The downfall of the arts began many years ago.
I was but a young boy, with a very simple dream. Broadway. But unfortunately, “simple” got taken out of the equation, when the United Nations banded together to attack artistic talent itself. The art recession was raging on. The art industry as a whole lost its government funding, and many lost their professions. It was truly one of the worst moments in human history.
Of course, if it actually happened. Hyperbolically, this is what it feels like to suffer through my college’s drama club.
I suffered through the suffocating lack of talent every Friday of the week. And boy, was it a Friday I dread the most. I can’t remember the last time I’d ever hated a Friday, except maybe, doctor’s appointments. The sad part is, I was actually excited to be a part of this club at one point.
A typical day began with me arriving early. The time was 5:23pm, the temperature, scorching hot, even by Malaysia’s standards. I hid under some shade to defend myself against the blistering terror some would call “the Sun”. I would take out my RM3 egg sandwich, and unbelievably, bite into it with a satisfying chomp. Some minutes later, so called “actors” would begin to arrive, Farah and Patrick. You shall see why I put emphasis on “so called” soon enough.
At 5:30pm, I heard it.
“Hey everyone! Are you guys ready for another day of drama?!”, the president of the drama club says as she pops out from the hallway. She holds the key to the special room. Once it’s unlocked, a pitch black darkness starts to envelop me. The room is windowless and painted all black. In the theatre industry, this is what’s called a “black box” theatre. Oddly fitting description of our drama club. I put my bag down and immediately sit to the side, on the floor.
“Guys, we have four months until Jurassic Park: The Musical opens its doors! Are you all excited?!”
That’s right. Jurassic Park: The Musical. Can you believe we are really doing this? The only idea worse than Jurassic Park: The Musical is probably Jurassic Park: The Musical 2: The Dino’s Strike Back.
“Now I’m hoping each and every one of you has memorised their lines. I really don’t want to remind you guys again to start doing that. We have a great script, and a lot of great actors to play it, but at the end of the day, everyone has to cooperate in order for us to run the show well, got it?”. Immediately, I can tell that Patrick is shaking in his boots. Patrick got the gig to play the role of Alan Grant. If that name doesn’t ring a bell to you, he happens to be the protagonist of the first Jurassic Park movie. No pressure, right? You might be wondering what role I’m playing. Timothy “Tim” Murphy, the little brother. Not a good look for my resume.
“Okay, we’re going to run through Scene 5, the car scene, again. For this scene, I’m going to need my heroic Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler and the kids, Alexis, and Timothy.” I psych myself up before presenting myself to the front of the stage. Despite getting a role that’s pretty much undesirable in my mind, I’m still trying my hardest to do the best with what I’ve got.
Because of our staggeringly low budget, the “car” is represented by 4 chairs and some cardboard. The plot is relatively the same, but we had to change the lines around because, of course, we didn’t have the prior authorisation to produce a Jurassic Park musical. The scene opens with Alan and Ellie getting out of the car, with Alan saying the line “Let’s check the electric fence”. Very easy line, in my opinion.
Patrick opens the cardboard car door and exits. So far so good.
“Let’s check the elec…..”
“Sorry, the line just slipped through my mind, let’s do it again”. Patrick says cheekily. It was at this moment when I really started having a bad feeling about this.
“Let’s check the-“
36 tries later, and we are still stuck on that forsaken line. God, forgive these heathens for their crimes against society. The president looked understandably tired at this point. Despite the dreary nature of this club, I do give props to her for having the patience to suffer through this mess. But then again, it was her idea to have this musical in the first place.
“Patrick, calm down. Breathe in, breathe out. How about you try shooting some vocal arrows to help with your nerves?” Oh, boy. I started covering my ears as soon as I heard that.
“Oh! Sure thing.”
Patrick mimics the action of an archer. He pulls back on an imaginary bow string and releases the soft belts of a fox being murdered by hungry bull dogs.
“AHHHHHH!” “AHHHHHHHH!” “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
It’s hard to put into words the shrieks of a 19 year old man, trying his best to not sound like a panicked cow getting run over by a truck driver.
“Feel better? Now, let’s get through this scene, shall we?”
“Let’s check the electric fence!”
The room collectively sighed in relief, which stopped them from realising that he broke the car door. The actor playing Ellie immediately jumps in to keep the scene rolling, and for the next 10 minutes or so, the rehearsal is somehow going well. We’re still messing up, of course, but after the almost 40 takes it took just for the first line to come out correctly, it really didn’t seem all too bad.
I thought to myself. “Hey, self, maybe you were too hard on these people. Maybe, this isn’t all so bad? Maybe, this could be a pretty fun place?”. They were so close to receiving my validation. Until……
“Okay, let’s bring in the T-Rex!”
Remember Farah? She originally auditioned to play Ellie. She didn’t get the role, but the president didn’t want to waste her talent. I thought she was just going to play an extra, and it was all going to be, you know, normal. This poor, 153cm person, came out from backstage, wearing a 2-metre tall, inflatable T-Rex costume. It looked something like this.
“RAWRRRRRR!”, Farah roared ferociously. In the context of the scene, I needed to look scared. However, I was on the verge of breaking character, laughing at the sheer absurdity presented in front of me.
Farah chased after Patrick in her T-rex ways. I don’t know what’s sadder, the fact that she was forced into this costume, or the fact that she looked like she practised for this. The choreographed chase scene plays out. But somehow, halfway through, she found a way to trip over herself, and no joke, crashed into the car and landed on top of me. Needless to say, I was stunned. Just, stunned.
“CUT! We’ll try this next week, dismissed!”
We did try it next week, and thankfully, Farah never fell on me again.
Four months later, the show opened. It was certainly “memorable”. I’m pretty sure the entire recording of this play became a meme among the students at my college. Because of that, my drama club considered this musical a success.
They’re all dead now.
By: Haikal Danial