Nov 11, 2010|
HK Magazine: I heard you dropped out from dental school to pursue a career in drama.
William Yip: It was my parents’ dream for me to become a doctor, and it’s a normal thing for a Hong Kong kid to study something that you can have a promising “career” in. But during my sophomore year in dental school at HKU, I realized it wasn’t for me at all. After I was accepted into the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts and quit HKU, my secondary school drama teacher was the first person I told the news to. She burst into tears, but not of happiness. I guess she was worried about me and even felt a little guilty for having led me into the drama world in the first place. [Laughs.] My parents were shocked and angry at first, but my father and grandfather, who are both painters, started to support me after a while. I mean, they know better that it’s mainly their fault that I’m so into art—it’s in my genes!
HK: How did you start Theatre Noir?
WY: I was freelancing extensively at the time for drama-related projects, including teaching, directing, designing and translating, and the workload had eventually become too massive that I needed a team to help me with it. I set up Theatre Noir with a couple of friends in 2006, mainly as a theater-education company originally, but since last year, we’ve had full-time actors and started doing our own theater productions as well.
HK: You’re also famous for your “Learn English through Drama” workshops – how did you come up with the idea?
WY: In 2002, I taught in an amateur drama workshop where there was a group of people from different walks of life, such as teachers, bankers, doctors and even an archeologist. One day, a grade school teacher asked me to set up a drama program at their school for all the Form 2 students, but in English. I knew nothing about how to teach English through drama, so I did a lot of research and got a lot of help from friends before taking on the program. The kids really enjoyed learning language through drama because it’s much more interactive and fun than the traditional way of language education. I taught there for two years and got quite a lot of requests from other schools and took on more similar projects.
HK: Are you a George Orwell fan? How do you interpret “Animal Farm?”
WY: Frankly, I’d never read any George Orwell before we began this project. But after I read the novel I realized how very deep and dark it is, and how it’s still highly relevant to our modern society. When some people heard I was doing “Animal Farm,” they asked me, “Are you anti-Communism?” The answer is, “I’d love Communism if human beings were perfect, but we’re not.” To me, it’s not the “ism” that’s wrong, but human nature, and the story is not about the defects of a certain social system, but rather how human nature could distort a utopia. And I thought the best way to project this kind of sadness and agony found in the novel was to make it a musical. Then I went to Frankie Ho, a musician whom I admire greatly though we’d never worked together, and it turned out that he had composed some scores and a theme song for it in 1995, but didn’t have the chance to use them! So we worked together along with many other people and came up with a complete production with 28 songs ranging from gospel to rock ‘n’ roll. The power of the music and the story makes it very entertaining and thought-provoking. I had goosebumps watching the rehearsals.
HK: Do you still go to the theater often?
WY: Oh yeah, every time I go to London or New York I have to go to West End or Broadway to check out the shows. My all-time favorite musical has got to be “Les Misérables”—I’ve watched it live six times and I can never get enough of it. I’m into stuff with strong political and social references, so to some extent, “Les Mis” inspired our production of “Animal Farm.”
Check out “Animal Farm” from Nov 18-21 at The Academy of Performing Arts Amphitheatre.