Ah Kua Show @ FringeNYC – An Occasional Actress Stumbles and Trips in New York

When Vanessa our ACR (Authorised Company Representative) told me yesterday that we would have an intimate audience, she was putting it across euphemistically. The fact is we have not been packing in the crowds in New York. So why is that so? Certainly we don’t have a large base of friends and supporters – virtually nobody has heard of us in New York. Here’re some areas of improvement that came across my mind:

Learning from my mistakes!

  • We could have used a picture of me portraying the three different characters rather than a pretty illustration of a woman. I was so caught up with Madame Cyn’s drawings that I forgot I was selling a show and not an art exhibition. Still, I had hoped that the world at large would appreciate the illustrations of this socially marginalised lady – false hopes! Thus far, no one has offered to buy the postcards. An ex boyfriend did offer to sponsor the show, but when I revealed that was attached, I never heard from him again. Sigh, so it was for the wrong reasons he wanted to support the show. As if life were not complicated enough! The good thing is, in the process of wanting to help Mdm Cyn, I found someone who needed her beauty/make-up services, so at least she has been helped, albeit in a roundabout way
  • We could have spread the word earlier, when potential supporters were still in town rather than wait until everyone had left New York for the summer vacation!
  • We could have used a different name – “Ladyboy” instead of “Ah Kua” show, so it’s clear we’re not producing a show about water. Someone commented he was from Singapore and he would not have noticed the show if we had not used “Ah Kua”, whilst another person commented that I should have known better, which is true, but he didn’t have to be patronising about it. Sometimes we make the right decision only on hindsight, even if we seem to know-it-all (which, of course, we don’t). Some people point out our mistakes out of love, whilst others do it to bring us down. Learn to tell the difference – and learn from all our mistakes!
  • I should have outsourced various components of this project. For too long I’ve been carrying everything on my shoulders and as my mentor correctly pointed out yesterday, I will die early fighting for the rights of faceless transgender women, some of whom even despise me for trying to be a “hero”, and some of whom want my help just so they can lead a better life – and then turn their backs on their communities. Too many of these trans women in fact!  But here is where I’m ok with it because my intentions are not purely altruistic; I’m also keen on honing my skills as an actress. The reason I’m so cut up is because Singapore does not support my artistic endeavours. In Singapore, I’m an untouchable. I’m neither a cute closeted gay man nor woman; I also don’t have deep pockets like the privileged theatre people back home. I’m just a pesky, strident transgender woman. I have to create my own opportunities, rather than depend on others for financial or administrative support. For the past two years I have been financing my artistic endeavors through my public relations business. Some people have their expensive hobbies and I have mine, so there’s nothing to complain about, except that hobbies are meant to give you pleasure and not heartache! I’ve got a mind to settle down, get married, adopt children and disappear into the woodworks. Nobody will miss me. But again, as my mentor pointed out in his lovely Manhattan apartment yesterday, it won’t be long before I itch to do something again.

Or perhaps I just suck as an actress/producer/playwright. But I honestly don’t think so. Fair enough, when the show debuted in Singapore in 2009, all the critics said it was clear I was not a trained actress. Fair enough, but I think I’ve improved under the direction of Richard Chua. I’ll be the first to admit I’m hopeless at something, but I don’t think so this time. This time I really feel powerfully moved to portray the three characters.

It’s late in New York and I haven’t given you the other side of the story yet. Because you mustn’t think it’s all gone to waste here. The Ah Kua Show may be trashed by the critics and ignored by New Yorkers to the point where our Stage Manager asked me if I would continue with the show even if there were a handful of audience members. And my response to that now, as I type, is that I can always earn back the money I’ve invested in the show through my PR project, but I can never regain the integrity of the moment. So for the five people who have bought tickets to Wednesday’s show, I will perform for you. For the four people who have bought tickets to Thursday’s show, I will also perform for you.

To my long lost childhood friend from Singapore, thank you for coming back into my life. We would not have met if I had not travelled here. It’s great to see you so wonderfully happy with your partner. Singapore would not have been able to withstand the fierce glare of your happiness

To my mentor, thank you for showing me the two precious gifts your uncle gave you. I cannot for the life of me remember seeing and feeling the texture of such colourful, soulful gifts. The beaded leather wallet made by a winkte is a rare treasure indeed. Thank you too for helping me realise that no one can understand how I feel. No one – not even my family, boyfriend, close friends etc. can truly understand what it feels like to want so much to “be” a woman at the tender age of 12, and then face a largely hostile world on my way to womanhood.   It made me feel so understood!!! Thank you too too for educating me on the tremendous sacrifices of America’s trans pioneers – and for redressing the injustice done to the “queens” of Christopher Street whose role in Stonewall was “gayjacked”.   America has wrongly mislabelled the brave heroines as drag queens when in fact most of them were trans. Until today, their role in Stonewall has not been acknowledged.

To my neighbours in ungentrified Harlem, you’re not frightening at all – you are the soul and life of the country. Don’t let others’ prejudices affect you. If you feel lost, read Frederick Douglas, read Maya Angelou, read Alice Walker. When I lacked courage and self-esteem as an undergraduate at York, the black writers were the ones who inspired me to take charge of my life. If Rosa Parks had not refused to give up her seat, I would not have written my autobiography. And to the silly middle-class New Yorkers who keep dumping down on your brothers and sisters in Harlem – s…. you!

There is still so much to learn and discover in New York. I do not regret staging my show here. I may be a sunset actress, but I’m still a sunrise student, always eager and curious to learn and discover new things.

And of course, to my darling boyfriend, thank you for loving me in spite of my anger and frustration over my opening performance. Sorry I snapped at you. It wasn’t your fault. I forgot for a split second that you are perfect proof that miracles do exist.

I love you New York, so stop behaving like a Republican and start givin’ me some luvin’!


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