I got a call from Liansheng sometime in January 2015. Last I had worked with Liansheng was as an actor for The Boy Inside. This time, he asked if I wanted to direct the NUS Arts Festival opening show featuring Jeremy Monteiro. He was writing text around jazz favorites. The show would be called Words and Music. I dove right in. Almost three months later, I’m sitting here now in the NUS University Cultural Centre (UCC) with finally a moment to breathe and to catch up on logging about the process. I am frankly a bit overwhelmed and immensely grateful to have the privilege of and amazing opportunity to direct my first professional show for the NUS Arts Festival AND in the UCC. And…for jazz.  I was drawn to working on this piece because Jazz has always been a bit of an elusive lover for me. I feel like I know Jazz, but just when you think you’ve got Jazz, it surprises you. It’s a wonderful witness to so much of our collective human history – from the Civil Rights movement, the fluidity of a globalized culture, the osmosis of American and Singaporean culture – it’s a form that is ever-evolving. Liansheng and I started our process by reading Geoff Dyer’s But, Beautiful A Book About Jazz. Over the last 3 months I discovered Thelonious Monk, and Ben Webster (WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG!?), and rekindled my love and admiration for Ella Fitzgerald. Through Theatre, I particularly value the opportunity to meet and get to know different communities. And with Words and Music I got to meet the Singapore Jazz community, and of course, the students who drive the NUS Jazz Band. I would have liked a bit more contact with everyone involved. But I suppose such is the challenge of working a big show as this…May I digress a bit to meander through the introspection of my own growth as a director? A few of questions have been popping up in my head. What is your style? What are you trying to say? I think I am entering into an industry where many of the established directors bring a certain consistency in either treatment or point of view. During the Substation’s Director’s Lab, in my various conversations with mentors and practitioners, I had been challenged with articulating what I wanted to say as an artist. In response, I found that I prefer to ask questions. One of the questions that’s been driving the process is what comes of this meeting of Theatre and Jazz? On aesthetic (or style), I like being able to work with different creatives. In this endeavor of Words and Music, I was chosen by the writer and the producer to work with specific artists. I was the last piece of the jigsaw, the piece that had the monumental task of pulling all the other pieces together to form the picture. I think I am more interested in working with people and their points of view, than imposing a specific directive onto them. I remember one of the conversations I had with Danny Yung, the director is often a strategist. How do you make the best work from the resources that you have? I am more interested in a creative process where ideas flow and craft is mutually sharpened by all, from crew to actor. I find myself going back to the ideal of collaboration, the director as a strategist. Back to Words and Music. We are now 2 days away from opening. I’m sitting in the dressing room typing this out as the production crew works endlessly to create the world of Shen and Fong. Sometimes the director needs to get out of the way so that work can be better done. I can’t wait to see the magic. Words and Music is a love story and recollected through letters and jazz, a meeting of two worlds, Shen and Fong, Jeremy and Liansheng, Jazz and Theatre. Marketing details can be found here. Tickets are available from SISTIC. Show opens and closes March 20, 2015. One night only. Picture Credit: NUS CENTRE FOR THE ARTS backalley_wordsmusic_hires-42 backalley_wordsmusic_hires-66 backalley_wordsmusic_hires-220 backalley_wordsmusic_hires-316 backalley_wordsmusic_hires-318 backalley_wordsmusic_hires-329

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