Two teens have boldly taken on the challenge of writing, directing, producing and acting in their own show – 9 Squares – without the help of adults. Gwen Pew catches up with the boys to find out just what the experience was like.
Vishnucharan Naidu and Isaac Tan.
16 Jan 2013: Putting on a show is no easy feat even for theatre veterans – but Isaac Tan, 16, and Vishnucharan Naidu, 17, were unfazed by the enormity of the task. Having recently graduated from St Andrews Secondary School, where they were active participants in the Drama Club, the boys were driven by a passionate desire to inspire youngsters to dream big and achieve their goals. With a background in performing arts and experience in various theatre productions, they joined forces two other talented youngsters – Joel, 17, and Faiz Rahmat, 16 – who took on the roles of production manager and stage manager, respectively. Together, they have created 9 Squares – a double-bill performance featuring ‘Gin Nah’ and ‘Navarsa’ – which explores what life is like for young people growing up in Singapore.
You guys were driven by the urge to show youths that they can do anything they set their minds to. Can you elaborate on your inspiration for this?
Isaac Tan: I personally feel that youths these days do not seem to realise their true potential, and I wanted to make them see their own true forms. We also wanted people to learn to accept themselves for who they are and to love themselves.
Vishnu Naidu: Directing my own show as a teen was always a big dream for me. What started out as a Facebook conversation between the two of us was brought into reality. Coming from a financially unstable background after my father’s passing at the age of 12, I’ve always wanted to do something different. As a kid I’ve seen many productions and have been so inspired by how the director puts his show together. It was really inspiring, and I wanted to be just like that.
Once you had the idea to put the production together, what were the first steps you took?
IT: We got our scripts done quickly!
VN: I had to secure a venue quickly and secure some funding, so I wrote some proposals and got the ball rolling. We were in the midst of our O-levels preparation [at the time], so it was quite stressful!
Any difficulties you guys came across in the process?
IT: Our initial venue booking was a huge blunder, as we lost our original spot. It really tore us down, but we managed to pick ourselves up and move forward to hold the show at another venue. And then we had to decide which dates to put on our show so that it worked for everyone in the team. We also had to juggle all that with our O-levels!
VN: People couldn’t buy the idea that the show was happening, because they felt that we were too young, so it took us a while to make people believe that it really was going ahead! We also had trouble publicising the production because of our age, but we swallowed the nasty words, beat the criticism and followed our goal. We want to show other youths that if we can do it, they can too.
What were some of the shows you have acted in before? Are you more interested by the acting or directing side of things?
IT: I’ve mostly been involved in the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) competitions and school productions. I’m actually interested to do both!
VN: I’ve wanted to perform from a young age. I’ve acted in the SYF competitions and school productions as well. Alongside that, I’ve acted inHOME (with Little Arts Academy’s Youth Theatre division) and 18 Days (with Ivann Productions). I would like to act and direct, but I mostly want to become a performance arts teacher and inspire my students to break out from their boundaries and go beyond barriers. I would also like to specialise in grooming special-needs children to perform because they are certainly capable!
Do you see yourselves pursuing a career in theatre in the future?
IT: I would like to pursue film – it has been a dream since my younger years!
VN: Yes, I certainly want to pursue theatre until I reach my coffin! It’s the air I breathe every day, and it’s the only thing which keeps me running!
What is it about theatre that you like the most?
IT: I like how I can be in the ‘moment’ and be very connected with the audience.
VN: I enjoy the process of seeing a show grow from a seed – with daily rehearsals it grows branches and twigs and develops flowers; when the show commences, the plant reaps tasty fruits. To see a production start as a baby and move up slowly is certainly remarkable for me. I feel really accomplished after every production. Seeing my labour bear fruits at the end is amazing! The experience and the smiles from the audience is what makes me feel that performing is really worthwhile.