Sebuah Play_Draft 28

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Hazwan Norly (extreme right) with the rest of Main Tulis Group celebrating their first birthday in 2017 at Centre 42.

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Hazwan Norly (extreme right) with the rest of Main Tulis Group celebrating their first birthday in 2017 at Centre 42.

Whenever I try to think about my journey as a playwright/theatre-maker over the last decade, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the multiple times I have found myself sleep-deprived, and manically trying to write a new play, a new scene, or choreograph something that needs to be submitted or reviewed the next day. I think about the many times I’ve questioned my own aptitude as a writer and theatre-maker (in between puffs of cigarettes and generous amounts of coffee), and have wanted to call it quits because why put myself through so much heartache?

I know, so dramatic for what, right?

Two female-presenting persons, one wearing a denim jacket, half-kneeling and staring forward, the other on her right wearing a long-sleeved green top, seated cross-legged and looking up at her.

Tompang, a short play written by Hazwan, performed at Late-Night Texting 2017.

Never would I have imagined that in all of that self-perceived calamity I would be one of nine founding members of a playwright collective like Main Tulis Group, let alone being able to call a place like Centre 42 our home for the last four years. From writing a short play read in the Black Box featuring a foul-mouthed, tudung-wearing lesbian to co-writing another with two angels leading a mass dance workout in the Front Courtyard, the journey has definitely been fun. Getting the opportunity to create varying types of new work at the blue house has not only allowed me the space to experiment, but also rediscover the kind of artist I want to be, and the kind of stories I want to champion or tell.

It’s heartening trying to recall our first Main Tulis Group meeting because it felt like we were just a rag tag team of people who were really just looking for someone to help us take apart our work, without the need to be too politically correct all the time. I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but I wanted a space where people could tell me exactly what they thought about my work, and why they felt that way, so that I could be more informed when I’m editing it, or writing my next one.

It was definitely intimidating at first because while I already knew most of the people in the group, I’ve never really been in a setting where they’re reading my play aloud only to tear it down afterwards. Everyone brought to the table a different perspective when it comes to writing and dissecting new work, which then allowed me to see my work in ways I couldn’t have imagined by myself. It was really quite thrilling because I felt like I was being challenged at every meeting.

Apart from getting my own work reviewed, it was also important to my journey that I could also critique everyone else’s plays in our ‘Script Circle’ sessions. These sessions also made me realise the art of providing reviews and feedback for the drafts of plays, which better informed how I reviewed my own drafts before presenting them.

Being a part of such a diverse group also meant that everyone had a distinct style and voice. This became quite apparent from our very first Late Night Texting in 2017 where we coined the ETA: 9 mins programme featuring nine-minute plays by nine playwrights. The experience was quite surreal because it was the first time I was able to present a play that had already been critiqued by eight other playwrights, so I could improve it even before it was performed.

Two persons in bright pink exercise tops performing in the front courtyard at 42 Waterloo Street. The person on the left stretches out both arms towards the sky, palms pressed together; the person on the right gestures towards the audience.

Heavy Weight, co-written by Hazwan and Nabilah Said, was performed in the Front Courtyard at Late-Night Texting 2019.

Late Night Texting 2017 was also the first time I was openly writing about LGBT issues, especially because I viewed my orientation as something very private at the time. I remember the play had gone through many drafts, and what had struck me about the many drafts was how much I felt I had to censor myself, even though the play wasn’t about me. Later, I found out that someone in the audience had found my play uncomfortable, even though the audience was laughing during the run, and the play was really about re-examining the meaning and experience of love for different people.

Whether it was for Late Night Texting, or other festivals like the BuySingLit Festival, the last four years creating new work at Centre 42 has helped me define myself as a playwright/theatre-maker. It was at the blue house where I discovered the stories I truly wanted to tell, and the style of work I wanted to experiment with. I’ve grown to love putting out countless drafts, even though I’m still manic writing into the night because I’ve grown to love the process. And so to that I say, to many more drafts, and to making more people uncomfortable.

Published: 14 January 2020


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