Paving the way for young theatre practitioners



Image credit: Bridging The Gap's Facebook page


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The time is 9pm. My mouse hovers on “Admit into Personal Meeting Room”, I take a deep breath and click. This is the first time I’m hosting a Zoom Interview for NUSSU The Ridge. Filled with anticipation, I am greeted by two energetic ladies, Melva and Indu. There is loud chatter in the background and I’m told that they are in rehearsal and have hopped out to join me for a chat. 

Melva and Indu are budding theatre practitioners and incoming graduates from Lasalle College of The Arts. Midway through the interview, I can see why they were chosen to star in the play. Behind their words, they exude strong passion for the theatre industry and determination to make their mark. 

They will be starring in the upcoming play subTITLED, a kickstart to the launch of BRIDGING THE GAP (BTG). BTG is a new platform where students graduating from theatre institutions are given the opportunities to interact and work with established theatre practitioners and designers, as they transition into the industry proper. Presently, there is no such platform that facilitates this interface, and most fresh graduates face the industry very squarely without much aid. Being inexperienced and vulnerable, some are exposed to being exploited, and although trained, are usually not industry-ready. Started by renowned Singapore industry professionals Alvin Tan, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai and A Yagnya, BTG provides a safe space for graduates to practise and hone their skills by working with experienced practitioners. 

Here’s what they had to say. 

Q: As you enter the theatre industry, are there any potential challenges that you foresee? 

Indu: I think the real challenge is anxiety of our own. It is just not knowing how we are being viewed in the industry. I haven’t really done a production outside of schools so I don’t know what to expect. I’m doing something professionally out in the world. So there is also a huge anxiety of like, what is my brand, how am I going to create my brand? 

Melva: Like Indu, I think in our industry everything’s up in the air, because you can’t necessarily plan out a five year or ten year plan since you don’t know what opportunities come. You don’t know when a phone call will come and be like hey, we need you for three months. With the fact that we are graduating in this new pandemic I guess that’s a huge kind of worry too. Bridging the gap really puts us out there giving us opportunities and a safe space to voice out our own artistic creativity. 

Q: What was the inspiration behind the title of the show? 

Melva: It refers to the invisible entities of communities that exist in our society so it’s. So, when we think of subtitles we think about transcribing or translating something that maybe needs a little help, to understand. We are trying to bring characters experiences that are not so common, and helping translate and transcribe them for the audience to see and experience. So it’s not the obvious, we are trying to translate the non obvious.

Indu: Yeah. Also, the play is predominantly about Indians. In the whole community of Indians there is a broad spectrum and a range of Indians from the privilege to the poor. So this play really emphasizes and showcases all the different aspects and not just label us as one Indian community. 

Video interview with the cast of subTITLED

Q: Can you describe the character you play in the show? 

Melva: My character is Li Ting. She is a sweet girl, but she finds herself being too sweet sometimes, and she’s tired of being sweet, but she also doesn’t know how to be herself yet. She’s in this environment that is telling her to be this way. And there are a lot of pressures from society that are telling her, hey, you need to be like this and she doesn’t even know herself yet. There’s a point where she’s put in a position and has to rethink her identity and how she should present herself to the world.

Indu: My character is called Priya. She is someone who comes from a lesser privileged background, and despite all the efforts that she’s making sometimes, society sees that differently. They just put her in this box of stereotypes and she’s just trying to bring out a wish, but society just pushes her back into the box and labels her. 

Q: What did you enjoy most about your experience working on subTITLED? 

Indu: How it is so collaborative. Being one of the first few involved in this BTG initiative, it is just so collaborative to a point that we don’t only feel that we are actors, but we have a practically very different role. You know, there’s no hierarchy anymore. It’s not like there’s a director and then there’s a playwright, it’s not there anymore. We share ideas, we have different points, and we listen to each other. We are not only seen as actors who come in but we stay for the feedback, we stay for all the improvements and we see all the prewriting process. I’m so proud to be in a production like that.

Melva: Yeah, completely agree. As a young graduate to find this space and to be given an opportunity like this, with people that we have always admired – it’s just wonderful to be able to be one of the first people to be part of this initiative. I just feel very proud not of ourselves, but for the fact that this initiative is happening. I tell my classmates to be excited not just for our show but for an initiative like this. This might become the pioneer of how our industry grows and more opportunities to come for younger folks like us. 

Q: Moving forward, what is your personal vision for the theatre industry? 

Indu: For me, there’s hope especially with theatre coming back after the pandemic. There is a lot more visions that are changing. We have to start reimagining how theatre is going to be performed, how it can be used and consumed. My hope would be for theatre to be open to new ways. 

Melva: I think that we’ve seen a lot of theatre practitioners embrace that change. You know we have shows going online and zoom immersive escape rooms, it’s exciting. I know, COVID-19 has caused a lot of tragedy for families and for jobs and industries. In our careers all jobs are all gone. But with that said, I feel like if you want to move forward, we need to start embracing all these new technological advances. I’m figuring out what I want as an actress, and to plan my career is very hard if it’s just acting based. But I am just grateful, right now, and I am hopeful that with hard work, perseverance and persistence, we will be able to get there.

Q: With that, I’ll love to end this with a quote you live by. 

Melva: I always told myself to always remain childlike not childish. I’m still young but I’ve always been trying to grow up very fast, especially in this industry. But I feel like I should remind myself that especially when I’m feeling stressed out about why can’t I get this right. As long as I keep the innocence and childlikeness and don’t take things too hard, then that’s how I want to live my life. It’s hard, but I try. 

Indu: My quote is everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t know the reason now. I always tell myself everything happens for a reason. You get sad but for me, you know, just be strong about it. 

We wave goodbye and my first interview comes to a close. A happy sigh escapes my lips. I love documenting stories and theirs have lit a candle in my heart. In facing this time of change, we still don’t know what’s to come for theatre and even the world. But at least we’ll hold on to the present, take leaps of faith and continue to be hopeful for our many new firsts to come. 

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    subTITLED 

Venue: The Substation 

Date:17-20 February 2021 

Timings: 3PM & 7.30PM 

Ticket Pricing: $25 

Tickets available from Peatix.