Sindhura set to expand drama expertise

P. BALA

A lot of work goes into creating a theatre performance. Actors, directors, script-writers, set designers, backstage and technical crew work together to produce a successful production.

However, not many are aware of the role of dramaturgs in a theatre production.

They help directors develop the production concept and provide an extra set of eyes and ears during rehearsals to help the people in charge effectively realise that concept.

In the case of a new play, a dramaturg gives the playwright feedback during the revision process to help him achieve his goal.

Dramaturgs can perform many functions but their main job is to help the director and production crew make the best out of a play.

Theatre practitioner Sindhura Kalidas is relishing the prospect of being both a generalist and a specialist by taking up this role.

The 32-year-old is one of eight National Arts Council scholarship recipients this year who will further their studies in a wide range of disciplines to broaden their network and gain exposure to new skill sets.

She will be leaving for Goldsmiths, University of London, this month to pursue a one year Masters in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance.

"While growing up, I was always interested in ballet, drama, piano and I am thankful that my parents gave me the freedom to explore my arts interest despite the long hours of commitment needed for these activities outside school," said Ms Sindhura who was inclined towards the arts since her Haig Girls' School days.

She was involved in drama and theatre at Raffles Junior College and later embarked on a Theatre Studies degree programme at the National University of Singapore.

Despite holding a full-time job as an English language teacher in a private enrichment centre for the last eight years, she continues to fuel her passion by being involved in the local arts scene.

Over the years, she has diversified her largely performance-based portfolio to include writing, facilitating, directing and dramaturgy through her training and work with companies such as Teater Ekamatra, The Necessary Stage and The Finger Players (TFP).

Last year, she was the first recipient of TFP's year-long fellowship programme for mid-career practitioners to deepen their understanding of puppetry.

Ms Sindhura also volunteers at the youth-led initiative Women of Shakti, where she teaches English to Indian migrant domestic workers.

She is hopeful that there will be more South Asian narratives in mainstream English theatre.

She said there aren't that many South Asian characters appearing in the local mainstream English theatre, adding that the situation is changing for the better. She hopes to work with theatre companies and community groups to give opportunities to more South Asian theatre practitioners in acting, writing and direction.

"It also matters as to whose stories we are portraying on stage. Not only the cultural element of South Asians but also the hardships and successes of the community," she said.

She also hopes to dwell deeper into Verbatim Theatre where spoken words are used exclusively from recorded interviews.

"This is the best way for historically underrepresented communities to represent themselves," she said.

"For example, last year I started work on a verbatim piece on my 83-year-old father who is a retired police officer and had lived through World War II.

"The life experiences that he went through during the war and the turbulent period during Singapore's early independence are the best kind of stories to understand and learn from."

As an educator, she feels that youths are shunning complex and controversial issues such as child sexual abuse, mental health, discrimination and it is time to get them to speak about these issues with maturity and sensitivity.

"In a decade, these youths have to address some of these issues as adults themselves. The arts can plug this gap in getting youths to start thinking and having conversations about this in the classroom with the guidance of teachers." she said.

After completing her Masters degree, Ms Sindhura hopes to contribute to the local arts scene by grooming the next generation of dramaturgs.

pbala@sph.com.sg

"It also matters as to whose stories we are portraying on stage. Not only the cultural element of South Asians but also the hardships and successes of the community."

- Theatre practitioner Sindhura Kalidas

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