Following their announcement of the four (now sold out) Director’s Residency shows, leading local theatre company Wild Rice has announced that it will be closing out its 2020 season with two more productions featuring promising young performers from their youth programmes.
The two shows – Schooled and Candide – are the respective graduating showcases for Wild Rice’s two youth ensembles; the Singapore Youth Theatre (which launched this year as a platform for students from the ages of 13 to 17) and Young & Wild (Wild Rice’s award-winning youth division for participants between the ages of 18 and 30). Both productions will play limited runs at The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre in December 2020.
The establishment of Singapore Youth Theatre means that Wild Rice now offers a comprehensive theatre education programme to nurture artists from the ages of 5 to 30. Young talents can grow with the company, all the way from its initiatives for children (First Stage and Wild Rice Academy), through to Singapore Youth Theatre and Young & Wild.
“The theatre is the perfect training ground for young people – it’s a place where they can learn who they are and who they want to be, figure out what they believe in, and start to tell the stories the world needs to hear,” says Ivan Heng, Founding Artistic Director of Wild Rice. “We’re incredibly proud to have offered a home to these young artists, who we know will be making waves in Singapore’s theatre community for generations to come.”
Since the beginning of the year, Wild Rice’s inaugural Singapore Youth Theatre ensemble – comprising 12 young theatre-makers from the ages of 13 to 17 – have been hard at work creating their own original show. Over the past year, they have worked with acclaimed playwright and director Thomas Lim to learn how to write, improvise and perform their own short plays. The result is Schooled, a devised play inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s speech at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit – where she boldly told world leaders, “You are failing us.” Adults may think they always know better, but perhaps, it is time for the youth to step up and rise to the fact that they will one day run the world, and teach the grown ups a thing or two about the future.
“We were inspired by this to create a play in which adults are sent back to school to learn lessons taught by young people,” explains Lim, who is also Wild Rice’s Associate Artistic Director for Youth & Education. The play – with its conscious focus on what the young artists themselves want to say – reflects Wild Rice’s goal in launching the Singapore Youth Theatre programme. “There are very few theatre-making platforms available for young people to express themselves and voice their concerns,” Lim says. “When you give them the keys and put them behind the wheel, you’ll be surprised where they take you!”
At the same time, the 16 members of Young & Wild – the sixth cohort of Wild Rice’s acclaimed youth division – have been honing their skills and learning their craft from some of Singapore’s top professional theatre-makers. In December, they will be graduating with a thrilling, bold production of Candide – Mark Ravenhill’s modern update of Voltaire’s classic novel centred on a relentlessly upbeat protagonist.
Candide is an optimist. A dreamer. He believes that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. But that belief is about to be tested when Candide’s comfortable life is overtaken by an endless barrage of misfortune. As his world collapses around him, Candide attempts to reunite with his love, Cunegonde. At the same time, the story travels across the centuries to new locations and parallel universes, where a woman tries to find a way back to happiness after experiencing a hugely traumatic event. How will Candide’s optimism fare when it collides with life in the 21st century?
“Candide is a pitch-perfect play for our times – one that questions the value of optimism just as we are living through one of the darkest, most turbulent moments in human history,” notes Edith Podesta, Wild Rice’s Associate Artistic Director for Young & Wild. “Working on Candide has challenged us all to think about what we can do, and how we can survive, when everything around us seems to be going badly wrong. It’s a lesson I think we can all – artists and audiences alike – afford to learn right now.”
Podesta, one of Singapore’s leading drama educators, is excited to see what her students in Young & Wild will do next. “Over the past year, we have challenged, inspired and educated these gifted young artists – and they’ve done the same for us,” she says. “It was our privilege to give them a platform through which they can become better artists as well as, hopefully, better people – and we can’t wait to see how they will be making a difference in Singapore’s theatre industry in time to come.”
Photo Credit: Wild Rice