Brunch With Susan Lankester
The Spanker recently had his favorite brunch of Dome Cafe’s Eggs Hollandaise with the multi-talented Susan Lankester, and was duly ashamed of his middle age spread compared to her lean and toned physique. It was quite an effort to suck my tummy in and eat at the same time. Who can resist Eggs Hollandaise?
Never quite the dainty English rose, Susan is the type who will take charge and kick butt if necessary, so her fit physique is no surprise given her passion for not only acting, directing, writing and voice overs but also for renovating and landscaping via her company Lankester Designs.
So what does the super fit Susan do to relax? Why wakeboarding and wall climbing, but of course! Susan is also active in promoting animal welfare issues.
We soon get down to brass tacks, and I ask about her recently concluded double bill “What’ll break you & Apocalips” which she produced via her company Catwoman Productions. I asked if she had problems sourcing funding. Susan explained that this particular production simmered for two years before fruition, and that she had duly made the rounds and engaged in all the yadda yadda with the usual suspects with the grand result of zilch.
They then decided to stage the play with their own limited resources, but a careless glitch in the ticketing system resulted in the online booking system only working a week before showtime.
“We lost money” Susan admits candidly enough, but we decided to dig deep into our pockets and still pay the venue rental and our cast and crew their dues. Why would they do such a thing, I ask, since it was plain that the lack of ticket sales was no fault of theirs?
“Call me old fashioned” Susan says “but we decided that we valued our names and reputations above any financial gains. We’re in this business for the long haul, and as actors ourselves we understand the sacrifices and efforts they put into their performances. They didn’t deserve to be given excuses.
Admirable qualities indeed, and seldom encountered in today’s dog eat dog world. I decided to change tack and asked what her favorite part of the play was, and received a rather surprising answer.
My mentor, Hafsham (the director) came to see the play with his entire family. At the end he simply said he had enjoyed watching it and told me to keep up the good work. That to me was priceless.
So why do you keep doing this if funding is such a pain in the ass, I ask.
“Acting is my passion. I derive satisfaction from seeing the joy on people’s faces when they enjoy a performance. I feel happy that they are happy,” says Susan.
I probe again “What would you say is the main impediment to source for funding” and again receive an answer that threw me for a loop.
“The internet” Susan said, while I surreptitiously tried to slip my tablet under the table.
“People nowadays want instant entertainment, instant videos and instant movies in high definition. Theatre requires them to leave home, to think, to assess emotions. People nowadays have no time for this”.
You know what? Try as I might, I can’t fault her logic. It’s sad that corporate Malaysia does not do more for the arts other than the token sponsored performance now and then. We should take a leaf from the Singaporeans on this one. The tourism industry for one would benefit by leaps and bounds.
A Chat With Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina Over Tea and Scones
The Spanker sits back and scoffs delicate scones with butter, jam and clotted cream washed down with Earl Grey as “Nora” gets serious about her chosen craft.
“Our arts industry is still in its infancy compared to our neighbors’. I want to make things happen while I’m still here to see the benefits of that effort – how art is going to impact our society and country, and our thoughts and behavior. That is why I am pushing out a lot of things at this kind of speed and drive,” says Tiara who is the managing director of Enfiniti Productions.
“This is one of the reasons I set up Enfiniti Academy Of Musical Theater and Entertainment Arts. Through the academy, I hope to spawn a generation of lovers and supporters of the arts.
“The little children we teach in the academy will one day be performers, directors, producers and writers. Even if they become accountants, businessmen, doctors or corporate giants, they will still be supporters of the arts because their lives were touched by them when they were young. They may find it in themselves to give back to the arts as philanthropists.
“Right now we are producing products. We need to find audiences, funds and support from not just the government but from private enterprise as well. If people are not exposed to the arts, they will not think that it’s important to give back to its cause.
“In life or business, I always believe that we need to have a higher purpose. I want to touch lives, change society and achieve racial unity through the work that I do and the person that I am. I feel that our strength as a nation lies in the fact that we are a people of such diversity.”
Tiara’s dream is that her company will have its own arts theater. “We really need to run a show for a year for it to be profitable because the production costs amount to millions of ringgit. Currently, we can only run a show in rented premises for just a few weeks because we then have to make way for someone else.
I also live in hope that one day, we can be that kind of society that always has a play on every night.”
Coming soon: A Heineken and Guinness fueled session with JD Menon, theater and stage veteran and Director of the upcoming Napoleon Hill A Musical. Spank his image for a sneak peek of what to expect.