Now in its 31st year, Singaporean theatre company Drama Box will be introducing a new leadership structure for 2021 and beyond, with two co-artistic directors. Kok Heng Leun, who served as Artistic Director since the group’s founding in 1990, now sharing the responsibilities with Koh Hui Ling. Heng Leun feels it is only natural for Hui Ling to step into the role of Co-Artistic Director, as “over the last 8 years, Drama Box’s direction has been shaped by the collaborative nature of a growing artistic team, with Hui Ling making significant contributions especially in areas of socially engaged practice.”
Having been with the company full time since 2004, Koh Hui Ling founded the now defunct NeNeMas – education arm of Drama Box, as well as ARTivate, Drama Box’s youth wing, both with a strong focus on the use of theatre in educational contexts. Subsequently as Associate Artistic Director, Koh Hui Ling’s passion for community engagement led to the creation of site-specific works such as Chinatown Crossings, IgnorLAND of its Time and IgnorLAND of its Loss. Her desire to create alternative spaces for public dialogue also saw Drama Box building GoLi – The Moving Theatre, Singapore’s first inflatable theatre that transforms spaces into vibrant places for arts and culture.
On what the new role means to her, Koh Hui Ling shares: “Having worked closely with Heng Leun for the past 16 years, it is humbling to be part of the company’s continuous evolution and search for relevance to the society through issues that are closest to our hearts. I am excited to develop Drama Box in the coming years, together with Heng Leun and our new Executive Director to deepen our partnerships with the arts community and arts advocacy within the industry.”
On the administrative front, Kevin Chew has recently joined as Executive Director and takes over from former Company Manager Tay Jia Ying. Kevin brings with him his experience in heading a social enterprise from social services to inject into the arts and cultural sector. At Drama Box, Kevin will oversee the operational, fundraising and human resources aspects of the company, on top of strategic development of the business aspects of the company.
As part of its continual quest for rejuvenation, young theatre practitioners have joined the ranks of Drama Box’s artistic team, to bring the company to new heights. Besides Han Xuemei, 33, who joined Drama Box as Resident Artist in 2013, Chng Yi Kai, 28, came onboard in 2019. An Anthropology graduate from Yale-NUS College, Yi Kai aspires to create effective means of engaging the community through art. Despite only having been a Resident Artist for a little over a year, Yi Kai has been dabbling in theatre since 2012, as an actor and subsequently as a member of the second cohort of ARTivate, Drama Box’s youth wing.
Drama Box has also announced several programmes planned for 2021, starting with Breaking the Silence (Level 1) in April, a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop conducted by Kok Heng Leun for cultivating reflexivity, developing critical thinking, analytical skills and proactive approach towards problem-solving. In October, Chng Yi Kai makes his directorial debut with With Time, a verbatim theatre performance for young audiences, that addresses the difficult topic of adolescent suicidal ideations, as part of Esplanade’s Feed Your Imagination. Also in October, Both Sides, Now, Drama Box’s engagement programme about what it means to live well and leave well, returns with a new trajectory in 2021, with a focus on working with the Malay Muslim community in Singapore. An untitled multi-disciplinary project on mental health issues, led by Kok Heng Leun, is also set to make its premiere this June, with participatory performances, installation art, workshops and activities.
More information on Drama Box’s 2021 programmes to be announced in due time. Find out more on their website here