Wang Chong's The Revolutionary Model Play 2.0 opens tomorrow! And as you might know, the show isn't just showing at LaSalle College of the Arts - it also features LaSalle acting students. I thought it'd be cool to interview one of them about the process:
This is Deonn Yang, a 20 year-old Level 3 acting student. She's also a bit of a writer - she'll be reading her work on Sep 16 as part of Speakeasy #22, which is part of the IndigNation LGBT Pride Season calendar. I chatted with her on Sunday night about the project.
NYS: So how's prep for the show going?
Deonn: It’s been great. We just bumped in last week so it was really exciting, cos we finally got to see the set and what we’re working with. And the story and the whole process has been going really well and just yesterday we did a full run with our costumes, and the set itself was up and running with the water elements, and it was a good run for all of us to experience that.
NYS: How did this all start?
Deonn: Keng Sen approached Wang Chong to propose a show about Jiang Qing’s work, and Wang Chong had been interested in exploring the idea for a long time. Along the way, LaSalle came into the mix.
NYS: How did you get involved in this show?
Deonn: Last year when I was still in Level 2 [of Acting at LaSalle] we went for the SIFA OPEN, and Wang Zhang did a talk about the kind of work he did – then, we found out we would be collaborating.
It’s been a long process. We’ve broken up the process into months: like, we’ll have rehearsals for two weeks and then break and then have rehearsals again… The last rehearsals we had before this final round were at the start of May and we had the whole holiday school break, and it’s been full on from start of August till now. It’s been good exposure, especially for a young artist like myself, to be part of such an opportunity.
NYS: Can you tell us about the rest of the LaSalle students who’re involved?
Deonn: LaSalle is kind of like an international school. We have a lot of people who’ve come to LaSalle and created an art community, and that’s a very enriching part of our theatre.
The students who are involved in this production are students from Acting Level 2 and 3. Half of my class are locals – there are only six of us, and the other three are international students form Korea, Philippines and France, and the others are from Malaysia, Germany and Austria. So we do have different voices and different languages in our mix.
And that was something that appealed a lot to Wang Chong because he was able to use the different languages available to create a play and use a script to tell a story of more than just China but kind of a universal story that applies to everyone, regardless of where you’re from, because it’s everyone’s story.
NYS: What’s Wang Chong like as a director, though?
Deonn: Wang Chong is great! He’s a very very nice man… I know that’s not a very descriptive word, but he’s very intelligent, and he knows exactly what he wants and he’s not afraid to experiment with ideas and go all out and be crazy.
He respects us even as his actors and his ensemble, he takes into account our feedback and our opinions. A lot of the scenes that are in the show, we had a say in it, the way it’s constructed and set, we were given time to come up with ideas on how this speech is said and if we can stick things in the show. He’s also somebody I really respect: to be able to take such a heavy and dense and some might even say controversial subject to talk about – Jiang Qing and her model operas – and give you another insight, to question the audience which is not necessarily what one might thing to do… He is somebody I very much respect, and I would love to work with him again.
NYS: What’s been the biggest challenge for you, working on this production?
[Deonn gave a really interesting answer to this question. But it contains descriptions of the work that are so specific, and quite clearly meant to surprise the audience, that I've decided to leave this section blank for now. I'll probably give you her reply in my review of the show. If you're impatient, go watch it yourself!]
[UPDATE: This is what she said:]
Deonn: The biggest challenge is that there are elements that we have to combat. For a while after we bumped in we couldn’t really see on set for tech runs…
Basically, there are 3,000 litres of water that are circulating this entire theatre space, and that is something very foreign to us, when there are electricity and lights going on. We had to deal with that and the fact that we’re going to be drenched. So there’s the issue of how to keep the actors warm when they’re not on stage, and how should we protect the floorboards…
It is an interesting production because there’s going to be things falling from the ceiling and the mix of all the ramps and water and trying not to fall to our deaths because there is also a lowered orchestra pit… It’s kind of a like a wetsuit party, because we’re all also in wetsuits, and we’re not really trying to tell people that we’re wearing wetsuits, cos it’s kind a of a spoiler. But it’s kind of a scuba diving show that’s kind of crazy, but there’s cameras on stage…