Crescent Moon Theatre has always had a strong connection with literature, but the company has always treated text like a malleable object. When Sineenadh Keitprapai joined the theatre in 1995, she said the company was already holding staged readings and showcases of short works on a regular basis.
These activities have faded in recent years. Three years ago, however, Sineenadh, now the company director, brought back this tradition with the themed reading event, "Aan" (Play Reading), in which people are invited to give oral interpretations of existing literary works of their choice.
Seeing that a few of these short performances have been developed into full-length productions, Sineenadh believed that these performers must have a few original works of their own stashed somewhere in their desks, waiting to be read and staged. Although the theatre scene has become significantly more active and prolific in the past few years, most are adaptations of Western plays.
There is no support system, either, for aspiring playwrights, who, in most cases, end up directing and producing their own plays. Crescent Moon Theatre is trying to change all that with its first 10-minute "Play" project. Showcasing eight 10-minute plays, selected from 26 submissions, the project places more emphasis on the process of revising and the collaboration between the playwright and the director.
We spoke to Sineenadh and Thammasat University's theatre professor Orada Lelanuja about the project, why original short plays are important and how they are building a support system for budding playwrights.
What were the criteria for selecting the plays for the showcase?
Sineenadh: It had to be written for the stage. Some submissions were written like a short story, some wouldn't be interesting for the stage, some had a few characters in them, but all the characters had the same thoughts as if the dialogue was being forced into their mouths.
Was there a dominant theme among the submissions?
Sineenadh: No, it was very diverse. We were interested in making it open because we wanted to know what people were interested in and what they wanted to say.
Who submitted their work?
Orada: We both sent our own works. There were people who participated in Crescent Moon Theatre's playwriting workshop that I conducted earlier this year, my students from Thammasat University, writers who usually don't write plays, stage actors and directors, university students who aren't our students.
Why did you decide to use a system where directors chose which play they want to direct?
Orada: If everything comes from the playwright, then what's the point of having a director? It would be as if the playwright was behind everything, pulling the strings.
Sineenadh: We wanted to try this system because in Thailand playwrights usually direct their own plays. We wanted to try to see whether there were more playwrights out there. We want to open up this space so that people may want to come out to present their works. And we're not turning away actors and directors, either. We want everyone to be part of it. In Thailand, there's so few of everyone; it's best that we welcome them all.
What feedback have you received from the participants?
Sineenadh: People who have just started to do theatre are not accustomed to the exchange of ideas and criticisms from other theatre practitioners. I want the participants to understand the importance of this process. It seems they're having fun with the process. They're happy to be meeting new people and listening to others' opinions of their works.
How do you think short plays are important in the development of playwriting?
Orada: For newcomers, short plays are easier to write and take less time to finish than full-length plays. We can also showcase many plays in one night with short plays.
Sineenadh: If I'm speaking from a performer's perspective, short plays also help to develop acting skills. And sometimes it's more appealing to perform in short plays. Also, I've gone through a few playwriting courses, and I feel like I can always use my experience from these courses to expand my work. If you start with a full-length play right away, it's very difficult to complete. A short play provides a good foundation.
Can we expect to see a festival of original full-length plays in the near future?
Sineenadh: I think that dream is still very far away. Deep down, I do want it to happen. I want to expand little by little, from 10 minutes to 20 minutes to 30 minutes to full-length plays. We do this because we love it and without any sponsorship.
You didn't look for sponsors for this project?
Sineenadh: When we look for sponsors, we always have to fashion our work to suit what the sponsor is.
So we would never have the process that we've had for this project or anything that we dream of having.
The questions you have to answer when it comes to sponsors: What's the capacity of your theatre? How many spectators per show? We can seat 30 per show, so forget it. Sponsors still use the same criteria to decide whether to give us money or not _ and that is the number of spectators. But we're more interested in the exchange of ideas and the collaboration.
Right now, Crescent Moon Theatre is the only company that's doing this kind of script development project. What do you think needs to be done to strengthen the development of original plays in the Bangkok theatre scene?
Sineenadh: I think you have to just do it to be an example. Go through the whole process and make others see that it's possible. Once people see this, more people may become interested and start supporting us.
About the author
- Writer: Amitha Amranand