Malaysian director makes debut on New York’s theatre stage

Ruben, who left Malaysia in 2003 to study in Melbourne, holds a degree in production design from the Victorian College of the Arts of Melbourne University.

NEW YORK: A Malaysian stage director and production designer is making his debut in New York with a play called “Thicker Than Water”.

It will be staged on May 18 at the Public Theater’s iconic Joe’s Pub.

The 35-year-old Kuala Lumpur-born Govin Ruben, who divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne, uses the name of his company “Terryandthecuz” for the directorial and designing work he carries out in his stage plays.

Ruben, who left Malaysia in 2003 to study in Melbourne, holds a degree in production design from the Victorian College of the Arts of Melbourne University.

TerryandTheCuz, formed in 2004 by Terrence Conrad and Govin Ruben (aka The Cuz), has designed, written, directed and created work for almost every genre of art – theatre, dance, art installations and even puppetry.

Conrad is a Kuala Lumpur-based accountant-cum-film buff.

In an interview with Bernama in New York, Ruben recalled that he had actually started to study law but abandoned it halfway, as he puts it, at the advice of his mother who perceived that he was more suited to production designing.

The stage play called “Thicker Than Water” is a Malaysian-Australian collaboration with support from Malaysia’s ‘Cendana’ (Cultural Economic Development Agency) in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office, and the Australia Council for the Arts. It will have its world premiere at Joe’s Pub.

“Thicker than Water” will have four shows, all of which will be at Joe’s Pub, which can accommodate some 180 people at a time.

Joe’s Pub, one of the six performance spaces within the Public Theater, is a music venue and restaurant that hosts live performances across genres and arts, ranging from cabaret to modern dance to world music.

It is named after Joseph Papp, the theatrical producer who established the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater and the free Shakespeare in the Park programme in New York’s Central Park.

Ruben said that the George Town Festival in Penang had also offered to stage his play during the festival.

“TerryandtheCuz” has already staged plays in Malaysia such as My Lingam Speaks, Klu,do!, The Bee Project, Flatland, Welcome2Flatland, SK!N, etc.

Explaining the central idea of his play, Ruben said that “Thicker than Water” offers a new look at the American dream seen through the eyes of those aspiring to come to the US.

But what exactly is the American dream? The play takes a lighter view of the initial grind or struggle which each new arrival has to go through before achieving the much-touted American dream.

“’Thicker than Water’ is the story of two Malaysian film-makers trying to make it to Hollywood by writing a script that drifts away from the original idealist liberal rhetoric.

“Can these two Malaysians find acceptance in America and be convincing enough that they are more American than the ‘apple pie’?”