Five minutes with Thomas Pang
Opening this week at KLPac is ‘Imports’, an original double bill that explores human relationships and love with two radically different stories using foreign perspectives. ‘Methods’ revolves around a newly engaged couple, Adam and Juliet, and their mysterious newfound friend Cat while ‘Street Lamp Named Desire’ is a modern day fairytale about a doorman’s crush who knows not of his existence. Wong Boon Ken speaks to ‘Street Lamp Named Desire’ writer and actor Thomas Pang
I couldn’t help but think of ‘Street Car Named Desire’ when I first saw the title of your play. Did Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play inspire you to pen ‘Street Lamp Named Desire’?
I wrote a monologue during the word-vomit stage of the play from the perspective of a security guard who fell in love with a girl who passed him every day but never had the courage to talk to her. He likened himself to a streetlamp, an obstruction in the middle of the sidewalk for people to pass by without ever noticing. Desire, streetlamp and the name kind of just fell into my lap in a drunken stupor, senseless and arbitrary, but a tribute nonetheless to one of the most honest love stories ever written. Tennessee Williams is my favourite American playwright. His poetry is haunting, instinctual and painfully elegant. That being said, I don't pretend to hold a candle to his work.
Tell us a bit about the story.
Remember every time you've kicked yourself over your crush? Remember all the nasty voices in your head that destroy you when you fail, and the stream of helpful advice that comes when they're gone? That's Porter and his pigeons. ‘Street Lamp’ is an irreverent story of boy meets girl with two insane pigeon sidekicks. I'm sure that if Casanova came and saw our play he'd give a wry smile and shake his head in some memory.
Does being the writer help with learning lines as an actor in the same play?
Not at all, I called for line just as much as the other actors did. A guy who built his own house may know every joint in every room, but he doesn't necessarily feel comfortable inside it. As an actor you constantly ask, 'why do I say this line?' As a writer you reply, ‘because it sounds good!’, so we don't always get along. I have to breach the massive gaps in logic that my writer self created for me. Endless self-sabotage.
What lessons would you like the audience to take away from the play?
No lessons really. I am severely opposed to theatre with lessons. Once you take out the brainless fun in theatre you get art, and nobody wants to stare at art for more than an hour. I shudder to think of theatre as art. It's the simplest form of entertainment; if you dress up a dog in a dress, it is funny, not a comment on post-colonial repression of native values. Come for the play, get lost in the moment and enjoy a good story; what you take from that is yours alone.
How is ‘Street Lamp Named Desire’ different from ‘Methods’?
You probably won't find two plays like these together, but ‘Imports’ is that magical platform where you do. The contrast is really quite fascinating. I take my playwriting very seriously. I lock myself up in my house and smoke and drink until the play bleeds out of my fingers. And Jude (James, director and writer for ‘Methods’)? Jude came across his play in a Happy Meal.
'Imports – A Double Bill' runs at KLPac until July 1. For more info, see listing.