Backstage

Reflecting on the purpose of Life – Ellison Tan lends her insights into Red Sky

12 Oct 2016
Interview by Sam Kee
Photos from Nine Years Theatre

Nine Years Theatre continues the year with its second production, Red Sky – a sentimental classic by celebrated Taiwanese playwright, Stan Lai.

The story takes place at a retirement home, centering about 8 elders in their twilight years. Red Sky features 8 veteran actors of the local Mandarin stage. But today, we decide to turn the tables and speak to the youths who hold significant roles in the narrative of this play.

reflecting on the purpose of life ellison tan lends her insights into red sky

Ellison Tan plays a university college girl visiting the retirement home to collect “data” for her project. Her interaction with them reveals their temperaments and inner thoughts to the audience. In the play, her character asks the old folks to give a word of advice to the youths of today. So, we had her answer one of her own questions…

1. So… is this play about death?

Almost every play is about death if you think about it. I suppose so many plays about death was written because it’s a complete mystery to us, and we spend almost all our lives trying to understand it. Red Sky to me is about letting go of the familiar and celebrating our fears. Of course it’s about death. It’ll always be about death. But it’ll also always be about life, love and light.

2. During the rehearsals, what did you see in the veteran cast – how do they deal with the themes “old-age” and “death”, given that these topics are something close to their hearts?

‎I think they are dealing with it the way they know how. Every experience we have had with regards to death and dying is a new experience. Every day we understand ourselves a little better, and every second we grow older and feel death closer, we deal with it in our own way. If only it becomes easier as we grow older, but I don’t think so.

I’ve seen a variety of reactions from them when it comes to old-age. I’ve seen some proclaim proudly their age to the younger crew members (We have two interns from SOTA. They are 17). ‎I’ve seen some say it as if embarrassed that they’ve lived this long. And I’ve seen some say it as if they can’t wait to move on already.

When it comes to dying though, most of what I glean from them is in the unsaid – they are always more willing to talk about their parents/in-laws who have passed on, in fact they share at lengths about their experiences dealing with it, and even laugh about it. But when they lament about the deaths of their peers, you know they are affected on a more profound level.

3. Do you agree with the position of your character?

‎I play a college student who turns up at the home to interview the elderly for an assignment. Her motivation is very clear – to finish this within the shortest possible time, with the least amount of effort. I might have agreed with her position a few years ago, when I was also a college student. But now it is not for me to decide whether or not I agree or disagree with her position. I say that because when I approach a character, I have to approach it with no judgement. I have to respect the choices that the character makes, and I have to speak what the character wants to say, and to do that I have to make sure I don’t impose my opinions on her.

4. 你在戏中饰演一名到养老院访问老人家的大学生,你是以什么“心情”面对他们在戏中给你的回答?‎

我觉得每个年轻人都会有和长辈接触的经验,所以这个大学生应该也不例外。不过我不希望这个大学生完全符合社会对年轻人的一种刻板观念 – 放肆,自大,愤世嫉俗。如果我从这个角度设计他的角色,她的 ‘心情’ 肯定是不耐烦的。我的爷爷奶奶过世不久,我很想念他们。我也很遗憾没有多花心思了解他们。所以为了弥补我自己的遗憾,我就让这个大学生以一种比较好奇,比较有同理心的 ‘心情’ 去面对他们在戏中给我的答案。

5. 请用“生命”为开头给我们的读者一句忠告吧!

哈哈 我觉得我真的不配给任何人忠告啦。毕竟我真的很年轻,真的没有见过世面。不过我最近在网上读了一个奥巴马的深入访谈,“给了我很大的启发”(这句是剧本台词),希望可以跟读者分享。访谈中奥巴马‎说他到埃及的开罗演讲,过后有机会参观金字塔。当时他刚上任美国总统,所以记忆特别深刻,不过绝大部分也是因为金字塔的雄伟壮观,让他有种莫名的感动。他接着说,古埃及肯定有人觉得自己很重要,才会有今天的金字塔。现今社会也一样,有很多很自大的名流人士。他们多半在乎的是当下的地位,人气,曝光率等等。不过最后这些都归为尘土,只是过眼云烟。到最后世人记得的,看到的,就是金字塔。

生活中的每个阶段我们都肯定想过生命的意义。我们在这世上的意义到底是什么?生命的意义是什么?我觉得意义就在于,到最后你留下了什么、你建造了什么。

About Tan Yuyang Ellison
Tan Yuyang Ellison is a Theatre Studies graduate from the National University of Singapore. Recent theatre credits include Café (The 20-something Theatre Festival), Drums (Shigeki Nakano and Esplanade’s Super Japan), Manifesto (The Necessary Stage and Drama Box), The Wind Came Home (Drama Box and ArtsWok), Off Centre (The Finger Players), HUAYI’s The Magic Ocean(MySuperFuture Theatrical Productions). Playwriting works include: Inheritance (The Finger Players) and The Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei and Me (Potluck Productions).

Ellison was an apprentice with The Finger Players from 2013 to 2015. She is currently a trial member of Nine Years Theatre Ensemble Project.

陈宇泱毕业于新加坡国立大学戏剧研究系。近期的表演作品包括:Café (The 20-something Theatre Festival)、Drums (中野成树与滨海艺术中心日本文化节) 、 《宣言》(必要剧场与戏剧盒) 、《风回 来了》 (戏剧盒与ArtsWok) 以及《偏》(十指帮) 。 编剧作品有《承传》(十指帮)以及《吴刚成仙 记》(掌行人)。
2013年至2015年期间,宇泱任职十指帮的学徒之一。她目前是「九年剧场演员组合计划」的实习 组员。

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Red Sky 红色的天空
Written by Stan Lai
Date: 20 – 23 Oct 2016, Thu – Sun
Time: 8:00pm | Additional 3:00pm show on Sat & Sun
Venue: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT
Ticket Prices: $58, $48, $38
Details: www.artsrepublic.sg/events/2016/10/red-sky

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