Having a black box theatre at YLPMSAA Tang Siu Tong Secondary School, complete with advanced lighting and advanced sound equipment, was something the drama club never would have imagined having.
But last year, after raising about HK$1 million from parents, teachers, school management, and alumni, the school started building the theatre of their dreams. The black box theatre officially opened last month.
To the drama club’s members, the theatre wasn’t just another school facility they could enjoy, it meant much more to them. “[The theatre] means a lot because it reminds me of the senior students who have contributed so much to our drama club in the past years,” said one of the club’s chair ladies, Wing Kwong Wing-yan.
“It’s like the Chinese saying that goes: people are enjoying the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. I just feel like I’m the one sitting under the tree now.”
The 17-year-old added that the senior students had shown a lot of enthusiasm for drama. She remembered them joining different competitions and receiving many prizes. “I believe our school was moved by their passion and decided to build the theatre,” said Wing.
Before they got their new theatre, the drama club had been practising in the school’s Design and Technology classroom. They didn’t have proper lighting nor any fancy equipment, just a group of 20 or so drama enthusiasts who wanted to perfect their next performance.
When Wing joined the club three years ago, she was the only person in the form to act on stage. “I was terrified because I didn’t know anyone. After getting the script, I would just sit on the side and stay silent,” she recalled.
However, that didn’t last long. She said the senior student came over and kindly gave her some advice on what to pay attention to in the script, and tips on how to play the character she was assigned.
“They would even go over some of the more difficult English vocabulary with me, and teach me how to pronounce those words,” she added. Most of these seniors, who’ve mentored her throughout the years, have graduated, but they’ve left a lasting impression on Wing.
“Now when I see the newbies in our club, I do the same thing and make them feel valued and included. I offer to help them as much as I can,” said the Form Five student. Melody Chan Cheuk-ying, 17, the second chair of the drama club, said she saw the black box theatre as a sign that the school had recognised the importance of drama.
Four years ago, Melody was given the responsibility to manage the backstage, which she was not very happy about. “I used to act when I was in primary school, and I had no idea what backstage was then,” she said. “Somehow people also have this misconception about backstage: they think it’s not part of drama and that I’m in the backstage because I’m not good enough.”
However, she soon learned it was just as much of an important role to run the backstage. For example, when dialogues fail to express a feeling or emotion, lighting, and sound will come into play, or enhance that feeling, she said. Melody decided to stick with backstage management and has yet to perform on stage since entering secondary school.
Last academic year, the school incorporated drama education as part of their curriculum for life education classes. Mini Leung Cheuk-yin, a 13-year-old student actress, said she prefers learning through drama to learning in a traditional classroom environment.
“The whole atmosphere is far more relaxing ... It’s still a class, but we see it as a fun game with rules,” said Mini. She said, one time in class, they were asked to use only their body language to describe an event, while their classmates had to guess what they were trying to say. The three girls agree that drama is a lot of fun, and there are many lessons to be learned from it.
“We often only complain about how hard life is, and forget to be grateful,” said Wing. “As we play the roles of different characters and put ourselves in their shoes, we get to understand different people and reflect on the blessings in our lives. too.”