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What is the Lab Experimenting?

Haibin:We experimented with the creativity of the actors, the trust between the actors, our openness towards new things, our curiosity, our values, our childlike playfulness, and life itself.

Fervyn:The Actor’s Lab allow the actors to have abstract ideas and using all sorts of methods to present it, ending it off with a discussion to understand what is best for the audience, what can be improved and how to improve. From this, we are also experimenting ourselves as an actor with the tools we possess and testing our techniques of presentation.

Edward: We come into contact with a variety of different approaches to preparing for (training) and presenting (performing) works of theatre, and because we all come from varied backgrounds and experiences, the work created as a result can be very varied as well-- even the most boring pieces have some quirk about them that the actors picked up along the way.

Wah: The laboratory is a place where one researches and conducts experiment. In a normal laboratory, the arrangement and facilities of the place would cater to the subject matter one is researching. The Actors’ Lab, as it name suggests, is of course designed to experiment with actors! A group of actors with not only diverse backgrounds and training, but also different nationalities, resemble the different chemical elements within a laboratory. They are then placed together in the laboratory for a year, and they share with one another their training methods and the differences in their interpretation and analysis  – thereby “colliding with one another”, challenging not only their body and soul, but their analytical processes, organizational skills etc as well. From there, the actors’ own prejudices and rules are questioned, and they finally discover just how deep and broad the possibilities are for an actor.

Ric: Improvising using themes, words or characters, the actor had to come up with a short presentation every time, in order to explore potential towards possibilities in creativity, imagination, openness, collaborative ability, self-awareness, and experimentation.Actors were also given the chance to be a scriptwriter, director, lighting designer, costume designer or sound designer etc. This will give the actor a different and broader perspective towards expressing and presenting a show.

Rei:  Experimentation of "Empathy", which is one of the core of humanity that makes us differ from others. Actually, the work of an actor is similar to learning to be a human, the act of blindfold to listen better, to mute so to engage the body, to close the theatre door and leave your heart open.

Suhuai: I think Playwrights’ Lab does not cultivate playwrights via a normal “skills-based training program”. From reading classics, to presenting our works in the Playwrights’ Boot Camp showcase, to creating texts for 11.Gao Xingjian Devised, every component we went through is a platform for us to present our own views and opinion. It is not a product-oriented process. Of course, we will hone our skills through the feedback provided by others, but what we eventually derive from it is still primarily one of personal choice. For me, having the opportunity to interact with many theatre practitioners has allowed me to think deeper about my perceptions towards theatre, thereby completing the experimenting and training of my very own thought processes.

Issy: I have come to believe that actors actually occupy quite a unique place in Singapore's cultural landscape. Our industry is constantly evolving, demanding higher quality of work and standards, but actors in Singapore have always had the potential and space to be co-collaborators and producers of fresh, original and "uniquely Singaporean" content. And more so these days, as devised work walk alongside great classics, contemporary re-stagings and new writing from our own playwrights. So, the Actor's Lab is supposed to help actors hone their skills in these areas, namely performance and creation. The Actor's Lab is the space where we get to discover, through action and reflection, the artistic process and the methods/techniques used to present our ideas. We get to experiment with improvisation, performance, training methods and actor processes. It’s a safe place for us to make mistakes and receive feedback on the work we have created. It forces us to clearly and simply articulate our ideas through our bodies as actors. It is also a place where we become more sensitive to the entire creation process, and hopefully help us to understand and be able to produce the kinds of materials needed to move the work forward.

Zach: For me it's basically been a process of dialogue - having a conversation with the rest of the ensemble, opening a conversation with yourself about who you are, what are your ideas and what you actually think about/ react to various ideas. The dialogue of course also include theatre as a form of expression, flirting with its ability to tell a story or convey complex emotions or even a state of mind. It's an evolving journey in itself, and having so many people in the lab means you find stimulation in many forms. But expressing is half a dialogue, listening is the other half. Even if the source is yourself you have to listen to what it gives you back. Otherwise there is no growth or journey. Sometimes I have also been surprised at how I respond to certain words or concepts. I realise some things affect me more than i care to admit and some i really feel nothing for.

arrow  Continue reading on Issue 4 / 31 March 2015:Experiment • Viewpoint