When Jalyn Han first approached me to work on Afar 远角 almost a year and a half ago, I was frankly highly skeptical. The script was in Mandarin. I, having spent a good part of my education in the States, have a kentang (potato) mouth. Kentang is a colloquial term that has hung around me since my NS days, it meant I was so Westernized that I preferred to eat potatoes (a Western staple) over rice (a Asian/Chinese staple). Well, political correctness aside, English is my primary master language and while I was proficient enough in Mandarin to navigate the daily, surely there were other better qualified actors out there. Performing in Mandarin would be my Mt Everest.
We’re now past week 2 and half of putting the performance together. It’s been a real treat to be able to play with a new language but it hasn’t been easy. With language lessons from Jalyn (the director who has been infinitely patient and nurturing), I’ve been pretty much reading (out loud) the script as often as I could, almost daily, just to know the words. Even while my mouth and tongue get used to their new choreography, there’s the next step of using the words and delving into character – allowing the words to find a place in the body. And that I’m finding is the biggest challenge when dealing with an unfamiliar language.
Playing and doing improv with an excellent and infinitely giving cast of 4 plus me has been really fun. There hasn’t been a dull moment, or a truly nerve-wrecking moment. There have been WEIRD moments but weird is great in theatre so we revel in it a lot. And the set is going to be something to look forward to. Playwright Lee Shyh Jih has given us a lot to play with in his script so the possibilities are limitless.
Come check it out, or at the very least see me struggle with Mandarin:
Photos by Drama Box