Preview: Our Town by Intercultural Theatre Institute (+Interview with Director Kok Heng Leun)

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Presented in collaboration with the Esplanade, the Intercultural Theatre Institute’s graduating cohort will be performing their newest show at the Esplanade Theatre Studio this November, following their previous production of LeakagesDirected by Drama Box Artistic Director and Arts NMP Kok Heng Leun, ITI presents American playwright Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play – Our Town. 
Written in 1938, Our Town is a metaphysical theatre piece and plays out like a play within a play, as audiences are introduced to the members of the idyllic small town of Grovers Corners. But peace never lasts forever, and the townsfolk have new obstacles to face as 1938 brings the threat of industrialisation, capitalism and The Great War. How will the people bond together to stay as one amidst these changing times?
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Our Town will mark Kok Heng Leun’s first solo directorial work since 2015, when he directed It Won’t Be Too Long: The Cemetery for the 2015 Singapore International Festival of Arts, whose cast also included the then graduating batch of ITI students. This production will star the 14 international members of the current graduating cohort, namely Teo Dawn, Desmond Soh, Henrik Cheng, Isabelle Low, Mathilde Bagein, Namaha Mazoomdar, Regina Foo, Saran Jith, Shirley Tan, Sonia Kwek, Tan Weiying, Uma Katju, Vanessa Wu and Wong Yunjie.

With an all star creative team backing them up, including Jean Tay, Koh Wan Ching, lighting by Lim Woan Wen, sound by Bani Haykal, video by Jasmine Ng and costumes by Max Tan and Yuan Zhi Ying of fashion label MAX.TAN, this is one intercultural interpretation you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Even 80 years on, Our Town promises to paint a poignant portrait of small town life, and still broadcasts powerful messages of what it means to live in a multicultural, multilingual modern world.

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Kok Heng Leun. Photo Credit: Theatre Memories
Prior to the show,  we also got a chance for a brief interview with Our Town director and DramaBox artistic director Kok Heng Leun about his own history with ITI, his decision to stage Our Town and the future of the theatre scene. Read the interview in full below:
BCM: It’s been 2 years since your last solo directorial work. How did you come onto this directorial project with ITI, and why have you decided to stage Our Town? 
Heng Leun: I have worked with ITI for some time, having previously directed two batches of  graduating students.  I admire and support the idea of ITI, an intercultural institution and every time we will have an eclectic mix of students making the directing experience challenging and also inspiring.  I also think that ITI is an important institution that looks at acting as something that connects to the traditional with the contemporary, providing a space for actors to look for the relationship between the traditional and the contemporary.
As for the decision to stage Our Town, although it may be very American, the core is still very much about how a community learns to live with one another.  It is a piece that still speaks volumes about change, about holding on and letting go.
BCM: Our Town involves collaboration with some of brightest creatives in the local arts scene. How can young theatre groups foster stronger collaboration with other creatives?
Heng Leun: It is important to work inter-generationally. I think it really helps to broaden each other’s minds.  But to allow that to happen, both parties must be open and adventurous.  It is about going beyond one’s comfort zone, being open to working with different people, being open to challenges and new perspectives.
BCM: Finally, as Arts NMP, how have recent developments and emerging young talents given you hope that the future of the local arts scene is in good hands?
Heng Leun: I see more and more young practitioners willing to create their own work and make their voice heard.  But younger practitioners are working in a more competitive and contested space.  I hope that they will be persistent, with greater resilience.
Our Town plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 9th – 11th November 2017. Tickets available from Peatix

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