Backstage

Our Town - Interview with director Kok Heng Leun and choreographer Koh Wan Ching

8 Nov 2017
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Photo by Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI)

ITI’s graduating cohort of 2017 presents Our Town, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by American playwright Thornton Wilder. This rendition is set to be an intercultural interpretation of Wilder's play. Find out how Our Town is relevant to Singapore's multicultural, multilingual society and how a community can respond to changes in today’s context. 

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We speak to the director Kok Heng Leun (HL) and choreographer Koh Wan Ching (WC) to find out how the team attempts to localise the play's context, 80 years after Our Town was first performed.

1. Why is Our Town selected for the graduating showcase? Is it because of the 'metatheatrical' form, or its theme on 'time of change'?

HL: It is the theme of time of change that appeals to me.  The original work was written just before the second world war, when the world dynamics and order were changing.  So, how does a community respond to it? In times of change, how does the community respond?

2. What are some challenges putting up this play? As such, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this cohort that get reflected in the production?

WC: Heng Leun approached me to choreograph a movement segment for Our Town and together with the performers, we devised materials based on a writing exercise they did for Jean Tay (playwright for additional text). When I observed the various performers and the diversity in their backgrounds and experiences, I was quite puzzled as to how we can work collectively as a company, and generate our response to Our Town as theatre makers, dancers and students living in this contemporary world. The performers speak different languages and have different movement vocabularies. I was interested in how I could reflect these differences and yet, still stitch a coherent experience that we could share with the audience.

HL: I think the challenge I have is that the cohort is an eclectic one – people from different cultures. That is, it is intercultural, and then how [can we] make a very American play into a intercultural one, one that reflects the qualities and different backgrounds?

3. Our Town originally boasts of a 'minimalist theatre style'. Does ITI's rendition add more 'layers' or 'elements' to it? If so, why? Perhaps to modernise the play, or to suit the cast?

HL: It is still minimalist.  But minimalist still means it can have multiple layers.  What I have chosen to do is to examine the piece by looking at the idea of community and space.  And also to include the voices of the cast into the piece.

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Our Town
by Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI)
Date: 9 – 11 Nov 2017
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Visit event page

  • Our Town

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