Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Theatre and Activism

Was at the Playwrights Exchange, organised by FIRSTWoRKS, which brought together theatre practitioners and activists, over four days at Central Market Annexe (18th - 21st October).

I took part in one of the panel discussions about how theatre can improve the lot of women with several very dynamic ladies whose hard work and commitment make me feel very humble indeed. From Left to right in the picture above Zainah Anwar (Executive Director of Sisters in Islam (SIS)), Ivy Josiah (Executive Director of the Woman's Aid Organisation), and playwright Leow Puay Tin. (The session was moderated by actress Anne James.) When it was my turn I spoke about an issue I feel very strongly about - the difficulty many women face in putting their writing out into the world, and how we can help and encourage them. Self-censorship is a big problem - but I also know that there is some harassment of women (in the form of hate mail, hacking of blogs, and even physical threats) to those who write on more controversial issues.

I was thrilled to be able to do both writing workshops lead by Iranian playwright, Naghmeh Samini who was extremely warm and encouraging. On both days we played some games to get to know each other and to build cohesiveness in the group including a fast and funny chair swapping game where we learned a lot about each other, and a quieter sharing activity where we spoke on a topic for the duration of a match burning (below).

The Friday's workshop was called from Ancient Texts, New Plays, and looked at how you can take a story from folklore or mythology as your starting point for a play. We worked with the legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang, analysing versions of the story, putting together a sequence of events and a list of characters, then finding starting points, viewpoints and motivations. Everyone then went off to write a scene and it was quite amazing what interesting angles people had chosen to retell the well-known legend.

In Saturday's workshop, One Headline, Many Plays we worked from newspaper headlines that we remembered because they provoked a strong emotional response in us. We analyzed scene and decided on characters, and then wrote an extract. It was a useful way in to writing about subjects that struck an emotional chord.

I wished I could have attended all the sessions, but with the chaos at home with builders and decorators (and at one point water pouring through the ceiling!) couldn't get to as many sessions as I would have liked. But with the sessions I did attend, I came away feeling completely inspired by the people I met (especially Naghmeh) and so glad that the event had created a very necessary dialogue between a whole lot of people who might not ordinarily see themselves in the same frame.


synical said...

Nothing to do with the post... but I thought you might like to know if you already don't...


bibliobibuli said...

i've been invited to the preview! so much for my vow not to buy any more books!

animah said...

Considering how fast Sham's matches went out, it is amazing that there is a picture showing her match alight!
Huffedly Yours,

ally cat said...

Hi Sharon,
I saw your comment in Kakiseni Playwriting competition a few months ago. So did you submit your play/plays? If so, is yours shortlisted? I heard through a friend who sent in hers that some participants have been shortlisted. Anxious for you!!
(Ally Cat)

bibliobibuli said...

no, didn't enter. yes, i believe the shortlisted folks know already.