Off Stage

It’s tough crying and singing at the same time

Siti Shahirah Samad plays the titular role of the princess in Raden Mas.
Siti Shahirah Samad plays the titular role of the princess in Raden Mas.PHOTO: SRI MAMANDA

For her acting debut, Siti Shahirah Samad, 22, has a massive task on her shoulders.

The trainee teacher, who is doing a diploma in education for Malay language, takes on the titular role of a 16th-century Javanese princess who sacrifices her life to save her father in the Malay bangsawan (or opera), Raden Mas.

She will be singing, dancing and acting alongside veterans Margaret Chan and Marina Yusoff.

She says: "This is my first opportunity to be in a production which encompasses so many aspects, including music, acting and singing."

  • BOOK IT /RADEN MAS: AN EPIC OF A PRINCESS

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre

    WHEN: Friday to Sunday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $85 to $300 from www.eventclique.com

What did you think about taking on the role of Raden Mas?

It's an honour. To many Malay Singaporeans, she is a martyr who sacrificed her life for the love of her father. At the same time, the role carries a heavy responsibility and I need to fully understand how she is as a person.

The challenge is breaking from my own personality and becoming a more patient, selfless and graceful character like Raden Mas.

What is it like performing in this production?

It has stretched my abilities in singing and acting. At first, it was tough to put across the correct emotions in my singing. There are scenes in which I'm crying and singing at the same time. It was tough to control the musical notes and be emotional at the same time. But with practice and guidance, I'm able to focus on the emotions as well as ensure that my singing remains melodious.

Being involved in this production has opened a new window of learning and a new level of experience. Do you get jitters on stage?

I usually feel nervous when I'm waiting backstage. But once on stage, I forget about the jitters and focus on the scene, especially when everyone is reacting and responding to one another, and the music is very intense and helps us in the emotional build-up.

If I feel nervous on stage, I focus on the faces of the people around me, whom I've been practising with for months. I believe that they have my back and we're counting on one another to be at our best.

You are sharing the stage with seasoned actors. How does it feel to perform with them? What tips have they shared?

I'm humbled to be working alongside experienced actors, drama teachers, theatre directors and scriptwriters. There always seems to be something new to learn.

One useful tip I've learnt is to absorb the energy from actors present in the scene. The dynamics on stage is built by the energy from everyone involved. It's important to have chemistry with one another, so that the energy bouncing off one another is levelled.

I also learnt that there are levels to every emotion. It's how actors are able to maximise and show variation in their acting. Using the same level, be it the highest or lowest, will make the actor monotonous and boring, so it's important to have different levels of mood when acting.

What do you hope people can gain from the show?

For me, it's been an eye-opening and fun experience. For audiences, especially the young ones, I believe some of them might misunderstand bangsawan as an outdated form of Malay theatre-opera, but this performance will be a feast for the eyes, ears and mind.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'It’s tough crying and singing at the same time'. Print Edition | Subscribe