Monday, March 12, 2007

Heaty Durians

Met with the Esplanade's Director of Programming J P Nathan today - also Assistant Director Jobina Tan and Programming Officer Rydwan Anwar. (Lovely office they've got in there; I ended up falling into the pebble pond. Sorry, no photo.)

The Esplanade's really in an odd spot when it comes to staging controversial works. They're a government body staffed with non-government management who really do care passionately about developing the arts in Singapore. This means that they've gotta answer both to public and official conservatism as well as to the artists' demand for freedom. If they're staging a work, it doesn't have to be vetted by the MDA beforehand. But if it's rude art, it's gotta be good art.

And they're not requesting changes or anything... Problem was, Nathan was holding on to a copy of the first draft of 251, which was a bare brainstorm of the initial ideas for the play - totally unlike the show you'll be watching in three weeks' time. And he was just terribly worried that what we'd produced would be the same kind of pornographic trash that exploits Annabel all over again. (Quite obviously, our posters haven't helped to dispel that myth.)

The Esplanade's helping us with space and tech and the director knows what else. They're collaborators in this project. Everyone's thrown heaps of passion into this project and naturally we want it to be a critical success.

But I'm also prepared for failure. You see, I've realised that when people look back at Singapore's dramatic history, they don't necessarily remember whether a play was any good. They remember that it happened. So the very fact that we've got a play about Annabel Chong off the ground is half the battle won.

Trust me; someday someone's going to look back at Annabel Chong and create another play/artwork/novel/epic musical. And there's a chance this person's going to think our play was a crock of shit, offensive and devoid of redeeming artistic value. So what? We'll have blasted out a new dimension to the legend. We'll have made a new myth.

Better than just staging tried-and-true favourites over and over again, drawing audiences who'll just go home to compare it to the 1988 version. Isn't that happening a lot recently? Sure, we need our classics, but I miss the '90s, when more than half of all scripts performed were new. Big institutions have gotta take risks and support new plays, new companies, new ideas.

God, I really hope we get glowing reviews and slaps on the back and bouquets and shit, and that the Esplanade doesn't find its faith in us misplaced. But after all that nail-biting, I have to go home and get back to writing.

The passion of the artist is not to succeed, but to create.

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