Click through history of Singapore theatre with digital archive The Repository

The first time Ivan Heng stepped into the beaded slippers of Stella Kon's Emily Of Emerald Hill, the flyer for the 2000 Wild Rice production was a wash of red.

Buried behind the elegant white text was a teasingly arched eyebrow and a hint of rosebud lips.

In the 2001 and 2011 re-stagings, though, the vibrantly coloured flyers featured a kebaya-clad Heng front and centre, gold-ringed fingers finished off by scarlet nails, eyes closed and lips curled in a dramatic smile.

Members of the public can trace the trajectory of such milestone productions in Singapore's theatre history with the click of a mouse at The Repository, a digital archive of more than 800 artefacts such as programme booklets and publicity leaflets.

The database, which was set up by theatre writing hub Centre 42, went live last week.

It contains items from six theatre companies, spanning 1987 to 2015 - Cake Theatrical Productions, spell#7, The Finger Players, The Necessary Stage, Wild Rice and Teater Ekamatra.

Other institutions which have agreed to contribute artefacts, but whose materials have not yet been uploaded, include Checkpoint Theatre, Drama Box, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Esplanade, The Theatre Practice and Toy Factory Productions.

The centre's chief consultant, theatre academic Robin Loon says that The Repository was set up for "casual and interested members of the public to browse through the artefacts and to get a historical impression of our past through our theatre".

The centre does not keep physical copies of the artefacts, but scans and returns them to the theatre companies.

While the whole item is scanned by the centre, only the front and back covers of programmes will be made available online, due to copyright and usage concerns.

To access the entire booklet, interested members of the public will have to make an appointment to use a computer terminal at the centre's premises in Waterloo Street, where the full scans are stored.

The centre also hopes to track down materials from companies that are now dormant or defunct, such as Action Theatre and luna-id Theatre.

Dr Loon says that the archive will help people who are interested to "connect yourself to a more tangible art, instead of a hazy sense of history or a generalised sense of history".

"Artefacts like this help anchor those memories in something a bit more tangible and definite," he says.

Alongside The Repository, the centre also launched Book Den, a listing and collection of books on Singapore theatre.

It comprises an online catalogue of more than 80 titles, of which about half of them have offline counterparts available for browsing at the centre.

Other programmes such as the dialogue series Living Room and incubation programme Boiler Room are ongoing.

Adding to the list is The Garage, a one-year dramaturgy apprenticeship programme aimed at young practitioners looking to be trained as dramaturgs, and existing practitioners looking to develop and diversify their skill set.

"This programme is a response to our dialogue with industry partners and their comments on the need for well-versed and informed dramaturgs to support content creation and content production," says Dr Loon.

The pilot batch of apprentices has been selected through a closed-call application process. The programme will take place till March next year.

More details about the apprentices and the programme will be announced at the end of this month.

The Repository can be accessed at

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