Sunday, November 22, 2020

Diva's Interview with Actor Benjamin Chow about SRT's Tuesdays With Morrie


Actor Benjamin Chow has landed roles in several local theatre productions like “Forbidden City: Portrait of an Emperor”, “RENT” the musical and “Peter and the Starcatcher”, but the one that really caught Red Dot Diva's eye was his take as Lim Chin Siong in “The LKY Musical”. His performance of the leftwing politician was fiery, powerful and as charismatic as the actual man himself. Benjamin has received Best Supporting Actor at the Life! Theatre Awards twice - one for “The LKY Musical” and the other as Prince Tun in “Forbidden City: Portrait of an Emperor”.

He is currently performing as Mitch Albom in SRT's production of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, a play that marks the theatre company's return to live audience performances after several months of closure due to COVID-19. Remesh Panicker takes on the role as Morrie Schwartz in this two-man play.

It was nice to be able to grab a few minutes of Benjamin's time to ask how he had coped during Circuit Breaker and discuss a little bit more about his role in TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.

Red Dot Diva: Hi Benjamin. I have been a fan of your work and have enjoyed your performances in several theatre productions. This year has been really tough for so many of us, with the arts community being heavily impacted by the curb on most social interactions. In both good and bad ways, the pandemic exposed a lot of underlying issues within ourselves, with our family members, in the workplace, and revealed socio-economic issues amongst several other things. How did you fare during these unprecedented times, especially during the Circuit Breaker?
Benjamin: I’m sure all of us feel like we’ve lost the year! My personal struggle was mostly over how to pay rent. When lockdown started to take effect, I lost pretty much all my shows, so I went to work at Fairprice for most of the middle of the year. I figured why not lean into what was undoubtedly an essential service! I’m just grateful that we as a country have been able to handle this crisis considerably well, so much so that I’m now able to find work in the arts once again! It’s really a blessing and a privilege.

Red Dot Diva: Going digital has been the new normal this year, with virtual meeting software being the in thing. How different was it to be on camera / in the limelight on stage compared to being on camera in a Zoom call?
Benjamin: Well I’ve had to host a few events and even do a zoom audition for a show - but honestly nothing beats the real thing! As we all know! Such a joy to be sharing energy with a live audience again after so long!

Red Dot Diva: What were your first thoughts when you know of SRT's decision to re-open again with the play Tuesdays with Morrie? Have you read the book?
Benjamin: Yes I have, and I thought the decision was incredibly wise and appropriate. The tone feels right. For a year that’s been so sobering - a gentle, quiet portrait of a young man and an old man being there for each other and finding honesty in the face of death feels like just the right thing to put out into the world right now.

Red Dot Diva: How did you prepare for the role of Mitch?
Benjamin: Well there’s no lack of source material! There are interviews and columns written by him, and videos on youtube. But mostly my preparation was psychological, finding the journey for him as a character who starts the play incredibly guarded and somewhat callous, and turning him into someone softer, finding empathy.



Red Dot Diva: How have rehearsals been, with theatre veteran Remesh Panicker as a scene partner?
Benjamin: Remesh is a riot! Ever the joker, he truly embodies Morrie in a lovely, unique way, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with him again. We worked together once before in Romeo and Juliet!

Red Dot Diva: Tuesdays with Morrie is about learning life's important lessons. What is the best advice you have ever received?
Benjamin: “Forgive everyone, everything. Now, forgive yourself.”

Red Dot Diva: What do you think audiences will love about SRT's adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie?
Benjamin: I think it’s a deeply human show, on a topic that none of us can escape from. Our mortality, and what really matters while we’re here. I think many people will find meaning in it, and I’m truly honoured to be given the chance to share this story with people, live in theatres, once again.


TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE which is currently playing at SRT's KC Arts Centre has extended its run till 11 December. Grab those tickets from SISTIC now if you want to catch the play!

Also, if you want to play your part in supporting the arts community locally, do consider buying a set of SRT's stylo-mylo face masks for SGD 25. The resusable face masks are designed by artists Theseus Chan and Dawn Than, and would be great as Christmas pressies!





Saturday, November 14, 2020

Red Dot Diva Kicks Off The Very Small Geek Fest 2020 - 5 & 6 December 2020


Red Dot Diva is excited to launch THE VERY SMALL GEEK FEST, an inaugural virtual pop-culture fan festival that will take place on 5 and 6 December 2020 (Sat / Sun) at the Red Dot Diva Facebook Page.

This is the same weekend that Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) would have been held. Sadly, SGCC 2020 has been cancelled due to safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is definitely not the same as lining up to meet your favourite artists, or discovering creative gems at the artist alley, but THE VERY SMALL GEEK FEST aims to keep the pop-culture geek spirit alive until we can all safely together for a large-scale event once more.

The virtual event may be “very small” - with just 3 Facebook livestreams held on each day - but the programming will pack a punch for those who enjoy comics and pop-culture.

Here are the list of the confirmed guests, who are based in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines:

* ROD ESPINOSA - Eisner Award-nominated comic book creator, writer, artist
* KELVIN CHAN - Art Director at Kinetiquettes, artist, comic book creator 
* KASIMIR POH CIESLAK - Actor, stunt performer
* PEPS GOH - Actor, fight coordinator
* SHIAN WEN - Videographer, editor, producer
* SAMARASKETCH - Illustrator, comic book artist, entrepreneur
* ILI ISA - Game concept artist, illustrator, cosplayer
* ATTY - Blogger, gamer, pop-culture geek

In addition, local movie reviewer JEDD JONG and author WAYNE RÉE will be take on the role as moderator for a couple of sessions.

More details on THE VERY SMALL GEEK FEST's event schedule, guests' profiles, and giveaways, will roll out on the Red Dot Diva Facebook Page or Twitter feed. Keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks, and save the dates so you can join us for a rush of endorphins on 5 and 6 December.


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Facebook Event Page - https://www.facebook.com/events/1597131070493927


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Soft Toy Hospital Helped Stan Lee Plushie Get His Voice Back



Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee passed away 2 years ago on 12 November 2020. In remembrance of him, Red Dot Diva wants to share a sweet story about one of her prized possessions.

Back in 2014, she had purchased a limited edition toy talking Stan Lee plush doll from Factory Entertainment as a San Diego Comic-Con 2014 exclusive. Ever since, she brought Stan Lee Plushie home, the toy had been sitting on a self amongst a collection of Marvel comics. Occasionally, she brought him along to events and conventions, and people are usually so amused with the rare Stan Lee doll that talks! He is such an integral part of her collection of pop-culture knick knacks.

On the day Stan Lee died, Red Dot Diva posted an Instagram video message with the toy, in tribute to the man's extraordinary life:



It was one of the last few times she remembered hearing Stan Lee Plushie's voice from the plush toy.

Recently, she wanted to hear the toy speak again, but it did not work. She thought it could have been the batteries, so she tried changing them. Nope, that didn't work either. Boo hoo. There has to be something that can be done about this.

She recalled reading about a toy repair company in Japan, and wondered if there was a similar thing in Red Dot Island. Upon Googling the key words, Soft Toy Hospital's profile came up immediately. The hospital had a Facebook page as well, with photos of the surgeries that they have done. Some of the repairs they performed on old and broken toys were amazing, and they have received positive comments from their customers.

Soft Toy Hospital is founded by husband and wife team, Isaac Kong and Pamela Theng. They were esteemed teddy bear artists, and in 2016, decided to offer toy restoration, repair and cleaning services to collectors and owners. With such a track record, Red Dot Diva had a good feeling that these wonderful toy doctors would be able to help recover Stan Lee Plushie's voice.

She emailed Soft Toy Hospital with a few photos of Stan Lee Plushie and the battery pack.



Dr. Isaac replied to her email within a couple of days. He told Red Dot Diva that it was difficult to see what was wrong (the mechanics were all hidden deep within the toy's body), and advised that Stan Lee Plushie be hospitalised so that they can have a better look. He even offered to collect the toy (via toy ambulance?) from her home!

Stan Lee Plushie was then warded at Soft Toy Hospital for about 5 days, and placed under the loving care of Dr. Isaac. Red Dot Diva hoped he was a good patient. Using Whatsapp, Dr. Isaac provided the diagnosis of Stan Lee Plushie's voice box. The contact plate within the toy has rusted and some wiring have been damaged. However, Dr. Isaac could operate on Stan Lee Plushie and get him fixed within a few hours at a cost of SGD 40.

OMG. Hooray! OF COURSE, YES. Please fix him!



That very same evening, Dr. Isaac brought Stan Lee Plushie back home, who was looking none the worse for wear. In fact, Stan Lee Plushie could talk again! It was an amazing superhero feat by Dr. Isaac indeed. Red Dot Diva couldn't be any happier and relieved. Thank you so much, Dr. Isaac!



Stan Lee Plushie now sits together with lots of other toy friends, and he still talks from time to time. Red Dot Diva hopes he continues to spout those heartwarming Stan Lee-isms for many more years!

So, if you ever need your precious soft toy or collectible to be repaired, do drop an email, Whatsapp (98820388) or Facebook message to Soft Toy Hospital. The toy doctors offer such skillful and affordable service. Best of all, it is all wrapped up with an awesome amount of TLC for the toys and their owners.



Thursday, November 5, 2020

Diva's Review of SRT's TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE - Moving, Humourous, and A Wonderful Reminder To Live Fully



After months of closure due to COVID-19, it was such a joy to see Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) open its doors again for the production of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.

The play is based on Mitch Albom's best selling book of the same name, which consists of a series of recorded conversations of Albom's old sociology professor who was terminally ill with Lou Gehrig's disease. The book, that has inspired so many readers, explores the meaning about life and death. Just like Albom's memoir, SRT's staging of this play is like a metaphor for the near-death of the local arts scene for several months due to the Circuit Breaker, and the now hopeful revival of live performances as some restrictions were lifted.



Mitch Albom, a well-known sports journalist in Detroit, was at the prime of his career. You know the old Hokkien song “Ai Piah Jia Eh Yia” (fighting/ struggling to win) that is heartily belted out at karaoke sessions? It is a battle cry to persist and win the fight, but it is also somewhat a tribute to Singapore-style kiasu-ness. And Mitch was kiasu alright. He was all about getting to the top and staying at the top, till he had forgotten how to really live.

After Mitch re-connects with his dying mentor Morrie Schwartz, and visits him every Tuesday, he begins to realise that everyone's number of days in this mortal plane is finite. He learned that we owe it to ourselves to have a happy life, to accept the things we cannot change, and to make things right with the people we love dearly. As the bond deepens between the two, Mitch also realises that it is OK for men to cry and to feel, and not to be afraid to be ‘touchy-feely’.

Benjamin Chow (The LKY Musical) as ambitious Mitch Albom was frenetic on stage, scurrying around with the need to fill one's life with "busyness". His take on Albom was so easily relatable because you know who they are. You have seen the same manic urgency in your bosses, fathers, husbands and friends. As the main narrator of the play, it was also lovely to listen to Benjamin's clear diction and emotive voice.

The tougher role definitely went to veteran actor Remesh Panicker (Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice) who played the wise Morrie Schwartz. As the disease worsens, Schwartz's use of his limbs became limited, but Remesh skilfully conveyed the man's sadness, wittiness, and love through his voice and facial expressions. His performance was so moving, that by the time the play was ending, you would be grabbing for your tissues.

Generally, the way that the play was written falls flat at some points. However, the two actors emotional conviction and chemistry made up for that. Some of the feel-good platitudes and life lessons from Morrie tend to sound trite. As a cynic, Red Dot Diva would usually feel this way too. However, during these unusual times, she felt that it is worthwhile to be reminded about what is important in one's life and re-calibrate one's priorities.


TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, directed by Samantha-Scott Blackhall, is currently playing at SRT's KC Arts Centre till 6 December. The theatre has been re-arranged with a cozy cafe-style setting, for social distancing.

Tickets are almost already sold out! So, if you are keen to catch this play, better buy those tickets from SISTIC now.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) 2020 CANCELLED - So What Now?



Even as cases of Covid-19 has been decreasing recently, Red Dot Island is still at DORSCON Orange. The local government has been very cautious about re-opening businesses and social activities, so it is not a surprise at all to see ReedPop's announcement that the local pop-culture event of the year Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) 2020 has been cancelled.



It is indeed a wise decision. After all, it is still not safe to have large gatherings until a viable vaccine is available. Furthermore, overseas guests and fans will not be able to attend the convention since overseas travel has been curbed for this year.   

With the scheduled dates of 5 and 6 December now bereft of pop-culture activities, the weekend will feel so empty. Like a big desolate hole in our sad geeky hearts. Red Dot Diva is sure the local geek community will miss hanging out with each other, and interacting with esteemed guests whom we might not get a chance to meet, unless we can afford to fly to conventions in the USA, UK or Australia.

In order to keep the geek spirit going until it is safe for everybody to meet again, Red Dot Diva hopes to be able to schedule more livestreams (on Facebook Live, maybe YouTube) during the same dates. She will be inviting some local and regional guests to see if they would be interested, as well as available, to get on board this mini virtual festival. 

What do you think of this idea? Would you be interested to get keep the community spirit going, and join in the virtual event?







Monday, October 19, 2020

Cuteness Alert! There Will Be WE BABY BEARS - A Spinoff of We Bare Bears

Pic: Cartoon Network


WE BARE BEARS: THE MOVIE which aired on Cartoon Network recently was the end of a beloved animated series, and Red Dot Diva is sure that scores of fans around the world are still not able to get over that fact. But... hold on with the tears, there's a piece of good news!! Are you ready for it?

If you thought the adorable factor of Grizz, Pan Pan and Ice Bear surpasses all scales of adorableness, then get ready for the spinoff series, WE BABY BEARS! Yes, the Bears when they are cute little baby cubs! OMG.

The original comedy series, which is currently in production, will explore funny and fantastical adventures of baby Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear. In each episode, the baby bears travel through imaginative and colourful new worlds via their magical cardboard box, searching for a place to settle down and belong. During their various journeys, they will get to meet familiar fairytale characters, and decide if they should stay or continue on with their search for a new home.

We Bare Bears director Manny Hernandez returns as executive producer alongside the franchise's creator Daniel Chong.

Manny’s admiration for anime and music come to life in this fresh new expansion of a beloved franchise,” said Tom Ascheim, President, Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics. “The spectacular landscapes and musical inspirations transform this new series into an unforgettable journey for all We Bare Bears’ fans and beyond. And did I mention they are baby bears?!

The new series is expected to premiere in the second half of 2021.

For the moment though, you can still get your We Bare Bears fix by watching (or re-watching!) the heartwarming WE BARE BEARS: THE MOVIE, which is still available on HBO GO for South-East Asian fans.




Sunday, October 11, 2020

MY RODE Reel 2020: Vote for Singapore Entry CLOSING TIME by Kyle Ong and Wayne Rée


A few months ago, Red Dot Diva held a livestream with her friend Wayne Rée to discuss about horror stories in this region. While introducing the South-East Asian podcast called GHOST MAPS that he is involved in, Red Dot Diva had expressed a wish for more local horror films that would appeal to today's audiences. A good scare is always cathartic when things get tense, don't you think? Like during a pandemic, for instance.

Then, suddenly... BOOO!!! just right in time for Halloween, Wayne messaged Red Dot Diva with a piece of spooky good news. Together with his GHOST MAPS collaborator and film maker Kyle Ong, they have made a horror-comedy short film called CLOSING TIME (打烊). The film had been submitted to MY RØDE REEL 2020, dubbed as The World's Largest Short Film Competition.

My RØDE Reel Short Film Competition, currently at its 7th year running, is organised by RØDE Microphones. This year, the highest cash prize ever is being offered for a short film competition. How much you ask? A glorious $1 million in cash is up for grabs!!

CLOSING TIME (打烊) is about a young couple Steven and Mavis who own a small convenience store. One late night, after an encounter with a friendly ghoul, they begin to receive several new (old?) supernatural customers in the dead of night.

Red Dot Diva thought the film, unfolding in a familiar local setting, packs in humour, sadness and empathy succinctly in just 3 minutes. The lighting was impressive, and serves to blur the lines between the real and paranormal realms. Plus, the actors were so superb in it too.


Do help vote for CLOSING TIME (打烊) in a bid for the film to win the People’s Choice Category.

To cast your vote, click to this link - https://myrodereel.com/watch/10453.

You can log your vote via your Facebook, Google or Weibo account, or your email address. Only one vote is allowed for each film entry. Voting ends at 12 PM AEDT (3 PM Singapore time) on 21 October 2020.

MY RØDE REEL 2020 offers 10 categories for film makers to compete in: 5 genre categories – Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Animation and Behind-The-Scenes – and 5 special categories – Judges Choice, People’s Choice, Sound Design, Young Filmmaker, and Best Chinese Film. If CLOSING TIME (打烊) gets to win a prize, the team will be able to have the funds to produce a longer cut!

So, give your support to local talent, and vote for it!