For The Record, we are Eurasian

Aside from the hour-long play For The Record, Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips (far left) and Charlene Shepherdson will also present an exhibition and manuscript later this year.
Aside from the hour-long play For The Record, Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips (far left) and Charlene Shepherdson will also present an exhibition and manuscript later this year.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Artists Charlene Shepherdson and Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips explore the experiences of their community in Singapore in their play

Eurasian narratives get a welldeserved spotlight next weekend with a new play that explores a culture that is sometimes given short shrift here.

For The Record, a play by Eurasian artists Charlene Shepherdson and Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips, explores the experiences of Eurasians in Singapore through the lives of Kate and Ana, two friendsturned-relatives who are competing to be the godmother of their cousin's unborn child.

Shepherdson and Phillips, who are recognisable faces in the spoken word scene in Singapore, decided to work on a project about their community after a particularly illuminating conversation over dinner that had them trading stories about how people would ask them "where are you from?" or "are you Singaporean?".

Says Shepherdson, 32, who plays Kate: "We felt that people should really know about Eurasians by now. And we realised that maybe we should do a show about it."

As a starting point, they conducted a survey to see what people knew about this community, made up of people of mixed Asian and European descent, which has been in Singapore since the 19th century.

  • BOOK IT / FOR THE RECORD: EXPLORING EURASIAN NARRATIVES

  • WHERE: Play Den, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

    WHEN: Feb 17, 8pm, and Feb 18, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $25

    INFO: peatix.com/event/226900

The survey also recorded sentiments that Eurasians had about their own culture. They also interviewed individuals from the community, including their family members.

The result is not only an hour-long play combining all this research with spoken word and poetry - it has morphed into a bigger seven- month project comprising an exhibition and manuscript, both of which will be presented later this year.

The pair's research had them uncovering interesting facts about the Eurasian community, such as the existence of an organisation called the Girls' Sports Club comprising female Eurasian athletes established in 1929, and the European voluntary corps during World War II.

Shepherdson and Phillips also pored through their old history and social studies textbooks to compare what was written about the community over the years.

"In some books, we didn't get any mention. In some books, we got a line, like 'Eurasians helped build the Siam Death Railway'. Some newer books had whole paragraphs or pages. Seeing that transition has been interesting and we are still looking for books that go further back," says Phillips, 23, who plays Ana.

Adds Shepherdson: "It's going to be a long process. But it's interesting to see this idea of state and personal narratives and where they intersect."

While For The Record is aboutthe Eurasian ethnic group, the pair acknowledge that they are not "representatives of the whole community". They hope that more people will come forward to share their stories with them.

In fact, Shepherdson says this project is her attempt at "recreating the narrative" and for them to share their experiences, rather than relying on other people's stereotypes or stories about Eurasians where "we don't recognise ourselves".

She says: "Being able to recognise myself in stories is something I think I never felt growing up - until sometime in the 1990s, Eurasian actors usually played Chinese roles. Being able to see ourselves in narratives, in stories and on stage, to me that's important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'For The Record, we are Eurasian'. Print Edition | Subscribe