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Theatrix- The prize is in the performance

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When you’re a small theatre group, even a little help goes a long way. When that help comes in the form of a generous cash prize, venue sponsorship and marketing support that results in two full houses, it means a huge step up in the performing arts scene. MyCreative Ventures talks to ARTERI about the inaugural performing arts competition, Theatrix.

2016 was the first year accepting entries for Theatrix, a competition for performing artists. The winners received RM15,000 in cash, mentorship from The Actor’s Studio, and venue sponsorship and perform at Pentas 2 in KLPAC. “This competition goes in line with our core role,” says Johan Ishak, Executive Director of MyCreative Ventures. While his company’s main function is to provide loans to support the creative industry, the competitions are how they acknowledge the “need to spend money to explore creativity.”

Inaugural Theatrix announcement

Theatrix follows in the footsteps of similar creativity-exploring competitions. MyCreative Ventures’ highly successful Fashion Pitch is now in its fifth year. The second annual Writers Unleashed and VAP (Visual Arts Pitch) are accepting submissions, as is the inaugural Craft Master.

But back to Theatrix

Judges for this first installment included film, TV and stage actor Ida Nerina (Layar Lara, Sepet, The Vagina Monologues), and power performing arts couple Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham (Co-Founders of KLPAC as well as directors/producers/actors for more performances than one can count). Representing MyCreative Ventures was Chief Investment Officer, Izwan Zainuddin.

What were judges looking for?

Johan explains that winners were chosed for the originality of their story, method of storytelling and applicant ‘maturity’ which in this case meant a proven ability to deliver what they promised. Of course in any diverse panel of judges there will be some debate. In the end, they chose two performances as different as a dream is from a platypus: Toccata Studio’s 2020: An Arrival and Pitapat Theatre’s KAKAK.

A multilingual performance in a multilingual country

Opening night

Two performers move on opposite sides of a sheet-thin wall of lit smoke. They touched it, their fingers casting long linear shadows which they played like strings on a harp. They approached it, drew away from it, then tentatively pushed through it.

And then. Then the sheet of light itself did something which pulled forth a loud gasp from the audience, the kind I remember so clearly from a movie long ago, when Bruce Willis’ character realises he’s been dead all along. The Sixth Sense may have passed its statute of limitations for spoilers, but I would not ruin the surprise for audiences who will still have a chance to watch 2020: An Arrival. Which you will. 2020 is a series of performances of which An Arrival was the first. There will be a total of five episodes by the year 2020.

Though sometimes no words are necessary

After intermission came the marvelous Pitapat Theatre players, a group from Kota Kinabalu. I had caught the group’s An Enemy of the People. At the Time during their first tour to Kuala Lumpur. Based on The Maids by Jean Genet, KAKAK repeated several elements that had made Enemy so mesmerising, including zombie-ish movements and dialogue  in three of Malaysia’s main languages with dual surtitles projected high above them to be read or ignored by audiences.

2020: An Arrival was dreamy and mystical, KAKAK was stark, grating and grotesque. And both were brilliant.

‘Everything was perfect’

My companions that evening included two directors, a writer and a novice there to see his first theatre performance. “So many thoughts!” babbled the first-timer excitedly after 2020: An Arrival. He was shaking with joy. “So many thoughts going through my mind!”

Pitapat Theatre is admittedly more of an acquired taste. After KAKAK, one director I’d been sitting with evaded my ‘how was it?’ question, while another didn’t even have to be asked. “Everything about it was perfect” he said as inspired as the novice had been about the previous performance. Dreamily, the director floated off into the crowd.

The gorgeously grotesque Pitapat Theatre players

And can be better

As with all firsts, Theatrix comes with loads of lessons for the organisers. Johan says that while they were pleased with the number of applicants for Theatrix in 2016, they want to see more entries from colleges and universities. To accommodate this, they are changing the timing of the next Theatrix to later in the year.

He adds that if the contest starts appealing to a younger crowd, there may also be mentorship involved as part of the prize.

Another learning point may be in the kind of content they accept. The organisers were concerned that one of the performances could have touched a nerve in the current environment. They spoke to the performing group after the first show. “We merely asked them to tone down. They did so with full cooperations and still maintain friendship with MyCreative. That way we are preserving the balance between freedom of expression and the rights of the event owners.”

Further considerations

Not only did Theatrix award winners get the chance to perform, they performed on two nights, in a popular venue to full houses. So it’s possible that for the next round admission will be charged. After all, one of the lessons MyCreative Ventures strives to teach the creative world is that it is possible to make money from art.

The real winners are the audience…

While the date for Theatrix 2 has not yet been announced, here at ARTERI we are keeping an eye open for our readers. Watch this space.

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Amy De Kanter
Amy De Kanter

Former Chief Editor, frequent contributor and enthusiastic audience member, Amy is thrilled to have a job that lets her do three of the things she loves most.