Saturday, March 11, 2006


So yesterday I finish watching Mrs Henderson Presents, and I'm feeling a) unemployable because my SPH interviewers didn't seem riveted by me, and dredged up my gay stuff too, b) defeated at the hopeless prospect of romantic love - gay or straight - ever having the potential to engender lifetime fulfilment (I'd also just finished reading Willa Cather's "My Mortal Enemy", named for the address of the protagonist to her devoted husband at the end of many years of self-sacrificing marriage).

I message Amran for a lark. Amran's a cute NSPF I bumped into at Towel Club. (More vigorous bumping was done with his friend, but Amran wanted to talk about Agatha Christie and Rumi Jalaluddin.) Amran gives me long litanies on his lost love, a marathon runner he met by crising in the street, who always knew the exact right thing to say until the day he announced he wasn't looking for an LTR. He still sees him in his neighbourhood in his bicycle shorts now and then, and that sends a spear of ice through his heart, alas.

I meet Amran at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, where he's in front of the Madonna , asking her to intercede. (Amran wants to convert to Catholicism and learn Latin. He'll be teaching me Arabic. Woo-hoo.) I gripe to him about my woes, he gripes on his, I make a comment on how the Cathedral features a sign saying "Come Meet Mary" and is located on Queen Street.

We end up eating supermarket sushi and attending a free talk at the Substation by Joanna Wong Quee Heng, the Cantonese opera star. I realise after a while that Amran's more captivated than I am because he hasn't grown jaded to grandmothers watching endless DVDs of drag kings delivering recitative wearing cockroach antennae (see below diagram)
Mrs Joanna Wong in Warriors of Yang Family
Ms Wong's story is rather sad. She's speaking on behalf of women in the arts for International Women's Day, but the only reason she hasn't quit showbiz is because her husband won't let her. He just throws her resignation letter into the dustbin until she remembers the value of her passion. And she laments how many lost Mercedes, how many landed properties, how many yers as Registrar at NUS she lost because she was acting as Madam White Snake and not Homo Economicus.

She can't get younger bums in seats. She's tried performance in street clothing and singing in English, which the kids actually prefer, but the older generation won't stand for it, and they're her bread and butter. She's tried haranguing NAC for moneys to do a Canto opera version of whatever Shakespearean literature text is up for that year, but they wouldn't open their fists, her mainland Chinese scriptwriter even refused the indignity of translating when he could write his own damn story, and even she admits she's only doing it to get bums in seats, not out of artistic investigation. She's been invited to perform in Beijing, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Cairo, and even Guangzhou, because they wanted their university's foreign language majors to hear what an English language wayang sounded like (and apparently even the Cantonese undergradds haven't watched opera in Cantonese). She's been invited to Oakland to stand on a Singapore parade float in the middle of winter, mock-ups from 7pm the night before to the showcase till 1pm the next day, chilled to the bone, her painted face cracking in the dry air, the SIA girls waving on the float treating her to instant noodles in the limousine. She's been invited to Vienna by Ong Ken Sen to teach his blonde actresses getai movement for his production of the Caucasian Chalk Circle. She recognises the value of such crossover, but she can't keep the purity itself going, the adult amateurs are called home to their children locked out of the house, and the children amateurs all have to study by secondary school. Even today's operatics of fame refuse to allow their children to follow in their footsteps, because you just can't make money.

When I was 16 at a Creative Arts camp, I was coerced by a certain Mr Chua Soo Pong (see above diagram) into performing a Chinese opera sketch. This involved loads of makeup, expensive costume, and absolutely no personal creative intiative on my part. I cursed his name and wished I could have been inducted into the Australian mime artist's component (which in the end delivered a rather dull skit, as well). Right now I can't figure out what division, what branch of Chinese opera he was teaching us. I can only hope he was as oppressed as Ms Wong was back in his field.

Sigh. Yeah, I'm vindictive. Amran probably won't understand, but Chinese opera's like kinky sex. A lot of people aren't into it, and anyone who imposes it on anyone against their will should be subjected to capital punishment.

Hahahahaha! Yes, I'm sorry. Today I got the final rejection e-mail from SPH. I'm inclined to be sadistic when hurt.


Anonymous said...
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A.C. said...

Just happened to drop by! Anyway, your post is very funny, especially the part relating Chinese opera to kinky sex! Hee... BTW I'm a amatuer Chinese opera actor. =)