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Who am I?

By Terry Wong

“Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” –Meryl Streep

I knew I needed something different in my career. Coming off an award-winning feature film and the launch of my own TV show, I was worn out. I needed a new breath of creativity. I understood I could still pump out content and do collaborations for monetary sake or for publicity but I stopped and went on a hiatus because I suddenly became null. Am I really contributing with the life I have on this Earth? What is the gravity of the impact I am bringing to society and especially to the industry in Brunei?

Play Naturally then appeared on my Instagram feed; closed for registration/auditions but I applied anyways.

Last participant; I felt uneasy when I got accepted as a participant. This has open the doors for me to venture in being uncomfortable again as I foresee the challenges that lie ahead although I’ve been on stage nearly all my life; but comfort doesn’t bring growth and new perspectives hence why I was also quite ecstatic to do what I truly enjoy again. I understood there is joy in overcoming. Joy. I need that as an artist.

Here I am, sat in the corner of this wooden shack looking at the new and familiar faces, wondering to myself; “who am I?” It was pivotal for me to have this moment just so that I can fully immerse myself in the supposed vision of diminishing the chary of conserving nature in Brunei. In method acting, we go through mental and physical exercises to mimic an empty glass so we could mix and match ‘liquids’ (emotions, movement strategy, dialogue delivery, overall projection, etc) to create a concoction that absolutely defines a character. ‘Liquids’ are sourced from comparing our existing experiences to bring us closer through similarities with the experiences of the character which we call ‘emotion memory’. Imagine it as Powerpuff Girl’s “sugar, spice and everything nice”. Though total emptiness is quite impossible to achieve as we are prone to humanly attachments, the journey in chasing absolute emptiness is significantly beautiful in itself and recognizing that is what helps ease an actor into the character’s realm.

I chose to be an empty glass during incubation so I can be inspired by the many talents I got to know during the whole incubation process and most importantly, Tasek Merimbun itself. The opportunity to walk around this historical site with this lot of talents and indulge in the sights and sounds sparked something in me. It isn’t something that I can pinpoint to but it felt like Tasek Merimbun itself spoke to me, telling me to leave everything I have behind and truly connect with it during incubation. Finding myself in what Tasek Merimbun had to offer gave me a purpose now that I’ve accounted to with affection. Intangible became tangible, Illogical became logical. But still, I was reminded by the feeling of emptiness I had before going into this to give me an emotional contrast for inspiration when the process of taking on a character starts.

Explore; my character isn’t something new to me. I could easily relate it to Il Capitano from the comedy of profession (Commedia dell’arte) where there is a bold, majestic, large, loud aspect to this character but quite the scaredy-cat too. He speaks like the army general but will be the first to run when at despairing times. I use this contrast as the foundation for developing my character. Hard yet soft, strong yet weak, large yet minute.

The diversity of characters in this production is vast. Each held great depth and could be considered rather overwhelming altogether but seemed to work seamlessly. They say too much of one thing isn’t good for you but this is a lot of everything which puts us in a very unique place; pushing the boundary is special when you truly believe your purpose is larger than life especially when it is engulfed by a community with the same burning passion. Everyone now understood we are no longer here to put on a show, we are now here to change lives.

Being able to play various sets of emotions is a valuable asset but the abrupt changes from one emotion to another to another to another to another is very taxing, which is why it is a skill to be able to execute this flawlessly without holding anything back. We are so blessed to have such amazing and brutally honest directors that have one intention only and that is to guide us with our own creative ways to create capacity towards our impact we want to bring through theatre. Rehearsals is not just an investment in time for going over lines or blocking, but it is a time of togetherness.Off-stage unity is the backbone of on-stage chemistry.

This is the epiphany I had when I left Tasek Merimbun. What is Tasek Merimbun composed of?

The fresh air, generous pours of rain and beaming rays of sun that enriches the soil for various types of plants to grow exponentially, creeping upwards and towards the sky, one on top of another with thick flutters of leaves to cleanse the air so the purity could penetrate the lungs of animals to allow them to embrace the flora and fauna, indulge in them to live a life for humanity to be inspired to thrive ethically and conserve in a healthy circle of life; all in the same beat.

Every component is vital. Every participant must be one despite our differences to keep our audience on the edge of their seats. We have now found ourselves intertwined with the soul of Tasek Merimbun. We can now vividly observe how our characters carry themselves in different kinds of situations, we see and know of the characters in our mind now.

The first half of rehearsals are done now. Our glasses are all half full. As we continue to crack on with the second half, It’s all about being able to fully embody our characters to fill this glass; minimising the time needed to detach from our real being to find ourselves in our character as we offer our concoction to the audience from the start to finish; to be in this theatrical nirvana that puts us in an out of body experience, fully playing a character. We got a story to tell. We want you to know of how amazing Tasek Merimbun is and how there is a population epidemic among the Dusuns. It is time for us to be history-makers in Brunei. It is time. Brunei better be ready, Play Naturally is in town.

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