Alvin Chai is a theatre lighting guy who believes in sharing his technical know-hows with anyone who is passionate about their art form.
1. What are you working on at the moment? (Do include links for more information/tickets if you mention any upcoming events)
I am currently working on a dance called NGOPI, by P7:1SMA, this is a very unique piece of dance that challenges everyone (including me) to rethink their relationship with a simple cup of coffee. https://ngopi.peatix.c
2. What’s the direction of your work? Has it changed over the years?
My direction has always been to help make technical theatre accessible to as many people as possible, especially community arts groups whom might feel that lighting/sound/stage design is out of reach due to the lack of technical know-how. Hopefully, empowering more to feel confident enough to communicate their technical requirements and bringing their production to a higher level.
3. What is a dream project that you hope to do?
Cirque Du Soleil! Touring with the circus is a dream of mine.
4. How did you start out doing what you do?
It was right after I finished my National Service and I was on a tour in the Sydney Opera House when the beautiful interior inspired me to want to work in a theatre, I didn’t care what I will be doing inside a theatre, I just want to be in it. So I immediately emailed Esplanade asking for ANY job opening. There wasn’t any opening at that time, but there was a Technical Theatre Training Programme (TTTP) I could consider so I immediately signed up. Being a mechanic during my NS days and also having a safety officer certificate landed me the trainee position and from there on, the rest just fell into place.
5. How do you keep your work fresh?
Always starting from scratch helps. No two projects are the same, even if it is a re-run. I always like to spend as much time as possible immersing myself in the production process, knowing the people involved. The chemistry between the whole team is always different.
6. What do you think makes a perfect educator?
To accept the fact that there is no perfect educator. I do beat myself up for not being “good enough”, but being an educator means that we have to always be learning, be it from people, the environment or the situation, and constantly reflecting upon them.
7. Why is drama important? Why should it be taught in schools?
Drama help me empathize with people that I don’t even know, it puts me in someone else’s shoe to think like them and know that there is always more than one side to everything. I think drama should be taught in school because that is where I made lifelong friendships.
8. Who was the drama educator that has the most impact on you?
Tan Meng Lee, he wasn’t an educator, but he taught me so much when I was volunteering backstage in the theatre. His dedication and passion for every single production inspires me.
9. What is your most memorable moment in the classroom/on stage?
I was participating in a school drama when I was 15 years old and during the quick change I accidentally took off my office pants while wearing only shorts, I had to go onto stage to perform an office scene, in shorts! When the scene ended and I return backstage, I was already crying for being so careless, but EVERYONE backstage came and hugged me, reassuring me that it was alright. I will never forget that feeling.
10. Share an activity that you love to do.
I love to give my learners red, green and blue poster paint and get them to try to achieve the same colour mixing as they assume they would with colour lighting (RGB). But they will never be able to do it as mixing paint is different from mixing light. This activity is to remind them to let go of any preconceived notion of lighting they might have before the class.
11. What do you hope to see in Singapore’s drama/theatre landscape in future?
To have technical theatre incorporated as part of every drama/theatre programme.
12. In one word, sum up your education journey.