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!

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