Talents in mentorship scheme shine

The Finger Players' mentorship schemes have opened new possibilities to the artists behind two of the plays it is presenting next month.

Inheritance, held at the Drama Centre Black Box from April 14 to 17, is written by Ellison Yuyang Tan, 27, an actress now spreading her wings as a playwright.

It is directed by Zelda Tatiana Ng, a stalwart of Singapore theatre until the early noughties, when she left to manage Cirque du Soleil's Asia tour. "When I came back, nobody remembered me," says Ng, who turns 47 this year, and reconnected with her theatre roots through The Finger Players' two-year director mentorship, Watch This Space.

One of the first graduates of the acting programme set up by the Intercultural Theatre Institute (then Theatre Training Research Programme), Ng worked with The Necessary Stage and Drama Box. She acted in and directed plays until the Cirque offer came. She was a cruise director before returning to Singapore in 2009.

Here, she did various jobs including working with a TV production firm, but her love of theatre made her apply for The Finger Players' mentorship.

She did a closed-door staging of Goh Boon Teck's Eastern Line On My Palm in 2014 for Watch This Space. She directed Three Children & Titoudao for last year's retrospective of Singapore theatre, The Studios: fifty, presented by the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay.

She enjoys the challenge of working with Tan's script about two sisters and the traits they inherit from their mother.

"After this, whether or not I get directing opportunities, I can give myself a pat on the back," Ng says.

Playwright Tan says her apprenticeship with The Finger Players from 2013 to last year has helped her express herself better. Writing plays feeds into her acting - she has received critical acclaim for her work in productions such as Manifesto by The Necessary Stage and Drama Box this month.

Chong's writing exercises helped her develop her voice. "He knew what I wanted to say and I knew, but I couldn't find a way to say it effectively at first," she says.

Watch This Space helped a third artist, Tan Liting, 29, think harder about her role in Singapore theatre. The Truth About Lying: Heresy And Common Sense For The Theatre is inspired by the experiences of theatre professionals here, from veterans to the play's 20something cast - Chanel Chan, Shafiqhah Efandi and M. Haja.

The play runs from April 21 to April 24 at the Drama Centre Black Box and is an updated version of last year's The Truth About Lying, or Why I Want To Be Britney Spears. That play considered the frustrations of 20somethings scrabbling to stand out in an overpopulated theatre scene.

"It's not just a theatre problem. Everyone in my generation is coming into a workforce where there are more potential employees than jobs," she says. She was a production manager with Cake Theatrical Productions for three years until striking out on her own.

Feedback on last year's staging at Centre 42 included the fact that the director had presented only the problems of one generation, while veterans had also struggled to establish themselves.

It made her want to include more perspectives and she is delighted that The Finger Players' mentorship allows her to update her work.

She says: "You really cannot get better if you cannot practise and if you practise at this high level, it prepares you for what you need to do in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Talents in mentorship scheme shine'. Print Edition | Subscribe