Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interview with Samantha Toh of "Neither"

By Byrne Harrison

Samantha Toh is a recent graduate from Stanford University. Despite her degrees in International Relations and East Asian Studies, she believes she actually has the soul of a theatre major. She has written several one acts for Ram's Head Theatrical Society and Poetic Theatre Productions, and hopes to contribute at some point to the Singaporean theatre scene. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys fuzzy sweaters, reading Faulkner, and believing that change begins in the smallest actions.

Tell me a little bit about Neither.

Neither is a play about people grappling with the sudden and senseless death of a loved one, Brandon Lee. Each character knows Brandon in a different context, as a taciturn son, a best friend, a great team mate, and as a lover. Yet these identities conflict in ways that begin to explain how his death occurred, and how, for 17-year-old Brandon, there seemed to be no resolution.

What inspired you to write it?

Samuel Beckett's poem, "Neither," first came to my attention when I watched Morton Feldman's opera of the same title. This was at the New York City Opera in March 2011. Beckett's poem, together with the visual spectacle of the opera, left me with a sense of great unease, and I was frustrated by my inability to pinpoint exactly how this unease arose. The experience made me want to create a piece as wrought with tension but grounded instead in concrete details. More specifically, I wanted to write something that merited the same sense of displacement and helplessness, but took the form of characters with names, a purpose and a story to tell.

Who is involved in this production?

Neither is directed by Krystal Banzon and features Kevin Bunge, C. Dionisio, Bonita Jackson and Sommi S. Kim. The actors are a diverse group of talented performers who are all passionate in supporting new work, and creating art that is socially responsive and thought-provoking.

What is your theatrical background?

I began writing for theatre after taking a class with Amy Freed, Artist-in-Residence at Stanford University. I have written a number of one-acts that were staged by the Ram's Head Theatrical Society and Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project, such as Fix It, The Powder Room and Sparkle Time. I have also filled a number of other roles of producer (Independence Day), costume designer (Pawn, Fix It), and actress (The Vagina Monologues), all for Stanford University. Out of college, I was a production intern at Z Space, San Francisco, an organisation which stages short stories word for word, and a volunteer for their Youth Arts Programme.

If you could say anything to a potential audience, what would it be?

Enjoy a play for the story it has to tell, but whether you love the story or hate it, think, post-play, about what it had to say. A few days after, the remnant feeling that you get might be the best thing a show could give.

by Samantha Toh

Sunday, January 08 at 3:00PM
at Wild Project
195 East 3rd St. (btwn Avenues A & B)

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