Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where they are nowish

I'm in NYC now, but I figure I oughta take this op to tell everyone what we're doing after the run!

LORETTA CHEN and I are both involved in Short and Sweet Singapore, a festival of 10-minute plays. Loretta's directing Ian Grody's "The Critics" and Andrew Lua's directing me "Frostbite". They're both going up in the last week of April:

Week 2
25 April to 29 April 2007, 8pm
Studio Theatre, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Tickets here.

CYNTHIA LEE MACQUARRIE will be next acting in the chorus of Singapore Repertory Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream:

04 May to 27 May 2007 , 7.30pm
Fort Canning Park
Standard - S$43
Advance Ticket - S$33

VIP Package - S$78
Tickets here.

UPDATE: They didn't cast her in the end... and really, it wasn't that great a show to begin with.

CHERYL MILES will be singing regularly at Oosh, an alfresco bar in Tanglin Village.

AMY CHENG will be acting in
Georgette, an upcoming musical I've written under Musical Theatre Limited - and it's another biographical play, this time on the Singapore painter Georgette Chen.

09 June and 10 June 2007, 3pm and 7:30pm
Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets here.

UPDATE: meh, she dropped out.

LEE WENG KEE and PAUL LUCAS don't have anything concrete lined up, but Paul should be directing more student shows with LaSalle shortly.

STANLEY NG will be stage managing for Little Red Shop's Between Woman and Man: The Erasure of Verena Tay.

20 April and 21 April 2007, 8pm
The Substation
$20 ($30 for both shows, which are actually different)
Tickets here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blessed are the procrastinators

A lot of people out there - including the principal of the convent school where my godmother teaches - are asking whether there'll be a rerun of 251 soon. I see no reason why not, since there's a clear demand and Toy Factory has the rights to run my play for two more years.

Since we're no longer doing it under the aegis of the Esplanade, however, some further portions may be cut (which would be terribly inconsistent, but that's cultural regulation for you).

However, one positive side effect of not booking early may be that we'll be able to use Ho Tzu Nyen (pictured above) and Fran Borgia's real-super-dua-liap multimedia, which was going to be projected onto the white stage if only we hadn't rented the wrong projector (ooooei!).

I've been badgering Tzu Nyen for a photo - he's this amazing conceptual-video-painting-installation-performance-lecture artist and I loved taking tour groups to see his "Bohemian Rhapsody Project" in the Singapore Biennale. However, he's been pretty reticent. He told me to use Google Images to get his portrait, so here we are. (He's the on the far right at the Front Awards, grimacing at his dog).

One other reason I wanted to meet up with Tzu Nyen was because I'd heard that one of his early art projects involved an installation based on two Singapore heroes: Mr Kiasu and Annabel Chong. Once I find out about that properly, I'll add it to the supplementary text section.

However, as of now, I'm fleeing the country, to promote my poetry book at my old university of Columbia in New York City. Yeah, I'll miss the cast party tomorrow night at Loof, but I'll be there in spirit, and I'm sure someone will be taking scandalous photographs in my stead.

Thanks to everyone who's come to the show, and everyone who's been following this cockamamie blog of mine so far 'cos it's the next best thing to getting a ticket. Like General Macarthur, we will damn well try to return.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

O Fortuna

Also known as a reason to condemn us for witchcraft as well as smut. :)

At the retreat we held two months ago before rehearsals began, we ended up reading each other's fortunes on Tarot cards. As Loretta had already read my fortune following the second draft, I got Cheryl Miles to do a reading based on the question, "How will 251 go?"

Here is what she said:

1. 7 of Pentacles. Patience. There's a lot of love, a lot of effort from many different people going into this play.

2. The World. Growth and potential, honesty, influencing ideas through the play, creating a new world.

3. Ace of Pentacles, influencing the heart. Contentment of soil.

4. 10 of Pentacles, influencing the head. Wealth of ideas.

5. 10 of Cups, describing the recent past. A very enlightened project of great harmony.

6. The Magician, describing the near future. Male genius principle. ;)

7. The High Priestess, describing myself. I am the one who looks inward.

8. 6 of Cups, influencing events. Nostalgia.

9, 9 of Swords, hopes and fears. Radical change.

10. The Fool, outcome. The young one, revelling into the beauty of life, stepping into the unknown.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A mixed review.

Here's our review from Today newspaper on Monday, 9 April 2007, Plus, p24-25.

I'm not too bothered about his star rating - the performance he saw definitely wasn't one of our best - and he raises the same issue Richard does regarding our superficial efforts to discuss performance art history in Singapore. But it's odd that he feels we should have left out the legendary women segments, which Life! reviewer Hong Xinyi felt were the strongest thematic force in the play. Should I hire a dramaturg to decide?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A bad review :)

Check out our first online review (in a Singapore arts journal, anyhow), on Theatrex by editor Richard Chua.

Basically, his main charge against us is that we tried to do too much on stage - which is quite true; there were many themes I wanted to at least touch on and I wasn't able to do them all justice. But I'm surprised at his view that we should have reduced the play to a plain, simple biographical story - no references to Singapore art, politics and censorship. Rich, there are people in the MDA who want to kiss you right now.

Feel free to go to his site and comment on how apt and well-crafted his essay is. :)

Meat the (s)crew Part Too

Here're the photos of our as-yet-unphotographed crew from Harry's depicted our fatigued but still fuckable crew (Robin Loon just scolded me for using the word "fuckable" too many times in this blog, and I'm eager for his accusation not to be made in vain).

Actually hor, we were supposed to have our shots in the programme, but since Fran's photophobic (yeah I know that's used incorrectly), we decided to leave out our faces in unison. So instead, meet us in our least dignified poses:

Though they aren't credited in your little red booklet, Cynthia Sim and Rydwan Anwar have been vital forces in getting the play staged. She's the Finance and Admin Executive at Toy, and he's a Programming Officer at Esplanade, attached to our play. Poor him.

Another camera-shy personality, Fiona Lim is our terribly capable wardrobe mistress. (We sewed the diamantes on the dildo straps together!). Turns out Fiones used to be an actress, so she believes she needs make-up before she looks presentable. But that would be to gild the lily.

More young and pretty people. Here're Tham Phui Yen, the multimedia operator (who twiddles the tech so the numbers pop on and off the monitors at the right times) and Desmond Foo Wei Lun, the sound operator. They're both in Poly.

From left to right, June Wong, sole member of the stage crew (yep, she's the one rushing back and forth with the penknives and tofu and bloodied chains and other sex toy props), Nureen Raidah, Assistant Stage Manager (who also doubles as make-up artiste), and Stanley Ng, Stage Manager. Stanley's particularly invested in this project, because Loretta is his teacher at LaSalle. Apple polisher. Bootlicker. Pai ma pi. (Why does every insult sound like a sexual innuendo on this blog?)

You've seen Desmond Chen, choreographer, before in my previous post about our very cute and snoggable crew (time for adjective variation, donchathink?). But beside him is Eleine Ng, one of the cast - our only chorus member, whom we dragged into this production in its final stages when it became apparent that we needed more bodies on the floor.

I still have no pictures of sound designer Don Richmond and multimedia designer Ho Tzu Nyen. But I'll get them eventually, doncha worry.

Incidentally, my folks came tonight, with much apprehension. My father was nonplussed, but my mother loved it - better than my previous works. I think it was the boobies that made the difference. Thanks to everyone for making my parents proud (at least my mum lah!).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

World's Biggest Gangbang director arrested in Thailand!

Yep, it's true. John T. Bone (né John Bowen), the fat old British skeezebag who conceived and directed The World's Biggest Gangbang, and then cheated our lady Annabel out of her promised US$10,000.

He was arrested in his beach house in Pattaya on Friday, 6 April (that's right, the day after our first performance) for producing porn videos, which is very illegal in Thailand. Coincidence or synchronicity? Who can tell? Get the full story from Blissbox, Mango Sauce or AVN (which, coincidentally, also did a brief story about us).

Grace Quek is reportedly very, very happy. =)

Personally, I'm more bemused that a clear breach of contract in California would only be redressed by the legal hypocrisy of Southeast Asian government ten years later. If he was shooting porn and paying his subjects adequately, he wasn't committing a crime in my book.

Of course, if you do want to get your knickers in a twist about banned movies, you should read about what the MDA's done with Martyn See's latest movie on Said Zahari, ISD detainee.

After the show

... we went to Harry's, the bar at the Esplanade. Aren't we a merry bunch.

Yes, Loretta looks unphotogenic for once. The evening shortly dissolved into a session of Chuck, Fuck, Marry, lubricated by the provision of champagne, Guinness and NACHOS.

More photos of us here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Life!, Tuesday April 10, 2007, p8

Ignatius Low, money editor, has a viewpoint piece in today's Life! about what it was like to view 251 when he knew Grace Quek personally - in fact, he was one of the seven people who witnessed her exorcism, which, as he points out, was not forced upon her (a fact that I didn't quite realise till I read this really good interview with her by Amy Goodman on Nerve.com). Still, it's interesting that he doesn't recall their cell-group as fundamentalist or anything but "happy-clappy".

The title of Low's article is "Fable that's blurry around the edges" (other people write the headers lah), and he says he enjoyed it despite the differences - "Cynthia Lee Macquarrie, cast in the title role, managed to capture any of Grace's defining attributes - how she could be playful and a coquette and yet be serious and idealistic." He's also quite positive about the ideals of the play as a whole - "It's about the anger, loneliness and self-doubt that a Singaporean always feels when taking the path less-travelled."

He also mentioned that other contemporaries of Quek snapped up tickets to examine me. Wah lau, now I'm really nervous. I suppose I have to be glad that Loretta decided not to have us do a Q&A afterwards.

UPDATE: Even better - turns out that it was Ignatius's article on Annabel Chong as National Icon all those months back which prompted Loretta to renew her efforts to have this play created.

Postcards from the wings

Welcome to the sordid world of behind-the-scenes at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.

Aiyah, not so sordid lah. As you can see, Loretta's finally become more relaxed in her post-mortem sessions with the cast and crew.

What may be regarded as more sordid are the props we use for this play. Yeah, the wig helps Paul Lucas to look temporarily un-botak. And you see those diamantes on the strap-on dildos? I glued some of them on myself! See, I'm literary AND artistic!

Another look at the props table, in less rosy light. That monitor up in the corner gives a live view of whatever's happening on stage at the time. That's how I got to witness Loretta's proclivities for using "Blow Wind Blow" as a warm up game.

And a final shot of Anizah rushing over Amy's make-up. Break a leg, guys - Monday, our day of rest is OVER.
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Monday, April 9, 2007

Cheap Thrill

I was out with Joyce Yao, one of my ex-schoolmates last week - she works for The Theatre Practice, which is committed not only to theatre research but also to community arts intitiative, such as their recent youth storytelling competition and their Poor Theatre Series, which provides emerging theatre practitioners with rehearsal space and an opportunity to perform their work to a non-paying audience. I wanted to know how come I'd never heard about this free theatre series - and realised that cheap and free theatre generally gets less publicity and media coverage than its more commercial counterparts - even in the case of DramaBox's Sing Your Way Home in last year's Singapore Theatre Festival, or Theatreworks's recent multimedia dance performance, Drift Net.

So, as an antidote to the capitalist sensationalism of 251, I'm proud to announce the launch of a listings page for theatre and dance costing $15 and under:

Cheap Thrill

Feel free to write to me if you want your production listed. Any performance event may be listed.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Guess what? Today (Saturday) we were really good.

Yeah, I know people thought Thursday and Friday's performances were decent, but Loretta and I were always picking on the actors for not being loud enough, not being fast enough on their feet to provide a tight, professional performance. This afternoon, at the 3pm matinee, we were finally satisfied, and the 8pm show's acting was just as good - enhanced by an extra Hokkien one-liner by Lee Weng Kee, which I'll have to document in a final, publishable script.

Paul Lucas asked me if it was as if I finally saw my play onstage as I'd intended. Oddly, I realised this wasn't the case at all - I go to the theatre prepared to have my words recast in a context in which they're unrecognisable as my own. And Loretta's cuts did work - we have a production I'm proud of.

Of course, this is bad news for those of us (yes, me included) who can't get tickets for ourselves or our loved ones. I've put my name on Sistic's waiting list, but I'm not hopeful - today even Royston Tan called up to ask for tickets and we had to say no. One guy stood outside and watched the entire show on the Theatre Studio latecomers' monitor. Fetishism gone mad, I tell you. Everyone wants a piece of the lady.

Another odd thing about our audiences: the regular theatre crowd we know and love just aren't there. They dragged their feet buying tickets; instead, non-theatregoers provoked by our libidinous publicity shots snapped up the lot - so we're mostly performing to newcomers to the world of live drama. That means there's extra pressure on us to put up a good show - which we have done today. God; let's hope the actors aren't tired out by tomorrow.

Anyway, if you can't make it for a 251 show, or you've got an extra ticket - e-mail me! Or call Sistic, because there's loads of people on their waitlist who'd kiss your toes for the opportunity. Much love!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Power and Grace

Ooh, and on today's Life! on page 15, we've got Hong Xinyi's review of the play - rather balanced , but on the whole positive: it mentions both the pluses and minuses of the show.

Also, there's a leetle article on the "was-it-or-wasn't-it" censorship of the prologue (the censored lines are now printed for all of ST's readership to see! Brace yourself for a religious riot!).

Tammy NYP

Let's talk about Tammy NYP for a second. Yeah, the Nanyang Poly girl who used her cellphone camera to film herself having unprotected sex with her boyfriend in mid-Feb 2006, and then had her image go online after her handphone was stolen. That Tammy.

Wikipedia's got a rather good log of the progress of the video - from IM links to blogs to international mainstream media and iPods, holding up as one of 20 most popularly searched terms for two weeks. Of course, there was the usual chorus of outraged dismay at the shamelessness of the girl (not at her boyfriend, who should've worn a condom, nor at the enemy who stole her phone). Mr Miyagi did an an article commenting on it all for Today newspaper. Even TalkingCock did a spoof video on Youtube.

In a rather absorbing CNET article, Tammy was even described as having "dethroned Annabel Chong". This despite the fact that she was not a "porn actress", and had never intended to disseminate herself. However, the everydayness of Tammy - quite different from the celebrity of Paris Hilton - was a wake-up call for Singaporeans. Guess what, guys. You know that sex thing? Everyone's doing it.

For the sake of Tammy's face, however, this seems like a good time to let her speak for herself - or at least someone claiming to be her, wielding a machinima mask. Does the unwilling legend truly talk back? Who knows? In any case, it's a rather piquant document.

Friday, April 6, 2007


... well, that's the first run finished. Some tech snafus and some tightening are necessary, but incredibly, the people I spoke to liked it! Including - believe it or not - one man who'd been Grace Quek's friend in JC, and even went to his exorcism. His writeup will appear in ST on Monday.

Of course, one issue is that changes were requested from the MDA. The Esplanade does, of course, have the power in principle to bypass these requested changes, since they say they're working with us - not against us. And in the end, most changes were made on artistic grounds rather than by means of censorship.

On Tuesday, however, we were told that the MDA panel strongly requested K K Seet's opening prologue to be changed. The line they objected to was:

"In the beginning was the body."

This is problematic on the grounds that it's a Biblical allusion and may thus offend Christian sensibilities, and of course, given what a religiously unstable country Singapore is, we can't have that, can we?

As neither our sound designer nor our voice actor had time to re-record the music on Wednesday, we found it impossible to change the recording on opening night, Thursday. Our decision was to muffle the line instead. By tonight (or the weekend?) the line will be changed, with no great impact on the overal integrity of the work.

An Esplanade employee I spoke to insists that censorship did not occur, because, after all, they're co-creators of the work. But they do urge us to re-record as soon as humanly possible. What can I, a relative newcomer to the Singapore theatre scene, do but accept their word?

Incidentally, if you can't get tickets to 251, I'd strongly recommend going to the other productions in the Esplanade Theatre Studio Season, which was uniformly strong in 2006. I'd especially recommend Cake Theatrical Productions's Nothing.

Also playing this weekend are 72-13's A Wonderful Weekend, the Finger Players' 0501, and the Fun Stage's Unsense. Go buy tickets. :)

Ooh, and happy Easter, everyone. Chag sameach!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ad Nauseam

Hey everyone,

The show opens in 45 minutes. As I'm sure everyone's aware, we had a front-page story in Life! today, by Hong Xinyi. We also had an interview with Reuters last night from a very cool Egyptian lady who's covering arts and lifestyle for the whole of East Asia. (I agree: wah lau.)

AND - we're sold out.

I know. I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. 15 shows, including matinees.
I hadn't even bought the discounted tickets for my siblings and my best friends. Which means that only strangers are going to watch my piece.

I am a bundle of nerves. I mean, it's illogical - the actors have far more right to be paranoid than I. But I feel cut off, impotent from the development of the play from now on - I was so nervous last night, I woke up at 5am and couldn't sleep. I feel like vomiting and pushing my face into a meat grinder (although come to think of it, that means my brains and my puke would get mixed into the same protein shake, which seems unbecoming somehow). I was biting my own arms last night while watching bits of the run.

The very least I can say, though - is that all this publicity has been a theatrical experience in itself. And going by ticket sales, it's been a very successful one.

God, I hope everything goes well. Cross my heart and hope to swallow if I blow chunks.

Ooh, here's the article from Reuter's, plus a bad photo of the nice journalists:

Whore or hero? Singapore porn star's life on stage
By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE, April 5 (Reuters Life!) - Few Singaporeans have courted controversy like sex star Annabel Chong, but a new play about her life which opens on Thursday aims to reveal the person behind the pornography.

"251" is named after Chong's most famous film, "The World's Biggest Gang Bang", in which she set a world record for engaging in 251 sexual acts with around 70 men over a 10-hour period in January 1995.

Starring, produced and directed by Singaporeans, the play also marks a milestone for this city-state which has long
considered Chong a pariah and where oral and anal sex, as well as pornographic films, are banned.

"Singapore has definitely opened up much more in terms of what it's willing to allow on stage," said playwright Yi-Sheng
Ng, who has been fascinated by Chong's life since he heard about her infamous film as a teenager.

"She's an icon, a figure of the taboo, of doing that which is forbidden and scandalous in Singapore, she's one of our country's great anti-heroes," he told Reuters.

Chong, born Grace Quek, was born in 1972 to a conservative Christian family in Singapore, where she excelled at some of the country's top schools. While studying law in London on a government scholarship, she was gang-raped in a rubbish tip.

Aged 21, she went on to do graduate studies in California and then started working in adult films. Today, she still lives in the United States, where she is a Web designer, and refuses to talk to the media about her days as Chong.

"251" is the second biographical production about the actress, who is perhaps one of Singapore's best-known exports.

In 1999, a U.S. film student produced a documentary titled "Sex: The Annabel Chong Story", which was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival the same year.

The film, which highlights her substance abuse and tendencies towards self-harm and depression, is also banned in Singapore.

Loretta Chen, the director of "251" which is produced by Toy Factory, said government authorities had vetted the script and laid down some "guidelines" that included toning down some of the language as well as ruling out nudity and scenes that depicted group sex.

But she said the staging of the play showed Singapore's government was also changing with the times.

"Ten years ago, this would not have happened, but with the Internet and the accessibility of porn today, this forces the authorities to address such issues," she said.

Chen, who got Quek's blessings, hopes audiences will come out of the play realising that Chong was a product of Singaporean values, as well as "a person with family, friends and feelings".

"When I started researching, I got intrigued with the idea of her being a national hero ... someone who dared to break boundaries," she said. "The only reason she is not considered a hero is because what she did was a sexual act and we don't consider that to be heroic in any way."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Meet the (s)crew

You've already met the cast (or if you haven't, see this previous entry). But what about the stalwart workers behind the scenes... the crew, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!!!

I got a number of (bad) photographs of us at the first run rehearsal about a month ago; many apologies for my tardiness in only uploading them now. This is me trying to capture the plenitude of our creative staff in audience using a very abd Yashica camera and a mirror.

Meet the inimitable Yo Shao Ann, our lighting designer in funky glasses (kena nominate for best lighting in this year's Life Theatre Awards!) and our costume designer Lai Chan (he's pizza-faced because he's undergoing laser treatment for his acne - don't worry, soon he'll be as smooth as a baby's buttocks, but much more legally fuckable).

This is our set designer, Ripple Sim (also known as Nipple, or - my personal preference - Mul-Ripple Orgasm). She's the cutest one of us, IMHO! 20 years old only... and her boyfriend's just as yummy.

Fran Borgia and Ho Tzu Nyen (not pictured) are our multimedia designers - they just did a brain-boggling conceptual art lecture/performance entitled "King Lear: The Avoidance of Love" at the Esplanade for Sparks 4. Fran is Spanish, and also very fuckable, even though Loretta finds Tzu Nyen even more so (this, coming from a big lesbo, is quite a compliment). Sadly, Fran is straight, and Tzu Nyen's married to a woman. So we'll have to be content on deriving virtual, intellectual stimulation from these young men; pleasures of the mind, alas, must be sublimated from the flesh.

(Update: turns out that Fran has a personal taboo against replication of his image [helas! That such beauty should wither without documentation!] so I've censored him, gracefully.)

Desmond Chen is our choreographer. Do we have a covergirl/boy ensemble or what?

One of our make-up girls, Anizah. (I have to get photos of the others! And is there a PC way to say make-up girl? Cosmetician?)

This guy - Megah Laksana Ashari - was originally supposed to be our multimedia operator, but that job's gone to a student named Tham Pui Yen now. (I had to leave the picture in - how many real afros are there in Singapore?)
Finally, our Production Manager Hatta's in the upper right-hand corner. Loretta's brainstorming with us over Ripple's set design, which I'll be seeing for the first time in full-scale tonight at the full-dress.

And of course, we needed fuel from Maxwell Food Centre to help us think creatively. Singaporeans run on their stomachs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Queer eyes

Incestuously, I've got my gay and lesbian homies down to do reportage on 251 on the pan-Asian queer website Fridae.com and Singapore's "juiciest" gay-themed podcast, Queercast.

Fridae news editor Sylvia Tan's done a news story and e-mail interview with us, here. Watch out - Loretta and I typed our mouths off.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Deroose (whom I profiled in SQ21) agreed to do an interview with us for Queercast last Saturday... Sorry about the sound quality; I got hungry and Loretta was late, so we were munching at Glutton's Square... then Lor and I had to rush off to "King Lear: The Avoidance of Love", a performance lecture/experiment by our multimedia designers Ho Tzu Nyen and Fran Borgia, featuring our actress Amy Cheng... wah lau, the arts community here is damn small, man!

Anyway, the podcast itself is here. Enjoy!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dancing on the jetty!

Cynthia Lee Macquarrie and Cheryl Miles workshopping during our retreat... by inventing a childhood friendship between themselves, focussed on a shared obsession with Bananarama. (No idea if this made it into the final version of the play!)

...and some preliminary choreography

Cheryl Miles teaches Paul Lucas how to dance.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

251 publicity shoot

This makes me so happy.

Y'know, a couple of nights ago, Nora Samosir called me a media whore. I requested to be known as a Media Meretrix, because a) it sounds more refined, and b) that way I also get to be an MM.

Anyway, as sighted in the Esplanade tunnel:

And in the Esplanade itself, on the second floor: