HKBU Enews Eyes on HKBU
Jan 2014 | Issue 40

Lee Ka-wai (Year 2, School of Communication):
Rushing towards a dream

"We once wrote ourselves a letter promising to allow ourselves 10 years to hang on to our theatre together," Lee Ka-wai says. The Year 2 Film major at HKBU’s School of Communication got the theatre, which was set up with her fellow drama enthusiasts in secondary school, registered as a society. Because of scarce resources, they have devoted even greater efforts to chasing their dream.

Rush Theatre
The name Rush Theatre originated in its founders’ desire to rush towards their dream without hesitation. "I set up the theatre with a group of classmates when I was in Secondary 6. Later, we wanted to do street art and got a good response to our experimental performances. We realised we had to address the legal issues. Therefore, we registered our theatre as a society in 2013.” Ka-wai says the society has eight core members and 32 other members. She acts as the artistic director.

"Because we want to have 100% creative freedom, we’ve kept our theatre independent from any organisations," she says. Members are held responsible for scriptwriting and staging performances, and they have to bear all the expenditures as well. "Our principle is to run our theatre at zero cost. We also put money we earned from part-time jobs or our pocket money into it."

When they were invited to perform in Macau some time ago, although they had travel allowances, to keep costs down they took sleeping bags with them and slept on the auditorium floor at night. Fortunately, their first open repertoire The 52 Hertz World earned a profit thanks to the satisfactory box office results and the effective cost control measures. "We fully utilised free online platforms, and also promoted our performance within the theatre industry. Most of the insiders hadn’t heard of Rush Theatre, but they probably thought we had guts. Some veterans also bought tickets to attend our performance and we had a full house." She smiles and says that this was truly a strong encouragement to the whole team and they were all very excited.

Her work
So far, Ka-wai has written 13 scripts for radio plays and several drama scripts. "Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups had invited me to write scripts for their online radio station, but after five plays were broadcast, they cancelled the online radio station due to the restructuring of the organisation. I got those copyrights back, and they will be staged by Rush Theatre and broadcast on YouTube later. "

She says that she can master realistic themes better, and this subject matter has won her some screenplay writer awards. However The 52 Hertz World is a fantasy story, which incorporates themes such as life and death and the connections between people. "When I was writing the story, the beloved principal of my secondary school had just passed away. In addition, I had just gained admission to the university and felt upset that my fellow classmates who had all been so close were now scattered. I was in a low mood." She does not deny that the creative process was lonely, and there were many rounds of revisions before arriving at the final version.

"Many mature audience members were moved, but we also received comments from seniors that we’re too young and don’t have enough life experience to manage such subjects." Nevertheless, what delighted her most was that the actors were very well received by the audience, including the professionals. "Many of the actors are my new friends at university and for some of them, this was their very first performance."

Her struggles
Last November, Ka-wai was elected as one of the Ten Best Artists at The 5th Hong Kong Youth Arts Festival jointly held by Hong Kong Playground Association and Radio Television Hong Kong for her experience in running a theatre. While she was encouraged, she says she also feels guilty. "The theatre is a group effort, but I got the award as an individual. Although my members didn’t resent me and even attended the ceremony to support me, I felt bad."

These days are not without struggle. "We don't have a mentor, funding, enough performance opportunities and our own space. We have to record radio plays in the dorm or at home, and need to go to the rooftops of shopping malls or rented stadiums for rehearsals. This isn’t only tough but poses many restrictions. Some seniors think that this might not be good to our members’ development and suggest we join the large theatres. "

But she remembers the letter they wrote themselves. “We promised we would spend 10 years developing Rush Theatre, and we still have a lot of plans and ideas. Therefore, even if we encounter setbacks, we will persevere." She says with a smile that she hopes to graduate sooner and to make money for running the theatre. She is always optimistic about the prospects of the theatre. "We have only been formally established for a year, but we have already received some attention. We hope that we can improve on the one hand, while on the other hand, trying to find sponsors." In fact, the young members have rejected the offers of many relatives and friends to be their private sponsors. "We don’t want it to be like parents giving children some money to buy toys."

Her dreams

"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a news anchor, so I became a school reporter in primary school. Later, our teacher taught us film shooting and editing, and I fell in love with it," she laughs. Also, her parents exposed her to a variety of local and foreign films at a very young age. There were always a lot of amazing ideas in her head, which generated the dream that she would become a film director one day. Therefore, she picked her favourite, Film, as her major in Year 2.

"I truly enjoy attending lectures at the Academy of Film, as they are about all the things I most want to learn, such as multimedia production." What Ka-wai values most is that the teachers are never only concerned about the students’ skills, but place more emphasis on the concepts behind their works, and always encourage them to develop their own styles. "Meanwhile, the teachers helped me understand that, in the creative process, first of all, we have to be moved by the work ourselves in order to move others. This is also true for script writing."

"I love both theatre and film. The difference is that you have only one single moment in theatre. When the performance is over, it is over; even if it was recorded, it is no longer the same. In film, you can condense the most beautiful images." She says that if one day, her main career is related to film with theatre on the sidelines, she would consider her life just perfect.