I don’t like to dwell on things for longer than necessary, so this will be my last post about the play. I feel irrevocably changed by this experience and I would like to share some of honest reflections about it.
1. The most important lesson I learnt is about ego.
I’ve learnt that ego gets in the way of everything. The whole experience of working for UNSAID and in particular Every Singaporean Daughter (ESD) was a humbling lesson about everything I don’t know. I also learnt that the end goal cannot be glory and fame and recognition. It is of course exciting to see your work in the press, but at the end of the day, it is meaningless if it does not reflect the true respect that your peers have for you. I learnt that being a leader is more often than not, about being the last person to peel the masking tape off the rehearsal floor and taking out the trash. I learnt that putting one’s ego aside, saying i’m sorry I was wrong, I’ll fix it can be the hardest thing to do when emotions are running high.
2. The second lesson I learnt is about being broke.
I have never been so broke in my life. There was a day during bump-in week when Timothy Seet and I went to get lunch for the cast and crew. At first, we couldn’t even get out of the carpark because there was so little money left in Tim’s cashcard. After we finally topped up money in the card drove off, we pooled together whatever money we had in our wallets and hoped it would be enough to cover the cost of food. At the stall, the bill came up to $48.30 and I only had $45 in cash. I called Tim and he immediately said to just not buy food for him and myself. So that’s what we did. In the end there was an extra packet of food so I had the chance to eat. But I know that Tim didn’t anything that day until dinner time. Another story I will never forget is about the programme booklets for the show. Woong Soak Teng and I worked together to conceptualize the programme booklet and this is honestly a piece of work that I am very proud of. When it came to printing the booklets, the printing shops we contacted gave us quotations out of our budget range. So we simply had to do everything ourselves. Soak bought out an entire shop’s supply of a specific type of paper, printed it at her office and together with Chris Hnin folded every single one of the 500-odd programme booklets by hand. The third story about being broke is about ticket sales. When you are young and inexperienced, it is of course very difficult to get the support of people. Who wants to support a bunch of kids with no brand name and zero prior experience in putting up a play. Until the week before the show, we’d only sold 200 tickets for a total of 4 shows, and I know I speak for the team when I say we were all tossing and turning in our beds at night, wondering how we were going to cover the costs of everything we had to pay for. We are all students, and there is no way that we’d be able to pay back whatever money we owed from our own pockets. In the last week, we somehow managed to sell 700 tickets and had two almost sold-out shows. I will always be grateful to friends and family for supporting us, because I literally don’t know what we would have done if you had not come down to see our show. I have never understood so urgently the need for money in my entire life and it was once again humbling to me, to come to terms again and again with the fact that we are just kids who bit off more than we could chew.
3. The third lesson I learnt is about choosing your words carefully.
I learnt that if you want to be treated with respect, you really have to be sure of what you promise people and also I think make a conscious effort to be as honest as possible. I think this was a sobering lesson for all of us in the core team and in our inexperience I think we have at times taken the weight of our words lightly. For this, I am truly sorry. But I am also grateful for the understanding of the professional actors and theatre professionals who stayed on and worked with us nonetheless.
4. The fourth lesson I learnt is about hope.
In the process of working in UNSAID and bringing about ESD, there were many times where we did many things in the complete opposite way of what we should have. Again this goes back to Lesson #1 on ego, on how we did not ask for help when we could have. My sincere belief is that this production could and would have been so much more if we had learnt lesson #1 earlier. But having said that, despite our mistakes, I think we have achieved something of value, something that engaged the audience and made people talk about the issues that were raised in the play. So imagine what we could do if we do things in a better way in the future. There is hope and potential. I have learnt so much from every experience and every mistake and for this I am grateful.
Better days are ahead. <3