My Life at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong 2011-2013

It has been a while since I wrote my last blog entry about one of us LPC Students, yet I want to continue the line of student portraits. For my third interview I have spoken to Martin (18) from Kochani, Macedonia, who, in my eyes, is one of the most outstanding actors we are glad to have here at LPC. Martin told me how he got started on theatre in his childhood and explained what exactly acting means to him. Enjoy!

My love for theatre started way back in 5th grade, but actually I first came in touch with stage experience three years earlier. In my school we had regular ceremonies and shows and for one of them we were all asked to dance. As usual, I was late for the first rehearsal and as my teacher had already arranged the positions, I was put into the last row, where nobody could see me. However, it seemed that I was a good dancer and with time, our leading teacher made me move to the front, row by row. In the end I was appointed as the main dancer together with a girl, and we were treated like the stars of the show. Even a regional newspaper came to interview the girl and me, and days later we found ourselves on its cover page. Of course, my family and I were incredibly proud of this achievement. Seeing that this dance had been the first artistic thing I did and genuinely enjoyed from the start, this experience triggered my later passion for the stage.

I continued dancing with the girl and we learned more contemporary choreographies. We grew closer and better during that time and eventually, in fifth grade, we decided to participate in a national dance competition in the Section ‘5th to 8th grade’. We won the third prize, an incredible achievement for us, considering that we were part of the youngest competitors and competed with dance couples from all over Macedonia! Yet there was a soon end to my only starting involvement in dance. A small boy dancing was seen as cute; but a teenage boy dancing was certainly not something built along the parameters of a hetero-normative society in which you are expected to behave according to the gender-stereotypes.

To my luck, nearly immediately after I had given up on dancing, two teachers came to my class in school. I still remember the moment very well: We had Macedonian class, I was a 5th grader and they asked our class of nearly thirty students, who would like to play a minor character in the school play that they wanted to produce. Twenty students raised their arm. I didn’t. I just didn’t think I would be a good performer: I was fairly bad at containing my emotions; when I started laughing I simply couldn’t stop and my mother had always jokingly said that I would never make a good actor. With all this in mind, I stayed quiet while everybody else was eager to get onto the list of candidates for the role. After class, my teacher, who had witnessed my silence, took me aside: “Why didn’t you raise your hand? I think you would be very good for the play!” She asked me if I would let her propose me for the role, and I agreed. That’s how I ended up getting the role.

My progress in the play was similar to what I had experienced in the dance show. Starting as a minor character, I advanced to more important characters of the play, till I eventually played the main character. Though that was an incredible honor for me, I was not sure how to feel about it myself – after all, an 8th-grader, someone superior to me in the student hierarchy, had to be downgraded in order for me to get that spot. It was a very uncomfortable situation! One year later, our play was taken to a national drama competition and I won the award as “Best Young Actor”. Of course, my school was immensely proud of me. As my town’s candidate, I was listed as one of the 18 most talented young people in Macedonia in Macedonia’s back then most popular teen magazine. However, this glorious aftermath is not the reason for which I still cherish this theater play as the most meaningful to me: It simply was my first theatre play ever. I always say that the first experience is of a crucial importance, because if you don’t like the first one, it is very likely that you are not going to like the ones that follow. In this sense, that play really shaped my perception of theatre and made me continue with it afterwards, too: I took drama classes in my home town and even acted a minor role in a movie.

This was till 8th grade. From then on, till I came to LPC, my focus shifted to more traditional academics: I was in a verymathematics-and-science-orientated boarding school, with no drama center and no theatre classes. When I got accepted to LPC, I was really glad to be able to do Theatre as Higher Level course here. For the previous two years I had done things that I liked but not particularly enjoyed, and I knew that I was really, really passionate about theatre.

I originally got involved in Theatre for the love of the stage and the heat of the lights on my face. I did not go into theater to change the world, I thought that is impossible. The plays I joined in Macedonia were all nice and entertaining, but due to their superficiality they never had a long-term impact on the audience or even on myself. At most, they made the spectators laugh. But all the plays I acted in here at LPC – if it’s “Marching for Fausa”, “The Laramie Project” or “Kissing Marianne” – had a large both emotional and intellectual impact on the audience; they covered significant social aspects, addressed issues of global importance and even touched my own hopes and aims for the future. I’m very grateful to Steve, our Theatre teacher, who showed to me that theater is not limited to impacting the actor’s live, but can and should also be a mean of transforming society. The emotional but simultaneously intellectual response from the audience, the fact that many of my co-years still approach me and say that ‘The Laramie Project’ really stimulated them to reconsider their views on sexuality, sexual politics, AIDS etc, as well as on the difference between tolerance and acceptance, really taught me that it is not a coincidence that the word acting and activism stem from the same root.

As I said earlier, when it comes down to specific characters, I love to play lunatic and complex characters full of contradictions, whose emotions are strangely ambivalent, comprising attitudes of cheerfulness, pain, irony, passion and regret all at once. That is why I loved acting in Kissing Marianne: I was able to enact on stage what I normally act only while taking long showers at home. At home, I sing and practice acting even in the shower. I pretend to be some crazy, confused character for all the time under the running water. Here in LPC, I can’t do that anymore – if people heard my crying and laughing in the shower, they would think that I have gone insane! In the beginning of the play “Kissing Marianne”, the audience cannot be certain if the events on stage are real or only happening in my head. I was not a perfectly sane character, even had traits of schizophrenia. Sometimes I was happy, but suddenly I could fall into pain and misery. You might remember; in the first scene I jumped around on the chairs, chanting “We will play, catch me, you can”, but from one instance to the next I said “God, I need you here, I need you so bad”. My mood there changes really quickly from childish and careless to depressed and melancholic. I also say “Hear me howl” – and that’s where are the feelings of before are merged and united in one long sound. That scene really represented what I love so much about complex characters – even though they are definitely harder to enact than stereotypical ones! I certainly identify with them quite easily.

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Theatre is maybe one of the most important parts of my life. I will definitely take Theatre as a major in university, but I’m not sure if I will start an acting career. I might continue using theatre as weapon for social change. With applied theatre for example, I could work as a drama therapist in rehabilitation centers for victims of human-trafficking. Apart from that, I would however also like to set foot in the film industry.

Photo: Martin in “Kissing Marianne” (1994) by Godfrey Hamilton. © by Fernanda Lai

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