Established in 1985, TheatreWorks (Singapore) is an independent and international performance company based in Singapore. It is an Institute of Public Character. It is currently led by Artistic Director, Ong Keng Sen and Managing Director, Tay Tong.
Since its establishment, TheatreWorks has staged over 200 productions and 2,500 performances in Singapore and overseas, and has reached an audienceship of over a million. TheatreWorks’ home is 72-13, a heritage building that was once a rice warehouse on Mohamed Sultan Road and next to the Singapore River.
TheatreWorks/72-13 is dedicated to the development of contemporary arts in Singapore and to the evolution of an Asian identity and aesthetics of the 21st Century through a culture of differences. It asks, what is Asian in this age of globalisation, internationalisation, modernisation and urbanisation? Its works exist on the tension between modernisation and tradition; local and global. Representing the continuum between tradition and contemporary, the works are unafraid to be exotic and yet conceptual. TheatreWorks’ projects present the hybrid identity of the contemporary Asian and embrace the multiple realities.
TheatreWorks is a multi-faceted arts company but always working intensively across languages, art forms, disciplines and socio-political borders. Rather than residing stably in the staid singularity of one Art or one Culture, TheatreWorks believes in the idea of leaving one’s own position, one’s locality, and locating oneself in the unknown – to co-work and co-create in a third space. This vision has made Theatreworks distinct and sets it apart from other performance companies in Singapore.
TheatreWorks has two main red lines in its work: the first is the creation and presentation of inter-disciplinary and intercultural productions/programmes that brings together artists from across disciplines and cultures and from both the traditional and contemporary worlds. The second being Docu-Performances which are performances created from historical instances and phenomenon, archival materials, real-life experiences and living persons.
TheatreWorks thrives on developing processes, creative partnerships and artistic risk-taking. One of these processes that has gained international influence is the Flying Circus Project (FCP) first conceived by Ong Keng Sen in 1996. The FCP is a long-term programme exploring creative expression in Asia. Its focal points are individual creative action, encountering difference and strategies of art practice, emphasizing the tenacity of local sites – with their artists, activists and public intellectuals. The FCP is curated around the central notion of “world creating”, how do we form new micro-worlds, which are responsible, articulated and ethically engaged? The 8th Edition of the FCP was in Dec 2012/Jan 2013 and was sited in Myanmar and Singapore.
TheatreWorks is committed to developing and nurturing professional arts skills by providing residencies to mid-career artists as well as Research and Development programmes to a variety of artists, creatives and cultural workers using 72-13 as an incubator and laboratory. In addition, TheatreWorks also encourages new writing through The Writer’s Laboratory (established in 1990) which organizes the annual and popular 24-Hour Playwriting Competition since 1998. TheatreWorks is distinctly the only performing arts company in Singapore involve in capacity building in Asia as well as steadfastly building a dialogue and bridge in Asia and Asia’s interface with the rest of the world.
Since 1999, TheatreWorks hosts and manages the Arts Network Asia (ANA). ANA has been a unique networking and grant-giving body for intra-Asia collaborations in multiple disciplines, encouraging mobility within Asia as well as developing managerial skills in Asia. It pays attention to the diverse perspectives of a global Asian urban metropolis and the multiple contexts of everyday life in Asia.
With The Continuum Asia Project and Mobilising Arts Communities, TheatreWorks capacity-build in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia respectively. The CAP helps to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Asia by reviving dying traditional art forms. TheatreWorks is assisting the Royal Ballet Theatre at Luang Prabang to revive the Laotian Ramayana. The MAC, on the other hand, serves to link artists and local communities through capacity building and harnessing skills of participating artists in Vietnam and Cambodia.