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.