It all started late last year, when the auditions were first held to select the actors for the school production ‘Arms and the Man’. Ms Yeoh, Ms Ngeow, Mrs Lee and Mrs. Ng choose a few students and put them through the lines and after sorting out the ‘reluctants’, a final cast was set and work began on the play.
Rehearsals began almost immediately after school reopened. Those involved in Act One were soon put through their paces. Ng KL as the heroine Raina, came off well while the others, Ong ML as Louka the Maid, Winnifred as Mrs. Petkoff, Charles as Nicola the butler, required a little coaching though. By some twist of fate, Prem who was initially given a minor role as a Russian Officer, landed the hero’s part of Bluntschli, and Hiew took over his former role.
As Act Two came along, Paul as Serguis, Raina’s fiance’ and Chi as Major Petkoff, began to practise their roles. In the early stages, the rehearsals were attended with gusto but soon the tedium began to set in. The players, becoming bored with the standard lines, started a game of mixing lines to while the time away.
But as the opening day approached, the cast and the directors got down to really serious work. Mr. Raymond, a veteran with the Franciscan Players, began to attend the rehearsals. He very graciously consented to help them refine their performances. With patience, he taught them how to throw their voices, pronounce their final ‘t’s and ‘d’s so that their speeches could be heard by the masses clearly.
All this while, their costumes were being tailored. Having discarded the school band’s uniform as unsuitable, the whole cast was thus provided with sparkling new attire. As the second term opened, work became more intense.
Night rehearsals were held to accustom the cast to actual conditions. Mr. Low began gathering the required props and Mr. Renga printed the programmes and posters. Sales of tickets were soon underway.
As the moment of truth approached the air was electric with excitement. A full dress rehearsal was held on the 27th April. There was a general concensus that they were ready although the make-up required a little improvement.
29th April, what a night !.
Each actor or actress felt the event on him or her. There were butterflies flittering in many a belly but the tension was partly diffused by the constant parley of jokes and cracks in the dressing room. The hall filled, Ivy opened the play and all the months of practice went under the glare of the lights. It all came out well that night. The stage hands under tha guidance of Mr. Chin set the stage ready for each act in what can only be called lighting time.
The first audience filled with many lower secondary pupils laughed at the most obvious jokes. But they gave the cast confidence to appear for the following evenings in front of a more sophisticated public.
It all seemed an adventure; from Act One (Raina: Oh ! You’re a Chocolate Cream Soldier !) to Act Two (Serguis: Do you consider me handsome, Louka ?) and on to Act Three (Mrs. Petkoff: My daughter is accustomed to a first rate stable). It all seemed like fun from Bluntschli’s ‘Strike a light ! ’till Serguis’ ‘What a man, is he a man ?’
The cast was properly stunned when Mrs. Ong Sek Pek presented them with momentos (which by the way, being used to write this).
What a play !
Converting Hard Copy to Soft Copy: Page 35 Optimist 1976