Writer: Pearly Neo (who is the Assistant Production Manager)
Editor: Janice Fan
It’s a bit like baking a cake really. To make a tasty, scrumptious, mouth-wateringly delicious one, you need the right ingredients, you need these ingredients prepared well and in good time, you need to bake it for exactly the right amount of time and you need to watch out for it at all times to make sure it doesn’t burn. Before all of that, you need money to buy said ingredients and pay for use of the oven too. If you’re a small bakery in the middle of, say, NUS, where only a miniscule portion of Singapore’s population have heard of you, then you’d better work on some heavy publicity to make sure people actually come and taste your cake, because good as it may be, eating it all by yourself isn’t exactly beneficial, nor is it what it was made for in the first place.
Okay, okay, so I’m supposed to be writing about Hallplay and not displaying my meager knowledge on cake-making. But I have not digressed from the issue at all. If you think about it carefully, you’ll see what I mean: To produce a good play, you need the right sets, you need these sets to be prepared well ahead of rehearsals and in good time, you need to make sure you have ample time for rehearsals, that the play is exactly the right length so no one gets bored and the actors don’t get tired out, and every aspect of the play must be watched out for closely at all times, so that nothing goes wrong and everything crashes and burns. See where I’m going with this? What I’ve just described is basically the Production side of Hallplay, ensuring everything behind the scenes runs well and smoothly so that everything portrayed onstage is of a suitable quality to whet the audience’s appetite. As for the money issue I mentioned, that’s the Operations side of Hallplay, where money has to be sourced and the play advertised and publicized so that we get as large an audience as possible.
I was personally mainly involved only in the Production side of things, so I’m afraid I am unable to elaborate much on the team’s brilliant marketing and publicity strategies, but I do hope that everyone will be at least a little entertained by my take on what happened behind the scenes of the production of our (I hope!) tantalizingly delectable final product :P
Right from the very first meeting, several points were highlighted, emphasized, repeated, emphasized and emphasized again – chief amongst these was the fact that we had to start work, and we had to start it ASAP because we were on a tight schedule. When the director, Collin first introduced us to this year’s play, Absurd Person Singular, and gave us the lowdown on the storyline, to be honest, my first thought was: How on earth is a play about three married couples going to be funny? But then, we were given the script, and it was only after reading it (and almost laughing myself off the bed at the second scene) that I was convinced of its quality, and decided that I should never ever question the brilliance of such an acclaimed playwright as Alan Acykbourne again. What did make me groan though, was when I noticed the number of props that the play required. From a stove to a refrigerator to wine glasses to falling lampshades, at that time, it just seemed like an awfully gargantuan task.
And so, the hard work commenced, and it was indeed a long and tedious process for all the production members. Set Builders put all available muscle power and engineering skills to build several sturdy walls, destined to become the background of the characters’ kitchens, and their challenge was to make everything as steady and sturdy as possible. Set Décor dedicated all their artistic skills to the challenge of making every scene as realistic, believable, and downright gorgeous as possible. Their main trial came with making the three scenes look completely different – using the same walls for all scenes. Costumes had their work cut out for them, finding the perfect get-up for each actor that fit not only the era of the play, but their character’s personality as well. The Stage Managers and Tech Crew were busy preparing cues that would work effectively for the show to flow smoothly, no easy task considering they had to prepare cues for a play that is well over 80 pages long, and each and every detail (every time rain or a dog bark was heard as the door was opened, every doorbell that was rung, and yes, the light-sound coordination when Jingwen was ‘electrocuted’) had to be meticulously planned and cues provided. The directors and the cast, on the other hand, had their hands full making each and every scene as believable and entertaining as possible with almost constant rehearsals. Then everyone had to take on the task of finding props, whether they be large ones (e.g. kitchen appliances) or small ones (e.g. wine glasses)
It was amazing, though (to me, at least) at how things took form under each department’s capable hands. It wasn’t very long before we had 2 meter high walls forming a kitchen backdrop, and these were all painted painstakingly to look like some professional paint drop, with texturing and all that. Then there was the huge, towering 2m cupboard that seriously looks like my own one back home, a cabinet custom made to fit a sink, and an extremely realistic set of drawers. There was a fridge, a stove, a washing machine and a sink. In short, just about everything required for the play to be put together was available, or MADE available to us in a relatively short period of time through various means like calling in favours from friends or relatives, eBay purchases, or just plain old building from scratch. It definitely wasn’t easy, considering everyone had various and numerous other responsibilities and duties to attend to (we DO stay in hall, after all), but eventually everyone pulled through and played their part, and soon, we had just about everything we needed.
With everything in place, what was left was just for the actors to come in and…act. So in rolled the rehearsals, lots and lots of them! It was beyond exciting to watch the actors actually enter the sets and interact with the props, to test out the sound effects, to watch the cues sync in with the acting, and just to see how we could fine tune things to make everything…perfect. It was fun and exhilarating to watch everything, but it wasn’t until one night when I had to stand in for Si Min as ASM that I found out that it was even more exciting to be backstage…having to cue the actors and actresses, make complete scene changes and ensure no backstage movement is seen by the audience, having to do it in silence and near-complete darkness and within a rather short amount of time…it was very, very thrilling indeed. Si Min claims it to be a stolid, foolproof, routine job (most likely because she’s already used to it), but yours truly found it a really fun experience.
In no time at all, we found ourselves almost at the big day (or days, in this case)! Soon, it was time for Bump-In, the event which brought on the super-extremely-serious-stern look to Adrian’s face (SC members, you all know the one)every time it was mentioned. It was the day when all our sets and tools had to be moved to the University Cultural Centre (UCC), and also the day when I first realized the magnitude and quantity of sets that we actually had to transport there, as I was placed in charge of arranging the stuff to be transported there, and I did NOT want the super-extremely-serious-stern look turned upon me if anything were to be, Heaven forbid, left behind. Oh, and there was a lot of prayer for rain to stay away, because if it did choose to pour that morning, we would definitely not be able to make everything on time to meet our, again, very tight schedule.
… to be continued. Part (II) will be on Bump-In day and Production day(S)