The Drama Ministry’s first-ever Drama Fest saw ministry members taking on roles from the other side of the stage.
By Yong Yung Shin
Anyone who has attended a City Harvest Church Big Day service in recent years would have seen the Drama Ministry in action, whether they’re putting a modern-day spin on the crucifixion of Christ, or giving a fresh presentation of the salvation message through the birth of the Messiah.
This year, the DM held its inaugural CHC Drama Fest, which took place the Sunday afternoon of Oct. 7 at Singapore Expo. Headed up by the DM’s drama directors Sandy Yeo and Jaslynn Khoo, the Drama Fest was a “black box theatre experience” which saw different teams of cast, backstage and costuming crew put together snippets from five plays written by local playwrights. The scripts were chosen by the ministry members, which gave them a chance to explore different topics than the evangelistic sort they usually do, explained Yeo.
More importantly, it offered an opportunity for some of the actors to contribute in a different way—by directing. One of them was Nelson Tong, 37. Last seen as the lovable bear Bobo in last year’s Christmas drama Home For Christmas, Tong transferred his knack for comedy from acting to directing, and had the audience in stitches with his direction of playwright Michael Chiang’s Beauty Box, a play about Singaporeans’ obsession with shopping.
“I really enjoyed being offstage,” says Tong, a ministry member for six years. “I’m able to see the drama in a whole new perspective, but there is also a whole new level of responsibility, from running the lighting to sound and even managing everybody’s schedules for rehearsals.”
A happy Khoo commented on the quality of work put up that afternoon. “I’m really proud of our first-time directors who really took ownership of the shows, looked into all the details, and worked on how to conceptualize the show, making it different and out-of-the-box. Also, we have identified some of them whom we can train up!”
Behind the scenes, the Backstage Crew and Costume Ministry also made the most out of the black box setting, expanding their backstage knowledge and resourcefulness by working with minimal props, as did the CM members. An exhibit of costumes and props lined the back of the room, showcasing the iconic gladiator’s armor from The Centurion and the ballerina’s dress from Home For Christmas, among others.
In between, there was a session of improvisational theatre (“improv”) where volunteers from the floor were handpicked to act out impromptu scenarios. Guffaws erupted from the floor as the two volunteers scrambled to get their act together, literally—one had to propose to his nurse girlfriend in an operating theater while another had to retrieve his stolen camera from a gang of bandits.
The final act for the afternoon was the surprise performance of a song from the classical Broadway hit, Cats. Comprising some 20 performers, in cat costumes and feline make-up, who trained seven weeks for the performance, it was a fine introduction of the DM’s newly formed Musical Theater training program. This program aims to train up performers in all aspects of musical theater: acting, singing and dancing.
“In last year’s Christmas production, we had a few song and dance numbers. After the show, we realized that we wanted to have a pool of performers we could tap on who could sing, dance and act, so that we could make our shows more spectacular,” explained Khoo.
“I’m really hoping that we will be able to continue training the group in the long run, and hopefully when we’ve gathered the right people with the right abilities, we can attempt to put up our very own complete musical production in the coming years!” added Yeo.