last night (because I miss that big-bellied orange fella!) and here it is for your viewing pleasure. Please be forgiving, though, as it's the first time I've ever edited a film, I don't have any kind of professional editing software (Windows Movie Maker is all I used) and, of course, the lip-synching can be tricky! (I think my fingers are pretty strong and dextrous now, though!)
View Po-Reel here!
Preview at Theatre 503
I was super excited to perform at Theatre 503 (another bucket list item ticked off!), a great venue in Battersea Park, and we were delighted to be sold out. Some people were even turned away. We Flew Big even made a bit of profit which, as most people know, is quite an achievement in the theatre world.
We had good feedback from the audience, who complimented the story, the characterisation, and the clever use of multimedia. The play is an ambitious project that uses video clips of Skype conversations and some wonderful music and sound from the sound designer Fisayo Karunwi. The video clips were initially projected onto a screen but at Edinburgh we decided that it was too temperamental and simply turning the laptop around for said Skype conversation worked much more efficiently in our venue.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013
Edinburgh was an amazing experience - it was everything I'd anticipated and more. The atmosphere was buzzing with creativity, energy and the warm knowledge that everyone was living the Edinburgh experience in full support of each other. Our venue was one of the SpaceUK venues, and ours was the small, intimate, space at Jury's Inn. We loved our techie Ross whose sweetness and hard-working ethic we are sure will be his key to resounding success one day soon. Because of the sheer number of shows on offer at the Fringe and the slightly tucked-away location of our venue, it was important that we put in some intense flyering work every morning before the show. We found a panda suit helped draw in the crowds... as well being voted one of six "Must See" shows by the Fringe Review. We were overjoyed at the show we performed for the Scotsman, and on our last day we even had the lovely Gemma Chan come to watch. Here's a photo on the right: can you see the sheer overwhelming (and potentially crazy) delight in our eyes?
So, thank you to We Flew Big for the experience of a lifetime and thank you to Edinburgh for continuing to provide us with such wonderful institutions as the Fringe, haggis, and deep-fried Mars Bars (yes, I tried them - delicious!). Oh and also to James Wallace and Siu-see Hung for preventing me from falling down Arthur's Seat in the middle of the night, right at the beginning of the run, when Anh would have been really angry as we still had three weeks to go....
Interview with The Fringe Review
Listen to our interview with Dan Lentell from The Fringe Review here.
The Fringe Review: "Squirming with delight whenever Mr Po makes and entrance"
The Scotsman: "Lovely little gem of a piece"
Audience Reviews: "A magical experience"
On Monday I took a trip to Cut Glass Productions and created my voicereel at last. Doing it reminded me of how I used to love reading aloud at school, and creating the reel was incredibly fun - so much so that we managed to get 14 pieces in a short space of time (Phil Curran from Cut Glass mentioned that most people manage about 10). I now have a range of clips, ranging from various commercials (who knew that those sexy chocolate ads were so tricky to do?), documentaries and advertising material. I particularly enjoyed advertising Mauritius in one exerpt... my parents will be proud.
I'll put the whole thing onto the website soon, but I'm also working on getting a two-minute montage, so hopefully that will be done in a few weeks too.