[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
As we grow through life, we will meet many people along the way. Many will become our associate, someone we acknowledge every now and then. Some, we will call them, our friend. However, very few, maybe no more than 2 or 3, will have the privilege of being considered a lifelong friend. For us, our friends from high school saw us at our worst and our best. They supported all our wins and helped us through our failures. They made us who we are.
Nestled in the penthouse unit of a corner shop lot in Bandar Seri Alam, lies a BlackRoom that’s is a shiny beacon of light in the local drama and culture scene. The brainchild of Brenda and Yuwen, BlackRoom is the culmination of a chanced encounter in high school and a shared passion for acting and the arts.
“Good morning, had your breakfast already?” The warm greeting on arrival by Yuwen instantly broke the ice and the welcome coffee sets the stage for a free-flowing and productive conversation that would take up almost our entire day. The real surprise, however, was the fact that our first encounter actually took place in the most unexpected of circumstances. When Yuwen posed us a casual question “Given your omnipresence in so many functions and events, which is your most memorable?” We unanimously point to the grand opening ceremony of Trove Johor Bahru last December, with the various characters from Alice in Wonderland singing and interacting with the guests throughout. Yuwen revealed a startling response, “I was there too, as the teapot!”
Their dream to set up a performing arts troupe while in high school was never forgotten, but life has other plans. Destiny first took Brenda and Yuwen on different paths, to National Taiwan Normal University (majoring in English literature, with a minor in performing arts) and Southern University College (majoring in graphic design and illustration) respectively. “All was well for a few years, as I joined my family ice-cream manufacturing business after graduation before a phone call from Yuwen would turn my world around,” Brenda recalled vividly on this pivotal, even life-changing moment!
Like most around us, many were sceptical and questioned her decision when Brenda took to the arts again. She attributed her U-turn to the support of her dad, who initially opposed her pursuits in performing arts. That fateful phone call in 2012 from Yuwen came in her midst of preparing for her working holiday to New Zealand. Upon learning about the “Save Pengerang” movement by the Johor Yellow Flame (JYF) group, she puts her plans on hold. Sensing their inner callings to contribute and help make a difference, Yuwen took a long shot by picking up the phone and Brenda gladly obliged without any second thoughts. After making their trip to Penggerang and understanding the circumstances surrounding the fishing village, the ladies decided to take on a bold and experimental approach to create awareness to the plight of Pengerang. What better way to support the rally, and for the residents to be heard loud and clear than to actually paint the pain, and act out the consequences that are plain for all to see?
Aptly named “The Dead Sea”, the duo’s debut appearance saw over two hundred members of the public and the media travelled the distance to appreciate up close and personal the scenery, as well as the severity of the environmental issue. When quizzed by the press for more background on their yet-to-be-named performing group, Brenda and Yuwen looked each other in the eyes, before quick-wittedly coming up with BlackRoom Theatre & Illustration– a space dedicated to inviting people to empower, explore and experience life through various art forms.
Located on the 3rd floor and penthouse level, the BlackRoom is anything but dark, with the walls decorated with memories and memorabilia from their past performances. “You would have probably noticed the washroom is covered with mirrors with an artistic twist,” Brenda pointed out. It turns out that these reflective glasses with oxygen masks mural were part of the installation from the “Save Pengerang” art project, a solemn display of solidarity with the residents designed for visitors (and perpetrators) to do some serious soul searching and self-reflection!
“Guess what, our original space was confined to the top floor due to tight constraints. On learning the space below would be converted into a dormitory for the nearby foreign workers, we had to act fast and bite the bullet,” Shuyu revealed. Determined to defend their dreams and to provide a working environment without disturbance, BlackRoom needs to be free from all distraction and noise. The ladies are also adamant that the same venue should be conducive for the audience to appreciate their works. We sincerely applaud the extra effort they put into all their shows while simultaneously preserving the “environment”. Kudos for courage!
Posted by 暗房 Black Room Theatre & Illustration on Sabtu, 19 Mac 2016
With their official formation on 15 July 2012, BlackRoom began with the gathering of many like-minded alumni of Foon Yew High School. Actually, most members were juggling between their full-time employment and rehearsals after work. Before having their own performing arts studio, the shows were staged in a vacant office store on the third level of City Plaza, including a JB reprisal of “The Dead Sea” for those who missed the original play. The time has also come for Yuwen to finally embark on her overdue NZ working holidays, having put her plans on hold for the Pengerang’s cause. In her absence, Brenda opted to keep the show going by being actively involved in many curated alma mater’s anniversary performances and corporate events. Even without a proper calendar of events, Brenda insisted on having at least a signature show for the public at least once a year to keep the momentum, and their fans and following happy.
好评如潮！暗房剧场演出 暨 插画展览 《面惧》5月8号 加场啦！！！感谢观众朋友们对《面惧》的支持，让我们在为社会发声的创作路上，继续探索，走得更远！倒数4天，门票有限 ，万勿再次错过！！！————————————————————————————————日期：2016 年 5月 8日 （日）地点：BLACK BOX, MAP NUSAJAYA, MALL of MEDINI (Legoland)票价：RM 40热线：018-784 5022————————————————————————————————2个场次：3a. 插画展览：10:00am 剧场演出：11:00am3b. 插画展览：02:00pm 剧场演出：03:00pm
Posted by 暗房 Black Room Theatre & Illustration on Selasa, 3 Mei 2016
小品1：《十面埋伏》腐败的治安深刻的植入每个市民的心，冷淡消极的态度只是为了保护自己，社会变得越来越冷漠，这样的循环，是否应该继续？日期：2016年4月2日及3日地点：BLACK BOX, MAP NUSAJAYA, MALL OF…
The collaboration with 30 nationwide illustrators in April 2016 saw BlackRoom present a unique dual-interpretation on stage and still imagery. An estimated 800 over visitors converged in the Black Box at Mall of Medini to pay homage and celebrate the artistry on show. The two short skits meanwhile also garnered wide acclaims from the appreciating public.
In 2017, BlackRoom took to the stage again, with a particular emphasis on engaging the young and old together in a conversation around the values we all hold to be important. Be it family ties, marriage, bachelorhood or single-parenting issues, the four short skits offered both critical and creative stimulus; offering a range of profoundly educational perspective on stage to deepen the engagement for an “intergenerational dialogue”.
周末你要去哪里？新山暗房与槟城Plasticity Theatre Troupe约定你！《Plastic City塑料城市》影子戏与装置艺术就在12月1、2、3日！带着好朋友 小朋友来看戏！【演出地點_Venue】 旭陽學校禮堂_Matahari Private SchoolPTD68152, Jalan Persiaran Sutera Danga 1,Taman Sutera Utama,Skudai, Johor, Malaysia.【演出場次_Sessions】01/12 ( Fri )_8pm02/12 ( Sat )_3pm / 8pm03/12 ( Sun)_3pm【票價_Price】一般票價_Normal Price：RM 45 四人同行_4 in 1： RM 165【熱綫_Hotline】011-2776 8119主辦單位 Organized by : Black Room 暗房演出單位 Presented by : Plasticity Theatre Troupe———————————————————————–*全劇無對白，適合各族群觀賞*鼓勵6歲以上觀眾觀賞*A play without dialogue, suitable for diverse communities*Suitable for 6 years old and above#PlasticCity #塑料城市 #新山巡演 #環境保護 #裝置藝術 #影子戲 #blackroomtheatre
Posted by 暗房 Black Room Theatre & Illustration on Khamis, 23 November 2017
While BlackRoom isn’t conceived to achieve a social, community or environmental aim, Brenda observed the social impact that its performance or production have on art and environmental sustainability issues, no matter how insignificant. Before they knew it, BlackRoom has kinda assumed the mantle to drive social changes, by providing a platform for 1) social dialogue; 2) local performing arts to thrive; 3) a voice for the marginalised or minority and 4) for the environmental issues to be in the spotlight. To lead by example, BlackRoom is going digital and paperless by gradually reducing its printed program sheets, posters and ticket stubs. A subsequent cross-border collaboration with Penang’s Plastic City Theatre Troupe is a further testament of their commitment, a contemporary shadow play that uses only upcycled materials as their main element throughout the performance. Indeed, we were very impressed by the sheer amount of upcycled items that are put to good use all over BlackRoom!
A series of successfully accomplished projects and passion that grew by the day finally persuaded Brenda to quit her day job of 8 years to pursue BlackRoom‘s endeavours. The return of Yuwen from her subsequent 3-year working stint in Europe and timely involvement in 2017, albeit a cameo role, further strengthened her resolve to take up the position on a full-time basis. Granted, there were times when people said that BlackRoom won’t make it; or when troubles seemed too much to take, but they did it!
However, the biggest “crisis” came when Yuwen contemplated winding up BlackRoom as the troupe was struggling to stay afloat, and its formation was rather impromptu at the spur of the moment. In a face-to-face meeting with Brenda on her return from working holiday, both ladies were looking at each other in the eyes in silence when a casual question from Brenda turned out to a career-defining moment. “What are your plans after Europe?” Looking to further her interest and developing her graphic illustration skills, Yuwen was toying with the idea of a small design studio, which could possibly double up as a performing arts studio. The rest, we now know, is history as Yuwen had her wish granted though not quite the way she first envisioned.
Taking into account both their current requirement and future plans, Brenda proposed a need to lease a much bigger space. Yuwen was hesitant at first, and ponder over the idea for a few months, before finally giving Brenda‘s proposal the nod, after countless revisions and having secured the necessary funding of course.
A year on but still facing financial uncertainties from their sole dependence on ticket sales, Brenda began laying the foundations for BlackRoom towards long term sustainability. The monetary demand for annual production in the past was still manageable, but to keep the troupe together for 5 to 6 productions a year, the situation calls for a more sustainable model.
The world of art needs more entrepreneurship, and the world of enterprise needs more art. With a foot firmly planted in both camps and drawing business insights from her past managerial experience, Brenda devised a “Social Enterprise” model that fully maximise the potential that BlackRoom studio now presents. By opening up the space for rent by other performing artists and event organisers, BlackRoom is now home to even more creative engagements, fans interaction and even enterprise networking. Even with these potential sources of income, Brenda and Yuwen remained meticulous in their infrastructure spending and upgrading. Drawing from all possible resources such as DIY sound-proofing and painting, the contributions from parents also help to keep their expenses within budget.
Giving their all to make every usable space economically viable, BlackRoom also offers online retailers, entrepreneurs and local designers a platform to showcase their products with àn box. Now everyone can be a “shop owner” at a very affordable price. The open space on the 3rd level has also been turned into a market place for lovingly refurbished and upcycled secondhand goods with the Black Bazaar most recently held in April. Having inherited their moms’ knack for cooking, Brenda and Yuwen have also turned their original pantry into a private kitchen. Aptly named Take A Break and a gentle reminder not to forget our meals, expect mouthwatering home-cooked dishes that are as good as our moms’ cooking!
With a new studio to call “home”, BlackRoom began their quest towards sustainability with the first of many productions as a fitting tribute and collaboration with their first mentor Liu Jingkang to explore the cycle of death and rebirth with “Samsara“. Continuing the momentum, BlackRoom next collaborated with Kuala Lumpur’s prominent Orang Orang Drum Theatre to open up our senses to auditory and visual arts. In fact, Yuwen’s oversized mural was a prominent fixture throughout their joint performance!
With a renewed focus on nurturing young talents between 12 to 15 years old, the third production “děng dēng děng dēng” is certainly not child’s play. Giving budding performers from their Little Playroom a much-anticipated debut and working together with local drama school BigFish, BlackRoom hopes to develop the kid’s imagination, expression and social skills, while providing a platform for them to showcase their creativity.
The fourth production brings together BaTugether from Batu Pahat to put up rhapsody with active audience participation. Starring only three performers on stage, the story centred around a wishing tree. The BlackRoom theatre was instantly turned into an open picnic ground, with real baskets full of food and beverages for the audience to become part of the show. Their wishes were also written and hang on the tree – probably the first of its kind experiential play in town!
In reaching out to Malaysia’s leading annual international human rights documentary film festival, BlackRoom has played host to the screening of 8 local short films and an international documentary during the FreedomFilmFest (FFF), bringing together activists, filmmakers and members of the public to exchange experiences around thematic human rights topics.
Capping a productive year, the sixth and final production saw an entire year of planning and preparation culminating into an original stage play that has gathered many passionate performing artists from all around Malaysia, including the folks from Orang Orang Drum Theatre. Paying homage to CATS the musical and creatively named “Bow Wow” with a punt, this annual blockbuster tells the story about a dog named Wang Wang who has accidentally been brought back to the old age on a full moon night, leading to a chanced encounter with the “Bulan Tribe” and the eternal conflict between wolf and human. For the longest time ever, “Bow Wow” saw 2 consecutive weeks, 10 days right after the lunar new year. As part of their mission towards animal protection, BlackRoom has teamed up with H.O.P.E, an NGO and also a NO-KILL Animal Shelter – a collaboration between public welfare and art performance to further their social cause for the environment. For the first time ever, BlackRoom has also partnered with talented local illustrator Minifanfan to design an educational, portable board game that promises hours of fun for the entire family.
Take A Break
Time to Take A Break, dinner should be ready and served shortly, as both ladies excused themselves and make their way to the kitchen. Before we knew it, we had already spent time from dawn to dusk. 🤣 Not available from Mondays to Wednesdays, we were indeed fortunate to stumble upon their operating hours for the first time this week. Be sure to open visit on Thursdays and Fridays from 6pm to 11pm, while the cafe starts serving lunch from 12 noon to 11pm on weekends.
Espresso Latte + Americano Cheese + Earl Gray Cheese
Taking a leaf from the milk tea trend, Brenda insisted that we’ve got to try their latest Cheesesy beverages. If the Espresso Latte we had in the morning is anything to go by, we’ve absolute confidence that the Americano Cheese and Earl Grey Cheese will be an instant hit! As expected, the foam topping was fluffy and slightly more savoury with the taste of cheese resembling that of a cheesecake. Mixing the cheese with our coffee and tea resulted in a drink with a milkshake consistency that we simply couldn’t resist!
With our conversation going past meal hours, Brenda took to the kitchen to prepare one of her homecooked speciality – Handmade dumplings. Dipping into the vinegar and ginger mixture, we went ahead to devour the dumplings, resulting in an explosion of flavours in our mouths as the broth gushed out when we bit into it. Like our mom’s cooking, the broth was light without being overly oily and salty, which we appreciated. With that being said, the dumplings still packed a rich and flavourful punch.
Sichuan-style pork slices in garlic sauce (set)
Though Take A Break may not be the most glamorous, the food is assuredly swoon-worthy. In particular, the Sichuan-style pork slices in garlic sauce set was packed with glee-inducing delicious ingredients. Unlike the more common cold appetiser in China, this one’s lightly cooked, thinly sliced and drizzled with a spicy, garlicky, vinegary, savoury, umami-packed dressing. The sinfully delicious chunks of fried shallots, soaked with braised sauce over a bowl of piping hot fluffy rice and even the plethora of side dishes are highly delectable on their own. We plan to be back for more of their other main courses such as spicy and homemade rice bowl and even vegetarian dishes!
We’ve always been a massive fan of potong ice cream, and the available Musang King, Thai red tea, coconut, mango, cendol, red bean and strawberry will always hit the spot. Needless to say, the more distinct durian and Thai speciality flavours win the day hands down!
Friends of BlackRoom, the purveyor of fine arts
With a team of 38 members, including 4 full-time staff and still counting, Brenda and Yuwen are determined to stay faithful to their calling and keep the BlackRoom dream alive, with an eye for the future. Despite a fruitful year with 6 amazing productions, the ticket sales still fall short of expectations. “With keen interests and enquiry from parents, we’ve rolled out a series of drama education for the kids to “Mix and Match”, ranging from visual and performing arts genres such as percussion, contemporary dance, wushu, mural and watercolour painting,” Brenda shared excitedly. For course enquiry and other information, kindly contact BlackRoom!
【 暗学堂 | 暗房小戏班 】（儿童戏剧课程）.“ 喜、怒、哀、乐，就是戏剧课？”.戏剧教育（Drama in…
In the world of arts and culture, innovative ideas and projects are some of the most precious currency we possess. But for all the purposes in the world, the execution of these visions can often seem daunting. With the rise of crowdfunding to getting the resource needed to get off the ground, BlackRoom has put forward the Friends of BlackRoom since April 2019 to kickstart a crowdfunding campaign. Each patron receives an acknowledgement with exclusive content or other rewards to make us feel included in the entire process. For more details, kindly visit: https://forms.gle/PZ9hsJyrzzNz2dov5
A friend is one of the nicest things we can have, and one of the best things we can be. If you enjoy the shows at BlackRoom, be a friend and help spread the words around to promote our local arts and culture.
Just before we left for the day, we could overhear Brenda‘s gentle reminder. “Take A Break, and come back again soon.”. To our newfound friendship that feels lifelong, our answer is a resounding “YES!”
Blackroom Theatre & Illustration 暗房
📍 51C (3rd Floor), Jln Lembah 18, Bandar Baru Seri Alam, 81750 Masai, Johor
💻 BlackRoom 暗房
📞 +6010-451 0674
Take A Break 暗食吃饭
🕙 Thursday & Friday 6.00pm – 11.00pm, Saturday & Sunday 12.00pm – 11.00pm
💻 Take A Break 暗食吃饭
🍽️ NON HALAL