3 budding theatre talent to watch out for
Budding theatre practitioners (from left) Harini Damodaran, Teoh Jie Yu and Vanessa Poh Yu Jun, are recent graduates of local theatre company Drama Box's youth theatre training programme, ARTivate. (Photos: ARTivate)

3 budding theatre talent to watch out for

Self-doubt, inexperience and uncertain circumstances proved challenging for three young theatre practitioners last year. Teoh Jie Yu, 25, Harini Damodaran, 22, and Vanessa Poh Yu Jun, 24, were in their last year of socially-engaged theatre company Drama Box’s youth theatre training programme, ARTivate, and had to produce a play for their graduation in June this year.

The difficulties they faced, however, were no match for their passion for theatre. They were part of a team of eight that pressed on and achieved the staged play Dancing with Fish in the Midnight Zone, a playthat focuses on the rise of youth suicides in Singapore.

The play caps their three-year programme that trains young practitioners-to-be in various aspects of theatre from playwrighting and directing to improvisation and devising.

Read on to find out what keeps these young theatre practitioners going.

Why do you want to be a theatre practitioner?

Teoh: I love that through theatre, I get to see the world from a different point of view, and I am given the space to create.

Harini: What draws me to theatre is the deep knowledge it fills me with. I see theatre as a tool for excavation and discovery.

Poh: I am intrigued by the entire process of creating and putting together a piece of theatre. I admire the ability of theatre practitioners to respond and adapt to dynamic changes on stage.

What was it like staging Dancing with Fish in the Midnight Zone

Teoh: Staging this show was not easy as the topic of suicide loss is sensitive and heavy-going. We were also conscious that we might not be able to fully represent the lived experiences of the community. But the moment I saw the play come to life on stage – it was rather magical.

Harini: This play started with us examining what grief and healing can be like in our society. While we don’t have all the answers, we wanted to contribute what we have learnt to the broader social conversation around grief and healing. This is also the first time I am directing a play, and it has been exhilarating.

Poh: The process was a wild ride. We had to take on multiple roles, from playwriting and directing, to marketing and producing the show, but it was extremely fulfilling.

What are your biggest takeaways from the theatre training programme?

Teoh: It has made me view social issues through a more critical lens but also with empathy. Embodied knowledge is another big thing – I learnt to receive knowledge and information not just through words and teachings, but also through how I feel and through movement.

Harini: I would never have tapped into my inner self if not for the programme. Making theatre can reveal to you things you never knew about who you are, if you let it.

Poh: I have learnt to think critically about social norms and better identify the structures and layers of power within communities. It was also interesting to explore how theatre can be used to empower, heal and rehabilitate individuals.

Replies were edited and condensed for clarity.

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