Karen Lim
Fri, Jul 30, 2010
Paying tribute to Singapore's veteran actor

HIS love for theatre and attitude towards life inspired local theatre veterans, so much so that an original monologue has been written to honour his contributions.

Titled White Soliloquy, the monologue is written based on acclaimed thespian Bai Yan's life and career as a performer for 70 years.

White Soliloquy: A tribute to Singapore's veteran actor
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Photos: ST and Toy Factory

Bai Yan, also affectionately known to Singaporeans as "Bai Yan shu shu" (Uncle Bai Yan), is a household name when it comes to television dramas.

The prominent multi-disciplined performer, who is now 91 years old and retired, took on many kinds of acts, ranging from theatre to dance, and even to a magician.

Written by Toy Factory's artistic director Goh Boon Teck and played by actor-theatre director Nelson Chia, White Soliloquy is directed by theatre veteran Jalyn Han and is the final installment to Toy Factory's 20th anniversary celebration theatre festival.

In an interview with Jalyn at Toy Factory's office, she revealed the inspirations and deeper meanings of producing a monologue based on a fellow thespian's life and his influence on her.

"He does all this (performing) not because of fame or money. He is not only serious about stage, he is also someone who is not afraid to suffer or lose out," described the 48-year-old.

She also spoke of Bai Yan's character as someone who is "pure, honourable and stands tall".

Taking over a year to produce - Goh, Jalyn and Nelson started researching in August last year by visiting Bai Yan's home and gathering material from his archives of photos, ticket stubs and other sources.

"One of the challenges faced is how do you direct a production based on a real person? A lot of hard work was put in to collecting information on him", said Jalyn.

She continued: "A monologue really tests the actor and director. It really is an actor's piece. I hope I can bring out something Nelson has not touched on."

This is not the first time the trio are working together - Goh and Jalyn have worked together in past productions and Nelson has directed her in First Light and Longhouse.

"I've always liked Nelson's work. We probably belong to a more minimalistic approach, so I always want to work with him," said Jalyn.

When asked how the younger generation can relate to White Soliloquy, Jalyn's response was that Bai Yan's enthusiasm and spirit can be applied to everyone.

"His perseverance and courage in taking on challenges is something everyone should learn," she explained.

She continued: "There are many levels to White Soliloquy - besides taking on Bai Yan's character, Nelson also portrays other characters as well.

Jalyn also revealed that students or people who are artistes or actors themselves will be able to relate to White Soliloquy, as it touches upon many aspects of being a performer.

"White Soliloquy is definitely a salute to our artiste and to let everyone know about Bai Yan," said Jalyn.

"It's also an appropriate finale to Toy Factory's 20th anniversary and I wish Toy many 70 years," smiled Jalyn.



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