Category Archives: PenTAS

Call for Performers

Are you a singer? A musician? A stand-up comic? A spoken word artist? A dancer?

Are you in a band? A sketch comedy group? A dance company? A theatre outfit?

If you are and would like to showcase your talents, why not be a part of penangpac’s FRINGE FESTIVAL from 9 to 11 May 2014 at Straits Quay, Penang?

Take this opportunity to be a part of an exciting weekend celebrating all things performings arts!

To sign up, please email fringe@penangpac.org.Fringe Festival Call for Performers

Review: Shakespeare Demystified’s Hamlet A Performance Lecture

Yasmin Bathamanathan reviews Hamlet A Performance Lecture by Shakespeare Demystified that was on at penangpac from 10-13 April 2014.

“To be or not to be …”

How many a times have we used this famous line from Hamlet without fully understanding its meaning? I remember using this very line in a debate I participated more than a decade ago in school. Sure, it is dramatic, pregnant with existential conundrum in whatever context we deem it be:

Successful – to be or not to be

Happy – to be or not to be

Wedded – to be or not to be

You get the gist.

Yet, only today, at the ripe old age of *ahem* did I find out what Shakespeare meant by that famous line in Hamlet’s soliloquy at Shakespeare Demystified‘s Hamlet A Performance Lecture. You see, in his many philosophical ramblings post-Hamlet the Older’s death, Hamlet the Prince either devices plans to bring his Uncle/Stepfather/Daddy-Murderer to justice or to seek vengeance upon murder of his Daddy (Hamlet, the Dead King @ Hamlet the Older).

However, in this particular soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene, sad puppy Hamlet contemplates suicide. “To be or not to be”, with the emphasis on the verb “be”, which indicates a state of being. In other words to EXIST or NOT TO EXIST @ ALIVE or DEAD. Nothing to do with success, happiness, matrimony or whatever else. “To be or not to be” was a question of “Should I live or should I kill myself”.

Wow! I know, right? If only the 16-year old me knew this. She probably would have known had she had the chance to attend something like Shakespeare Demystified‘s Hamlet A Performance Lecture.

Hamlet, while being one of the greatest plays of Shakespeare, the greatest writer of the entire history of mankind, is also mind-numbingly long. Four-hours long, give or take. Being the guardians of the demystification of Shakespearean sagas, this vagabond (not really; they are based in KL) troupe of Shakespearean fanboys and fangirls from Malaysia have come up with a surprisingly approachable introduction to Hamlet.

Selecting key scenes and events from the play, the cast of Hamlet A Performance Lecture first introduce the scene, give the audience a little background on the context, discuss the motivations behind some of the actions, provide literary criticism on the characters and events, and explain certain terms (who would have thought an innocuous phrase such as “country matters” can have double entendre?).

Five actors – Kien Lee, Anne James, Lim Soon Heng, Marina Tan and David H. Lim – each get to play Hamlet in different scenes besides playing out other characters. Each of them brings something different to the characterisations of Hamlet, giving the audience a somewhat rich and diverse experience. Needless to say, each of them is a delight in their individual portrayal, like Kien Lee’s maniacal Hamlet is cockier and crazier than Anne James’s strong and contemplative Hamlet. 

While it was an enlightening and entertaining for me as an audience to experience a deconstructed performance of Hamlet, the literature student in me was in full awe. The Shakespeare Demystified troupe has a lot more to offer than mere entertainment, and that is education. The two hours spent watching them and listening the discussions during the Q&A session made me come to one conclusion:

WE NEED TO INCORPORATE SHAKESPEARE DEMYSTIFIED (OR ITS CONCEPT) INTO OUR LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE SYLLABUS!

In case anyone from the Ministry of Education Malaysia is reading this, please send this message to your higher-ups:

CALL SHAKESPEARE DEMYSTIFIED TODAY AND START BRAINSTORMING! ASAP!

As for me, I am going to wait and hope that Shakespeare Demystified does not make me wait a whole year for their next production.

 

 

The First International Debut of See/Saw

Rising from devastating aftermath of the earthquake that struck Japan in 2011, one Japanese contemporary dance company turned to art express the mood of the nation.

Nibroll, in their latest work see/saw, explores the themes of life and death. This production, which premiered in Yokohama in 2012, is being staged for the first time outside Japan right here in Penang.

Featuring local dancers from Penang and Kuala Lumpur, see/saw is choreographed by the founder of Nibroll, Mikuni Yanaihara, and is presented in Malaysia by The Japan Foundation.

visual_1402_nssSEE/SAW

Date

22 February 2014 @ 8:30pm

Venue

stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang)

Ticketing Information

RM 23 (Adults)

RM 13 (JFKL Members, Students, Physically-challenged, TAS Card Holders)

Tickets can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722.

PenTAS Exclusive: A Chat with Funnyman Douglas Lim

By Yasmin Bathamanathan
Images courtesy of http://www.douglaslim.com/

My first introduction to Douglas Lim was the much loved Kopitiam. He was adorable, kinda-annoying (in my memory at least) and quite the nice guy. Then I found out he could sing and play the guitar! Oh, I wanted him as a friend (well, I wanted to hang out with the gang of Kopitiam – it was like our own version of Friends, only better and more realistic).

A decade and half later, Douglas has moved on to bigger and better things, in the process creating some really cool funny stuff online and offline as well as flexing his acting chops on stage. I, on the other hand, have yet to find crazy group of friends who hang out and do pretty much nothing. But, I have this the chance of hanging out with Douglas online to bring to you this interview with Douglas on his up-coming stand-up show – Planet of the Apeks.

YB: I just watched your KIA commercials, and I must say they are funny. The humour might be Chinese-centric but they are something all Asians can identify with. Would you say the same applies to the content or concept of Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians shows? 

DL: Thank you for finding the commercials funny. It’s my hope to introduce comedy to other fields like advertising and education so I’m glad that I’ve achieved some degree of success with the Kia commercials. Yes, the humour MACC does usually cuts across race. Although the 4 of us are Chinese, the first word in MACC is MALAYSIAN and that applies to us too. We are Malaysian first and foremost.

YB: What can we expect from Planet of the Apeks?

DL: Stand-up comedy in English, performed by 4 Malaysians. Because of who we are, the content will also be very Malaysian, involving issues and aspects of which we are all familiar.

YB: How involved are you in the production of Planet of the Apeks? From the poster, it looks like you are the lord and creator and all the other guys have to do is show up and deliver their lines.

DL: It’s actually a team effort. The bit where my name appears throughout the poster was added to fill up empty space. Chi Ho is our main publicist, Jenhan is in charge of graphics and colouring and stuff while Dr. Jason is there in case we get sick. I er…finance the whole endeavour.

YB: Why apek? You guys aren’t all that old, am I right? Or is that a blanket term for Chinese men above a certain age?

DL: It was a play on the title “Planet of the APES”. Apeks was closest.  And I guess all 4 of us do exhibit some form of apek-ness in out behavior.

YB: Personally, what makes you laugh? Do you think Planet of the Apeks will make, say, a 31 year old Malaysian Indian woman get the humour of your Apeks?

DL: As I said, as long as she is Malaysian knows the current issues of Malaysia, she should have no problems understanding and enjoying the show. I think, much more important than race, is the person’s ability to take a joke, laugh at each other and laugh at himself/ herself.

YB: The first time I saw a MACC event poster on my friend’s FB wall inviting his friends to watch the show at penangpac, being the clueless person I sometimes tend to be, I commented something in the vein of “oh, but I don’t understand Chinese, so I can’t watch la”. Needless to say, I kena teruk-teruk from another poster who basically said I was a dumbass for not getting the “English-speaking” clause of MACC. 

The story behind MACC ‘s formation is out there, and you (or your publicist or the person who wrote MACC’s profile) point out that it was born out of you not being in the right hue for Raja Lawak and that you were “convinced that the Chinese can be funny”, leading you to hunt high and low for people like you – Chinese and funny. What I am getting to is that the Chinese are known for their humour, which can be quite slapsticky, crude and very no-holds-barred. Is MACC’s brand of humour anything like that?

DL: That’s a really long question. But I’m afraid I can’t give you a yes/ no answer. Our “brand” of humour is actually just staple stand-up comedy fare. You get anecdotal humour, observational humour, some word play, some funny songs, self deprecating humour, etc…  But we definitely don’t go out of our way to be crude or offend. We just want to make people laugh.

YB: If no, could you elaborate more on that and what does it mean to be a relevant Malaysian comedian in this time?

DL: The comedy “scene” in Malaysia is still at its infancy but is experiencing rapid growth. And it’s nice to see many Malaysians getting into comedy – whether as a stand-up comedian or an Instagram humourists or Facebook joker. Any Malaysian comedian can be relevant as long as you talk about stuff Malaysians talk about among themselves.

YB: When it comes to comedy, is there any line that you would not cross? The reason I ask this is because our local news headlines are starting to sound even more outlandish than the ones The Onion dishes out, making our current reality like a bad B-grade comedy flick. 

DL: You know The Onion? Wow. Guess you’re quite a satire fan. Personally, I think the main problem facing our news agencies is their primary role. I would like to think that the main role of a news agency is to INFORM. In Malaysia, they seem to INFLUENCE more than inform. And the headlines mirror this reality.

YB: In the light of the ludicrous turn the country’s politics and social construct is taking, how do you see the coming future of comedy in Malaysia?

DL: Extremely bright. GOOD things, NICE things, HAPPY things are NOT funny.

YB: Last Question: are you funny because you are Chinese or are you Chinese because you are funny? Why do you say so?

DL: Neither. I really don’t think race has anything to do with “funny-ness”. I guess I have an obsession in always looking for the funny angle in everything. I thoroughly enjoy teasing out laughs from people. Being a “clown”.

YB: Before we end, I have to admit I have always found you adorable. I believe I was in Form 3 when I first saw you on Kopitiam. The fact that your little videos and skits are relatable and outright funny just makes it all the better. This is going up as one of my dream-interviews.

DL: Thank you. Your questions were definitely not the usual ones I’m used to getting. Hope to see you at the show in Penang.

Yasmin Bathamanathan is a published writer, produced playwright and director based in Malaysia. Her script, “We Were Made Fools”, won the Best Script at the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival (Penang) 2012. She also made her directorial debut at the Festival with “Somnus” which won the Best Male Actor award. An avid supported of performing arts, she is also the founder of this blog, PenTAS.

The Rise of the Apeks

If you happened to watch the recent KIA commercials directed by funnyman Douglas Lim and enjoyed them as much as the average Malaysian, you  might, just might, like his latest venture – Planet of the Apeks.

Part of the much talked about comedy troupe – Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians – Planet of the Apeks features other comedic gems besides Lim.  Sharing the stage with the seasoned comedian are Kuah Jenhan, Phoon Chi Ho and Dr. Jason (real doctor, not a fictional one like Dr House or Dr Phil).

Performed in English, Planet of the Apeks is a through-and-through Malaysian stand-up comedy show. Expect hilariously acute observations, personal anecdotes, exaggerated theories and ridiculous song parodies, which the four Apeks are said to deliver with a heavy dose of Apek-ness.

Oh, if you are wondering what is an Apek, apek loosely translates to ‘uncle’ in Chinese and is used when addressing older men in Malaysia, especially Chinese men. So, if you are still in the CNY mood and are what the society deems as a “matured” human being, why not come get a dose of the Apeks this February.

PLANET OF THE APEKS 

Date

14 & 15 February 2014 @ 9pm

Venue

stage 1, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang)

Ticketing Information

RM 53 for all

Tickets can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722.

The Contemporary Dances of cieLaroque Come to Penang

“One of the most touring ensembles of Austrian dance scene”, cieLaroque | helene weinzierl comes to Penang this month with two of their most reputed contemporary dance pieces – 301 3 01 IS IT ME and THINK FISH.

301 3 01 IS IT ME 

IS IT ME is a collaboration between Helene Weinzierl and the talented Salzburgian dancer Yuri Korec in 2013. We can see an artist with his fictional character but it is hard to distinguish the difference between them. Which part of his personality does live in his character: self-doubt or self-love? Which aspects are real?

THINK FISH

In THINK FISH, we can see a couple and feel that they are not in a perfect harmony. It seems to be exhausting, unhealthy, laborious, and somehow it appears to be unpleasant, the harmony is missing. The absurdity reaches a peak when the structures of power collapse and dissolve due to missing or misunderstood communication.

301 3 01 IS IT ME | THINK FISH

Date

8 February 2014 @ 8:30pm

9 February 2014 @ 3pm

Venue

stage 2, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang)

Ticketing Information

RM 38 (Adults)

RM 28 (Physically-challenged, Students & Senior Citizens Above 65)

RM 20 (TAS & Senior Privilege Card Holders)

Group Booking: Buy 10 Get 1 Free

Tickets can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722.

Confessions of a Chorister

By Khoo Wei Cyn

You may think that to join a choir group, you need to be able to sing well from the get-go. That’s got some truth to it, but only to a certain extent. What you really need in a group is the spirit of teamwork. We breathe together. We hit the high notes and low ones together. And we cover for each other when one of us runs out of breath. That’s what a choir is for; we sound good collectively when we can’t on our own.

Choral singing had been my lifeblood since 2010. The weekly practices with the Penang Philharmonic Chorus (PPC) are my panacea from life’s doldrums. Meeting friendly and familiar faces, taking part in the chatter and for two hours, breathing deeply then singing my heart out distracts my mind from trivial tribulations. Over the years, I’ve even learned to like the sound of my voice. I know the flaws in my voice and I appreciate the strengths that I have, experimenting with my breath and vocal articulations wherever I am least likely to embarrass myself.

I’d parted ways with the chorus after Martin Rutherford left. He had been our chorus master before he made penangpac his new “home”. However, the number of chorus members who remained at PPC weren’t enough to perform any major choral works in his absence, and when I heard news that he was appointed chorus master for The Actors Studio Chorus (TASC), I decided to join this new group, hoping to sing more grand pieces such as the Hallelujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest.

TASC was well into Week 6 of practice when I joined them. I had been swamped with Short+Sweet Theatre Festival before that, and between academic studies and my day job, I was stretched thin. Banking on my assumption that most of the carols were the ones I’d sung before at PPC, I hoped I could catch up with the choristers. Then I asked Martin if I could sing with them. The answer was yes.

Although there were many new and strange faces in the chorus, I warmed up to them very quickly. Now they are my new family, even though I hadn’t been looking for a new home. And I love the melody of all the carols! The Cowboy Carol, The First Nowell, Jubilate Domino and Sing Gloria are some of them. But the two songs titled The Holly and the Ivy and the Hallelujah Chorus are my all-time favourites as they feature uniquely polyphonic, contrapuntal music which sound amazing when performed flawlessly with an orchestral backing.

Martin is conducting with his usual emphasis on consonants and synchrony. It’s pronounced “lit-tel”, he keeps reminding us. Don’t sing during the two-beat rest unless you want your name to be in the programme as a soloist! he teases. But after 17 rehearsals, those words don’t faze us anymore. We’re ready to sing our hearts out. We’re ready to draw you into the beauty of choral music. And we’re dead serious about making good music for everybody!

A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms. Her latest adventure will see her perform on stage in the The Actors Studio Chorus’s Family Christmas Concert 2013.

choir1
Tickets for Family Christmas Concert 2013 can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722. 

 

Review: Marrying Me

Tying the Knot? … Not!

By Khoo Wei Cyn

Images courtesy of PenTAS

Everyone has their own notions on what a complete and well-lived life comprises. For most of the older generation, their notion is centred on marriage, which, in part, is the product of our survival instincts for ensuring the continuity of our genetic line. Produced by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac), Marrying Me: A New Musical, directed by Christopher Ling, addresses this concept through script, dance and song for four days; from 5-8 December at stage 2, penangpac and 12-22 December at pentas 2, klpac.

Be sure to get your ticket today!
Be sure to get your ticket today!

In the musical, Stephanie (the main character) rebels against tradition and stigma to live a life she wants; freedom from all the problems that come when the “going gets tough” in a marriage. Her idea of normalcy clashes with that of her mother’s (Sandra). For Sandra, the desire to live as a woman in a matriarchal role and having a happy marriage is the normal path where as Stephanie, the NGO fighter for women’s rights, has seen the reality of marriages gone sour. To Stephanie, that reality is normalcy, and she wants to protect herself from that situation by being independent and self-sufficient.

More and more details about Stephanie’s upbringing are revealed as the musical progresses into the second act. We learn that her mother was a victim of an abusive marriage, and Tony, the man whom Stephanie had loved dearly, reminded her of her own father. Determined to never repeat the mistake her mother made, she insists on a life of singlehood but this is thwarted by Sandra’s faked chronic illness, where she makes Stephanie promise to get married in her “dying wish”. Whether she goes on with her promise or not, that you would have to discover for yourself.

Marrying Me is certainly the musical to watch. Its upbeat, snazzy music peppered with doses of comedy and hilarity is brought to life by a spectacular lead actress and a solid cast. I loved the music and the way the lyrics were written, plus the scenes where comic relief was prevalent to break up the sombre mood reflective of Stephanie’s dilemma.

You don’t have to love singlehood to appreciate this musical; I’m sure you can draw some parallels with your experiences about marriage from it. And if you’re single, you may walk away feeling better about staying that way. But no matter who you are, I think that you will enjoy watching Marrying Me as much as I did. What’s not to love about good music, great fun and endearing characters?

*A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms.