It was a dark and smarmy night…

Sometimes, in life, I make such weird decisions that I wholeheartedly support to the end. In some cases, I can actually switch my allegiance e.g. Hillary Clinton. At the end of the day, when she lost the nomination, I was completely crushed but I could switch my allegiance to Barack Obama. Not quite wholeheartedly…yet.

However, when David Archuleta lost American Idol (yes, I know, I actually watched American Idol…hey, I’m in Asia, it’s boring and any show is better than no show), I had to admit, I was crushed. So…isn’t appropriate that his first song is called “Crush”? It’s the most teeny-bopper song on the planet. Yet, I love it.


I met up with my friend Shahira a few days back after not actually meeting for her ages. My dear friend, dear as she might be, has a reputation for being super tardy, so even though she said let’s meet up for tea cum dinner at 5:30pm, she arrived at 6:30pm. This was despite knowing how late she was going to be and I aimed to arrive at 6pm.

So I sat down at the cafe for a good forty minutes with a cup of coffee trying to look…well, comfortable. You know how there are some people who could just sit down alone in a restaurant, having a meal, without having a care in the world? I’m not one of those people. Despite having the ipod, and my notebook out to write prose, I kept looking out the door as though hyenas were out to get me and I had to bolt out of Secret Recipe as fast as possible.

But Shahira arrived finally and we had a great time. Shahira is one of those super-hardworking people that I love to hang out with, so that their discipline would somehow rub off on me. She’s doing three exams back to back and she’s some sort of accounting wonder. Like really, I’m not being sarcastic. Anyway, I’m still hoping that wonder discipline would rub off.

I told her about what I was doing, the play, the novel and hopefully, fingers crossed here, another play next year.

“As producer?” she asked.

“Yeah, as producer.”

She shook her head in dismay. “You never learn, do you, Adlina?”


In honour of the Bulwer-Lytton contest:

I did not submit this, I did not even know the contest existed until recently when I was surfing around online. The point of the contest is to submit the most smarmy opening line to an imaginary novel. A quick one, in honour of the contest from me. Don’t mind my comma friendly attempt. It’s supposed to be one freaking line!

Romance/Science Fiction:

It’s been months, no, years since Roger left Annie yet every night, Annie imagined that it was his arms that was holding her, his fingers that were caressing her, his kind eyes gazing into her soul for really, that was the only way she could tolerate those grey creatures with those big black unblinking eyes staring at her, touching her with their spindly fingers and using pointy metal objects on parts she did not want to imagine since her abduction.


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.

Weening myself off caffeine

Cast and production crew picture

After a week of surviving solely on Coke Lights and coffee, I am clearly paying for it by being perpetually sleepy and tired. Without adrenaline to fuel me, I’m going to be pretty exhausted this week. But that’s okay, it’s a good exhaustion.

I will blog more about it later, after I’ve gone to the gym. It’s been a fantastic run of COTC, with some incredible highs and some seriously low lows. But I’ve survived and I can’t help but feel I’ve changed a bit as a person over the past one week.

No matter, for now, I’m going to throw myself into the Dresden Files wholeheartedly and watch lots and lots of Doctor Who. I’m about 4 episodes behind so not a single word! Will post when I’m finally up to speed!

8 Facts about “Coming Out of the Closet” – the play

At this point in time, that is about 36 hours to the premiere of “Coming Out of the Closet”, I am rather gratefully surprise, the word premiere and Coming Out of the Closet doesn’t quite cause convulsions. My legs do grow weak and my heart starts pounding and I feel faint, but other than all that, I am rather calm.

I could write now, wax lyrical about the journey, which I did previously but you know what? Waxing lyrical is for sissies! Well, that and whatever coffee my mum made this morning is so strong that I’m so hyper. Since Dan tagged me, I thought I’d do something a little different. I’m going to 8 Facts about Putting Up a Play in Malaysia. So there we go:

8 Facts Bout “Coming Out of the Closet”

1. The Damned Cabinet

One of the reasons why COOC is called, well, COOC is because two of our characters actually hide in a cabinet through out the play. The cabinet was our most difficult acquisition logistic wise. It’s bloody heavy and when Yazmin and I shopped for it in the middle of the night, the cabinet slid off the shopping trolley, knocked into an entire stack of tumblers which then flew across the room to remote corners of Jusco at 9:30pm on Wednesday night. And that was when we cheerfully told the Jusco staff that we parked our car in the New Wing.

I think their looks said it all: “Crazy bitches”

2. Radio killed the TV star? Or was it TV killed the radio star?

I had my first radio interview and TV interview for the show. While I was pretty calm and I did think I did a fantastic job, heheh, I said which made me want to thump my head on radio/tv:

– revealing a key plot twist on national television. Whilst I recovered, it didn’t stop me wanting to crawl into a hole and die.

– potentially insulting a foreign country. So, hey, I’ve already incited the gay community with my not quite gay play, why not a neighboring country?

– invoking the Official Secrets Act on live radio. Yes, Adlina. You should have the shouted “RAHSIAKAN RAHSIA-RAHSIA KERAJAAN” at that point if you wanted to emphasise that you cannot share government stories.

3. Being interviewed by the police

The things I do for my art. Even though it sounds more terrifying than it really is, part of the procedure for putting up a play in Malaysia is a police interview for a permit. He was a gentleman about it all but it did not stop me from shaking so hard during the interview.

4. Let there be light!

Or at the very least, ACE spotlights from ACE hardware. At one point, when our funding was at an all time low, Eizwan and I shopped around for garden spotlights at ACE hardware and imagined how we would be able to put up a show using garden spotlights.

I think the director nearly fainted when I suggested garden spotlights. Comeuppance for suggesting we needed 24 lights. I think my BP reached an all time high at that point.

Buuut, we have professional lights now!

5. Repellent is your best friend

Practice sessions were held in Bangsar by the poolside every evening and Sunday mornings. It sounds more romantic than it really is. That place was an infestation for mosquitoes and GIANT ones too. As Hani puts it, they used to NOM NOM NOM NOM on us. A habit I cultivated is to spray myself with repellent and where a blue mosquito patch when I arrived for practice. And smell like camping grounds.

And then run off to my uber posh gym who must think I have the stinkiest taste in perfume.

6. No luck is …. no luck!

I’m not at all superstitious. But for this play, I’m superstitious to the max, to the point that I do not use the word “good…” well, you know what. It’s break a leg. Or nothing at all.

7. My production team go by fruits

We all have fruit names. When contacting each other on the walkie talkie, we call each other by fruits: Lou is Mango, Jean is Pear, Noah is Starfruit, Sheila is pineapple, Yazmin is Cherry, Eizwan is Ichigo (Japanese for Strawberry). Alex wanted Honeydew but we took to calling him Melonboy. I am Kiwi.

8. It really is going to be a blast.

I just know it.

Baptism by Fire

Each time I take a deep breath, my back starts creaking. There are permanent knots in my shoulder muscles and if I don’t take a break and smile in the mirror every so often, I’d have a perpetual frown etched onto my face.

I am nervous, worried and plagued with doubt and guilt. Suddenly I question on whether the show is funny enough, if I’m doing enough publicity, if I’m not working hard enough? What if the show is pretentious, what if the show sucks and what if I get trashed on kakiseni? (which is a midly amusing prospect)

But at the same time, through this project I’m learning one more time to find that mad confidence that I had in myself before my stint as a government servant. Pre the SC, I was madly confident, madly passionate and I had beliefs and passions that I would fight to the death for. Post the SC, I was a mouse and I worked by the rules.

It took two years to destroy the confidence and the passion my parents and my family had spent 20 plus cultivating. But it’s taken about 8 weeks for the same confidence to return with this play, the same crazy kamikaze passion, confidence and passion that I knew that I had deep down somewhere.

There’s so many people I’m deeply grateful to. From the my entire cast and crew of the COOC to my Warwick Uni mates who have rallied around the production, dragging their friends and family by the coat tails to watch the show. And then there’s my family who have held an unwavering faith in me whilst I do something completely untraditional and mad. My closest friends near and far who lent me an ear whilst I bitched and complained till kingdom come.

It’s not all back. I still am indifferent to many things in life, but one day, one step at a time, I’ll be able to care once more.

For now, I’m glad to be me again.

Syiok Sendiri Productions

“Putting up plays in Malaysia, you’re really mostly putting up plays for your friends. It’s a syiok sendiri* production.”

syiok sendiri – full of it…more like, pleasing yourself.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

But so true. I’ve been thinking about it for the past few weeks and even voicing out my concern to one of my family members. My aunt shrugged, she said that it’s typical of new productions. Build a reputation for themselves and then you’ll get somewhere.

Thing is, the more I go forward the less I’m sure that this is what I want. Honestly, when I started this production, I really had one goal in my mind. I wanted to encourage people who don’t usually go to theatre, people who find it either too intimidating and too boring to come. I wanted to find people like me, who want to have a good time at the theatre, and not to learn something.

There’s a reason why I like Phantom of The Opera and read trashy novels about an alternate world where Harry Potter gets kicked out of school and becomes a PI. They don’t try and teach me anything. The Phantom is not about to spout long speeches on how race relations in Malaysia is fraught. “Come Christine, let me explain to you how music can unite the races of Malaysia and how we should all learn that we’re bangsa Malaysia.”

“But gee, Monsieur Phantom, all I really want to do is learn to sing. You’re the Angel of Music. You’re not really working with PKR are you? If you are, I should just go. I really couldn’t be arsed to vote this year.”

“Child! It is statements like these that merely serves to highlight the abominable state our country is in! Learning to sing, such trivialities! Song and dance on its own without a cause is like cake without frosting. Irrelevant.”

Sheila pointed out that my aim, noble as it may seem (alright, I added in the nobility bit on my own), it’s like hitting your head against a brick wall (an analogy that I tend to associate with producing a play), ”
Your problem is that you’re trying to convert people who don’t read,” Sheila pointed out. “Look around us,” she said, her arms sweeping across Starbucks. “How many people are reading?”

I pointed out the man behind her was sitting down and patiently perusing through a property magazine. Somehow it doesn’t count. 

Sheila shrugged. “It’s not just their fault you know. A trashy novel is RM 30. That’s a lot of money for people. When people have to choose between books and food, what do you think they’re going to pick?”

Is it really? Are plays something so elitist that the average person out there finds it too pretentious and boring to attend? That maybe our shows don’t relate to the masses. The kids who watch films at the cinema, they’re the same kids I want to try and win over. Let them see that theatre, film, TV, they’re all just mediums for a good story. And that people should be able to come and watch anything that is just good without feeling intimidated. That we as producers of theatre, TV or films, we respect the audience and that we want to tell a good story to entertain.

Or am I being too naive in hoping for something like this?