An Interview With Titus Yim, Playwright Of The Puppet King
Where did you get your inspiration for this play?
I was particularly inspired during a period where I was extremely interested in theories of Existentialism and Nihilism (perhaps it was a phase of existential angst brought about by my teenage years). So while going through my CCA’s archive of old scripts, I happened to chance upon the title “玩具店”, and was immediately drawn to the endless possibilities that this one title could present. To my surprise, this show was intended for children below the ages of 12, and I could not help but feel that it was such a waste. Therefore, I decided to imbue the toys with a new set of personalities and used this play as a platform where I could discuss more controversial topics and the meaning of being.
Have you hidden any Easter Eggs in your play that only few will find out?
Have I? I guess only those with a keen eye would discover!
Does writing plays for an intended audience change the way you write?
Definitely! Writing has always been an intensely personal experience for me. It’s a place where I can dabble in possibilities that I may not have the chance to explore in real life, or to openly discuss philosophical questions without having to already have a definite answer. However, when writing for an audience, one has to be keenly aware of what the audience may take away from your writing, and what they may not. In fact, one aspect I struggled with was finding the balance between teasing the audience to think in a certain direction, while giving them the freedom to interpret what they see, all while ensuring that there is something for them to chew on every second of the show. In this retrospect, writing did feel less organic, but rather required me to continuously edit and fine-tune what I had based on my intended outcomes
As a young playwright entering a scene with so many before you, do you face the pressure of saying something original or unique?
Not really. I think fundamentally, I felt (and still do) most obligated to ensure that what I’m writing is worth watching, and that the audience can take away something from the show. More than that, to see the actors underline and make annotations on my script, I really wanted to give the actors a rich script that allows them to express themselves and enjoy their time on stage. These 2 responsibilities were enough to keep me on my toes!
Did you start writing knowing that you wanted to write plays or have you dabbled in other forms such as prose or poetry writing? What do you feel are the differences?
When I was very young, I dreamt of being an author. I wrote about a magical world where chimeras could speak, and punctuated every sentence with big words like “scintillation” (instead of the more palatable “glitter”). I also loved writing poems that didn’t rhyme. But I guess what stood out to me about plays was the fact that it gave me a physical space to do my “writing”, instead of poems, where my words only roamed on paper and in imaginations. The ability to close my eyes while I write dialogue, to imagine how the light would bounce off the shoulders of the actors, or what music to accompany a monologue, added a whole dimension to the creation process.
In closing, what can we hope to see from you in the future?
My first love was and will always be music, so perhaps one day I would be bold enough to attempt to write a musical! Till then, you can look forward to more plays, each pushing the boundaries of societal norms and philosophy!
The Puppet King runs from 1 – 3 November 2019 at NAFA Studio Theatre. Tickets available here.