Play time

More locally written plays are being staged in Singapore.

At least 10 original scripts will be staged at venues such as the DBS Arts Centre, Gardens by the Bay and the University Cultural Centre Theatre at the National University of Singapore (NUS) this month.

It's not exactly Broadway or the West End, but local theatre practitioners are hailing the progress made.

Says Mr Jonathan Lim, 39, who runs the popular annual comedy sketch show Chestnuts: "Ten scripts in one month is quite an exception."

He explains that it is usually the tried and tested scripts that get re-staged.

"It's certainly heartening to see so many locals get the support they need to put up new scripts."

Says Ms Tracie Pang, 45, co-artistic director of Pangdemonium: "It's encouraging to see Singaporeans put pen to paper, and let audiences see their stories."

Ms Elaine Ng, the director of sector development at the National Arts Council (NAC), is also pleased, saying: "NAC is heartened to see such a high number of original Singapore plays being staged in March.

"It is encouraging to see the emergence of fresh voices and works, as a result of existing platforms and opportunities offered."

Of the scripts, two carry familiar names. They are by composer Dick Lee and full-time playwright Haresh Sharma.

Five more are from fresh faces, who will hear their words spoken by actors for the first time.

For example, student Brenda Tan, 18, will see her monologue about a father-daughter relationship leap from page to stage.

Her play - Reality Like Sai Only - will be staged by Buds Youth Theatre, part of Buds Theatre Company, from March 21 to 23.

Says the second-year student at Anglo-Chinese Junior College: "There were times I hesitated... I even considered scrapping it entirely.

"It was difficult to convince myself that what I had to say - considering my age - matters.

"Thankfully, I pushed through and just kept writing."

Another first-timer, Ms Judy Au, 23, adds: "Halfway, I just got stuck. I couldn't think of what my characters would say any more.

"Luckily, I improvised. I acted out the conversations, and jotted down the good lines. This helped me discover new directions for the play."

Ms Au's play - Wai? - will be staged as part of this year's NUS Arts Festival.

Theatre heavyweight The Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is putting up two plays that have been in the works for three years.

These are the first fruits of SRT's playwright incubator programme, introduced in 2011, to help writers with their scripts.

Under this programme, playwrights Dora Tan and Michelle Tan spent some time being mentored by American playwright David Henry Hwang, who won a Tony Award for his 1988 play M. Butterfly.

Despite all these new productions, theatre practitioners say local play writing still has some way to go.

Mr Alfian Sa'at, 36, resident playwright at Wild Rice, calls for a grant that theatre companies can tap into to nurture new playwrights.

He adds: "Maybe theatre companies can also devote one segment of their season programme to showcase new writing."

Says Mr Alvin Tan, 51, artistic director of The Necessary Stage: "At the end of the day, there are still only two Singaporeans who are full-time playwrights.

"It shows that there's still a lot more we can do more to support and sustain local playwriting."

What's on stage

1. Rising Son
Playwright: Dick Lee, 57, composer

A drama set during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. An ambulance orderly (Tan Shou Chen) does his best to protect his naïve, but headstrong, younger sister (Song Hui Xuan) from the horrific realities of war.

Show info, tickets from Sistic.

2. A Wedding, A Funeral And Lucky, The Fish
Playwright: Dora Tan, 51, freelance writer

A romantic comedy about women's obsession with marriage. A woman (Amy Cheng) brings her Caucasian boyfriend (Daniel Jenkins) to Singapore, but he doesn't know he will be participating in his own wedding tea ceremony.

Show info, tickets from Sistic.

3. Stand Behind The Yellow Line
Playwright: Michelle Tan, 27, full-time theatre practitioner

A single, homeless mother awaits her son's release from jail. She makes friends with someone who is young and rich but clinically depressed.

Show info, tickets from Sistic.

4. Poor Thing
Playwright: Haresh Sharma, 49, resident playwright at The Necessary Stage

A piece that involves social media interaction and grapples with the issue of road rage. Audiences will be invited to watch a video clip of an accident, then enter the theatre to catch the "live" action on stage.

Show info, tickets at poorthing.peatix.com.

5. Candlelight
Playwright: Joanna Hioe, 24, postgraduate student

A story of longing, love and legacy. The protagonist struggles to reconstruct the memory of his grandfather through stories - both his and his grandfather's. The protagonist and his daughter eventually understand what it means to tell stories of personal histories. Show info, tickets from Sistic.

6. Wai?
Playwright: Judy Au, 23, recent National University of Singapore graduate

An old couple learn about the London bombing from the news and try in vain to call their son working in the UK.

This reveals their fragile relationship and raises questions about parenthood and sacrifice.

Show info, tickets from Sistic.

7. Reality Like Sai Only
Playwright: Brenda Tan, 18, student

A monologue about a woman's regret as she recounts the deterioration of her relationship with her father.

Show info at budstheatre.com. Book by sending your name, mobile number and date and time of the show to info@budstheatre.com or 9621-8154.

8. Comeuppance Of The Media
Playwright: Shehnaz Salim, 19, writer and freelance events host

A light-hearted play about a government press release to control news on the Internet, resulting in the biggest protest rally in decades.

Show info at budstheatre.com. Book by sending your name, mobile number and date and time of the show to info@budstheatre.com or 9621-8154.

9. All Grown Up
Playwright: Sarah Supaat, 20, administrator at Buds Theatre Company

A comical coming-of-age drama about four cousins who reunite at a wedding and discover unlikely truths about one another.

Show info at budstheatre.com. Book by sending your name, mobile number and date and time of the show to info@budstheatre.com or 9621-8154.

10. Marco Polo
Playwright: Jovi Tan Yit Long, 16, winner in the youth category of last year's 24-Hour Playwriting Competition

Two blind friends, re-acquainted after death, discover that they are still blind. They try to figure out if they ended up in heaven or hell.

Free. To reserve seats, call TheatreWorks at 6737-7213 or e-mail tworks@singnet.com.sg


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