Runs on food and music, will sing for chips and pasta.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #5, April 17th

a) Warm up with 5-min run on treadmill

b) Push-ups: 3 sets of 30 reps with variations of diamond hand, shoulder weight and wide push-up

c) Shoulder press: 3 sets of 15-reps

d) Lateral raise: 3 sets of 15-reps

e) Pull down: 18kg - 3 sets of 12-reps

f) Bend over roll: 3 sets of 15-reps

g) Dead lift: 3 sets of 15-reps (I have no idea why it's called a Dead lift, will ask Sargent Naim in the next class)

h) Squads: 3 sets of 15-reps

i) Sit-ups: 3 sets of 10-reps normal sit-ups + 3 sets of 10-reps `alternate hand touching knee'

Next session: haven't scheduled but slot in two sessions for next week :)

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #4, April 14th

a) Warm up - 5-min jog on trade mill

b) Pull down weight machine:
1set of 20-reps @ 14kg
2nd set of 15-reps @ 18kg
3rd set & 4th set of 12-reps @ 18kg

c) Squads: 5 sets
1st set @ 20-reps with body weight
2nd set @ 15-reps with 16 pounds
3rd - 5th set @ 12-reps with 30 pounds

d) Walking lunges:
4 sets of 30-steps with 18 pounds weight
alternate each set with shoulder press of 15-reps with 12 pound dumbbells

e) Girl Push-ups & Planks:
15-reps of 4 sets of push-ups
4 sets of 30-second of planks

f) Sit-ups: 5 sets
15-reps each set

Today I taught Sargent Naim how to count in French :) He sang a short song in Kelantanese for me, hehe.

Next session: April 17th, Thursday

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #3, April 9th

Focus: legs

a) warm up with running on machine for 10-min

b) squads
5 sets of 15 repetition, with dumbbells
6 pounds on each hand, then 8 pounds each, 8, 9 and 15 (killer!!)

c) walking lunges
4 sets of 30-steps with dumbbells
of 6 pounds (2 sets) each hand and then 8 pounds each hand (2 sets)

d) girl push-up
5 sets of 12 repetition

e) shoulder-press with dumbbells
3 sets of 12 repetition with 6 pounds on each hand

f) sit-ups with alternate hand touching knee
5 sets of 12 repetition

g) normal sit-up
3 sets of 15 reps

h) running 5 min

Next session: Monday, April 14th

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Workout training diary: Session #2, April 7th

Today's focus, spot training - Back

...notes are messy, too many variations of back exercises!  I have the Sargent record a voice memo after each class to keep a diary of all the workout's recording is a little messy..

a) Pull-down (weight) machine
4 sets of 15 repetition, at:

b) Back overall exercise with dumbbells:
4 sets of 10-15 reps, with
4 pound in each hand
6 pound in each hand
8 pound in each hand (x2)

c) Back extension - lower back with dumbbells:
4 sets of 10 reps, with
8p on each arm

d) Lateral raise & bicep-curl with dumbbells:
10 reps of lateral raise - 6 pound in each hand
15 reps of bicep curls - 6 pound in each hand

e) Squads & calf-raise
4 sets of
Squads - 15 reps
Calf-raise - 20 reps

f) sit-ups
5 sets of 10 sit-ups
5 sets of 10 crunches

Next session: Wednesday, April 9th.

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FB note dated April 5th - The Workout diary #1: the happy slave to vanity begins her journey (April 4)

The intention is pure vanity, I haven't doubt it and I will come clean and be honest about it :) it's my shallow brain at work.

After close to two years of talking about shaping up and toning, you know, working towards getting a body...the kind I ogle on other women - lean and toned; I finally gave in to my vanity and gave up my laziness.  Atilia Haron has been the one, whose workout routine and progress I followed closely on social media (Thank you Sayang for letting us ogle your work out updates on FB!!) and I told myself many times, Yalah, that's what I want to aim for, in terms of a physic and fitness level. level I have a hell long long way to go to match Atilia's - but physic, yes, I want the physic - it's all looks for me :)

So I buzzed her and asked her for her personal trainer's contact.  Called him up the same morning I got his number, and made an appointment to start the following day.

So, the diary started yesterday, at 1pm :)

April 4th, first session/class with Naim Bashah, whom I address as Sargeant Naim.

a) Squads - 4 sets of 15 repetition
1st repetition - body weight
2nd repetition - body + 4 pound weight on each hand
3rd repetition - body + 6 pound weight on each hand
4th repetition - body + 9 pound weight on each hand (10kg in total, can die!)

b) Lunges - 4 sets of 15 repetition
1st repetition - body weight
2nd repetition - body + 4 pound weight on each hand
3rd repetition - body + 6 pound weight on each hand
4th repetition - body + 9 pound weight on each hand (....ver wobbly legs by then)

c) Girl push-up - 4 sets of 15 repetition
* by the end of first set my face has turned a shade of red which Naim commented (no I wasn't looking at any mirror, only trying to survive the grill).  By second repetition Naim gave me a tip that cracked me up that I had to stop to laugh before I got back at it:

"Eh Janet, next time you have a show, no need to waste your make up k, just do these push-ups before you go on stage - you will have your blusher all done..."

d) Plank - 4 sets
1st & 2nd repetition - 30 seconds
3rd repetition - 40 seconds
4th repetition - 60 second (he challenged me to hold up to 1 minute and I said can do, as long as I get to stare at the stop-watch as I hold to see how long more I need to focus, he offered to do 20 push up as the `reward' - I made him do 30 push-ups, hehe)

e) Sit-ups - 5 sets of 15 repetition
Sgt Naim had to hold my feet down so I could do the sit-up proper.

I could still drive and type on my phone after the session..and no aches yet.  That was yesterday.  This morning it's different story, my arms ache as I type, my stomach burns a little from the sit-ups and all that jazz, the muscles on my thighs are quietly protesting.

Looks like I may wanna listen to Sgt and get on those protein shake diet thingy.  We'll see.  That's the report so far.  Next week I will have two sessions, one hour each time.

Slave to my vanity, a happy slave, signing off for now :)

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Monday, March 31, 2014

FB post dated March 31st - "Talk yourself out of bad situations"

The lesson this morning is 'trust' and 'positive-thinking' - not something I instinctively subscribe to every minute of my day - you can say that it's not yet my second nature.  But after my experience this morning, I would definitely want to make it as part of my reflex :)

This is a bit of a long-winded roundabout way story but I trust that should you choose to read…you may enjoy the ride :)

I went to the wet market down the road that I have discovered recently (of course it's been there for years) - to shop for fresh goods.  The market is a lot smaller on Mondays, the number of vendors for fruits and vegetables were no more than two or three stalls each. I looked around under my hat and from behind my vintage shades, sense of self-doubt welling up: how could I make sure I would pick the freshest produces and how could I make sure these ladies at the stalls won't rip me off at prices?  I walked around looking and thinking, quite convinced that they would charge me more because I look clueless and new there.

Fortunately the will to have fresh vegetables and fruits to eat at home this week was strong enough that I didn't turn back and leave.  I bought three pieces of sweet potatoes, was charged RM 4…I thought it was expensive, but I paid up anyway. I stayed with this stall and bought more from this lady, 12 apples for RM 10, one kilo of passion fruits for RM 10 - I think these prices are fair.  At that point I have decided to trust this fruits stall lady and trust that she wasn't out to rip me off, so I bought bananas from her too - at RM 5 per kilo.

Next was vegetables.  The first item I picked up was a a packet of jagung, two fresh ones in one pack.  "How much?" The skinny elderly lady there told me it's RM 2.50.  I recall that this would cost more than RM 3 if you find them in the supermarkets - so I continued to snoop around and put more vegetables in my basket.  One bunch of Hong Kong choy-sum, RM 4. I also picked broccoli, french beans and two cuts of lotus roots.  The whole bill came up to RM 14 for all that - I was happy.  I think it's pretty good deal - RM 14 for 5 types of vegetables.

Happy with my purchase, I rewarded myself with breakfast at the corner restaurant down the road from the market.  I ordered a bowl of curry laksa noodles.  The huge bowl came, filled to the brim with cockles, curry chicken and fish balls, among the eggplant and long beans, all cramped in the thick curry soup.  I returned the bowl and explained that I don't want any of the cockles and chicken business; and that I was used to curry laksa noodles with only the noodles and vegetables and tofu.  They removed all the meats for me and served me.  The noodles looked deadly overcooked - I was convinced.  I was right, the meehoon and yellow noodles were soft and slimy.

I debated with myself on whether or not to just pay up and leave to eat at the other stall that I frequent more.  "The boss would think am such a brat to do this, with no regards for money." ...I decided to sit back and try to eat maybe only the vegetables in the oily curry soup and talked to myself, "There's no need to waste this bowl, what you could learn from this is not to order this again from this stall, or to go to other stalls if I want curry laksa.  This is just one meal out of so many future meals am going to have - there's no need to kick a big fuss over a breakfast."   The minute my mindset changed, my breakfast began to taste better - somehow the soft meehoon wasn't as slimy before and the vegetables were great.

I didn't finished the entire bowl but I finished most of it, not wanting to overstuff my stomach.  Awe consumed me the whole time - I was amazed at how quickly the quality of my experience change at the turn of my thinking.  Never before I was this convinced about positive thinking.

So there, I had a great time this morning because I learned to trust that people aren't out to con me and that things aren't as bad as they look :) If you actually read this far, I sincerely trust that your week ahead would be a rather fantastic one, if you could talk to yourself like I did this morning ;p

#living #janetwrites #trust #positivethinking #vegetarian #groceries #jalanipoh #currylaksa #wetmarkets #reflections

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

How Do I Love Thee (for Unreserved, The Malaysian Reserve)

For Unreserved's Valentine's Day issue

Printed in [Unreserved] by The Malaysian Reserve 
February 2014 volume 1 issue: Love - the seasons and reasons

I first met him in 1996 when I took a job in
n his company during my college break.  Years later after I left college and started working at a place that happened to be near his house, we started hanging out sometimes.  He told me much later that he got interested to get to know me better after watching me compete in a singing competition back in 2002.  

Thereafter we started spending a lot of time talking, and do things like attending talks (I remember we had a date attending a DAP dinner forum), watching concerts at No Black Tie, queuing up to get a passport renewed, go for bike rides and taking photographs of the night sky, etc.

We became a couple after we talked about our feelings for each other, after months of hanging out as buddies and exchanging lots and lots of conversations.

My understanding of love has extended over to my growing (but never ending) understanding of life and how I aspire to live, through my relationship with Justin.  Our approach to love and romance is similar to how we look at life – live and let live: to give full support and encouragement to your partner in doing what he loves to do.  To love someone is the desire to makehim or her happy, by understanding his dreams, passions, his hopes and his nightmares.

That is what I have learned from my relationship and friendship with Justin.  When I first started seeing him I was clingy and dependent, and wanted most of my activities to revolve around being a couple but it hurt us badly and we broke up for a few months.  When we got back together we were better friends and lovers, I guess we had found a balance between being our ownpersons and being each other’s best friends and lovers – we found the perfect match of space and intimacy for two friends.

In many ways I guess I could say that it’s never changed since the day I saw him for the last time - Justin met with aroad accident on his bike outing with friends more than three years ago and departed.  I think of him now with the fondest memories of course, abide the melancholy tone of loss.  He has left me (and am sure many others too whom he had touched with his kindness and life’s outlook) with one of the best gifts in my life – the desire to be a kinder and generous person, and to live simply, but not without passion.  

I have no regrets.  If I hadn’t gotten into that relationship with him, who knows if I would be driving today – he took my hands (literally) and walked meto a nearest driving school near his house and signed me up for driving classes, “So that you can drive yourself around to attend auditions and rehearsals.” He said.

If I hadn’t been with him, I might remain a silly petty person who gets angry over things I have no control over, instead of going with the flow and make the best out of situation at hand.  If I hadn’t been a recipient of his affection and admiration,I may not have the courage and balls to remain in my job now as an independent and freelance performer who needs to know how to strife for excellence, fails and picks herself up again, over and over in this road to passion.

I am not seeing anyone at the moment but I am seeing a lot of myself though!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

FB post dated November 30th - "Picking the winner"

How do you pick a winner in a singing competition?  An overall polished performance but safe, making less mistakes but pushing no further than being safe, versus a risk-taker in pushing one's boundaries and bringing the audience to the edges with raw emotions and heart, display fair amount of vulnerability and imperfections.  An ideal winner is of course a combination of both great skills and great emotions but when you have to pick one, how do you do it?

I learned something this morning, maybe not exactly something completely new to me but definitely something I should spend more time thinking about.  

Was on the panel of judges for 2013 World Children's Day Refugee Talent Competition, organized by UNHCR Malaysia. Six of us, three judges from the dance field (Cecilia Yong, Amar Singh and Gonzalo..didn't get his name proper) and three of us from the music field - Reza Salleh, Arif Akhir and myself. 

The children were being judged based on ability, stage presentation and audience appeal for their singing and dancing performance. There were only six finalists in each category and their age group vary from eight years of age to teenagers.  Being children and still fresh on stage, it wasn't hard recognizing who had the best singing technique and who did better in appealing to a live audience and performing on stage.  Choosing the winner at first seemed easy, the gap between the finalists was obvious - but the exchange of a few words with my fellow judges before I was ushered to hand in my final score - gave me new insights into the world of `judging a winning performance'.

We all agreed that deciding on a winner under this sort of circumstances is hard - the children's skills vary quite a bit, they obviously have very different background (though were all refugees in Malaysia), they all excel in different aspects of performance of singing.  

So when it came to time to put down the pens and choosing the one for top marks this morning, it was also time to decide what the judges were going to reward - do we pick the performance that showed us power of trusting, faith and soul, or do we pick the performance that displayed just adequate skills and flair?  

In my heart, really, despite the cliche we have all heard, all the kids were winners to me - they have all won because they had stepped out of their comfort zone, invested their time, resources, heart and soul into the project, braved the nerves, and faced the panel and audience, bared themselves `naked' and be the subject of judgement for 5 minutes.  That's how much (and more) artists and performers are willing to sacrifice for their craft, and art.  

Opss...I have digressed. Back to the crunch time of decision this morning - there were three of us on the singing panel.  The winner was the little 8-year old girl who went for her faith, sang with truck loads of gusto and heart, gave dynamics in her singing and basically, she bite the bullet.  Yes she still lack  finesse in her vocal control and technique.  But she has those other elements that would send her to a different place all together, when she acquire more technique later, if she doesn't stop singing after today.

For someone who is obsessed with the importance of training and technique, I am guilty of bringing my classroom and my singing teacher with me (inside my head) on stage.  But I love telling stories and connecting my live performance with the people in front of me, so it's usually a close fight between the heart and head.  I think the heart usually wins - that means I'd go back stage later, cursing and wishing I had more practice and that my pitching and production were more put-together.  But after this morning's experience, I am reminded of the meaning and spirit of a live performance - the bottom line should transcends learned skills and technique, and it should be about making a shared experience that aims to change something in the audience, move a few souls in the room, stir up imaginations or memories, taking people to places with the singing (dancing, acting..etc) - and sometimes it won't come from being the best in technique.  

I need to stress again, my point is that technique is VERY IMPORTANT in performing arts, but it won't be the sole deciding factor in a winning performance.  

So many factors make a performance special and memorable, so many things at stake when you're on stage, the performer is both powerful and vulnerable…guess that's part of the allure of this thing called performing arts huh?  

Thank you Reza Salleh for  your insightful thoughts and Ariff Akhir for letting me pick your brains :)

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Friday, November 22, 2013

FB post dated November 22 - "Classical music is not irrelevant"

"Holy cow, we are not irrelevant! We are revolutionary!" - Joyce DiDonato (watch this clip!)

For those who think singing or playing classical music has no future or is irrelevant in this day and age, please listen to this interview with a great American musician and singer, Miss DiDonato. Her story makes me want to spend more time thinking about how the distance between everyday people and classical and opera music was created (intentionally or unintentionally I don't know) and `systematically' maintained through time.

If we continuously only feed the public what's deemed the most hip and popular musical products (for a lack of better word), am afraid we are driving our beloved public, which include our children, our families and friends - to a future where their taste for art and music (among other important decisions in their lives) is no more than what the electronics are feeding to them, what the rest of the YouTubers are watching, what other people are `viraling' over Facebook.

Occasionally here in town, although in too small the amount, we are served with classical music. But rarely, or hardly ever, the General Public are given any chance of being exposed to an art so naked, and visceral and honest (no sound system, no super dancers hanging from the ceiling, no distracting costumes, no sets). What we don't try, we don't know.

I am for one, guilty of wanting to be safe, and disallow myself the chance of bridging the gap between the public to figures like Rossini, Strauss..and more. Maybe people like me and my other colleagues need to think deeper into this - how can we bring more real, naked, honest (not packaged) classical to the general public, and let them decide if it is worth their time and heart?

I applaud those producers (thank you EST folks for staging Carmen this year), artistes, theatre companies and art platforms who stay true in their beliefs of naked and real art form, who staged and produced musicals and plays chosen not because everybody in town knows the work but because the work is worth knowing.

Thanks to Miss DiDonato, always an inspiration for being stubbornly humble and sincere, and serious about her work. Thank you Tan Sin Sim for sharing this clip that provoked my ponder this morning.

Let's hope this could spur some thinking into some of us, how can we contribute in our own little way (or big if you are capable) in bringing classical music closer to young people, and the general public? -- Scott X Woo, can you bring back those wonderful LRT-station impromptu singing?

Watch this clip, and am sure there are thousands of other similar stories around the world to prove that classical music is not irrelevant in this electronic world. It is revolutionary. #janetleemusic #janetreads #janetreflects #opera #classicalmusic

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FB post dated November 15th - "I can always go to her next gig."

This morning I feel clever - An ironic observation I've recognized: if you're an active performer in the live music scene, chances of your gigs being overlooked by your friends and families are high because it's very likely that people think that they can ALWAYS catch your NEXT gig. Like how you'd tell yourself, I can ALWAYS use my condo swimming pool TOMORROW if I want to, it's just right there when I take a lift down  and then a year later you realize, haha, the swimming pool ended up never been visited in the last 12 months.

When it is convenient and accessible, we take things/people for granted - isn't that true?

For artistes who only make public stage appearances once in a blue moon, their friends/fans and families would flock to go catch it, thinking oh they mustn't miss it because it's hard to come by, etc.

So be careful the next time YOU think you could always catch that artiste's NEXT GIG - you might end up never getting to her gigs for thinking exactly that. Human nature  I do that too. But for the better half of you who knows me, I go in and out of theaters and concerts and gigs to watch others like breathing - though it taxes greatly on my wallet I deem it necessary to watch others perform, like how breathing is necessary for my survival.

Having said that, it's most convenient now for me to update and remind you of my upcoming performances  my gigs aren't that regular but they are there sometimes…

1) Two Shanghai-Jazz Fridays with Janet Lee at Hakka Republic
Nov 15th (tonight) - 930pm at Hakka Republic with Toro Cheng Pin Xuan,Ken Chung & Terrence Ling

2) Nov 22nd (next Friday) - 930pm Hakka Republic with Ee Jeng HinFly Bassman II & Charles Wong

3) 'Bosom Buddies' - a cabaret show with Zalina Lee & Janet Lee
January 31st & February 1st - 10pm at Alexis Bistro Ampang with Toro Cheng's band

Come if you can, don't come if you must stay away 
#janetleemusic #klgigs #theatre #shanghaijazz #jazz #hakkarepublic#cabaret

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FB post dated November 14th - "Shut the fuck up at concerts."

Attended a lovely concert last night with some colleagues in the music circuit.  The experience was marred by a few issues.  I could forgive the Arctic-like, severe and intensely bone-chilling drafts of the air-cond that blew right on top of us from 830pm to 11pm.

But I can't quite rest my heart at the `sakit-hati-ness' of the behavior of the audience.  For the reason that I think what I have observed last night reflect a much bigger issue facing the…youth of our society today.

We were sandwiched by a row of elderly audience behind us and a group of four young ladies/girls who sat in front of us.  At numerous occasions during the intimate moments of the performance there were audible chatter behind us - please note that it was chatter, not whispers.  In front of us where we had no choice but to look between the four heads belonging to the four young ladies, to enjoy the consummate performance on stage.

The performance featured vocalists, a jazz band and contemporary dancers.  For the most part of the evening whenever the dancers make appearance, the girls in front first watched (though I think it looked more like they were gawking), then exchanged remarks among themselves, then giggled uncontrollably…non-stop.

Now, how the dancers' performance fitted into the music performance is another issue - but the fact that these young people (ok, I am assuming by merely guessing that they look young, they look early twenties to me) thought it was okay to start a forum about the performance right there in the middle of the concert, among other audience - is beyond my best effort tolerance.

I practice self-censorship consciously in all my self-published content - blogs, FB tweets, instagram, etc.  Outside of the cyber world I try my level best to do the same.  As I age I put in more effort in behaving myself in public, when dealing with frustrating people, I try to put peace and solving a problem before satisfying my urge to reprimand - I really try, trust me - I used to be a lot louder and wouldn't think twice about telling someone off in public, loud.

At the beginning of the concert I turned to the chatting elder-lies behind me and smiled first, gestured for them to shut their gaps and said softly, "I want to listen to his singing."  I looked into the pair of eyes I met, sitting behind me, on a face of a woman who clearly looked old enough to be my mom - they looked happy to be at the concert…except they really didn't know how to stop their chatters in a concert like that.

Unfortunately for me, I was expecting a lot more from the girls in front of us.  They were young people who were clearly privileged enough to attend such a classy event - a live music concert; they looked like they are at university-attending age and they each had a piece of paper with them and they would sometimes write something on the papers in the dark (I wish I knew what the papers were).

The four of us behind the girls watched the show patiently, it was a long and cold night.  Towards the end of the performance the lead performer engaged us in a most soulful, and quiet ballad, featuring a dancer.  One of the girls continued her antics of mocking the performance by covering her mouth, stopping herself from laughing, and exchanged words a few times with her neighbor.  I decided to talk to her, I tapped her lightly on the shoulder and said, "This is closing to the end already, could you please pay attention to the stage?"

The girls didn't quite stop their gawking and giggles after that but their moronic behavior was reduced.  I could tell that the girl whom I tapped was dying (inside of herself) to take a good look at me and stare right down at me.  After the show I spoke to some musicians about audience etiquette.  Our conclusion was that - the older bunch had no idea that talking during a performance is fucking rude - they simply had no idea what renders appropriate behaviour at concerts.

The young ones?

Many people talk of Malaysians being people lacking in exposure of worldly things - specially in the arts and music industry.  Comments like, "Yalah they don't know ma what world-class standard is like."  "Not bad already for a Malaysian/local show." …..etc.

My point is, long winded as this entry is (apologies) - so yes, we are village folks, we don't know any better, but are we ready to remove ourselves from our narrow-mindedness and our so-called `backwardness'?  And for those of us who know better - are you ready to educate and help open the eyes of those who don't any better yet?

So if you know that when you attend a live performance with three hundred other audience in the auditorium, you are to put your phone on silent, and leave conversations with your friends for appropriate break of the performance - would you do something to ensure that your fellow audience do the same?

Or would you just sit there and ignore the bad behavior for the sake of peace? Of avoiding making a scene?

A few years ago I sharply told a mother off for talking to her family (a pair of parents and two teenagers) during a performance in a theatre.  This lady received several warnings from other member of the audience during the show - "Please keep quiet, I didn't pay to hear you talk, I paid to watch him dance." etc.  So on my way out of the auditorium I stopped by her seat and told her that she really shouldn't be a bad example to her children.  Her reply was, "No we didn't talk, we didn't do anything wrong. I don't know what you're talking about."

Later on at the foyer of the theatre I saw her again, again I approached her and told her that everyone who sat near her could she and her family talked during the show, ahem, she was so good she actually scolded me and called me a bitch loudly…with people near us who looked on, disdainfully.

I rest my case.  Again, I apologized for the lengthy writing to illustrate one point.

Again, my question again - if you know better in being a worldly person with manners, would you care enough to educate the others to improve themselves?  Clearly, if there are not many of people like me around to single out the spoiled kids like the ones we encountered last night at Tribute To Yao Ming's opening concert - I would always look like the bitch who is self-righteous and a snob who tell people off.

The road to a more mature society, getting to the first-world country…and all, seems very long and cold.

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Monday, November 04, 2013

"The Maid" - my Butterfly Lovers journey, a theatre love story

I started this entry a few months ago when I was recalling all my fondest theatre memories - and decided I should dedicate an essay to my experience in Butterfly Lovers.  Writing this essay has enabled me to relived some of my pet memories as a performer.  I started this piece in August and didn't finish it until today - two weeks over after our last performance on October 20th.

(all the pics in this post are from the 2013 production) 

Seven years ago, I attended an audition for a Chinese musical in KL, under the encouragement of my then singing teacher Cha Seng Tiang.   I prepared an old Chinese song after painstakingly looking up something simple that I could pull off singing a capella without making lots of mistake.  Now thinking back, I really can't remember if I sang 我有一段情 or 一帘幽梦 but I think it's either one of these.

I was required to do a short reading too from the script of the musical.  I remember some struggling to make my lines smooth, with some effort of acting.  Then in 2006, I would have stopped speaking and writing Mandarin since I left high school in 1995 (or was it 1996?) for a decade... A decade.

So my script-reading was half-cooked, my singing of that oldie probably got me better score with the audition.  Whatever happened that afternoon in the Dama Orchestra audition room, won me an offer from the company to play the role of YinXin, the personal maid to Zhu Ying-Tai, the oriental Yentl, or Juliette.   The musical was Butterfly Lovers The Musical. It would run at KLPac Pentas 1 in October 2006.

Just fresh out of the production of Saidah Rastam's M! The Opera in April 2006, and previously at Pygmalion The Musical by KLPac (October 2005) - I was newly independent - just touching a year after I left my last day job as a booker in a modeling agency.  I dived head in into the 4-month long rehearsal period for Dama Orchestra's first full length musical; and my first Mandarin theatre experience.  Little did I know then that would be my major stepping stone, launching me into my first step of becoming what I am today - a bilingual cabaret performer of a sort.

The acting rehearsals were grueling, I worked very hard to reciprocate the private coaching sessions that were arranged for me.  Though I spent almost all of my school life in Chinese medium school, the state of my Mandarin then needed lots of work.  Thing was that YinXin doesn't have a lot of lines in this script, even though she is on stage all the time.  I recorded all of my close to fifty odd lines that I have in the entire musical on a CD, and played that over and over again in my car so I could practice in the traffic.

It was quite close to a perfect place to be, for an inexperienced stage actor - I was cast to do a role that has just enough lines to be heard in the show; just a couple of singing lines to be noticed that I could carry a tune decently (in Mandarin); am on stage 80% of the time (YinXin is in ten scenes out of twelve scenes in the two act musical) - way enough air time for someone new like me to prove that I could deliver what I have learned during the tedious acting rehearsals.

I really could not thank Kai Loon and Seng Chew enough for having faith in me and trusted me with the role.  In all of my cluelessness back then, I probably did not realise what important roles these little supporting roles like Yin Xin and Si Jiu play in an epic love tale such as Butterfly Lovers.  I understand it much better now, in 2013.

Prior to the rehearsals from June 2006 to September 2006, I didn't have much exposure in acting.  I played ensemble member and mostly and all my stage movements were choreographed by directors or choreographers.  In Butterfly Lovers I had to move as a living, breathing individual, who goes through a myriad of dramatic emotions, with solo singing and speaking lines, to complement and support the leading actors and story.

I had to work from scratch to plan, workshop, choreograph my every movement on stage…step by step, with the help of Kai Loon.  I wrote down every single stage blocking for all scenes, drew out the choreography that was given to me or fixed by me.  Next to each of my dialogue I wrote down the accompanying emotion, mood, and intention, etc…on every page there are notes on my character's "B-M-E" (beginning, middle, end).  I went from a green and clueless, a fidgeting figure, to a passable, half-decent actor by the time the show opened that October 2006.

Not forgetting at all the tremendous help I received from my stage counterpart, Jason Lai, who played Sijiu (the servant to the male lead, Liang Shanbo, played by Yang Wei Han in 2006) to a T.  Jason was younger than me but a much more seasoned thespian who not only acts, but also work in different hats in the theatre.  He was our assistant stage manager too in Butterfly Lovers, besides playing Sijiu.  I learned a lot by watching Jason in action, through discussions about our scenes together, and through the massive amount of tips he generously offered to me on stage craft and acting.

The stage chemistry between Jason and I was amazing, it felt like it just happened naturally.  Jason is an incredibly giving actor and a natural in the craft.  I always feel that on stage in the show back then, Jason was the one element that saved my novice ass and made me looked good.  Off stage I had the tireless Kai Loon who would give us notes after every performance.  My friends and family, including the producers themselves (Kai Loon and Seng Chew) - were somewhat astonished that I pulled through as YinXin.  Kai Loon was proud of his work on me because he said "I couldn't recognized Janet Lee on stage."

Another reason why this role will always remain special in my heart was Justin's response to this role.  After watching the show he became incredibly impressed and amused with my `guise' on stage.  Right up to our last year together in 2010, he'd always tell me that his favorite role in all my (though limited) stage repertoire, was YinXin - because I was `so soft and gentile', playing the young maid.

So…..that was 2006.

A year later the show went to Genting Highlands for a two-weekend performance, before we flew to Perth to perform at the His Majesty's Theatre for a weekend.  The trip was a truly memorable one because of the company of the people involved in the production.  By then many friendships were formed and it was a tight team to shake.

Yup, so that was 2007.

When the offer and confirmation finally came for me to reprise my role in the show early this year, the first thing I did was to look up Jason's phone number.  I wanted to know if he would be coming back on board as Sijiu again, knowing that the producers made him an offer to come back - I know I needed him on stage for me, despite me having grown as a performer after 2007.

Expectations were high for this re-staging, the stakes are higher too this time round.  Rehearsal period had been cut to just 6 weeks from 4-months back in 2006.  Back then all I needed to do was to learn how to play YinXin well, I hardly have any conflict dates.  This time is different, I was going through a dry spell in my gig bookings in July and August.  When booking calls came in for me for gigs in late September, I had to say no.  Then more bookings came knocking for October but the musical had started its run already.  Oh well, now you know money can buy you happiness - my loss of income from other gigs bought me a special reward in staying in this production.

Anyway, I had a great start at rehearsals getting reacquainted with my lady - the now a mother of one, Tan Soo Suan,  playing Zhu YingTai again.  She has gained much experience from her past roles played in Dama Orchestra's prolific stage between 2007 to 2012.  This time round she came into the rehearsals equipped with lots of considerations and ideas for our scenes and characters, and couple with Kai Loon's new insights for the script - we put the musical together as a team, painting layers of fresh coats of dramatic nuances and more underlying stories to sharpen the story.

On board this time to play the male lead Liang Shanbo was Jun Yi, a Chinese karaoke (numerous times) champion who trains classically, also a music student in Malaysian Institute of Arts.  Jun Yi played a supporting role in Dama Orchestrea's 2009's production of I Have A Date With Spring.   It was clear at the beginning of the rehearsals that Jun Yi is a winner in singing with very little stage craft or acting knowledge and skills.

The vocabulary for stagecraft and acting is so frightening wide and bottomless.  While looking at how Jun Yi struggled in the rehearsal room for his lack of experience and skills in the said department, I couldn't help but wonder how we could bridge the gap between not-ready to being ready for the show to open on October 5th.  Soon enough it became clear to me that watching how Jun Yi and colleagues work together to close that gap is the single-most precious experience for me in this re-staging.

You see theatre will always hold a soft spot in my heart for exactly that - the exposure to others' vulnerabilities and their journeys.  I remember in vivid colors those magic moments and incidents from my various rehearsal room experience when I discovered I have fallen in love with theatre.  The first time was during one of the my long-waits at the sitzprobe for Tosca back in 2003, I was in the chorus of Tosca, incredibly little stage time.  I was listening half-heartedly to Lily Zhang (a Chinese soprano who sang Tosca, the other Tosca in the same staging was Nancy Yuen from Singapora/HK) rehearsing with the orchestra for one of her arias, her long sustained pianissimo notes, the string sawing away with her, as if tearing Tosca's heart apart as she laments about her cursed life as an artiste.. suddenly it hits me that that Puccini music was pulling my heart strings and the sound of Tosca soaring admits the strings were madly beautiful…I fell in love being surrounded by theatre and opera.

The second time was that afternoon on the cold cold floor of that Vision Four warehouse space that we used for rehearsal for M! The Opera, I was lying on the floor listening to Khir Rahman (who played M, the lead of this contemporary opera by Saidah Rastam &amp and Jit Murad) rehearsing a haunting solo, his hauntingly soulful cries made my toes curled, my heart cried along with M - the tortured artiste but my soul was smiling from inside out because the words and the music were too beautiful to a good way.  I thought to myself, what a swell life this is, to be surrounded by magic in the making, day in day out.

From then on, the rehearsal period for theatre productions remain my favorite part of being involved in theatre.  This time in Butterfly Lovers, I was privileged to be able to witness how Jun Yi grew from that timid person at rehearsals to a tall, handsome and divine-sounding leading man - I call this the 'Zero To Hero' story.   I treasure those precious mamak sessions after rehearsals at night where we would discuss work, vent frustrations and prep-talk, encouraged each other for the next day's work.

And then we bumped in, it was the beginning of the end in no time.  No time to waste at the theatre, audience waiting to come in.  Call time, make up time, meal time, sound check time, warm ups, calls to positions, get inside your character's head and stay there till the curtain call starts.

It feels like it all ended too soon before I could barely bid farewell to all that is special to me in this production.  I was juggling being focused and being sick during the run of this show, like a few other actors in the show.  There were exciting episodes of mishaps here and there, sick stomachs, blood, knocked bones, etc.  Jason and I had a scary fell from the high set on the day of full dress rehearsal and I still shudder at the thought of "what-ifs".

The cast party took place last week, cheques were collected, goodbyes and 'till we meet again' were exchanged, stories and jokes shared.  And yet it still feel like the chapter has not properly closed for me.  I was too distracted to find my own closure in this story - I was too sick and stressed out with other things on my mind.  Other projects gotta take place, my focus has shifted to other urgent tasks and work at hand.  I don't really have time to lament over the end of this beautiful journey. I know that I had started saying my goodbye to the musical during the production - thought it still didn't prepare me for the real goodbye…ah well!

Until I could rest YinXin in peace properly...I hope your eyes are still inside your socket if you managed to read this far.  Haha!

more photos taken during the 2013 production HERE.
for photos taken during the 2006/2007 production, click HERE.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Letter one hundred and twenty-four - The days go on

Dearest J,

I know this conversation is one-sided.  The address of "Dearest J" might as well be "Dearest Janet/me".  But gestures are gestures...symbols, etc...just meanings and justifications that we humans fabricate.  We are meaning machines.

It's the early eve of your departure anniversary.  I just had some leftover bread with butter and fruit juice at 330am and took a bunch of vitamins, while reading a few pages of Huzir Sulaiman's play [The Weight Of Silk On Skin].  Huzir is a living genuis and I love his writing so much.  An excerpt from this play...

"She was married
To an Indonesian Chinese
       the sort of fellow who throught no discernable effort
       own large tracts of denuded rainforest
       a few gaping-wound-n-earth miming operations
              and sundry manufacturing concerns that spit out the things
               that float beneath the margins of your consciousness
                   like the hinges on gates
                       and not actual cement
                       but the sacks they put cement in
                       the powder they adulterate cement with
                                so that buildings fall down sooner rather than later
things that ensure to cash to splash for generations to come..."

I still go through days when I pause for a moment and recall that you're gone and sigh, "...I can't believe you are gone."  The time just flies.  Three years tomorrow, since that Ulu Yam bike outing.

You left me with a kiss that morning in bed.  I was taking my time to get up to go to a rehearsal at 10am.  The night before you held me on the sofa bed, you said you were so happy to see me singing so much, "Run here run there, sing here sing there, clever girl."  Nick Choo had just won the best libretto, best music, best production awards a few hours before for his "Little Girl Lost" piece at the 2010 Short & Sweet Musical.

Nick Choo just won the same line up of awards a few days ago, for his 2013 entry in the same festival - "Dreaming Outside of The Box", with Aaron Teoh and Tria Aziz in the cast.

I spend a lot of moments weighing the worth and value of this peculiar life I lead, and this body and the pair of eyes I watch things from, and these strange brains/minds that I own that seem to not know when to rest.  I remember we did lots of talking about all kinds of things relating to the life on this planet - these days I enjoy asking questions by myself and the silence of the air around me - no one here to tell me "I don't know." (your favourite answer) and no one to bounce the questions off me.

Depression has left this place for now.   I content myself with activities that occupy my mind and my soul, leaving no space for the horrible horrible feelings.

Just seems crazy that you've been gone all these times.  Just crazy.

My eyes are giving in, I should hit the sack soonest!

Miss you very very much,

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Too ambitious or not ambitious enough?

The other end of the table in having more than one goal is the ugly face of a very distracted, clouded mind.

This has been a year of setting goals and distractedness.  I can't say that I am totally on top of this yet - as I speak now I am still learning how to manage this distracted mind but I am full aware of my state of mind.  I guess that's slightly better than not admitting to it or not knowing it.

Was lamenting to Lynn about this absence of focus in me and at times when I feel it's pushing me to a corner I would just relent and sit down, and sigh, "Aiya I just wanna be happy no matter what, just chill and sing a little song and just, be."

She said, "Yes, be happy and appreciative no matter what happens.  I'm trying not to be too result-oriented."

But this day and age we live in, there's always pressure to have results, to deliver results, to have goals and achieve them.  I shared with Lynn what I read last week online - WHy Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.

While you have those who bitch about their jobs and bosses on FB, there's also tons of social media postings and updates, self-promotion about others' incredible fabulous, glamorous and exciting lives.  It's still a constant struggle for me to balance between keeping a healthy mental state and deciding how to work hard, hard enough to make me feel alive and worthy of my own respect.

Perhaps it is a lack of direction.  I feel that I am in a unique predicament of being both too ambitious and not-ambitious-enough.  It makes me chuckle just to say that out loud.  Let me elaborate what I mean by that.

Lack of direction: I know the things I love well and love too much to want to give up to make room for others - so I end up in my arms a messy (lovely bunch if well-managed) bunch of ideals.

I would love to increase my profile as a classical music performer in 2014.
I need to get more SOLID (will need to define what solid means in this context) work done for my original songs.
...would love to be a better `dancer.'
I want to be a better actor.
I want to speak better Mandarin.

Phew...after having them all spelled out in front of me now, it immediately feels that a big part of the problem is solved, for now I can see them in words, in black and white.  It doesn't feel as heavy as before - the clouds of things that I want to do.

Now on the issue of being too ambitious.  Earlier Lynn said to me on the topic of excelling in something we do, "How good you are in something just reflects how much time has been invested in it."

Every since April this year when I started my 3-month French language class, alongside with my weekly ballet class, contemporary dance class, yoga, singing class - I knew I was asking for it - to resign to being a mediocre in all that I do since I refuse to give up anything.

Even between jazz and classical music, I could not let anything go in between.  Both genre calls for vastly differently focus and discipline - both are the apple of my eye.

Between dancing and singing, even though I don't make a living from dancing, probably won't ever - I could not imagine going through my days without my dance classes.  Dancing in my classes, all those sessions of attempting to look like a dancer, and learning to pirouette better, to extend my hands better, have all become an extension of my soul since I started going to classes in 2008.  The dance lessons have taught me to walk taller and be less afraid to use my body movements as extension of my sung lyrics. I end up sticking to more dance classes - whereas I only go to singing class once a week.

Between doing more theatre and just doing private gigs that pay many times better - I love being part of a team that create a body of works that consist of visual & aural beauty, stimulation for the mind and soul for both the performers and audience.

In fact, I love it so much that even when I can't get my hands on enough theatre work (because am too afraid to audition more), I cannot part myself from watching too much shows; going to the theatre has become more than just a routine research and educational outing for me - it is where I go to feel `at home'.  I am at home when the house lights dim with me in the audience, waiting for the first note or word to be uttered, or the first sight of a dancer glide across the stage...first stroke of light on stage, etc.

On the singing for private events front - Lucky for me that I have a genuine passion in entertaining people - mark the difference between entertaining people and performing for live audience.  I am aware of my role as a lady who sings and entertains at my corporate clients' dinners, and as a crooner at a wedding banquet who adds a touch of theatre and art next to the steamed cod fish being served on sixty tables across the lavishly decorated ballroom.  I am grateful for the experience that I am able (to be paid) to share with thousands of people who may never otherwise step foot inside a theatre, when I add a bit of theatrical element into all of my music performance for the corporate audiences, etc.

Having said all these, I have not come to any solution or decision on how I would be more focused as a person who loves too many things.  For the day, I am satisfied that I sat here and talk about this and put my messy thoughts and conflicts into words on the screen.  And it's time to get ready to leave for the rehearsal tonight for Butterfly Lovers - I dig every second of the time I spend in the rehearsal room with the team, more than doing the show itself, the process itself is a beautiful living experience that money cannot buy (I just need to make enough to pay bills).

So for now, this living moment in time, my conclusion would be to embrace the kaleidoscope of passions that I have, and delay making a decision of what I really want to be, forcing myself to focus on only one thing.  I think perhaps I may never come to decide on what to do but to greedily do all that I can in this 24-hour a day framework.

You can call me a singer, a dancer (wannabe), an actor, a writer, a song-writer, an entertainer, a reader, a fashionista, a stylist...even if you call me a mediocre I guess I would have to take it because I honestly, cannot decide what I am, now.  Maybe next week I will.

September 25th, 2013.


Friday, August 30, 2013

the necessary conversation

I started this entry quite a few weeks ago but didn't finish it.  I was at the height of some pretty strong emotions then, wanted to take more time to record my thoughts and my journey so I didn't finish the entry.  Am in a calmer place now so today's the time to come back and finish this, the journey so far.

**                 **                  **                **  
I never knew I have never left the spot where his body lied, covered in newspapers and my tears - since 2 years and 11 months a go.

I have went on to grieve and mourn my loss all this time, but thinking I have moved on to live and new life by myself, independent and new.

Every time I am shown a little love, or care by someone else, it breaks my heart and makes me cry because I always wish that it was him instead.  Many would tell me, "See, he is still around and he has come back to love you and care for you in the forms of other friends and admirers."

Every time someone express a little interest in me I tell myself it is not right...just not right.

...and to earn another's love and fondness, admiration is such a magical thing.  What do I still have in me that could make anyone look at me that way?

What would I do, how could I ever meet another soul, like Justin, who fell for me like he did?

How could there be another person on earth who would be attracted to me for simply the glow he saw in me when I start to sing?

How could I recreate another pure his intention, "I just want you to be happy."

Maybe I suffer because I had hoped to find one more in this life.  And in the back of my head I already understood that no two persons are the same.

Furthermore, I have grown older, and have become something else in the past years.  

What attracted him to me back in 2002 was a one time in the universe event and to hope that something close to that `explosion' to take place in the future, to be similar in nature, is entirely impossible.

For this person who felt like that when he saw me singing on stage, has ceased to be alive.  And the person who sang on stage back in 2001 has lived on to be something else.

He was a mere mortal with flaws, like me.  But the ingredients of his love were, to me, pure and quite out of this world.  He just wanted to see me sing, and sing more he wanted me to do - because it made me happy, pure bliss.  And the same he wanted of others, he was just a boy who loved to make others happy.

Yea.  I laugh to myself now, how could I trust that I would come close to such fortune ever again?  If never ever to find something close to that, what would I do to convince myself of the meaning of this remaining life?  I throw many options at myself, all these 35 months of time.  Music, music, music, become a worthy being to others, music, be a worthy person...etc.

Along the way I have discovered my many many weaknesses, my weak mind, how easily I succumb to the negative end of a situation, how vulnerable I actually am, how terrible a cry baby I am, and how self-centred I must smell like in my little whirlpool of loss and mourning.

There have been sunny days too, and many many fantastic new experiences made on my own, with new people, new friends, new things, new routines.  On those days I just sailed.

But somehow this new year of 2013 has been nothing other than a funk of confusion, self-doubts and clouds of depression, all mixed up in a big ball of activities.  I have done some little research on depression and what people do about it but that didn't do anything for me.

Then came July the draught, the unpaid bills, more doubts, lots of time to be alone and think, and read.  Reading makes me feel better and calmer, cooking too.  So I read and cook, eat, and read, and play music, listen to CDs.

Then came a point one day quite recently when I was lying in bed thinking some more...something just snapped, and I decided that I was tired of feeling like shit, I have enough of the shit feeling.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do to keep it away, I just knew that I was sick of staying and being in the gut.

This soul-searching is both tiresome and/but tireless for me.  I reviewed the friendships I keep with others, I review the way I work, reminders of how little I plan for my future (practically none), review what are my real strengths, review my songs, my my views on relationships, on men..etc.

On men, back in 2011 I saw myself as someone eager to learn to love again.  I allowed work and music to take the front seat and cruised along with glee because the work fulfilled me, there was not a quiet moment to wallow in the absence of someone special.  Time passes and gigs came and went, I grew more lonely and there was lots of longing for him or someone.  At the same time I was growing attached to my convenient...what I called, the `single singer life'.  Too comfortable in my cocoon, I did nothing to change my status - a deliriously tragic and foolishly romantic widowed person, indulging in her easy single-hood, just stay missing him.

Besides, this is not a good place to be fishing for new romantic relationships.  My environment (circle) is far too homosexual; working and meeting married men is a norm of my routine, and ah, working and meeting men a decade or more my junior is usually the case.  I cherish the new friendships I found at work and some new friends I have made.  Granted, friends are not lovers like him whom I counted on for much more support but the good ones are those I talk to, to keep my sanity intact.

The road ahead won't get easier, at least I don't want to expect it to be.  I just hope to stay focused on what keeps me alive while he is no loner alive.

The deeds of his life.


My sports and hobbies.

His family.

Watching others live.

I will promise myself to keep this conversation alive and honest.  There is no shame in coming out as a tragic person as long as I have decided to stay alive and contribute.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Philippe Gaulier's Neutral Mask and Greek Tragedy master class - day five (Augst 18th)

Last day. Feeling glad that I took the plunge to do this.

The Facebook page link for this workshop HERE.  My FB album of this workshop.
The official photographer Will and his photos from the workshop HERE.

Morning session: neutral mask work, playing steel.

Afternoon session with invited guests/observers

Afternoon game: Neutral mask line - "Touch Michiko"

Scene and text works -

Antigone played by EeWen, Sharon, Janet & Anrie in consecutive rounds with choruses

Creon played by Coby, Yeo & Ghafir in consecutive rounds with choruses

My play with Antigone (paired with Yeo as Creon) was short-lived but again, it was a thoroughly satisfying experience for me.  Again, I used singing to move my text along.  The soundtrack playing for me and the female chorus was West Side Story.  So I sang the text to the tune of "I Have A Love".  The regal and innocent Antigone walked tall next to the menacing Creon and his men.  I was stopped after the short monologue, and told that though my portrayal was elegant and beautiful, I came across more like a cunning politician and female villain, like Clytemrestra.  Philippe said he would call if he needed to cast Clytemrestra.

I got to continue as female chorus with Anrie as Antigone leading us.  The female chorus made a handsome Greek chorus singers.  It helped to have EeWen in the group.  At many junctures I got to assist the group by singing to the company the text of Antigone, while Antigone moved as the lady, playing alongside the really menacing Ghafir as Creon.

Magician dance - `finalists' - Jo, Bernard & Tiong Wooi
Text: Iliad [The Death Of Hector]

Antigone and Creon

 Antigone and Creon

To conclude...with my incoherent thoughts:

even two weeks after the workshop and having played over some of the scenes from the workshop in my head, it is hard for me to summarise in a technical fashion of what I have learned as an actor.  If I look at the experience as keeping count of achievements in my CV then I guess signing up for the workshop and staying put throughout count as one for me.

Constantly seizing the calls to get on stage to play is another achievement.  Having the balls to finally relax in class counts.  Staying committed to my games is another.  Watching intently while others played is big in the learning curve.

Watching classmates make love with the texts, braving on stage, playing risky games, investing high emotions into their playing...etc.

We were taught, reminded to always invest joy, ownership, commitment, organic emotions, personality into our performance.  We were taught to play with space on stage.

Priceless was what we built in class with others, the bond of minds.  And the open-mindedness of classmates, non-judgemental air of the class.  And the possibility of just playing, and laughing out loud, or crying when something moves you so.

I have to stop here as nothing intelligible is coming through but I will revisit this blog post and add to it whenever something I recall well comes to me.

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Philippe Gaulier's Neutral Mask and Greek Tragedy master class - day four (August 17th)

Morning session: Neutral mask work exploring playing animals - tiger, cat, reptiles

Afternoon session: theatre garden in session

works: Antigone & Creon, Iliad (Death of Hector), Libation Bearers (Elektra & Orestes)


play space, create attractive tension by putting distance between two characters/choruses

Multiple couples of Antigone and Creon played their scenes.  Slowly Greek choruses were added to the exercise.  We learned how the lead actors and his and her choruses should help make the scene.

Somehow, something caught his attention, Philippe asked me to read The Death of Hector from my `audience seat' within the square of the `theatre space', completely without any movements except my facial expressions.  I spoke-sang the text and played all the dynamics that I knew at hand, improvising on the spot of what I thought could make the performance interesting.  My body trembled with the over-attention of not being able to use any movement to perform, my heart raced wildly as I savored the text, though I enjoyed the space given to me to make my own moment on that stage.  An indeed surreal experience.  The teachers gave me words like 'Beautiful' for some of the bits of my performance.  I wish I could remember this feeling for a long time.

Jo K and Ghafir then played the Electra and Orestes scene with Greek choruses.  The experienced actors gave us a rather delicious serving of drama...and when the class was over, a small group huddled to cry over (yes, tears) the moving performance.   Happy day.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Philippe Gaulier's Neutral Mask and Greek Tragedy master class - day three (August 16th)

Day three, I have learned how to have fun in the workshop, and get comfortable with mistakes, judgements and observation, etc.  I think I am most probably hooked on this.

Some of the games we played today using the bodies and characters of:

Marlboro men
World class models
Dancing girls

The Greek tragedy storytellers always play well, in painting pain and tension to depict the story or a character, but never play the pain themselves, rather, they keep a distance between their role as a narrator and the characters in the story that they narrate.   They always uphold a high level of joy in their storytelling, though a tale of a tragedy.  Such is the key to captivate your audience - that you will have them come back for your storytelling for hours, day after day.

Neutral mask actors eye line level - high

Brownie for the day:

The regal Electra walking with music accompaniment.  The speech was decent, the quavering in my walk killed it.

Lines: "Was ever a sight so sweet as this?  Our father's blessing is on you."

Kick of the day: I was the text prompter for Jo K in her performance of The Death Of Hector.  Until she recovered the rest of the text herself and finished the performance with Philippe's instruction, with rousing and captivating quality.

The cow-mooing Samurais ended the workshop today.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Philippe Gaulier's Neutral Mask and Greek Tragedy master class - day two (August 15th)

"I don't care if you do good or you do bad, I just want you to give a piece of your life in your performance."

"Don't give the academic style, tell them to fuck off."

Philippe Gualier and wife/assistant, Michiko Miyasaki

The `earth-glue' turned walking humans, quoting Greek tragedy texts

The raging sea

The melting glue

Today's platform for playing the ground of tragedy:



The tempest at sea

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