Experience at Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015, Part 1

Looking back at the past couple of months, TheatreWorks was heavily involved with Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). Together with its engagement programmes, the whole festival lasted for about 4 months, from June to September this year. Some of our ambassadors helped out actively during that period as volunteers and Assistant Front of House (FOH) managers. One of our ambassadors, Wei Ting, shares her experience of helping out at SIFA, as well as the challenges she faced then.

My experience at the recent SIFA was certainly a memorable one. Besides attending one of the SIFA international productions, Dementia, I was also the Assistant Front Of House (FOH) manager for Cabanons and It Wouldn’t Be Too Long: The Lesson. I have been tasked with a wide array of duties across both shows and they are as follows:

  1. Handling out of collaterals while explaining details of the show and festival to the public
  2. Crowd Control
  3. Ushering
  4. Clicking of crowd numbers

FOH duties, in particular the part on introducing the show to the public, was especially enjoyable for myself as I had several interesting conversations with the people. Questions were raised about the content and the unique performance spaces of the productions. The performance spaces of both the SIFA productions that I was at were especially intriguing to the public. Cabanons was held within three coloured circus tents, on an open field at Tan Quee Lan Street. It Wouldn’t Be Too Long: The Lesson on the other hand was held within the space of GOLI: The Moving Theatre which was set up at Toa Payoh Central. Passer-by and residents had several interesting guesses as to what GOLI was before they got an answer. Bouncy castle for children and a new shelter constructed for the community were some of the guesses which they had. When revealed as a space for community theatre, some gleamed and immediately drew association with Drama Box which presents community theatre works at Toa Payoh Central even before the conceptualization of GOLI. Indeed, It Wouldn’t Be Too Long: The Lesson was a production presented by Drama Box as part of the festival.

There was also a handful of the crowd members who were unfamiliar with community theatre and the programme on that day. As the general demographic of the group present were adults in their late 50s or who are senior citizens, I had to interchange between English, Mandarin and Hokkien when communicating with them. It was quite a challenge for myself when I had to pick the right terms when describing the piece of work. Although I stumbled at some of my Mandarin and Hokkien phrases while conversing, a large majority of the public were generally very patient with me. This experience was surely a nudge to send myself to start brushing up on my language!

Fortunately, conversation flowed and I even got to witness how responsive the public was to the topic at hand. The piece of work revolves around the issue of limited land space in Singapore and the existing dilemma in our society today as to who and what determines the demolition of an area in replace of another. The short conversation which I have shared with the public had stimulated several of them to shrea their thoughts and own experiences pertaining to the issue. Many were willing to share and who later on joined in the production as audience themselves to take a stand on what they believe in. For myself to have witnessed this change in the level of interest and energy among the public, was something very valuable.

Similar to every event, there would be the issue of space and audience. Particularly for open spaces like where the productions mentioned above were held at, it was an added difficulty for myself when executing crowd control. Take Cabanons for instance whereby there were movements of crowd from one tent to the other every 30 minutes. As the assistant FOH manager, it was a true test to my communication skills and my adaptability towards any difficult audience or sudden changes on that day. I certainly have a lot more to learn and I am grateful for this experience which I have gained after helping out at SIFA!


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