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20 Seconds With Twenty-Something Playwrights

If you haven't heard, the Twenty-Something Theatre Festival, which started last Thursday, is a new boutique theatre festival, celebrating the creative spirit and voice of twenty-something theatre makers in Singapore. Kick-started by theatre veteran Tan Kheng Hua, the Twenty-Something Theatre Festival serves as a way to spur the young creatives on and encourages them to keep the stories they want to tell raw and true for the audience, sans guidance from any mentor or theatre. 

We caught up quickly with the two headlining playwrights, Irfan and Joel. Learn more these twenty-something talents in 20 seconds!

From left to right: Playwrights from Week 1 of Twenty-Something Theatre Festival - Irfan Kasban, Annabel Tan, Kenneth Chia, Johnny Jon Jon, Playwrights from Week 2 of Twenty-Something Theatre Festival - Euginia Tan, Joel Tan, Kimberly Arriola, David Khoo


Irfan Kasban (Trees, A Crowd) 

When did you realise that you need to pursue to be a playwright?

I realised that everybody has a story to tell, and unfortunately there is a always a group of people, or an issue that is overlooked in popular culture. I decided to write plays to give voices to these groups of people because in essence, stories are what makes us human. 

If there a character you wish to be, who would that be? Why?

The characters in my plays come from a very personal space - they are the many people I have encountered or at times wish to be. To answer the question, I wish to be a character void of envy, full of patience, charismatic, and filled with optimism. The closest I can think of is Lt. Adnan bin Saidi, not because he was a war hero, but because he fought valiantly till his last breath. Stubborn and inspiring. 

What do you do when you have a writer's block?

Take a shower, read a book, watch some mindless TV, have a conversation with my friends, i.e. procrastinate. Let the producers wait. As there are many layers to my plays, it takes a while to make them coherent and cohesive. Thus, I will let the idea fester within my subconscious. 

What would you tell a budding playwright?

1. Patience

2. Never underestimate your audience.

3. Casting is everything. 

4. Never let anyone call you a budding playwright. Your story is as important as anyone else's.


Joel Tan (Café) 

When did you realise that you need to pursue to be a playwright?

It was a year after my first play got staged in 2011, when I was involved in a show on campus called City Night Songs, by NUS Stage and Checkpoint Theatre. Almost every day for 8 weeks, we rehearsed, wrote and researched, on top of my regular final semester schedule, and I realised then that making theatre was what I loved. After graduation, I gave myself a year to try out freelance work while putting work up, and a year became two, and now it's been about four. I think the decision is ongoing!

If there a character you wish to be, who would that be? Why?

I don't really envy the characters in plays because they often go through a lot of hell and actually I like my life to be fairly un-dramatic, in the pursuit of mid- tto low- stakes and acceptable contentment. Sorry I'm not very ambitious. Sometimes I think I'd like to be a puppet, actually.  

What do you do when you have a writer's block?

Sometimes if I'm stuck, I take what I have and ransack it, typing it out from scratch off a hardcopy, anything to get the feeling of working on something new, or taking things in new directions. Sometimes, I just leave it alone for a few days and when I return to it, the block is gone. Sometimes, I don't touch the thing for several weeks until it's close to its deadline and almost certainly it will complete itself.

What would you tell a budding playwright?

Don't just be a playwright-- you will learn nothing about the theatre from writing scripts. Act, direct, design, be a stagehand, market, produce and of course watch.



Catch the last week of Twenty-Something Theatre Festival this Thursday - Sunday (16-19 Jun).

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