Discovering relationships through Love Letters
Actors Nelson Chia and Mia Chee met 20 years ago in a Mandarin version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They shared the stage two years later, in Kuo Pao Kun’s The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole.
Courtship and marriage followed for the couple, and they continued to collaborate as thespians and co-founders of the homegrown theatre company, Nine Years Theatre. But in all these years since, they have not had a chance to share the stage again.
This year, however, as the couple mark their 15th wedding anniversary, they will act across each other in the Esplanade’s production of Love Letters, as part of its annual Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts.
The popular 1988 play by American playwright A. R. Gurney follows the relationship between a pair of childhood friends through the 50 years of snail mail they exchange.
The Esplanade will present Mandarin and Cantonese performances of the show, with the couple acting in the Mandarin shows and Rensen Chan and Jo Ngai of Hong Kong’s The Nonsensemakers acting in the Cantonese productions.
We ask Chia and Chee what it has been like for them to reunite on stage.
How has being co-actors in Love Letters led you to discover new things about each other?
Chia: It made me realise we have developed similar tastes and approaches in artistic creation, which is especially beneficial for this play. The two characters exist mostly in different spaces, but we need to maintain a sense of them being in the same universe throughout the play. That we have the same kind of energy on stage helps.
Chee: Watching Nelson think about the play as a director, and then perform in it as an actor, leaves me amazed at how he can compartmentalise these different tasks. But this is not so much a new discovery as renewed amazement at his abilities.
What has working on Love Letters taught you about love?
Chia: The two protagonists love each other despite being apart for most of their lives and living a very different life from the other. This made me think about how love can take many forms. It also made me reconsider what “being in a relationship” means.
Chee: If you insist on your standards and perceptions, and let ego come between you and your partner, you are not building up your relationship.
What kinds of love letters do you write each other?
Chee: Our love notes are short texts when either one of us is away.
Chia: By the time we were dating, communication had been taken over by web chats and SMS, so we unfortunately didn’t have a lot of opportunities to write letters to each other. Nevertheless, I do remember fondly our days of chatting on ICQ (an instant messaging platform) into the wee hours of the morning.
The replies are edited excerpts. Details about Love Letters here.