After 32 years in the position of artistic leadership, Kok Heng Leun is stepping down with effect from 1 April 2022 as co-artistic director and board member of Drama Box, and will continue his practice in the company as an Artist, Founder. Present co-artistic director Koh Hui Ling will be steering the artistic direction of Drama Box alongside Han Xuemei, who was appointed as co-artistic director on 1 April 2022.
On passing the baton to Hui Ling and Xuemei, Heng Leun says, “Hui Ling and Xuemei are no strangers to collaborators, supporters and friends of Drama Box. Both of them have been with the company for many years, developed their artistic practice here and it is only a logical progression to have them take artistic lead. Their sensibility will not only provide a continuity to what Drama Box has been, but add new and bolder possibilities for the future.”
Since founding the company in 1990, Kok Heng Leun has been serving as artistic director, with Koh Hui Ling stepping up to share the reins at the beginning of 2021. Drama Box initially filled a niche by producing mostly Chinese language theatre, but around the turn of the millennium, started working with different communities and developed its brand of socially engaged theatre.
In the years to follow, Heng Leun will continue his creative journey in Drama Box, most immediately with ubin, a Singapore International Festival of Arts commission underway, and Both Sides, Now: Mengukir Harapan.
This marks a new phase for the thirty-two-year-old company, which has recently published Drama Box 30 Keywords, a documentation of its development and evolution over three decades.
“Over the years, Heng Leun has generously involved Xuemei and myself in the artistic direction of the company. This change has been years in the making, and we’ve also embarked on internal company restructuring since COVID. With the relaxing of safe management measures for the arts and live performances, we’re excited about returning to the core of our work and reconnecting with the different communities,” says Hui Ling.
“We’re also working on streamlining our programmes and increasing the depth of each project, continuing the ethos of community-based practices by building stronger relationships with our stakeholders – audiences, volunteers, donors and partners on the ground.”
A recipient of the Young Artist Award in 2021, Xuemei joined Drama Box as resident artist in 2013, and has been focused on engaging the youth sector through theatre made for youths and mentoring the sophomore batch of Drama Box’s youth wing ARTivate. She has also grown in her practice through multidisciplinary experiences that explore participatory practices and experiment with visual media and spatial design, evident in her works such as MISSING: The City of Lost Things and FLOWERS.
“I’m thankful for inheriting the rich history of Drama Box that many others before me have built, and I’m looking forward to contributing my part in the coming years together with the team,” says Xuemei.
On her plans as she steps into her new role as co-artistic director, “There are many existing challenges for us to address – evolving organisation practices, developing artistic processes and craft, and looking at how we can also contribute to the larger arts ecosystem in Singapore. Moving forward, I hope for Drama Box to continue being an entity that engages critically and creatively with the times we live in.”
The board of directors will be joined by new members Kwek Jim See, Kevin Chew and Han Xuemei, while former chairperson Calvin Loo will be stepping down from board duties after 17 years. Lee Shyh Jih will now lead the board. The other members are Raymond Leong, Koh Hui Ling and Danny Yeo.
More information about Drama Box available here