“Wah, how much time do we have?” said Faith, when I asked about her journey as a playwright.
Playwriting was an accidental journey for Faith Ng, 27, who has a Master of Arts with distinction in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She currently teaches playwriting at the National University of Singapore (NUS). It was through playwriting she realized for the first time that writing can be interesting and characters could be vigorously developed. It was also in NUS that she wrote her first award winning script, wo(men) which was chosen as the opening act for NUS Arts Festival in 2010.
This was what kick-started her journey.
“It always starts with a thought, and sometimes it’s one that I have been having for many years and don’t quite know how to answer,” said Faith, as she shared her writing process.
“I am a very lazy writer. I am one of those people who like to think about writing, but when I actually do it I can sit there for hours. So, I usually write in scenes and it may not be chronological. Just whatever that comes to mind,” she added.
Every process for each play is different. Normal, a production about Secondary Five Normal Academic students in Singapore who have fallen through the cracks, was written in a journalistic way. It started with Faith writing down all her memories as a Normal Academic student. The first draft was completely one-sided, filled with anger and hurt. She interviewed her formal classmates and teachers, and each person she spoke to gave her story more human touch.
“Their stories were heartbreaking and so real. It’s just so difficult to encapsulate all that into words so after I interviewed them, I rewrote the draft. When the actors came in, I rewrote it again. When rehearsals started, I rewrote it once more. Writing is always easy, but knowing what to keep and what to throw out is the difficult part,” said Faith, recounting her experience writing Normal.
To the playwright, there is never a fixed way of writing. Her inspiration comes from a thought or a question which she usually keeps in mind to find out if there’s really a need to pursue it. However, sometimes instead of getting her answers from writing, listening and asking, she finds more questions.
“The older I get; I find answers boring. We are no longer students and there are no correct answers. It’s more of what I want to get out of this conversation and what people understand from my play,” she said.
For Faith, being a playwright can also be very rewarding at times, especially when she receives personal messages from people. There are times when she cried while reading these messages because she felt the pain of the sender.
“I have a friend that always had arguments with her husband. She was from normal and her husband was from the special stream. They always had fights about her being silly and stupid, but for the first time in their years together, the couple actually sat down after the play to talk about their experiences in school and how they wanted to bring up their child. He even apologized to her. I was just in awe. The fact that they finally had that conversation was already very humbling for me,” said Faith as she shared one of the most memorable moments of her journey.
Faith also expressed that art is the best way to reach people without them ever knowing it. When a story with no answers is given to people, there is a stage for people to ponder and discuss things, and lives can be changed in small steps.
“This is why I love my job. My writing tells people who I am; it’s a vulnerable side of me and when I stretch out my hand through my writings to people and people actually reciprocate, that for me is something I always hold on to.”
Normal, a production by Checkpoint Theatre is running from now to 16 April. Purchase your tickets here.