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The First Journey Is Within

Stitch Lam Wing-yan of School of Drama and Emma Ng Chun-sze of School of Music

30 Sep 2022

Drama student Stitch Lam Wing-yan and music student Emma Ng Chun-sze both ventured abroad and their experiences in other cultures reaffirmed the approach they've taken to education, and self-exploration. Covid struck and disrupted their endeavours, but they remain determined to push the boundaries of what they thought of as the limits to their art. Though the journey has not been all smooth-sailing, a fervent passion has pushed these young women past challenge after challenge, as they forge ahead towards their goals.


Stitch Lam Wing-yan was introduced to the theatre in Primary 3 by her drama teacher, the Academy alumna Flora So Ching-fung. "We called her Big Sis Flora," Stitch recalls. "It was then that I began participating in the Hong Kong School Drama Festival. Later in secondary school, drama was a compulsory subject. Naturally throughout my primary and secondary years, I was an active member of the drama club, which helped to sustain my interest."


Stitch flitted among multiple hobbies, and was curious just about every academic subject. But acting was the only thing that managed to sustain her interest all those years. After graduation, Stitch enrolled in the double-degree programme in Literary Studies and Law at The University of Hong Kong. In her senior year, she went on exchange to Adelaide, and during her time there chose drama for almost all her electives. She attended drama theory class with students from different departments, exploring subjects from ancient Greece to modern drama; she also took part in drama workshops.


"The teachers would explain the use of space in drama, and ask us to interpret short plays in groups," she notes. "We would then roam around the campus to find random places in which to rehearse. This half-year in Adelaide brought me immense joy."


An Eye-Opening Journey


Inspired by her sojourn in Australia, Stitch came back to Hong Kong with a newfound understanding of her love for theatre and drama. She opted not to sit the bar exam. She applied to the Academy instead. "I was focused on committing myself to the creative industry," she says. "I wanted to create and perform with my whole being, including my voice, and not only my body. I decided to further my knowledge in the performing arts and become a theatre maker."


The Academy's four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in Drama degree offers majors in Acting for Drama, Acting for Musical Theatre, Applied Theatre, Directing and Dramaturgy. Stitch sees the specialities as different portals to the art world. "We are taught different types of knowledge, including body movements in ballet and Chinese opera," she says. "We are given many opportunities to experiment with art forms to find what suits us best."


Stitch sums up her two years at the School of Drama, "it fixed my naïveté and obstinacy about the world."


Human nature is the central subject explored through drama's relentless scrutiny. Stitch admits that, being somewhat innocent as a young adult, she had to tackle unprecedented dilemmas in the process of learning; such dilemmas involved a series of personal challenges, the questioning of assumptions, and controversial topics. The ordeal has deepened her understanding of interpersonal relationships and led her to reflect on her values, manage her emotions – and learn to let go.


During her time of sometimes confusing introspection, Stitch was fortunate to have the support of teachers. She is grateful to Chan Suk-yi, the Academy's Head of Actor's Training, for a positive classroom experience; to friend and teacher Janice Poon, Senior Lecturer in Playwriting and Dramaturgy as well as Academic Project Officer, for sparking her interest in scriptwriting.


"Franchesca Wong Yuen-wah, who graduated in 2019, also shared her personal experiences with me, and prayed for me when I was lost," Stitch reveals. "Heartened by her words, I found the courage to continue my studies and reverse my negative mindset, becoming the old happy me again."


Entering her third year of study, she frankly shares that challenges happen on a daily basis. "We encounter challenges every day in our life, but I won't give up easily. Theatrical learning is something that worth a lifetime."


"It's the Joy of It, and Also the Challenge"


Like Stitch, Emma Ng Chun-sze discovered the performing arts at a tender age. Now majoring in timpani and orchestral percussion at the School of Music, she began learning percussion in Primary 1, and later joined the school orchestra.


"With percussion, you learn everything that's on the table," Emma says. "It's the joy of it, and also the challenge. When you tire of the drums, you can switch to percussive keyboards for a change."


After finishing middle school, Emma went to study in England. Music was still her passion, and she eventually applied to and was accepted by London's Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. However, Covid struck soon after classes began. After more than a year of online learning, she decided to continue her studies in Hong Kong.


"My elder brother and I had learnt percussion together from childhood," she remembers. "We both loved it, and would often chat about music. He is also an Academy student. Due in some part to his influence, I gave weight to the abundance of performance opportunities at the Academy when trying to decide on an institution."


In the end, she applied to the School of Music. Despite the lack of performance experience in London caused by the epidemic, Emma never stopped practising on her own. She passed the Academy's admission trials with flying colours.


A Satisfying Life


The percussion programmes at Trinity and the Academy are similar, but the culture of London and Hong Kong are different, as are Emma's experiences. "At Trinity, students have a lot of free time," she notes. "I learnt tap dancing and joined the orchestra outside of class. I also played for the church. The Academy's programme runs on a tighter schedule. Options for electives abound and students are exposed to varying kinds of knowledge."


For example, in her second year, Emma took a jazz guided-reading course. The Academy's programme arrangement chimes with Emma's dynamic approach to life. "I dislike being idle," she points out. "When I don't have class, I work out and teach. My life is satisfying."


Why percussion? Emma ponders before answering. "The motivation may have come from my teammates," she believes. "The percussive ensemble fills me with energy. I really enjoy working towards a goal with a group of people, and seeing everyone doing their best for a concert. The feeling is fantastic."


Last May, public performances of the Academy Opera Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci were cancelled due to Covid. In their place, participants put on two performances for the Academy community; rehearsals were similarly shortened from one month to one week. Emma saw her virgin opera performance as a fascinating challenge. "Despite the brief span of time from rehearsal to curtains-up, the process was great fun," she says. "I performed under the stage for the first time in my life. It felt amazing!"


With two more years to graduation, Emma admits that she doesn't yet have concrete plans for the future. "Sometimes I want to attempt new things. Sometimes I want to follow my brother's footsteps," she notes, which would involve pursuing a master's degree. Right now, further studies in percussion seem probable.


"Music is what I know and love best," she says. "The possibilities of percussion are endless. It would be ideal if I could perform with the ensemble while working as an instructor."


The article was published in the Oct 2022 issue of Academy NewsClick here to read the original story.)



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