Friday, September 30, 2016

The Haunted Studio (闹鬼的舞台)

My old high school mate, Zul was an ardent stage art performer ever since I know him. We have not met since our graduation some 30 years ago. Last time I saw him was during our high school reunion party last year. During the reunion, we started to chat about each other. According to Zul, he now rarely performs on stage but he manages a small stage art performing group and a studio instead.

Zul is not a superstitious person but he admitted that he suspects there may be a presence in his performance art studio in KL. After some lobbying and promises I made not to reveal his true identity and his studio, Zul managed to squeezed some of the more interesting strange incidents with his studio.

A few years ago, Zul received a new script and after a few discussions with his group members, they started to do rehearsals. It was a script of a tragic ending of a dancer who committed suicide at the peak of his career. Zul’s task was to express the story line in modern performing art. He was given two weeks to rehearse before final stage performance in conjunction of the launch of a new novel. Since the schedule was quite tight, Zul and his group had to step up the gas so that their performance would be flawless.

As we all know that stage performances are unlike movie shooting, movies can be edited but there is only one chance for those stage performer as the later must give live performance in front of live audiences. Hence there is no leeway to make an error. Also in order to maximize the effects of a performance so that all audiences could be enchanted, stage art performers make use of many stage props such as lighting and music. For example: when the stage light suddenly turned brighter and music became stronger, that signifies a more positive side of emotions etc.

In any professional stage performances, professional lighting and acoustic experts are employed to do their jobs. And for Zul’s said performance, at the end of the story; the hero would commit suicide. In order to enhance the effect of that tragic ending; the stage director would instruct the lighting expert to focus a beam of green light on to the actor on the stage; at the same time the music would also slowly be brought to a halt. Let us just call this green light and music as the ‘suicide signs’ for simplicity.

As Zul’s story goes, they took every opportunity to rehearse for that big day. One night, the group was rehearsing on Zul’s studio stage; the ‘suicide signs’ were suddenly turned on to everyone’s surprises. The fact was that the rehearsal was only for the performers to know their positions and for scrip recitations; the lighting and audio experts were never brought in to the scene yet! As the director of the performance, Zul acted calmly and said: “Someone must be playing in the control room. Go on practising.”

Of course there was not a single soul in the control room and the door was also locked as Zul has found out. He had to personally opened the control room door and switched off the lighting and audio equipment himself. At the same time, Zul also murmured in his heart: “Please don’t disturb, Datuk! Tomorrow I burn some kemayan (incense) for you…”

Strangely speaking, the group’s further rehearsal went on without further disturbance for that night.

Another strange case encountered by Zul was during one of the actual stage performances.

During the said performance, Zul was the coordinator. He had to make sure personally that all of his performers were gathered behind the stage. As a responsible person, Zul would visit the makeup room just to make sure that no one stayed behind. During the spot check, Zul found one of his dancers, Fatimah was still doing her makeup slowly in the room. Zul thought to give Fatimah a shout so that she could speed up whatever she was supposed to do.

To Zul’s surprise, Fatimah continued to take her sweet time to do her makeup ignoring his cautionary shout. I wasn’t like the Fatimah that he knows. Since Fatimah was facing the makeup mirror, Zul could only caught a glimpse of the lady’s face from the reflection.

As usual, the makeup for some stage performing artists can be exaggerated. According to Zul, the makeup methods can be subdivided to light makeup, street makeup and thick makeup. Whatever case that might be, Fatimah’s makeup on that night was neither of the three. Besides, her makeup was not suitable for that night’s performance at all! As recalled by Zul, Fatimah’s face was then covered by thick white powder with two big red circles on her cheeks. That reminded of him about the paper manikin that the Chinese use to offer to the dead.

To speak the least, Fatimah continued to face the mirror and slowly drew on her face with a pen stroke by stroke in a seemingly mechanical and frozen manner. It was too bizzare for Zul to think otherwise so he thought just to leave the lady alone and returned to the rear of the stage to check his other performers. It was at this point that Zul’s eyes veered at his familiar target, Fatimah. Apparently, Fatimah was already amongst the crowds awaiting to enter the stage.

What Zul couldn’t explain until today is that since the makeup room and the back stage was quite far away, added that there was only passage way between the two; could Fatimah move faster than him?

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