Pre-show feature: Nine Squares

In this feature, I interview Isaac Tan, 16, and Vishnucharan Naidu, 17, who independently conceptualize, manage, produce and direct their own double bill about the lives of young Singaporeans.

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‘Let no man despise your youth,’  I believe to be the operative proverb in this production put up by two St Andrew’s Secondary School alumni.

From former rivals to artistic collaborators in a production entitled ‘Nine Squares’, Isaac Tan and Vishnucharan Naidu had loftier ambitions than just doing well in school. Both individuals had been active in the Drama Club in school, and according to Isaac, decided to take a risk to do something which had the potential to end up both disastrous and embarrassing.

“Vishnu always had the aspirations to direct his own play and in a simple Facebook ‘conversation’, asked me if I believed he could do it. Then, the both of us kind of had this urge to take this leap of faith… And since we had always been preaching on how we should always do what we believe in life regardless of circumstances, we decided to practice it,” said Isaac.

Aptly titled ‘Nine Squares’, the first play ‘Gin-Nah’ (meaning ‘children’ in Hokkien) by Isaac features 9 different Singaporean students, and the second play, ‘Navarasa’ by Vishnu features the 9 different Hindu expressions. The set design and the direction of the play essentially moves towards the number ‘9’, the artistic concept through which the two are displaying the production.

When asked about what messages and themes the two wished to portray in ‘Gin-Nah’, Isaac replied that the play infused with local humour focuses on the kind of children we are bringing up in Singapore, and serves as a mirror to remind parents that acceptance is important. He hopes to encourage a society which is not only Intelligence Quotient- inclined but more importantly, Emotional Quotient- inclined.

“This play is to remind youth to cut out all the irritating behavior that they might have, and remind parents that their children may have flaws, but it’s time they teach them to improve on themselves instead of trying to be someone they are not,” he said.

When asked what the audience could look forward to, Isaac elaborated: “‘Gin-Nah’ is going to be outrageous. In the rawest of forms, I will depict real students because I believe it is time to show the genuine side of society instead of perfecting my script just to make everything seem more presentable or professional.”

As for ‘Navarasa’, Vishnu explained that it follows the nine different human emotions and is emotional and intense. A play largely about freedom of expression and dealing with the misconceptions people have about others, Vishnu pointed out that it would “stab you in your heart, back, front, and in everything you have actually.”

“‘Nava’ means ‘9’ and ‘rasa’ means ‘expressions’.  Many a time people always misinterpret others’ feelings and emotions, and make fun of them. But not everyone is exactly the same. There are moments when someone can’t express themselves freely because of what another person might say. I believe in a society where every word and feeling is acknowledged and not hidden because of the dominant people in society. Everyone has a say in society. Also, everyone needs to be accepted for who they are, however they differ in sexuality, race, family background or if they are simply different,” Vishnu said.

Amidst juggling their ‘O’ Level exams and a packed schedule preparing for the production, the two did encounter several setbacks. The process of putting up the production was both physically and mentally draining. There was also a lot of insecurity within the two because of the gossip and criticism about their over-ambition.

Fortunately for them, there were special people in their lives who motivated them to persevere despite the difficulties faced. Vishnu’s former teacher Mdm Sujatha was a constant pillar of support, and St. Andrew’s principal, Mrs. Lucy Toh, was generous and helpful, being one of the reasons for which the production could take flight. Isaac was extremely grateful to a close friend of his, EeTer, for giving him the necessary assurance to perform the show. According to Isaac, EeTer’s enthusiasm and faith in him was what really kept him going.

The two were also inspired by their mentors, and having this one chance to bring across a message with the performing arts.

“I strongly believe that only youths are able to connect to youths. This show will cause a spark in the minds of people,” said Vishnu.

When asked what aspirations the two had for the performing arts scene in Singapore, Isaac and Vishnu were candid and thoughtful in their response.

“I believe in the freedom of the arts and hence hope we allow members of the audience to decide for themselves what is acceptable and unacceptable, instead of censorship every now and then,” said Isaac.

“I want to be able to inspire, and at the same time bring change to community and make the arts a reason for society to be a better place to live in,” said Vishnu.

Jtbeans lauds the two for their courage to put up this independent production, and encourages them to keep creating, performing and collaborating.

Nine Squares’ is playing at the Goodman Arts Centre Black Box Theatre on Friday, 15 February 2013 (7.30pm), Saturday, 16 February 2013 (3.30pm & 7.30pm), and Sunday, 17 February 2013 (3.30pm & 7.30pm).  Tickets at S$15. For tickets, please contact +65 90849318 or email ninesquaresproduction@gmail.com.

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