All posts by Moni Storz

Concerned that so few Chinese are performing artists and when they are, there is little opportunity for them to show case their talents . I created the ACT, the Australasian Chinese Theatre Company. The ACT’s inaugural production was From Little Things….devised, designed and written by Aurora Kurth and produced by Moni Storz in 2008. This was followed by Tegan Jones in Blues in the NIght. I wrote and produced Our Man in Beijing, my first inter cultural play and this was performed in 2011.

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow – Melbourne Fringe Festival

Tegan Jones, our actor and singer in the ACT showcase is starring in a leading role as part of Boutique Theatre’s Australian premiere of The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow. A three week season as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Tegan has just returned from New York after studying at a six week Summer intensive focusing on the Meisner technique and is excited to return to Melbourne to play Jennifer Marcus.

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow centres around Jennifer Marcus; a modern-day genius, who designs rockets for the US government from her bedroom in Calabasas California. And, as it happens, an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic. Stuck in her bedroom, she builds a robot replica of herself to do the one thing she can’t: travel across the world in search of her biological parents.

Come and support the Independent Arts Industry and see this funny and heart-breaking story.

THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF JENNY CHOW
by Rolin Jones
Presented by BOUTIQUE THEATRE
17th September – 3rd October 2015

PERFORMANCES
Tuesday – Saturday, 8pm

TICKETS
Full $28 | Concession $25 | Preview $19 | Cheap Tuesday $19

VENUE
Brunswick Arts Space
Little Breese Street (off Hope Street)
Brunswick VIC 3056

Purchase tickets by visiting here

Exciting News to Share!

The ACT finishes its UK tour and has come back with some really exciting news. The Wife’s Revenge, a 10 minute play which Moni wrote for the Short & Sweet festival in Malaysia in 2013 and performed in the ACT studio in 2014 is now a longer play to be entered for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest fringe in the world! This is a collaboration with two theatre makers in London.

Meanwhile back home in the ACT studio in Brighton, a new play is scheduled to be performed in April 2015. Tracey Wang, a theatre maker from China, is working with Wolf Heidecker, director of our last production of Our Man in Beijing, on A Bite of Melbourne. This is an exciting and original play, which will end with audience eating what is cooked during the play. But what is being cooked? That is the question.

Our “showcase girl” Tegan Jones will be attending a six week intensive acting course in NYC in July/August 2015! She is excited to be spending more time over in the Big Apple and to further her skills.

Exciting news all around! Continue to watch this space for more news and information about our tour to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and A Bite of Melbourne!

An Intercultural Play On Tour: Lessons Learnt

As a novice tour leader experienced in most things, but certainly not leading a tour to Malaysia, I, in a moment of blissed-out love for all humanity, I, Moni Lai Storz, got carried away in a cloud of suicidal euphoria; crazily, impetuously and enthusiastically agreed to take a group of Australians to go on a tour with Our Man In Bei-Jing, an intercultural play. Our Man In Bei-Jing premiered in the Australasian Chinese Theatre in 2011, at LaMama in 2012 and was off to Malaysia in 2013!

After much sweat in more places than one, especially in the purse, all of us flew off from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur on the eve of my 70th birthday! Admist laughter, both from happiness and trepidation, me, Moni Lai Storz, an old lady leading a tour with cast and crew of varying ethnicities, genders and ages. There was the director, Wolf Heidecker and his wife Gisela, both German in ethnicity and culture, born and made in Germany but living in Australia. Ashley Macklin, dinkum die Aussie lad, born and made in Australia, his girlfriend, Tegan Jones, self proclaimed member of the “half luck club”, born of an Australian father and Chinese mother who was born in Malaysia and sort of grew up in Australia. Phil, our musician and composer, born in the UK of a Romanian Gypsy father, and white anglo mother; David Lih born in East Timor of Chinese (Hakka) parents but brought up in Australia, and Aparna Bhattacharjee, born in India and now an Australian by domicile but still more Indian than most Indians I know. Finally Richard, our light and sound wizard, born in Uraguay, definitely and unequivocally Latino in ethnicity and personality, culture and affiliations, with his body in Australia but his spirit in outer Latino space. Amongst this motley crew of delightful, delicious and divine beings, I found myself, a Malaysian Chinese (with a Hakka father and Peranakan mother), superficially a “banana” who has lived in Australia for over 40 years, suddenly and unambiguously a tour leader.

Whose idea was it in the first place to take OMIB on tour? With much humility, I must confess it was mine! For me, the primary motivation with taking Our Man In Bei-Jing on tour to Malaysia was financially insane but psychologically exhilarating. As a bonus, I also learnt a few things about myself and a lot about the cast and crew members. Call it a life changing event and an even bigger hands-on lesson about human beings!

In the Mount Everest of interesting challenges, the most frustrating was finding a suitable leading lady. The reason for this was because I could not find a Chinese/Australian actress/singer in Melbourne who could both speak Mandarin and travel with us to Malaysia for three weeks. A leading lady with those talents was almost a spine chilling impossibility in Melbourne! Having failed to find one in Melbourne, we threw our nets in Malaysian waters and up came Siew Yong! Siew Yong, both talented and willing, came to our rescue. Imagine rehearsals with our female lead in Malaysia and the rest of us in Melbourne. For once I was glad for technology, imagine again the rest of the Aussie cast in Melbourne rehearsing with our leading lady on Skype!

What I learnt was this: when you are navigating a group of people with diverse wants and needs, communicating styles, moods and temperaments, and all of them have different jobs to do, under extreme stressors such as deadlines, heat, lack of sleep, fatigue, jetlag, adventure, excitement, new and foreign foods and people, you are either heading straight for a disaster of tsunami proportion or an out-of-body experience of cosmic magnitude. Both were novel experiences for me.

As a success driven individual, of course I was going for a successful outcome but then what defines and measures success in the theatre? Certainly not money. Fame perhaps? This tour was going to be one of those ‘fame and no fortune’ ventures perhaps. The word ‘perhaps’ was linked with hope when the idea was first conceived. Nevertheless, I was realistic enough to know that fame was not going to happen either. To be truthful, none of us, especially not me, the author/producer and self appointed tour leader, ever consciously sat down and discussed what would be a successful outcome for us in view of our tour. Instead quite implicitly, success was based on the philosophy which proclaims that it is not the destination but the journey that counts. The decision to board the plane for Malaysia was in itself a success given all the hurdles that had to be overcome before take off. Let me apprise the reader with some of these challenges.

It began with the communications with me and our Malaysian partners, Sugar Restaurant in Langkawi, Penang Performing Arts Centre (better known as PenangPac) and the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLpac). Working with people through emails in two different countries is a challenge for anyone but with someone like me, it is worst. Psst…I am a very impatient person and hate waiting for emails that take more than one day to come. To circumvent the slow flow of email communication, I took two trips to Malaysia before the tour to get things moving. That was nice. Really nice. It took the stress out of waiting to hear from our Malaysian partners but the budget blew up by a thousand dollars plus more. Upon arrival in Langkawi, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, and meeting the theatre managers, all the angst of our email communication disappeared literally in seconds and the contract was signed and delivered with the speed of a young superman.

First lesson when working with Malaysians: they prefer face-to-face meetings. Then what you will encounter is the famed Malaysian hospitality, generosity, co-operative spirit and their offers of food to die for. In excess of two kilos (not in my luggage but my body) I flew back to Melbourne thinking some things do not change: the Malaysian love of food and Manglish…ok lah, let’s go makan char koay teoy, and won ton mee at KLIA, near the junction there lah. (For those of you who do not know Manglish, in this one sentence there are two languages i.e. English and Malay or Bahasa as the locals call the Malay language, and two Chinese dialeccts which then really equal three languages and two dialects!)

The universe works in mysterious ways especially when it comes to Father Time. As I was booking flights for our aussie crew and cast, from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi, to Penang, Kuala Lumpur and back to Melbourne, certain cast members could not go all at the same time. Different people wanted different times of departure. The computations and permutations of times, budget, individual preferences for seats and meals during flight times – well suffice to say it was a great lesson for me about the intricacies of how to be a tour agent. I was no longer just a tour leader.

The director, Ashley the male lead, the musician Phil and light and sound man, Richard and I were the first to go. This was to be followed by Gisela, Aparna, David and Tegan. For a whole lot of reasons, none of which was to do with the show in Malaysia, these four would come later. This made for a separate plan in terms of accommodation. More to fill my already full headspace.

Now let me divulge the culinary preferences of our little gang of gourmands from Melbourne. Wolf could not eat anything with legs except pigs and cows! He could not eat anything that swims or flies. Phil could not eat anything Chinese which is gooey and slippery. That cut out oodles of noodles and he definitely hated the noise so beloved of Chinese coffee shop owners and patrons in Malaysia. Richard preferred hot spicy food and was allergic to prawns. Siew Yong had no appetite being so excited and thrilled to be meeting us! Ashley was about the only person who would and could eat anything. He had to pay a price for this later on in the tour. I would not eat anything which was badly cooked. Or so I thought.

On opening night in Penang, at PenangPac, Ashley started to have a tummy bug that reduced his buoyancy by 50 percent. Spotting a tinge of dull green on his handsome face, his usual optimistic cheeriness gone from his bright green eyes, he came to me, hiding his discomfort and asked to see a doctor. It happened that there was a doctor in the house and Dr Ragu, our sponsor and host promptly prescribed some medication. Being the worry wart that I am, I immediately appealed to all the gods and goddesses and prayed that Ashley did not have amoebic dysentery or something more serious. For the rest of the tour Ashley was on medication and his culinary delights consisted of self made blend vegetable soups and no spices! This, I would like to remind the reader, was happening in Malaysia, where every corner was found a food vendor who concocted magical aromas made of spices imported from ancient India. In Ashley’s case, I was sure he was paying the cost of his capacity to eat anything and everything when he landed in Malaysia tummy first during his first week in that spice ridden country.

There were also lessons learnt about money. Apart from our return airfares from and to Kuala Lumpur, there were expenditures during the tour. People ahev to eat and sleep comfortably if not luxuriously, even if they are merely actors. No problem. I had a budget that would cover no-star accommodation but still bearable. Then came the crunch. The Malaysian government required working visas for all foreign performers. Each visa varied in cost depending on the passport a person held. And a security bond for each actor. Our budget did not take into account such miscellaneous expenditures which turned out to be probably one of the largest in the overall pre-tour budget. Yikes! Narry a worry. Money was found. Less said the better here. Suffice to say, all of us pitched in and raised the extra money thanks to an anonymous sponsor. What I learnt from this is that lack of money could sometimes bring out the best in people with a common purpose. I also learnt that when you budget for any journey in life, you budget with 100 percent given to unthinkables, and/or have-not-thought-of miscellaneous expenditures. Always.

Navigating round the shortest route in keeping the tour expenses within the budget constraints was an interesting exercise in examining my own skills and attitude towards money. In every situation when it came to money, I used commonsense and common decency as two criteria in my decision. I gave to the cast and crew what I gave myself. As a result, I received no complaint from them. It was nice to know that the challenges we faced was not to do with money. I learnt that when it comes to the crunch and when push comes to shove, and when I have to choose between money or love in coming to a decision, I chose love! In return the cast and crew were reciprocating, generous and loving in their own way to me and to each other. That is not to say we did not growl and snarl, shout and make faces at each other. However, in the end, love did conquer all and on the 31st of August, Malaysia Independence Day, Aparna cooked us a scrumptious meal back in her home in Melbourne and Richard made and showed us a movie of the first part of our tour. It had taken him eight hours to make. Phil, in a fit of inspired madness, together with Richard, created a new song with a tude that can seduce even the flatfooted platypus to dance! The O-M-G song is a song of gratitude to all!

What can I say, but thanks for the memories and thanks to our tour, I can now lead another. Next time around I am going to be much wiser to the antics of taking a motley cast and crew on tour. I have learnt.

Successful Run in Langkawi & Penangpac with Peter Ho’s photo

Langkawi is an island and to have three performances there to much applause is great! It was hot, steamy and crowded but the cast was superb. Thanks to Sugar restaurant which feted all of us and to Wijay’s & Brigit’s Sarong guesthouse, we had a great rest and saw a lot of Langkawi. Four of us flew to Penang for a press conference leaving the rest to bring the props in a ferry.

In Penang we had 2 rehearsals and three performances. Our first rehearsal was not a dress rehearsal but because professional photographers Peter Ho & Chua who were donating their services were only available for that particular time slot, we had to quickly don our costumes so pandemonium broke loose in the dressing room. That was a moment of high stress for the cast and crew of Our Man in Beijing in Penang. Well, more or less!

The audience loved the play and laughed and laughed! I was stunned. I never expected a predominantly Chinese audience to react so enthusiastically. One Malaysian Chinese couple said: “We had lived in Melbourne for many years so we know both sides and understand the jokes on both sides.” They thanked me for bringing Our Man in Beijing to Penang. That gave me a nice feeling. That was opening night in Penangpac. The next night the cast suffered a little from “second night blues” but they still gave a good performance to the audience. By the time the last show came for our Sunday matinee, the cast gave a sterling performance and once again the audience loved it.
To celebrate a successful run in Penang, we went off to have a Chinese banquet!Without chopsticks gymnastics!

Our Man in Beijing goes to Langkawi, Malaysia 24 & 25 May 2013

We are almost there in body, cast and crew. Almost an out of body experience at this stage seeing that everyone is so excited. In fewer than 14 days, we are off to Langkawi where our first performances will be held at the Sugar Restaurant on Pantai Tengah in Langkawi. Sugar sits literally on the beach facing west. Each evening a golden sunset bathes the building in liquid gold. And it is in this very building upstairs framed by a balcony that we will be performing on the 24th & 25th May, 2013 at 8:30pm! How about that folks! Thanks to proprietors Jacky How & Jeremy Liew with loads of help from the fabulous kinky Karina Bahrin of La Pari Pari fame. Anyone visiting Langkawi during these dates are doubly lucky because we are performing for free! Just for the love of it all.

Two years ago, I started the Langkawi Performing Artists on this gorgeous island with our inaugural production “….And the Fight Started.” Now I am bringing an Aussie cast with an intercultural play that laughs at Aussie and Chinese values in a romantic comedy. I am so pleased with myself to say the least. As author and producer and equally importantly, as an ex Malaysian, I have come home having called Australia home for over 30 years! Ha! Wonders may never cease on the return journey. Who knows? Finally fame and fortune. Or perhaps just lots of laughs and nasi lemak!

Our Man In Beijing goes to…. Malaysia!

In May of this year, we are going on tour to Malaysia, performing in the lovely island of Langkawi, Penang and of course, Kuala Lumpur. It is a real treat to be able to perform with the local Malaysian actors in their hometowns. A real intercultural experience for all of us.

In Langkawi opening night is 24th May 2013. Only 2 evening performances at Sugar/Fat Cupid Restaurant at Pantai Tengah 8:30pm. In Penang, in combo with Penang PAC at their palatial premisses in Straits Qauy, Floor 3A. Opening night 31 May. 2 evening performances only & 1 Sunday matinee at 3pm. And finally in Kuala Lumpur, in Sentul West at the luxurious klpac complex. All performances are at 8:30pm on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday matinees at 3pm.
For more information visit our Malaysia Tour page for ticket and venue details.

Lady Be Good starring Tegan Jones

From the creator () of Blues in the Night: A Cabaret inspired by the works of Eva Cassidy and Greenwich: The Music of The Village comes a cabaret inspired by the works of the First Lady of Song: ELLA FITZGERALD – LADY BE GOOD

Tegan is in our ACT showcase. To miss Tegan’s performance is to miss something great!
1-3 March & 8-10 March. All shows start at 7.30pm

All ticketing info available by Tegan’s website: www.tegan-jones.com

OUR MAN IN BEIJING is on to celebrate Cultural Diversity Week this 16th March

As part of the cultural diversity week celebration Our Man in Beijing will be staged at the ACT Studio, 11 Cole ST, Brighton, on Saturday 16 March 2013 at 8pm. All are welcome. Contact Moni on 0419367261 or [email protected] for tickets and details.

Written by Moni Storz, starring Ashley Macklin, Sharon Karina, Lee Ton, Jo Armstrong, Matt Friend & Phil Trainer, light & sound by Richard Lyford-Pike, stage design by Julia De Rosario and flyer design by Jacy Teh. Our Man in Beijing is directed by Wolf Heidecker.

A romantic comedy of intercultural mistakes. Will John Williams get his Chinese cover girl when what he knows about Chinese culture is one dim sum.

Our Man in Beijing goes to Country Victoria to raise money for Bushfire Victims

Sandy Point is our next performance of Our Man in Beijing at the Sandy Point Cafe/Bistro. When we heard about the fires in East Gippsland, we immediately thought it would be a wonderful thing to do. So cast and crew of OMIB got into gear and together with the proprietor of the Sandy Point Cafe, Peter & Judy Barry, the show is on! Saturday 16 Feb at 8pm and Sunday 17th at 2pm, admission by donations…will pass the hat round after the show. Come one, come all!

We can’t wait to get to Sandy Point…performing for a good cause, building inter cultural bridges amongst communities, how cool is that!