What does it mean to work in the arts? For Wu Yahui, it means working in the National Arts Council (NAC) by day, and honing her skills as a theatre practitioner by night in young & W!LD. Yahui tells us about the lessons her job has taught her about the theatre industry, and her eye-opening journey of exploration in young & W!LD.
Tell us about how you were bitten by the theatre bug.
It must have been when I was seven. As a child, my weekends were packed with tuition classes and abacus lessons, all of which I utterly hated. But, in between those classes, I had drama lessons. My parents probably wanted me to improve my English but all I cared about was how happy I was during drama lessons. And I still remember that sense of joy up to this day!
How have you been involved in theatre over the years?
For most of my school-going years, I was involved in theatre. Even so, when I was studying in the National University of Singapore, the decision to major in Theatre Studies (TS) was not easy. Ultimately, however, I felt that life was too short to be wasted on doing things that I didn't enjoy, not to mention the fact that I was scoring better in TS than in my other modules. I loved the close-knit TS community of seniors and juniors, all working together but never forgetting to have fun. Upon graduation, I performed as a freelancer, taught drama, took on programme marketing and front-of-house duties at the Esplanade, and served as an artist liaison officer and translator for Korean artists and arts groups.
By day, you're an arts administrator with the NAC. What has your job taught you about the arts industry in Singapore?
It has definitely broadened my perspective. Most people tend to see only the actors or the performance, and I admit I was like that too when I was younger. Being an arts administrator allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the business behind and around productions. Behind every artistic vision is a company manager and producer, who ensures that theatre-making can be a viable livelihood.
As an arts administrator on the education side of things, I see first-hand how important it is for the younger generation to have positive experiences in the arts, and how everyone has a role to play in it – from the educators to the parents, even to the ushers. It's something I firmly believe in, seeing how it has also impacted me personally.
Why young & W!LD?
I've always wanted to be part of young & W!LD. I think it's a good platform for young people to experiment, play with ideas and learn the processes of theatre-making by making theatre.
young & W!LD has been going strong for several months now. What have you learnt thus far about your craft and yourself?
It has affirmed what I know and what I'm good at, but at the same time, has amplified what I don't know. I'm constantly learning more about my own limitations, and I see it as an opportunity to rise to the challenge, to out-do myself. The workshops with Ramesh Meyyappan, Mark Hill and Julius Foo have been such a treat; to be exposed to how these three artists practice their art was an eye-opener and an inspiration. The journey of exploration and experimentation never truly ends.
Tell us about putting up your first showcase, Little Riots.
Personally, writing for Little Riots was challenging, and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And now that young & W!LD has been working together as a group for almost a year now (I can't believe it has been almost a year!), we have gotten used to each other's styles and have grown tighter as an ensemble.
How are you preparing for Geylang?
Initially, we wanted to restage Kuo Pao Kun's Geylang People in the Net as we felt that the play represented the diversity of the young & W!LD members. But, as we were workshopping it, we realised that we had our own take on Geylang – be it through our experiences of that area or through what we've read about it. So we are now adapting Pao Kun's script, and devising our response to Geylang. The performance will include the mythology, history and socio-cultural environment (read: red-light district shenanigans!) of Geylang – and we hope to see you at our showcase in May!
Geylang runs from 13-17 May 2015 at 10 Square @ Orchard Central.
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