Reflections on Performing in the Musical “Miss Saigon”

If you didn’t get to see the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s summer production of Miss Saigon, which we were excited was sold out for many of the 14 performances, then don’t worry, but I still wanted to share some of my thoughts, observations, and reflections about some of the scenes in this 12-longest running Broadway musical!

(And, I also wanted to share an acoustic song I wrote, called “A Million Things,” about the struggles between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl that take place during “The Heat is On in Saigon” bar scene).

I learned and grew a lot in this challenging role of Kim and have tried to relate to and express her many struggles (internal and external), both subtly and dramatically.

This was an exciting opportunity for me to perform–with both singing and acting–and I have really worked hard on expressing my innermost feelings and emotions, based on thoughts I have had related to some experiences in the past.

In a myriad of conflicts, during the Vietnam War, the musical Miss Saigon tells the story–over a 3 year period–of a 17-year-old orphan from a remote village in the country.

Kim, the lead character I explore, finds herself in a seedy night club setting, where the Engineer shamelessly promotes her as “new and fresh from the country…

Legs unparted; parts uncharted,” and she gradually adapts to a notoriously sleazy lifestyle of selling amor.

She begins to fall in love with an American GI, named Chris, whose friend has eagerly bartered for “the girl in the dress.”

And, what begins with a cheap barter for Kim, made by Chris’s friend John, Kim is brusquely handed over to Chris and, awkwardly, they slow dance together.

Her offers her some cash, but she refuses, and gracefully takes his hand.  They continue onward, into the night, and a connection develops.  And, they can’t help but feel that there is a special love that lingers on into the dawn…

After an intimate night with Chris, Kim sleeps soundly, while Chris consorts with God in “Why God Why,” belaying his affection for her and also his immense struggle–not wanting to leave Saigon with such bad memories of his time there–yet also remembering the beauty of the girl he met there and the smell of her “cheap perfume.”He is enamoured by the brilliant flame of their love on “a night like this.”

Waking up to a handful of money, Kim feels groggy and confused about Chris’s dutiful payment.

She knows to expect this as typical, but feels strongly that there is something much more to their love.

Chris expresses to her that many girls he has been with in Vietnam have longed to flee the country to go to America, and Kim has a vivid flash back of when her remote village was devoured in flames and “her parents were bodies whose faces were gone.” She tearfully recounts this painful experience, as Chris is moved and tries hard to console her.

Kim grabs the traditional Vietnamese dress and her sandals by his cot and rushes towards the door to leave, but he catches her by the shoulders and asks her if she can meet him again that night, but with her eyes downcast, she replies that she’ll be at the place she always has to be, but hates…”the club, selling beaucoup amor.”

Chris is upset by her dismay for returning to this lifestyle and doesn’t want her to be there at all and sits her down on the bed.

They exchange their love tenderly, in “Sun and Moon,” where they notice “Day  starts to dawn,” as the couple heads up the stairs towards the balcony.  “The birds awake,” Kim glances down, as her “hands still shake,” and they “meet in the sky!”

The conversations between John and Chris convey a struggle in the “Telephone Sequence,” as John urges Chris to leave Saigon, and simply can’t understand why Chris is so attached to the “Konghai whore,” he had originally bartered for.  John is gravely concerned that his buddy’s life is at stake.

But, Chris urges him that he is in love and that “she’s no whore; she’s really more like the April moon.”

The Engineer, a colorful main character, who is in charge of the performers at the night club, sleazily tries to bribe Chris with a Rolex watch in exchange for a Visa to go to America with and takes Chris’s “six weeks income and is gone in one.”

The scene shifts, as candles on the altar are lit.  Champagne is poured into slender glasses, and Kim’s Vietnamese friends arrive.

The friends bless their marriage, singing “Dju Vui Vai” to the newlyweds, praying and drink a toast to the new couple.

Clink!  The glasses are raised high into the air, as two unwelcomed guests slip in and appear at their gathering, startling the crowd.

Thuy, Kim’s cousin and former husband, enters with the armed Assistant Commissar and reminds Kim of their unrelenquished love that he wants so desparately to renew.

Thuy menacingly draws his weapon, threatening her and her American husband, who he views this foreign American man as a threat.

Shadows fall.  “The Morning of the Dragon” becomes the Fall of Saigon, as soldiers of the Northern Vietnamese Army march in and perform a terrifying frenzied dance.

Soldiers, tiger dancers, and flag bearers pour in, flashing by like a streaks of lightening, “and in the white heat of dawn were gone.”

In “I Still Believe,” two women in two different worlds–of the East and West– convey their struggles to maintain a lasting bond with their Chris, who feels trapped between two relationships (one that is “here and now” and one that has been left behind).

After Kim dutifully finds some work cleaning, she finds that the Engineer has tracked her down, and in “Coo Coo Princess,” the Engineer tries to lure her back into the strip club lifestyle she left.

Her jaw drops, and she is dismayed to find that the Engineer has actually lead Thuy to her.

Thuy takes her hand and reminds her of the vows she made to her father that bound them in their former marriage, trying desperately to convince her that he can rebuild her life and fulfill the vows their fathers made.

Having moved on from a difficult separation from her last husband Chris, Kim refuses.

Thuy’s temper rises into a passive aggressive fury, as he ushers in several armed soldiers from his army to patronize Kim and the Engineer and hold them hostage.

Held at gun point, the soldiers throw them to the floor roughly, belittle them verbally and blindfold them both…

Cowering and shaken, the Engineer and Kim are left there to their own devices and are somehow able to remove their blindfolds.

Kim, with tears in her eyes, tells the Engineer that she has a husband she loves, “real as the sun in the sky,” and says that she “cannot live with a lie.”

Thuy rushes in, forcefully entering the scene again, and yells at the Engineer to get the hell out.  Thuy reminds her of their fathers’ vows that he wants to fulfill and conveys his longing to marry his bride,  “bright as jade.”

Kim pleads urgently to be left alone…And, with a distant gaze and soft smile, she expresses how she feels–about beautiful light that shines through the darkness from the very depths of her soul:

“Somewhere deep in my soul shines the smallest of lights, and no wind blows it out. It burns steady and strong…Through the darkest of nights.”

Enter: Kim’s and Chris’s son, Tam, who soon becomes the apple of Kim’s eye…and her main motivation for going to America.

After an intense struggle with Thuy–Commissar of the Northern Vietnamese Army, who she was once betrothed to in an arranged marriage at age 13–she ends up killing Thuy, in a desperate scramble to protect her own child…and shaken, flees from the scene.

Kim’s love for her son is powerful, and she becomes very protective of him, as Thuy’s fury is unleashed and he becomes violent with her and her young boy.  She defends her child, who is her “only joy,” and draws the gun she got from Chris.

The gun falls hard with a dramatic thud, as her heart and all time seem to stop…Struggling to stand up with weak knees and catch her breath, she covers her mouth in horror as Thuy falls, dying, to the floor.

She rushes over to her son Tam, trying to cover his eyes.  As Thuy gasps a last few breaths, Kim is in a vulnerable state of desperation and is feels at odds with what has happened.  Her delicate body drapes over him, as tears fall from her face and she realizes what she has done.

Thuy’s body is carried off into the distance, and Kim and Tam run off of the stage in distress, now, in two very different realms.

This scene and the very tragic ending were some of the most difficult parts of the musical for me to experience emotionally.

I truly thought about how devastating it would actually be to have to protect your child’s life and your own and end up taking someone else’s life–also realizing this child had seen and heard everything.

It’s hard to fathom, and when I thought about how much she and Thuy had been through, I was deeply moved by these feelings, allowing the natural buildup of heart-wrenching emotions to swell and for real tears to fall…like a poignant rain from the sky.

6 Performances of Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s Miss Saigon Left

Well, we are in the home stretch, with 6 performances to go with Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s production of Miss Saigon, and we are excited to share this dramatic love story with different audiences.

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In a harmonious medley of music (thanks to David), acting (thanks to Jamie), and dance (thanks to John), by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Richard Maltby, Jr., Alain Boubil, and William David Brohn, our cast and musicians have tried to make each show count.

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The cast has come a long way from our very first rehearsal, and the confidence level– over each rehearsal and show–has grown tremendously, also.  I was concerned about some minor things at first.

It seems that we have been through everything– from forgotten lines to wardrobe malfunctions to technical sound issues–and lots of other difficulties in between.

I’ve gotten pretty used to going with the flow for shows and have become used to adapting to a  variety of mishaps, which have come up in other shows too, so it wasn’t too hard for me to keep on going…

But I have a hard time not laughing, at times, or breaking character ever, which actually takes more self-control than I realized.

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There was a time in a show when the gun I used to shoot one of the characters (Thuy) came loose from the holster that I had underneath my costume, and I heard someone in the audience commenting and laughing about it.

So, I tried my best to keep the gun in place under my costume with just my arm, but after some awkward fumbling, it became very obvious I had a concealed weapon I was going to draw.

But, fortunately, the time when I was supposed to get the gun out wasn’t too, too early on.  There was another show when I drew the gun a little too late…

Thuy was saying, “Oh, look, you have a gun! And, it’s a U.S. gun…” and then I realized I was too late in drawing it, which had appeared like an afterthought.

“Oh, yeah, you’re right…Whoops, ok, well here it is!” I thought, drawing it out as quickly as possible and still trying to keep my composure.

The wardrobe (thanks to Zach) and wigs (thanks to Gray) were colorful and dynamic, with lots of different scene changes.

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Et Voila!  The striking, pitch black Asian hair in Act 1 gains even more oomph with bright, bold colors in the Bangkok scene and then turns into flirtatious, curly, platinum bobs with red headbands, in American Dream.

The authentic Vietnamese dresses (thanks to Kim W. and her family), with traditional high collars and floral design, were the most difficult outfits for me to wear.

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With about 10 small buttons and hooks and very little time in between costume changes, my fingers worked frantically to put each dress on…

But, finally, I have mastered it!  During the “Sun and Moon Reprise,” where I have to change back into my original wedding dress on stage, during my singing, the beautiful golden dress I have to put on would have ended up with the whole front flap hanging open awkwardly.

In solution, Kim W., a fellow cast mate in the ensemble–with a strong high soprano voice– sewed 3 large buttons on to this dress, strategically placed to minimize the extra fumbling.

Special thanks to Kim, and also a special thanks to Amber, who plays the role of Gigi, (with her rich, deep voice that tugs at peoples’ heart strings and sticks to the mind in “Movie in My Mind”).

 

1924324_10100364051425003_4998089255448131140_nWorking together with the cast, musicians, and crew at the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance has proved both an interesting and rewarding growth experience.

Overall, we have learned to encourage one another, while accepting each others’ differences, appreciating individual strengths, and working with weaknesses in a way that we can be proud of and walk away from this experience feeling wiser, greater, and stronger.

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I am grateful for this role and opportunity and am looking forward to staying in touch with everyone when the production is over!

10514722_10100364051489873_1941366217232784773_nTickets are still available for upcoming shows, through Sunday, August 3. Visit the box office online or get tickets from the WS Theatre Alliance, at 1047 W. Northwest Blvd, Winston-Salem.

Click here to learn more about cast reflections of this production, in an article written by Lynn Felder in Relish of the Winston-Salem Journal.

And, here is more by Ms. Felder, on the WS Theatre Alliance production of Miss Saigon.

Thank you to photographers, Matt Lopina and Jenny Viars of Dancing Lemur!  Beautiful captures, and thanks for sharing.

Susan’s Music Journey (Retrospective, Perspective, and Futurespective)

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Throughout the course of my journey into music, I have been finding and rediscovering myself, learning my best strengths and worst weaknesses, and exploring different styles and genres. I am learning to try to embrace who I am, at any given moment, and strive to go beyond what I think I’m capable of to create something really meaningful and memorable.

Growing up with a background in classical ballet and taking piano and violin lessons, I developed an interplay of technique and artistry, along with a keen sense for rhythm and musicality.

The only thing I lacked was the actual passion for music itself, which is what now drives me onward, as my greatest passion.  I also absolutely hated practicing, but did so anyway out of a childish desire to collect pennies and scratch-and-sniff stickers (strawberry and lemonade were my favorites).

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My first love was ballet, and I pursued it whole-heartedly. I endured the rigors of intensive training and the harsh and critical eyes that analyzed my every movement and quickly learned that ballet was not only a performing art, but also an athletic sport (and a competitive one, at that).

My goal was to be a professional ballet dancer with a company, but I realized how early most careers ended and how tough the odds were of making it, but what really changed my direction was having my heart completely broken in two.

Comparing this caliber of ballet training to training in the military is not too far off, and ballet dancers were often known as “iron butterflies,” who were so graceful, beautiful and poised on the outside, but inside they were really hurting and struggling…

Some of the major physical , mental and emotional demands of ballet broke so many down and were the cause of some major difficulties and hardships, including addictions, eating disorders, drug, alcohol and substance abuse, risk of suicide, and other serious issues that I fortunately never had experienced, but knew others had.

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Having your whole psyche broken down and feeling physically burned out at such an early age was not easy to recover from, but I have developed a immovable resiliency and an inner strength that always keeps me afloat, even in the stormiest of weather.  I will never forget what I went through, and after much healing, have been able to reflect on my experiences and grow.

I consider my bittersweet romance with ballet as sort of a difficult first relationship.  There was certainly a love/hate complex involved, and there were lots of life lessons learned.  I hung on as best I could, but I later decided we just needed to part ways.  And, this is where I am hearing the song “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve in my mind’s ear and realizing there is a song for everything we go through.

No, music doesn’t enter in in the next chapter, but will make a lasting reappearance after (I promise).  And, it will not just be a cameo…

For several years, I precociously assumed the title of “quadruple threat,” and pursued my passion for modeling, acting, singing, and still dancing.  I attended the AMTC (Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ) talent convention that takes place twice a year in Orlando, Florida, learned a lot about the industry, enjoyed performing in front of several hundred people and also gained some invaluable contacts.

The staff and coaches at AMTC touched on the importance of being as prepared and presentable as possible, presenting your strengths as professionally as possible, so that those in the industry will take you more seriously and also looking the part, but being a “blank canvas” with developable potential.

Shortly after, I signed with a reputable local talent agency and began focusing on modeling and acting.  I enjoyed doing print and video work for a variety of clients, such as Bank of America, Shawlsmith London, Allegacy Credit Union, High Point Regional Health, Rubbermaid Medical, ELLE Interior, and other clients.

Meanwhile, I was itching to explore music and really wanted to sing.  I had no idea how to even be in a band, much less do my own booking or recording.  I soon discovered reverbnation.com, bandcamp.com, and some other music sites that I love and that have helped me network and grow.

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At the time, I think I had about 70 or 80 lyric sheets I had written, many of which started out as simple poems.  I smile as I remember developing my first melodies, with a simple chord progression on the acoustic guitar and piano…

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The writing is usually always what came to mind first, and then I began to hear the words as a song.  I cannot begin to describe how effortlessly these ideas come to me and eventually form into a beautiful piece, a song.  I really feel blessed to have found my creative calling.

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I started performing in my first cover band, as the newbie frontwoman, and remember some of the “hardcore” male musicians I was performing with were saying my material was a little “too girly” for them (they wanted to perform Metallica, Van Halen and Tool, not Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch, and Sheryl Crow).

Well, what can I say? Those female artists were some of my first loves and have influenced my sound and style.  I may have been a bit pitchy back then, but I still sang passionately, and I didn’t let anyone’s negative comments deter me.  I have certainly grown a lot vocally, also.  I will always look back lovingly at my first steps, however shaky.

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I have minimal regrets in life and choose to see my missteps and mistakes as lessons for learning and opportunities for growing.

There are so many who share my same dream, and I hope that they are also able to live theirs to the fullest.  I will continue to work towards my goals in music, as I share my songs, lift my voice and play my music with passion…

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And, I hope you will continue to feel the beat…the drum beat, like my heart beat.

Please take a listen to “My Hearts Beating “ (an acoustic song I wrote after being inspired by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers).

And, also to “Hearts Beating” (an electronic song I wrote after being  inspired by Bono in U2).

I hope you’ll join me, as my journey continues…

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Your Truly and Musically,

Susan Boyoung Bailey

Weekly writers’ workshops for survivors of domestic abuse

Originally posted on :

The Greensboro Commission on the Status of Women is conducting workshops to help women who are survivors of domestic violence, or who have family members who have suffered domestic violence.

The commission will host five writing workshops that are intended to encourage women to write through group exercises and exploration. The workshops are intended to help women share or express any aspects, moments or memories of their stories. They are intended to help women tell of their experiences with abuse and survival in a exercise to empower and help them find and craft their voices, according to a city news release.

The first workshop is 6 p.m. Thursday, August 8, at Warnersville Recreation Center, 601 Doak St.

Women Writers of the Triad will provide writers trained in facilitating workshops with abused women, according to the news release. The writings will be compiled following the workshops and shared, read or performed…

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Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person

Originally posted on :

Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will jump up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.
Audre Lorde

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An In-Depth View of Susan’s First Album, Landscape Changes!

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My first album is available on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and Cdbaby, and I am sharing (3) FREE tracks from this album you can download NOW!

I am excited to be sharing my first album, “Landscape Changes,” a sweet and nostalgic 10-song collection about the ever-changing landscapes and other elements in life that are constantly changing and shifting, and yet there is an incredible, love that remains constant.

Please click here to learn more about each song!

I hope to share this love through my music and my life and am thankful for all of the gifts and blessings I have been given. And, I want to dedicate this album to the people who so generously shared this love, but also to those who didn’t…May their lives be blessed, and may they experience this love, also.

This music project has proved an interesting and inspiring process for me, by which to learn, grow, and aspire, as both a singer/songwriter/musician and as a person.  And although, I have experienced some incredible struggles, heartaches, and hardships that have brought me to my knees and almost broken me, I have emerged as a more real, loving, and thoughtful individual thanks to God and the people who have shared a beautiful love with me that is real and unconditional.

My several years of living in the beautiful, rural countryside of Colfax, NC have been some of the most challenging and difficult times of my life that have truly tested my physical and emotional strength and fortitude.  I really never expected to live here in the rural South, and it has been an interesting and also a challenging place to live.  I have learned to respect, appreciate, and love the people who live here, their way of life.

It troubles me to witness more and more beautiful farms becoming housing developments and shopping centers, where for generations some families made their living off of making best use of the land.  An area–that like many rural places across the country–is constantly changing and growing, I hope we can find the time to pause and reflect on and appreciate the history, roots, and natural wonder of the people and place we are in…

The flowing, organic sound and style of many of the songs in Landscape Changes (with the humble exception of when I was very in the mood for something rockish with “Cornflake [Dot Dot Dot,]” is along the lines of folk/folk rock/pop rock/country.  And, I have enjoyed working with some talented local musicians who have contributed their time and talent with a variety of beautiful instruments: mandolin, dobro, saxophone, ukulele, guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums/percussion.

Credits: Lead Guitar by Marshall Clark and Johnathan Loos, Drums & Percussion by Dustin Dean and Karrie Sheenan, Dobro & Mandolin by Wake Clinard, Viola by Susan Terry,  Saxophone by Matthew Miller, Banjo by Tyler Nail.  (And, I have enjoyed writing and adding vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboard, and drums). A special thanks to Jonathan Loos and Tyler Nail!

Thank you also to Kathy and Patriot Rovers of High Point, for their generous support of the lives of servicemen and servicewomen, veterans, and our beloved canines and to Coryn and The Leaf, who enrich and inspire so many lives with the arts and culture locally (in Black Mountain, NC) and internationally.

I hope you enjoy this original folk/pop rock/country style music, from my heart to your ears!

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Thank you for your time and support,

Susan Boyoung Bailey

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Facefirst Band Photoshoot with Sound Lizzard Productions

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Have been working for Sound Lizzard Productions, with a local cover band that has a classic rock/alternative rock style, to coordinate their EP recording project with Zoo Station Studios, a promotional shoot with Richard Philips of Brush and Lens, and soon they will be putting together their EPK.

These are some candids from the shoot in downtown Winston-Salem, where they shot in front of graffitied walls, industrial textures, and a train in motion.

I was amazed at the diverse collection of junk/raw art, just waiting to be discovered, that lay scattered alongside the train tracks, by what seemed to also be a temporary home for some homeless, vagabonds, or adventurers.

Narrowing the shoot images down from several hundred to 10 was a challenge, but each shot distinctively conveyed the band members’ individual personality and musical sound/style.

Looking forward to sharing some from the two looks on the Brush and Lens Facebook page.

Singer Songwriter Musician

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