After writing my first play in 1989, I never looked back. I was in university and part of The Necessary Stage, which Alvin Tan had started two years earlier. I am now The Necessary Stage’s resident playwright. The theatre scene was relatively young back then, and we picked up skills mostly by attending workshops by international artists.
The Substation, which the late Kuo Pao Kun started in 1990, became a pivotal conflux of artists; theatre practitioners, visual artists, musicians and friends would hang out at the Substation Garden – and later at the nearby S11 coffee shop along Stamford Road.
I watched a Tang Da Wu performance, chatted with Tan Swie Hian, listened to architect Tay Kheng Soon, laughed with arts critic TK Sabapathy, interviewed Brother Joseph McNally and felt so much respect for these artists and intellectuals who had contributed chunks of their life to promote the arts. As a young playwright starting out, the bar was set high by these amazing voices and influences.
“[I] felt so much respect for these artists and intellectuals who had contributed chunks of their life to promote the arts.”
The artists I have chosen for this guide embody an ethos that inspires me today. Brian Gothong Tan is a dear friend whom I have worked with for more than 15 years. He continues to create the unimaginable with his multimedia designs. Drama Box is like a sister company to The Necessary Stage. They turn 30 in 2020 and are still as relevant today. NADA, Alecia Neo and Ruby Jayaseelan are all impressive young artists making waves with their innovative approaches to art.
I hope you’ll enjoy my selection of artists and the recommendations of the two Singapore Airlines flight crew who have come with me on this journey of exploration into the Singapore arts scene: from the majestic museums and theatres to the alternative nooks and crannies – spaces pulsating with energy, spirit and life.