A public conversation: "The people cultures of a national theatre"

7 March 2024, 7.30–9pm
@ 72-13, Home of T:>Works
Event to be followed by supper.


This event has concluded.

The Season of Thought Leadership: in the Arts, by the Arts, with the Arts is a year-long endeavour spotlighting thought leadership in the arts.

Kicking off the season is a collaborative public conversation “The people cultures of a national theatre”, featuring panelists Alfian Sa’at, Resident Playwright of Wild Rice, Medli Dorothea Loo, actress and theatre-maker, Kavitha Krishnan, Co-founder of Maya Dance Theatre (MDT) and Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (DADC), and it will be moderated by T:>Works Artistic Director, Dr. Ong Keng Sen. The conversation will include respondents who are active voices in the Singapore arts community — Ho Tzu Nyen, visual artist, theatre-maker and filmmaker, and Arunditha Emmanuel, performance artist and writer.

From exploring the role of artistic leadership to addressing issues of diversity, accessibility, and representation, the conversation will provide a fascinating exploration of the complexities and possibilities inherent in fostering vibrant and coexisting people cultures within a national theatre endeavour. What constitutes a national theatre project and what is expected of it? Who are ‘the people’ and who determines which people are represented in a national theatre project?

The Season of Thought Leadership: in the Arts, by the Arts, with the Arts has been funded by the Cultural Matching Fund since 2021. It has taken two years of conceptualisation and development, culminating in this season from April 2024 to March 2025.

Alfian Sa’at will examine the contestations over the word “people”, as a form of majoritarian discourse wielded by the state, and that of a pro-democratic discourse expressed by artists and cultural workers.

Medli Dorothea Loo will discuss “trans:mission”, a documentary theatre project which featured eight trans performers engaging in intimate intergenerational conversations. The work explores how trans history is produced and transmitted across different eras.

Kavitha Krishnan will unpack notions of ‘accessibility and ‘inclusion’ and propose a co-existing space for people with diverse abilities in the arts.

Media Release


Alfian Sa'at

Alfian Sa’at is the Resident Playwright of Wild Rice. In 2001, he won the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature. He has been nominated 12 times for Best Original Script at the Life! Theatre Awards, winning for “Landmarks” (2005), “Nadirah” (2010), “Kakak Kau Punya Laki” (Your Sister’s Husband, 2014) and “Hotel” (with Marcia Vanderstraaten, 2016). Alfian has also been awarded the Boh-Cameronian Award in Malaysia for Best Book and Lyrics for “The Secret Life of Nora” (2011) and for Best Original Script for “Parah” (Wounded, 2013). His plays have been performed in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Melbourne and Berlin.


Medli Dorothea Loo

Medli Dorothea Loo is a 20-year-old actress and theatre-maker who first started performing professionally when she was 7-year-old in Ken Kwek’s “Cartoons”, introducing her to acting. She then continued to act and star in numerous television shows, movies and theatre productions for the rest of her childhood. Most recently, in her adult life, she had appeared in “Old Gaze” (2023) “Snow White and The Seven Dwarves” (2023) and “trans:mission” (2024) where she served as both a director and performer. In recent years she has also been a voice for the transgender community in Singapore, speaking at Pink Dot 2023 and various other pride and diversity engagements. 


Kavitha Krishnan

Kavitha Krishnan’s illustrious career encompasses her achievements as a dancer and her tireless advocacy for social causes, diversity and inclusion. As the co-founder of Maya Dance Theatre (MDT), she leads a non-profit organization dedicated to leveraging the arts for social change and positive transformation. In 2018, Kavitha utilised her training as an occupational therapist to establish the Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (DADC), as a community initiative of MDT, providing a platform for dancers with diverse abilities to collaborate with professionals. Since 2020, she has collaborated with filmmakers and mixed media artists to produce immersive DanceXR projects, illuminating poignant social narratives. In 2022, Kavitha was conferred the Natya Nipuna award by Bhaskar’s Arts Academy for her extensive contributions to the arts. Kavitha views dance as a powerful tool for communication and forging connections, further amplifying her impact on communities worldwide.


Ho Tzu Nyen

Ho Tzu Nyen is a visual artist, theatre-maker and filmmaker whose work often explores the structure and power of myths and questions the construction of history. Since his first solo exhibition at The Substation in 2003, Ho has exhibited widely within Singapore and internationally. He has held residencies at the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program and at the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong. Ho has also been featured in film, theatre and performance festivals such as Sundance Film Festival; Locarno International Film Festival; Cannes International Film Festival; The Kampnagel, Hamburg; TPAM, Yokohama and Theatre der Welt, Germany.


Deborah Arunditha Emmanuel

Deborah Arunditha Emmanuel is a performance artist and writer working between poetry, sound, movement, and the dramatic arts. She has performed at many events and festivals locally and worldwide, winning poetry slams in Singapore, New Zealand, Germany and Australia. She has been resident writer/artist at the Watermill Center in New York, Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin, and The Marpha Foundation in Mustang. She makes neo-shamanic tribal funk music with Mantravine and co-organises Opens, a para-academic forum based in Singapore.


Dr. Ong Keng Sen

Dr. Ong Keng Sen is Artistic Director of T:>Works and artspace 72-13 in Singapore. Apart from creating renown productions, Ong founded Arts Network Asia, a micro-grant peer organisation, and the international Curators Academy focused on synergy between contexts and curation. His seminal work was nomadic artist residency, The Flying Circus Project, traveling international artists through Asia, sharing their contexts amongst themselves and young people in local sites. Ong became Founding Festival Director of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA), directing four editions. He was awarded the prestigious Fukuoka Asian Arts and Culture Prize for his creations in Asian contemporary performance. A Fulbright scholar, he was bestowed a honorary doctorate by University of Arts London. He was guest professor at Institute of Applied Theatre Giessen University and Freie University Berlin. He earned his Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Tisch School Of Arts, New York University in 2019.

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