For two nights in February, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine students sang, danced and acted their hearts out in the musical Operation Theatre 3: The Elusive Promise. The Musical showcased their musical and acting talents and proved to all in the audience that their talents go far beyond their studies.
The entire musical was conceptualised by the students from the script to the musical arrangements down to their costumes. Going beyond just entertainment for the night, the students chose to donate their profit from ticket sales and fund raising to the NUH Patientcare Charity Fund. Raising an impressive $34,704.29, Producer Eunice Chua and Assistant Producer Ray Lai, share with us their OT3 journey.
1. What was the motivation behind the conceptualising of OT3?
Eunice: I was previously involved in OT2 so the motivation stemmed from the amazing experience of being involved in the production of a charity musical. The good friends and memories made from the previous OT was a strong factor in the decision to be involved in another OT production.
Ray: The previous two OTs were great successes, in terms of how they bonded the student body together and raised money for charity. We thought it would be a great experience to stage another production. Also, staging a third successful musical would really cement the place of OT as a tradition of our medical school.
2. What was your role in OT3?
Eunice: I was the producer. This involved a lot of administrative work in terms of finding suitable and available performing venues, searching for a suitable charity organisation, collaborating with the Dean's Office to get support and meeting with prominent people to get financial sponsorship. We also had to encourage and inspire participation from the 5 batches to join OT3.
Ray: I was one of the two assistant producers. My role was largely administrative and involved overseeing marketing, ticketing, publicity and welfare.
3. How much time and effort did you have to dedicate to the musical?
Eunice: Initial planning started from March 2009 I think. The intensive period which required the most effort was in the initial stages of planning as well as the final stages nearing production dates. Thankfully, we had our supportive department heads to help helm the whole thing too.
Ray: Nowhere near as much as Eunice. I was fortunate to have a very capable team of people working with me, which made life a lot easier.
4. How did you balance your studies with your involvement in the musical?
Eunice: It was not easy to juggle studies with work in the musical sometimes, but the balancing was achieved mainly through careful prioritization as well as delegation of work that had to be done.
Ray: I'm not sure. I happened to have a series of less "busy" clinical postings during the months leading up to the musical, which worked in my favour. But for a period of time, OT3 was pretty much the only extra-curricular activity I was doing.
5. Why did you choose to include a charity aspect to the musical when you could have just focused on the musical?
Eunice: There were a couple of times when we faced great financial strain that this question also came up to my mind. Although, yes it could have been so much easier to channel all our money to the musical instead of having an additional burden of raising money for a charity, it was a challenge that we had decided to take up due to a few reasons. One, there was a tradition of sorts to follow, as our predecessors from OT2 successfully managed to raise a considerable sum of money for their beneficiary "Medical Students Bursary Fund". Secondly, we wanted to instil the culture of 'giving back to the community' as much as possible.
Ray: Part of it was that we wanted to continue raising money for charity, as OT2 had done before us. But personally I also felt it would have been indulgent for us, as medical students, to stage a large-scale musical for our own entertainment, without considering the good we could do by giving back to those less fortunate.
6. Why did you choose NUH Patientcare Charity as a beneficiary?
Eunice: We wanted to give something back to the patients, as they play an important role in our learning. In addition, given the financial problems many patients have, we wanted to put the money into a fund that would accessible to them. NUH was chosen as it is one of the prominent teaching hospitals and they have always given a lot of support to our medical student body.
7. Was there a target amount that your team wanted to raise? Did you manage to meet that target?
Eunice: Our target was $35,000. No we did not meet that target.
Ray: Our original target was $35,000 in profit and direct donations to the PatientCare Fund. We knew it was an ambitious target from the outset, especially since our operational costs were projected to run so high. However, our philosophy was that it would be better to aim high and fall short, rather than aim low and be happy with very little. In the end, with a lot of help, we managed to raise about $34,704.29. in total. We may not have reached our target, but I believe we can still be very proud of raising this amount.
8. How methods did you use to raise funds apart from ticket sales?
Eunice: We approached our seniors in the hospitals on a departmental level to raise awareness of the beneficiary we were raising money for. We also wrote letters and got in contact with businesses and private corporations to encourage donations to the charity fund.
Ray: We contacted various companies and foundations to seek sponsorship. We approached our professors and doctors in hospital to ask for their donations and support. We staged previews at the department level in hospital, in order to raise awareness and sell VIP tickets.
9. What were the challenges you face when embarking on this fund raising effort?
Eunice: In a poor economic year, it was difficult to convince people to donate to our cause. In addition, we faced a lot of red tape in getting to various people to publicize our event to. Other challenges included fund raising fatigue within our department when the response was poor, having to balance our fundraising and our costs of producing this musical.
Ray: The first challenge was that most of our marketing team, and me, actually had very little experience in marketing! So we were blessed with a group of people who were willing to try something new. The whole journey was a learning experience for all of us.
We were unfortunately not as successful in getting corporate sponsorship as we would have liked. This might have been due to the poor economy or the fact that we only started seeking sponsorship in the later half of the financial year.
Money only started coming in during the few weeks leading up to the production, when we really should have tied up all our financial issues already. It was hard to try and focus on marketing when the production itself demanded attention - so it's a good thing we had 3 producers.
On the flip side, we were very fortunate to have the kind support of ACJC, our venue sponsor, as well as NUHS and the Dean's Office. NUHS supported us not only financially but also by publicizing our musical through various channels, which was a real boon.
10. How has OT3 changed your perception of fund raising?
Eunice: Fund raising is not easy! It takes a lot of patience and perseverance. It is also essential to have a dedicated team who have lots of good contacts. Having thick-skin is a must.
Ray: I sort of expected it would be difficult; I didn't know it would be this difficult. I found it to be a valuable learning experience. The most important lesson I learned is that to be successful in fundraising, it's important to have realistic expectations, boundless optimism and lots of guts, all at the same time. I'll take the experience with me into future projects.
11. What is one piece of advice you would like to give your juniors when they embark on OT4 in the future?
Eunice: Start planning early. Have a good team of department heads to help spread out work. Have clear objectives and goals and communicate them well to everyone involved in this production. Communication is key!
Ray: Just do it. Impossible is nothing. Go. Keep walking.