This presentation connects the growing up experiences of five established Singapore theatre practitioners, Alvin Tan, Alfian Sa’at, Haresh Sharma, Kok Heng Leun and Ong Keng Sen, and their theatre practice which generates dialogic encounters on the Singapore stage. Drawing from research interviews, I make critical links between particular memories and perceptions they discuss in their considerations of culture and identity, with approaches to performance making that characterize their ethos of inclusivity and openness. Unthreatened by difference but able to incorporate the possibilities of mix as desirable, not disruptive, their work reconfigures elements of culture to perform a ‘critical multiculturalism’ (Daniel Goh) that provokes audiences to engage with boundaries as porous yet situated. In so doing I suggest they build ‘dialogic empathy’ (Linda Cummings) to enhance capacities for ‘Open Culture’ (Kuo Pao Kun).
Charlene Rajendran is a theatre educator, dramaturg and practitioner who is currently Associate Professor at the National Institute of Education - Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her publications include Performing Southeast Asia: Performance, Politics and the Contemporary (co-editor, 2020,), Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit and Contemporary Malaysian Theatre (co-editor, 2018), a range of journal articles, book chapters and creative works. As dramaturg she has worked on interdisciplinary and community arts projects including In the Silence of Your Heart (Kaylene Tan, 2018), Both Sides, Now (Drama Box and ArtsWok, 2013-2018), Ghost Writer (The Necessary Stage, 2016), The Malay Man and His Chinese Father (Akulah Bimbo Sakti, 2016). Her research interests include issues of identity in multicultural contexts, dramaturgy, play-based pedagogy and arts leadership. She is Co-Director of the Asian Dramaturgs’ Network (ADN) and Lead Editor of the ADN Re/View.
Image from Tanah•Air 水•土：A Play In Two Parts (2019). © Drama Box