Doing Things the Hard Way

The Livewire Motto: If there’s an easy way and a stupid/hard way of doing things, by God, Livewire will do things the Stupid Way.

The Stupid Way ought to be a trademark of Livewire. Looking back, it was absolutely amazing how things went spectacularly wrong on production week itself. When Eizwan commented Murphy was having a field day, Noah retorted: “Murphy didn’t just have a field day. Murphy did Lady Luck doggy style”.

But even more amazing was that we came out alive, our spirits high and with a show that we can be very proud of.

So…how insane did things get at COTC?

1. The venue

Setting up the venue

Pictures courtesy of Alex

AF had been more than kind and helpful for helping an unknown theatre company. But it’s not a theatre venue and so it lacked chairs, lighting, sound and a proper background. After Wednesday’s dress rehearsal where I was so distracted by the backdrop: a badly painted door covered with old French movie posters. It didn’t look like an office, it looked like a ratty kampung house about to be torn down with our old furniture.

The next day, we insisted that we covered the backdrop, so 8 hours before the premiere, the production crew bought black cloth and then we proceeded to do the very difficult task of taping metres of black cloth to make our very own black box theatre.

After hours of working, my co-producer Louisa finally came around and said “So, why didn’t you guys move the front curtains to the back. It’s not like we use the front curtains!”

The Ghetto Black box

Wai Keat yelling at Valerie. Picture courtesy of Sani

2. The Damned Closet

The Said Closet

We bought a cheap ass closet for RM 159 (about 18 pounds or about 50 dollars). The closet is cursed, it had already made a scene in Jusco by flying off the trolley and falling onto Yazmin‘s foot. But it also refused to stay still. It was the most flimsy cabinet in the history of mankind. Each time our actors got into the cabinet, the production crew held their breath. Despite SIX brackets, 20 nails holding the bloody thing together, Wai Keat and Marvin still managed to trash them on Saturday night. And it wasn’t like they were trying. It just fell apart on stage.

I think I nearly broke down that night.

3. Cutting scenes

This was perhaps one of the scariest things we’ve done. The final scene was just too long and we noticed that energy levels kept falling at the scene. So Louisa, Alex and I decided that yes, perhaps the best thing to do would be to cut down the final scene.

Scary as shit, we only had two hours to practice the new final scene and it was absolutely flawless. But I think it’s a testament to our actors’ talent.

4. Tech

Our tech crew

Eizwan and Noah: The little boys club. Picture courtesy of Alex

On Saturday night, where everything was just going to pieces, the lighting decided, “What the hell, I’ll just join in.” Midway through the first Act, suddenly the lights refused to switch off. The director had to sheepishly come on stage whilst the actors stood there, frozen in the semi-darkness, to draw the curtains.

Awkward much. This was after our walkies started to misbehave and pick up random voices through out the entire show.

5. Greg – The Phantom of the Alliance Francaise

Resulting Creepy Light

Batu Belah, Batu Bertangkup. Picture courtesy of Alex

On Sunday, after a traumatizing Saturday, the production crew got together to paste 50 pieces of sugar paper all over AF to cover whatever light coming into AF for our matinee show. Yes, it’s a very ghetto production, we know.

Anyway, the production crew gathered around, stapling booklets and taping paper up and we spoke, in hushed tones. “Do you guys…feel a presence?” we ask. And yes, we do. We noticed that our hair would stand at the back of our neck as we walked upstairs and how unwelcoming the place would be at points. The walkies misbehaving on our worst night was probably an example.

As we spoke and suddenly the lights on stage switched on. I shouted “Hey guys, great work with the sugar paper! The lights look fantastic!”

To which Eizwan popped out from backstage and said “We didn’t switch on the lights!”

Aaah. I see.

***

Our most successful show: Sunday matinee. The actors were perfect whilst the crew was perfect. The delivery was flawless and I didn’t see actors on stage. I saw characters on stage and the story unfolded very well. My face hurt from smiling so much and my aunt came up to me, nearly in tears from how proud she was on how well the play turned out.

I’ve learnt a lot and I can honestly say that I’m grateful for everything, including the things that went wrong. If we had a flawless production from the beginning, we wouldn’t know what to do or how to climb back up when we get knocked down. We were a strong team, a team that kept smiling right up to the end.

Amateur theatre is not glamorous. It’s hard work, it’s hard physical labour that involves carrying bottles of water, cans of Coke and moving about heavy furniture. It’s about managing creative and very passionate people. It’s a delicate balance of efficiency and dedication to our art. It’s about respecting the audience and respecting our craft. And I’m learning that theatre, writing, acting and production is making the intangible tangible and real.

It’s also about close friends, a strong stomach and an iron will. The comments can break you and the sneers are heart breaking. It’s about standing tall despite the odds stacked against you. It’s about living off fries, diet Coke and lots of coffee for energy. It’s about hugs and holding each other and propping each other when one falls.

But when you see the light in your audience eyes and your vision come to life, you know it’s worth it.

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