Sacrifices

Filed in Events, Life, They’re Playing Our Song (2007), WorkTags:

Dreams don't come cheap. They require sacrifices. It's up to you whether your dream justifies the sacrifices.

"They're Playing Our Song" is definitely a big part of my evolving dream. Stage musicals, although a very small part of my early school life where I was invariably a chorus member, were never part of my goal in life. Singing was first, and acting came second, although more accidentally than intentionally; TVB was an accident, a happy lucky one.

Through the years, my preferences for acting and music have changed, and now I find myself yearning for the satisfaction that can come from a well crafted stage musical, such as "They're Playing Our Song". In recent years, I've participated in three stage productions. I danced in 「上海之夜」 (Magic is the Moonlight) and sang in 「鄧麗君,但願人長久」 (Teresa Tang Forever), but except for Perfume 香水 (2005), I was always a rather large extra in the story. Perfume was my first role as a co-star, working with three other respected professionals, none of whom thought of themselves as better than any other. In fact, in this respect, I have again been fortunate. In none of the stage productions that I have worked with have there been any actors or actresses who thought they were above everyone else, including Cass 彭羚, a world class singer who because of the Teresa Tang musical became a personal friend of mine.

And now I get a starring role. It only took 20 years to get here.

The automatic presumption of most people who hear that I'm starring in a stage production is that I'll be making a good deal of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. None of the three primary participants in this production are going to make very much money, if any at all. It's a production of love.

"They're Playing Our Song" will be performed in the McAulay Studio theatre which seats less than 100 people (the front rows are just a few feet from the stage). There will be ten shows. Do the math and you'll quickly realise that the potential income from this show is very limited. Then remember that we also have to pay the creators of the play for the right to perform it. And there are props to buy, composers to pay, sound studios to rent, and other employees and technicians to pay.

I drive to rehearsals. If I were to take public transport to the rehearsal location, it would be one hour there and around an hour-and-a-half back. That's a lot of time to spend standing in a crowded compartment, and no fun at all after rehearsals have drained all of your energy. With petrol, parking and food costs, I'll be surprised if I come out of this adventure with any financial profit at all.

Then there's the time involved. For more than two months, we will have rehearsed practically every day, anything from three to seven hours a day with acting, dancing and singing. And predictably, we also work on the play in our own time, when we're not running companies, or writing master-degree mid-term papers and theses, or filming at TVB.

One outsider who has benefitted from my involvement in this production is a Cantonese-speaking Caucasian actor by the name of Brian who after following my advice, was accepted into TVB as a contract artist. A few weeks ago while I was at TVB filming, I bumped into an Administrative Assistant (commonly referred to as an A.A. in TVB lingo) who cheerfully and sincerely informed me that I had been assigned a very significant role in their new TVB series, perhaps one of the biggest roles of my TVB career. Unfortunately, the demanding inflexible schedule of the new series collided directly with the equally demanding schedule of "They're Playing Our Song" and I suddenly had to choose between a major TVB role with a nice income attached to it and a stage musical with possibly no income benefits at all. For me, it wasn't a choice (yes June, you were right. I'm an idealist, albeit a complicated one). "They're Playing Our Song" was my first priority. Since I now have the contractual right to say 'no' to any TVB series I choose, the role was reassigned to Brian who is now happily thinking about how he's going to get enough sleep while filming the busy series side by side with a very attractive actress.

So why do the play? (this is true also for Henry and Sompor) Because it's a golden opportunity to work together with other enthusiastic hard working people and produce something great. Because I get the opportunity with the director and costar's participation to develop the character line by line, step by step, day by day. Because I get to act in a manner and at a level not possible at TVB because of TVB's script and time constraints. Because I get to sing and dance on stage with expression and exuberance. Because I get to push myself well beyond my comfort zone. Because I get to prove to myself and others what I am capable of and have oodles of fun while doing so.

If we were making a lot of money from this production, we'd obviously work hard to produce a wonderful show. Is it therefore logical that because we're not making a lot of money, that we work less? No. On the contrary, we work even harder because what we stand to gain from this production become all the more important, and they are learning, experience, satisfaction, and the proof of what we are capable of.

If you miss this show, you will indeed have missed a very special production.

A couple of 'post' notes.

1. At the time I bumped into the A.A.,
"They're Playing Our Song" had already been planned for close to eight months,
we had already taken several lessons with our vocal coach for the play,
the venue had already been booked,
we had already had two solid weeks of rehearsals.

As such, if I had chosen to take the TVB role, it would have caused harm to everyone involved in the play, not something I would easily agree to.

2. Working on a play improves your acting skills. Some Hollywood actors go back to the stage at least once every two years to keep their acting skills honed. It's very difficult to improve your skills while working at TVB. The whole as-quick-as-you-can atmosphere doesn't foster it.

3. I'm getting interviews with various magazines (and perhaps even a Canada-based Cantonese radio station) about my involvement in this play. I never get interviewed about my TVB work.

There will be other TVB series. There will never be another "They're Playing Our Song". The benefits of doing the play are many and significant. They're just not obvious.

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10 Responses to “Sacrifices”
  1. Christ Follower says:

    Have you refused the drama series that will soon take the place of the one now showing from 8:00 to 8:30pm Monday through Friday? It would be a great disappointment to your supporters. However, your commitment to your aspirations is worth our admiration. This attitude is almost unknown in today's materialistic world where people are clamouring for the opportunity of making more money quite forgetting what quality life actually means. I wish you great success in your show!

  2. 河國榮 says:

    Christ Follower,

    what we film today at TVB, you might not see on TV for a year or more. it can sometimes take a very long time for our series to get to the 'big' screen. one series that I filmed in 2003 鳳舞香羅 was never shown in Hong Kong.

    regards,
    Ho Kwok Wing

  3. Milan says:

    Who's Brian? Which country does he come from?

    The only other Caucasian actor I've seen is John Wakefield who hasn't done much in recent years.

  4. Fiona says:

    I will be a little disappointed not being able to see you in a significant role in the TVB series, especially when I am not living in HK and not able to see "They're playing our Song". Yes guess you are pretty much an idealist.

  5. 河國榮 says:

    Milan,

    off the top of my head, I'm not sure where Brian comes from. I suspect England or Australia. he's been here a while and his Cantonese is very good.

    Fiona,

    I'm flattered that you are disappointed. it's a revelation to me that people would be disappointed at not seeing me. I expected that television viewers would welcome the variety that other Caucasian actors would provide. 喬寶寶 for example is a wonderful person and an entertaining actor.

    and for you, I wrote the post notes in the article. please take a look.

    regards,

    Ho Kwok Wing

  6. Midnight Muse says:

    There are many ways to measure success -- numbers being the obvious one. However, there's also the quality of the performance itself; but more importantly, the quality of the audience itself, which is something specific to theatre (or live performances, in general). Whether you perform for 8 or 80, I'm sure you and the rest of the cast will have something you can really sink your toes into come March. The beauty of theatre, unlike television, is that you can get instant gratification after a performance. Hailing from Canada, myself, it is a pity that I'll be unable to see "They're Playing Our Song" as I've always loved the actor-audience relationship of theatre...there's something so awe-inspiring and fragile about an actor, on stage, bare in front of an audience...unfolding until the spotlight dims and the sound of the final encore subsides :) Keep up the good work!

  7. Rennie says:

    When you mentioned it took you twenty years to get a starring role, it sounds very scary to a someone that's only 23 (me). When I first started college, I was determined to become a psychologist. After the first year I decided I wanted to major in international relations because I wanted to travel the world. I came back from a year in Hong Kong as an exchange student and wanted to pursue a career in public relations. Now after working in the banking industry for a little more than a year, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do. How long did it take you to figure out that acting was something that you wanted to do and how do you stay committed to something for so long?

    I wish I can go see the play. Good luck. Dedication and hard work is important, but don't forget to rest too. Health is also very important.

  8. Sheryl says:

    Hi Greg,

    I'm a Singaporean gal in my 20s who grew up watching TVB. So you've been a familiar face on my TV screen for a long, long time. :) I'm glad to have stumbled upon your blog. It's evident you put thought into every entry as each one is insightful and a pleasure to read. :)

    Anyhow, you're really blessed to have the option to prioritise your dream over your income. I'm sure there're many (artistes or otherwise) out there who have no choice but to weigh jobs based on monetary returns.

    I'm warmed to know that it's passion that keeps you going in the entertainment circle, and I feel like I can see you in a different light now whenever I see you on my TV screen again. :) I'll be sure to read your blog regularly, even if I don't comment all the time. Take care! :)

  9. Alex says:

    As the others said before, I was a somewhat disappointed you not starring in a central role of a TVB production
    However, I totally understand your dream of being able to perform on a stage and more importantly, singing.
    I shared the same dream with you because I too like to sing on the stage one day. (even though I wasn’t selected for my school production…….)
    I have to say, I do admire your passion of perfecting yourself as a "proper" artist, not like those "artist" doesn't even know how to sing.
    I think this is what music and acting is about, you have to master yourself as an artist to give the play, the song, the film or the musical or whatever you are performing “LIFE”.
    Anyway, after my long boring comments, wish you good luck in your musical, and a successful performance.

  10. sapphire says:

    >>I'm getting interviews with various magazines (and perhaps even a Canada-based Cantonese radio station) about my involvement in this play.>>

    Mr Ho,
    Which Canada-based radio stn? (Fairchild Radio, AM 1470 or FM 96.1?) Can you let us know when it airs later?