Imagine, a green tree trying to stand out in a busy green forest.
Who will the tree meet? Will the animals help?
Will the green tree ever achieve the dream of becoming a blue tree?
A new interactive, multilingual, intergenerational performance for children. Best for 4 to 7 years old. Inspired by the drawings by Dario Moretti and original story by Jeffrey Tan, this moving performance is limited to 60 children each performance.
This production is created with inspirations from the findings from Sept 2017 till May 2018 Residency at the Artground. Translations workshops in Sept 2017 and a contemporary dance performance by Little Raw in Nov 2017.
Audience Survey in Jan 2018, Design Audience Survey in Feb 2018, and Audience Trials in Mar, Apr and May 2018 before a six-shows run in May 2018.
Presented by La Boite and Backbone Theatre, Brisbane Australia
LA BOITE AND BACKBONE WELCOME GENUINE STORY-TELLERS WITH INSPIRING TALES FROM BRISBANE’S BACKYARD
Pop the kettle on and get to know your neighbours when La Boite rolls out the welcome mat for Open Homes, an intimate theatre project starring ordinary people telling personal stories in their own homes from 25 October – 10 November 2019.
The ground-breaking work from Singaporean artist Jeffrey Tan invites audiences into Brisbane homes to hear residents tell meaningful, essential and inspiring stories of their lived experiences.
These 15 everyday storytellers cross not only suburban boundaries but span an array of ages, living arrangements and cultural backgrounds.
The joint production between La Boite and Backbone paired each storyteller participant with a theatre professional to craft an intimate storytelling experience that they will perform four times across the Open Homes season – inside their own homes.
“Open Homes invites both residents and audiences to connect face-to-face for an hour, getting to know the other in the comfort of a home and hopefully, leaving with a new perspective or an invitation to reflect on one’s own life,” Mr Tan, a QUT outstanding Alumnus, said.
“I first created this work in Singapore in 2015 to discover how people connect with each other given the ever-changing demographics of population and evolving culture of urban cities.”
The development process for Open Homes took twelve months with residents and theatre facilitators exploring and identifying what they would share then shaping how to present it across their four allocated performances.
La Boite CEO and Artistic Director Todd MacDonald described Open Homes as a big, beautiful and generous invitation to meet the neighbours.
“In a society where we often don’t know our neighbours, Open Homes is a chance to meet and connect with the people who make up our community,” Mr MacDonald said.
“Brisbane is a brilliantly diverse city and its population is growing and evolving all the time. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience that diversity in all its beauty.”
Storytellers include Indian-born Valerie Ferdinands who honours her family’s heritage through food and an unparalleled passion for cooking in LIFE RECIPES; young couple Anshula and Michael Jones who chronicle the trials and triumphs of combining their two worlds in one home in IN PURSUIT OF LOVE; and Léonie Flood who unpacks the memories of past adventures and life well-lived in KEEPSAKES, BOXES AND TREASURES.
Backbone CEO and Artistic Director Katherine Quigley, who along with Mr MacDonald is one of the project’s eight theatre facilitators, welcomed the chance to collaborate with La Boite to bring an experience of this scale and size to life.
“Open Homes provides an excuse for us to visit someone else’s house and be transformed by the journey of a stranger,” Ms Quigley said.
“These exceptional storytellers can stand proud in a moment, find the beauty and humour that runs through their lives and share it with pride in their own home.”
Each of the 15 participants will share their stories across four evening or afternoon performances, staged on various dates throughout Open Homes’ 9-day season.
A very limited number of tickets are available to each performance with audience numbers dictated by the size of the house or apartment.
The 15 performances are categorised as “Brisbane North” or “Brisbane South” and ticketholders are asked to assemble at a designated meeting spot nearby where they will be guided to their chosen performance’s venue.
Open Homes is presented by La Boite and Backbone with performances taking place at private residences from 25 October – 10 November 2019.
Simon Tate, 27 October 2019
Thank you Simon for sharing your experience of Open Homes!
Ever had a random stranger tell you their life story that had you re-evaluate the way you look at every person you encounter ? Ever just listen to someone’s story and realise that stories are what connects us as human beings regardless of age, culture, gender, sexuality, politics or philosophy ?
Tonight I was invited into two people’s homes as part of LaBoite and Backbone’s Open House and was returned to the roots of what I love about performance, in this case that there was none (not counting the amazing Aunty Beryl, but more of that later). Two people that I could have possibly played 4 degrees of Brisbane separation to get to (in hindsight), but would have otherwise walked past in the street told me their life stories and shared their homes, loves, lessons and memories and it was beautiful. It had something that I’ve been missing in productions of late; honesty and simplicity. I can see why Stephen Quinn raved about these shows. They are addictive, personal, profound, and perfectly colloquial.
Singapore’s Jeffrey Tan has brought to Brisbane this concept after huge success with 47 (!!!!what the what ???) stories in his own country and I have no doubt it will be as huge a hit in Brisburg as well. QACI does something like this with our Living Libraries – a verbatim, one person show – and the result is an intimate performance that draws a small audience into the life of another person. Open Homes does it better though, because there is no artifice, no affectation of theatrical device, no tricks. These are the people and their stories rather than theatricalised, once removed tales, in these people’s homes.
Colin Young’s ‘Essential Guide to Becoming Fab’ stripped back one of Brisbane’s best known drag queens (Aunty Beryl) to his childhood before piece by piece redressing into a performing goddess, not in a club, but in his lounge-room surrounded by the memorabilia of decades (and a grumpy cat). I was also enveloped in the familial love of Valerie Ferdinands’ ‘Life Recipes’, the story of her immigrant family and the comforting motif of music and food – which she then fed to those lucky enough to be invited into her beautiful home.
These stories don’t ‘bring to life’; they are life. As Colin said “Everyone deserves love.” and every one of these stories are a way of sharing it.
There are more Open Homes this weekend and for the next 2 weekends and as they are limited to an intimate audience they are starting to book out. The link is below, but take note that bookings close at 10am on the day of the show.
I thoroughly recommend you check them out, not just if you are a jaded theatre shit like myself, but for anyone who wants to step out from behind their devices and find a connection to the real people out there.
OPEN HOMES 2015 and 2017
A commission by the Singapore International Festival of Arts
On my third morning in Singapore, I find myself on the 20th floor of a public housing flat in Clementi, sitting next to a cat who is baring her teeth, hissing.
“You have to pet her rougher than that,” my host tells me, smiling. “Otherwise she gets ticklish.” I go harder but I’m not a cat person, and her teeth grow bigger and seem to get sharper as the strangers around me laugh. There are lots of strangers around me.
The owner of this cat is Mohamad Musta’in Bin Abdul Shukor, and he’s one of the 80% of Singaporeans who lives in subsidised flats built by the government’s housing and development board. HDB has been a part of Singaporean life since before the city-state became independent 52 years ago, under the same government that holds power today.
Shakur is shy but warm and his flat, while small, is bright and packed with stuff. There are curtains, couch covers and tablecloths of a shiny blue material, emblazoned with a galaxy of stars (“I made these myself,” he tells us proudly, more than once). There are two plastic dinosaurs perched on his TV screen (“I don’t know what else to do with them!”), and a cabinet by the wall packed with keychains, miniature animals and sparkling jewellery that he uses to make traditional Malay clothes for his family and friends.
Mohamad Musta’in Bin Abdul Shukor, showing 20 strangers his bedroom wardrobe as part of Open Homes. Photograph: Sifa 2017
I know what’s in his cabinet, because he let me rifle through it. A factory worker by day and tailor-in-learning by night, Shukor has invited 20 strangers into his house as part of Open Homes: a program which ran for three consecutive weekends as part of this year’s Singapore international festival of the arts.
Under the direction of Sifa’s outgoing festival director, Ong Keng Sen, the 2017 event is officially themed as “enchantment” but in practice it’s more about transparency and a look at behind-the-scenes – a response in many ways to Singapore’s infamously restrictive government, which Ong (although officially employed by that government) has spoken out about at length.
Open Homes ties in perfectly with that idea of transparency: far-flung Singaporeans of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds worked with local theatre-makers or “facilitators” to fine-tune a half-hour walk-through of their homes and their lives, and present it to the public in three or four performances.
It’s a brave thing to let 20 strangers into your house; braver still to let them go through your photo albums, take pictures of your fridge magnets, and challenge your ticklish cats. But it’s also a chance to get a rare glimpse into the lives of people you might pass on the street and never meet – and who doesn’t want permission to open someone else’s drawers?
The program’s artistic director and producer, Jeffrey Tan, puts it succinctly: “It’s moments like these where you feel you’re alive; you feel you’re connected.”
Jeffrey Tan, the director of Open Homes. Photograph: Sifa 2017
Tan presented his inaugural iteration of Open Homes at 2015’s Sifa. It returned after a break with a new focus on diversity: this year 20 of the 30 participants live in public housing, and many of the facilitators and participants come from different backgrounds to Singapore’s Chinese majority.
Shukor, for instance, is Malay, Muslim and a bachelor embarrassed by the size of his queen bed. (“It was a gift.”) He shows us photos of his family, and his beloved recipe book – dictated by his late mother, and transcribed by him. He introduces us to his lemongrass and pandan plants on the balcony before handing us tea he made from them; he also serves us glutinous rice balls with sugar syrup and sends us home with salted eggs that took him three weeks to make.
Tan found the Open Homes participants through a Facebook call and word of mouth – recommendations from friends, from 2015 participants, and from the facilitators themselves.
“In Singapore, in public housing, you look out beyond this door and all the other doors are closed,” he says. “People don’t talk – I think that’s true. And with these kinds of projects, people start communicating. I think the most moving experiences are when neighbours come, and realise, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what you were going through.’”
In another Open Homes piece called Bao Bao – a Chinese term for both “baby” and “treasure” – Joan Lee and John Sng told the story of losing their firstborn. “The birth was also the death of their first child. When I first heard that, I was a mess,” Tan says. “These are the kinds of stories we just rarely hear.”
Danny Raven Tan with his mother. Photograph: Sifa 2017
Another piece was hosted by a young painter, Danny Raven Tan, who lives with and cares for his mother, who has dementia. His mother was present for some of the performances, lending a heartbreaking air to the piece’s title: Mummy Not at Home.
For many in the audience at Mummy Not at Home, Jeffrey Tan tells me, Danny’s story rung true. “At the end of the performance quite a few audience members very quietly snuck up to him to give him a hug and said, ‘Thank you – this, I’m going through this too. This means a lot.’”.
Speeches That Changed the World: Life (Words) Death
Presented by The Arts House
Catch charismatic veteran actors Nora Samosir and Remesh Panicker as they perform dramatic readings of speeches that take you on a brisk journey through life’s big and little moments in thirty minutes.
*While the performances is free, you may reserve a seat in advance for $5 to avoid disappointment.
25 & 26 JAN 2019, FRI & SAT
8PM–8.30PM & 9PM–9.30PM
Part of the Light to Night Festival 2018@ The Arts House
Catch charismatic veteran actor Remesh Panicker as he reads selected significant speeches in the Chamber, a site where policies were once debated and made in Singapore. Expect inspirational speeches by influential figures from around the world. Conceptualized and directed by Jeffrey Tan.
26 & 27 JAN 2018
8PM & 9.30PM
Arts House Chamber
Some feedback from the audience
“I liked the strength and form in the voice of the speaker. I loved the music that accompanies the speech.”
“Liked the speeches curated – good variety of topics. I just wish the excerpts could have been longer and a wider variety of regions could have been represented.”
“Great production value & speaker. Although speeches could span a longer period.”
1). What life events shaped the teaching artist you are today?
I grew up with different opportunities to experiment, produce and curate different genres of performances as a volunteer with ACT 3 Workshop Theatre. Witnessing how theatre has been empowering for the participants to gain confidence and collaborate/improvise with others, I now strive for organic training rather than any formal, rigid training structure. When my mother passed away suddenly in 2014, I was reminded about the fragility of life and how we need to make the art making process more accessible for more people to enjoy and appreciate.
2). What inspires you to do the work that you do?
The richness of lived experiences inspires me to be constantly curious. When given opportunities and listen deeply, we will discover more about others and ourselves. What I learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we must not be afraid to stop and take time to think deeply, reflect, revisit what worked or what didn’t work, and think of alternative ways of art making.
3). What specific aspects of your work are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my ability to connect different people together through the arts. Whether it is children who are learning about the world, youths who are struggling to find their place, adults who are seeking to refine their voice, or seniors who are re-discovering the joys of play, I am happy that I can be of service to connect and collaboratively create meaning for our times together. My adaptability makes it fun for others and myself to suit the arts for different contexts. The theatre projects or drama workshops bring forth untold stories and opportunities for self-discovery about the issues of our society.
4). What would you like to change about your industry?
I would like more artists and administrators to be more open-minded and think of more than just themselves. Collaboration brings more work for everyone. The second thing I would like to change is better communication and more peer support. Too many times, we have clashing events around the same periods for similar audiences in a very small market. Finally, I hope to see more Teaching Artists sharing so that we can improve as an industry.
5). What is the most significant thing you have learned from the people you have taught?
The three lessons I have learnt from people I have taught are first, never stop being curious to learn. Many of my students have risen to high places and have given me opportunities to continue doing what I love – to teach, to direct and to produce! Secondly, to listen and respond timely to situations and people. And third, be grateful and humble.
6). What is one takeaway you hope people garner from your work as a teaching artist?
I hope people will always be grateful for opportunities, and stay open as a person to receive whatever possibilities the situation offers.
Creating Online Collaborations – the SAME-SAME experience
How are the arts adapting to the #NewNormal“? Well over 11 months into the global pandemic, this series presents experiences and stories of #resilience, #adaptation, and success from the arts sector to the Covid-19 pandemic, with particular focus on arts & disabilities, artists residencies and arts funding.
In this article, creative producer and theatre director Jeffrey Tan shares the experience of SAME-SAME, an online inclusive collaboration between differently abled artists from Singapore and Australia developed in time of Covid-19.
A new beginning
Like everybody else in the world, when the COVID19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) pandemic broke in Singapore in January 2020, all live arts events stopped. Almost overnight, artists have to learn a new online language to continue to create artwork. Beyond the showing of past performances online, how can we capture the intimacy of live performance online? What are the software and hardware considerations for creating online collaborations?
SAME-SAME, an online, inclusive collaboration between No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability (No Strings), Adelaide Australia and Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (DADC) of Maya Dance Theatre, Singapore was created by The Singapore International Foundation, Arts For Good project. The Creative Development was a one-hour LIVE experience where the audience were invited to turn on their cameras before the show and interacted with the hosts Jeffrey Tan and Emma Beech. The audience was also invited to take part in the warm-up with Choreographer, Subastian Tan. The show began with a series of interviews with the seven different bodied performers, three from Australia and four from Singapore. Through the sharing of their names, families and lives, the audience got a glimpse of the performers and their dreams, fears and how they were coping with COVID19 in both Australia and Singapore. Then the performers presented a series of COVID poems and dances showcasing their individual responses to the situation. The show ended with a collective poem about their wishes when COVID ends.
Bakchormeeboy (2020) shared, “SAME-SAME is essentially a heart-warming experiment of a production, enabling these performers to present their skills to a live audience, and that they too, are capable of producing art from a unique perspective.”
Samela Harris (2020) ended her review of the show with “This is a brave and beautiful use of the tools of the moment with a very positive and beautiful outcome. Three cheers.”
An organic approach
When working with new partners, I find that having an open mind and being professional, staying on tasks is crucial. But more importantly, we need to be ever ready to adapt! For SAME-SAME, we established regular meetings, and consistent rehearsals and had frequent open discussions about how we wanted to work. Both No Strings and DADC were clear that we did not want to end gain the process by rushing to create an online performance at the expense of getting to know each other. We established an organic approach to establishing a genuine friendship. Phase One started in mid-August 2020, with an overall planning meeting on how the project was going to be managed and run. Then we met the seven performers once a week online to gather their inputs on making friends online, getting to know each other, how they were coping with COVID19 and how we might collaborate online. After many deep listening rehearsals and not being afraid to take time for each performer to share their thoughts, fears and dreams, we started Phase Two of creating content with twice a week online rehearsal. In September and October. Soon creative ideas emerged, and the performers took ownership of the show by going beyond their usual comfort zone of either acting for our Australian performers and dancing for our Singapore performers.
The creative team was made up of Emma Beech and myself as co-directors, Subastian Tan, choreographer and Michaela Cantwell. Emma’s Assistant decided that we will let the performers blur their roles to try a little of everything. Removing the labels and expectations on each performer and reminding everyone that we are all human beings with feelings and thoughts.
Like how COVID 19 had forced us to rethink and come up with creative innovations, we decided to collectively devise the final performance and see what themes might surface that are crucial and essential to our different bodied performers. We learnt the importance of not imposing but creating a safe atmosphere for all to explore whatever they wanted to explore without being judged. What does creating online collaboration mean?
Instead of a traditional script with scripted lines, we just kept the titles of each section and gave the performers space to improvise within the structure of the show. The four online shows turned out to be slightly different depending on the reaction of the audience and how the performers were feeling in the moments. We discovered that other than content, there are some software things we need to put in place for successful online collaborations.
S – Be sure to have specific support for each different abled bodied performer. Find out what do they need? What do we need to put in place so each performer can feel safe, comfortable to explore and give their best?
A – Always keep an open mind. Listen to teach to each other deeply. Be ready to adapt.
M – Manage the objectives of what you set out to explore or achieve
E – Establish trust and encourage risk taking.
When working online, you also need to have the following hardware to support you.
S – Secure and stable WIFI. Can your online friends see and hear you?
A –Are you in a conducive area to connect with your online friends? Quiet enough for you to hear and not easily distracted?
M – Do you have all the materials and equipment you need for the session? Chargers are extremely important for laptops and mobiles!
E – Extensions are important if you need to move the laptops or mobile devices.
Finally, creating online collaborations requires a lot of patience with oneself and others. One must not be afraid of silence online. Failure only means you get clearer with what you want or are working towards. Stay open minded and collaborations work best when there are constant discussions to evolve and improve what we have discovered. Relevance and genuine meaning will emerge.
As Ms. Layana Salim an audience shares, “SAME-SAME, It’s a lovely show to get to know some friends in both Singapore and Australia, how they’ve kept up with their lives during Covid and how everyone’s experience is so relatable so you know you’re not alone out there.”
Jeffrey Tan is a theatre maker and creative producer based in Singapore.
100 and 100 More Festival: Into The Blue Forest (Review)
Understanding Challenges of Terrorism through Theatre
Upon finding out that she would be involved in a play about terrorism, Ms Ulfahzatul Tysha Sher Zaman was worried that the performance would upset some audiences.
“I was quite worried the script was possibly sensitive material for certain groups of audiences. This is because the play suggests a relation between terrorism with one race or one religion,” said the Theatre Today actor, aged 24 years old.
“However in the play, the issue is framed well such that terrorism isn’t attributed to a single mistake of an individual but rather a reality of the world today” she added.
Ms Tysha is one of five actors in the play titled Crossroads which is staged at youth convention Comma Con 2016 last Saturday.
Theatre Today was commissioned to create this 40-minutes performance by the organizers of the convention, Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP).
The play is aimed at addressing centre stage a sensitive issue in Singapore society – terrorism – in an entertaining format. Crossroads chronicles the story of five graduates of a polytechnic aspiring to travel overseas in pursuit of furthering their education.
The character played by Ms Tysha has a boyfriend who is kept secret from her other friends. This boyfriend of hers later turns out to be involved in the terrorist organization ISIS.
For Ms Tysha, deconstructing a sensitive and important issue like terrorism enables the audience to understand it from various perspectives.
“Usually we receive information about terrorism through the news or ISIS video releases, which only show one side to the story.”
“But through the performance, viewers get to understand the psychology of the characters portrayed. They get to see and understand the circumstances which leads the character to make certain decisions.”
“Viewers get an insight to the characters’ train of thought as they follow the characters’ journey.”
“Nevertheless, all of this will only be communicated effectively and successfully if the play is written well and executed well,” said Ms Tysha.