Haresh Sharma



Haresh Sharma (b. 1965, Singapore–) is the resident playwright of The Necessary Stage, Singapore. A critically-acclaimed playwright, he has written more than 40 short and full-length plays that have been staged in Singapore and abroad, such as Berlin, Germany as well as Birmingham and London in the UK.1 He won the 1993 Singapore Literature Prize for his play Still Building. In 1997, he was conferred the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council for his literary contributions.

Early life

Sharma grew up in the eastern Singapore. He was educated at Temasek Junior College and recalls a love for literature since his school days. However, he did not think his writings or compositions then were exceptional.

Sharma’s interest in playwriting was piqued only during his national service. During that time, he was assigned an 8-to-5 job in the army and was often home by night. Out of boredom and to occupy his time, he auditioned for and landed an acting part in the Arts Festival in June 1986. From then, he became more involved in theatre. Sharma was an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1987 when he became a founding member of the experimental theatre group, The Necessary Stage (TNS).3 He started writing plays in 1988 after acting and handling publicity and backstage production work with TNS.4

Sharma’s literary influences include Caryl Churchill, Maria Irene Fornes, E. M. Forster, David E. Kelly, Gary Larson, Bill Watterson and Harvey Kurtzman.5

Career as a full-time writer
Upon graduation from NUS in 1990, Sharma began his tenure as the resident playwright of TNS, a position he still holds today. On average, he writes three to four plays a year for TNS’s main season of plays. This excludes plays he writes for the company’s youth festivals and school programmes.6 


Sharma’s plays are critically acclaimed. In 1993, he was conferred the Singapore Literature Prize (Merit) for his play, Still Building.7 The published collection of the same title also won him a National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) Book Prize (Commendation) in 1996.8 Still Building was chosen to represent Singapore at the 1992 Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre and at Mayfest 1994 in Glasgow, Scotland.9 It was also staged in London’s Albany Theatre that year.10 

Sharma has been presented fellowships and grants by the British Council, the United States Information Service and Asia-Europe Foundation.11 In 1994, he won a Shell/National Arts Council Scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts (Playwriting) at the University of Birmingham, UK. Returning to Singapore in 1995, he continued his residency at TNS.12 Sharma received the NAC Young Artist Award for theatre in 1997.13 In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Goldberg Master Playwright by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.14

Sharma also actively shares his playwriting experience and talents with young artists. Besides teaching at the NUS Theatre Studies department, he has written plays for school assemblies and runs theatre workshops.15 He has also been commissioned to write plays. One of these was Off Centre, a play he wrote about mental illness, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Health. Another was the NAC-commissioned Revelations.16 Sharma’s plays have also been studied both locally and internationally, for instance at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. In 2006, in an effort to introduce more local literature into the G.C.E. “O” Levels syllabus, the Ministry of Education selected Off Centre as an “O” Levels literature text, the first Singaporean play to become such.17

Writings
Sharma sees playwriting as a liberating experience. Many of his plays explore both Singaporean and global issues, dealing with social themes such as mental illness, AIDS, inter-racial relations and the education system in Singapore.18 


Sharma does not adhere to a particular or single style of playwriting, preferring to experiment with different forms. To him, there is no one audience and no one standard response to his plays. His plays are written either from “scratch”, based on field research, or in collaborative modes with input and improvisations from other playwrights, directors and actors. He foresees a greater inclusion of choreography and multi-media in his future works.19 

Form however, does not override Sharma’s concern with the development of characters in his plays. This is because an audience accesses the play most directly through people, that is, character.20 

Education

Temasek Junior College, Singapore.
1990: Bachelor of Arts, NUS.
1995: Master of Arts (Playwriting), University of Birmingham, UK.

Awards
1988:
Merit Award, Shell/NUS Short Play Competition.

1993: Singapore Literature Prize (Merit), for the play Still Building.
1994: British Council Fellowship21 / Shell-National Arts Council (NAC) Scholarship, MA (Playwriting), University of Birmingham.
1996: National Book Council Development (Plays) (Commendation), for Still Building
1997: Young Artist Award, NAC.
2014: S.E.A Write Award.22
2015: Cultural Medallion, NAC.23

Works
Collection of plays
1994: Still Building

1999: This Chord and Others: A Collection of Plays
2000: Off Centre

Selected plays and year first staged

1989: Lanterns Never Go Out
1990: Those Who Can’t Teach
1991: More / This Chord and Others
1992: Still Building24
1993: Off Centre25 / Waiting / Three Years in the Life and Death of Land

1994: Hope26
1995: Top of the World27 / Rosnah
1996: October28
1997: One Day at a Time29 / Pillars
1998: Superfriends at the Hall of Justice / Walking into Doors
1999: Completely With/Out Character / The Exodus
2000: History, Whose Story? / Untitled (Women Number One)
2001: One Hundred Years in Waiting (co-writer) / Ah Boy and the Beanstalk / Untitled (Cow Number One)
2002: godeatgod

2003: Revelations / Koan / Hamlet / Mardi Gras, Top & Bottom30
2005: What Big Bombs You Have!!!31 / Boxing Day32
2006: Mobile33 / Fundamentally Happy34 / Divine Soap35
2007: Survivor Singapore

2008: Gemuk Girls
2009: Sofaman
2010: Model Citizens
2011: Singapore
2012: Crossings
2013: Best of
2014: Poor Thing
2015: Pioneer (Girls) Generation36



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Pan, R. (2002, July). The man’s a Sharma: Haresh improvises in interview. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/interview.asp?id=220
2. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 335–336. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
3. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 336. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Tsang, S. (1997, February 19). The Necessary Stage – from lunchtime concerts in town to Glasgow’s Mayfest. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
4. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
5. Pan, R. (2002, July). The man’s a Sharma: Haresh improvises in interview. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/interview.asp?id=220
6. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature. (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 337, 354. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
7. No winner for this year’s S’pore Literature Prize. (1993, December 17). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Birch, D., & Singh, K. (Eds.). (2007). Haresh Sharma. The cultural politics of playwriting in contemporary Singapore. In Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 6). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
9. Tan, A. (1993, May 21). Still Building takes centrestage. The Business Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tsang, S. (1997, February 19). The Necessary Stage – from lunchtime concerts in town to Glasgow’s Mayfest. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
11. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2006). Off Centre by Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from National Book Development Council website: http://bookcouncil.sg/programmes/book-clubs-archives
12. Entertainment – Haresh Sharma. (2001, September 8). The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Seah, L. (1997, August 30). Recipients of the Young Artist Awards. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

14. New York University. (n.d.) Faculty update: Haresh Sharma named Goldberg Master Playwright. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from New York University website: https://tisch.nyu.edu/tisch-asia/news/2011/10/faculty-update-haresh-sharma-named-goldberg-master-playwright
15. Entertainment – Haresh Sharma. (2001, September 8). The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
16. Off Centre dogged by controversy before its opening. (1993, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 8; Nayar, P. (2003, May 30). Local arts take on bigger role. The Business Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Cheong, S. W. (2006, July 9). Lit up over Singapore Lit. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Pan, R. (2002, July). The man’s a Sharma: Haresh improvises in interview. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/interview.asp?id=220
19. Pan, R. (2002, July). The man’s a Sharma: Haresh improvises in interview. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website:  http://www.qlrs.com/interview.asp?id=220
20. Pan, R. (2002, July). The man’s a Sharma: Haresh improvises in interview. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website:  http://www.qlrs.com/interview.asp?id=220
21. Sharma off to UK for theatre stint. (1994, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2016). S.E.A. Write Award. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from National Book Development Council website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/s.e.a-write-award
23. National Arts Council. (2016) Cultural Medallion: About Cultural Medallion. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/singaporeartsscene/culturalMedallion/overview.html
24. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html
25. Pandian, H. (1993, September 3). Play marks maturity of theatre. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html
27. Tsang, S. (1995, August 15). First cast your play – then write it. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html  
29. Sim, C. Y. (1997, July 5). Docu-drama throws light on the sufferings of lupus victims. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html
31. Hong, X. (2005, March 8). Visit granny, kill Bill. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Choy, E. (2005, May 5). Tragic replayThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Hong, X. (2006, May 23). Setting art in motion. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html
35. Hong, X. (2006, December 5). Divine comedy. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Doollee. (2003). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from Doollee website: http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sharma-haresh.html



Further resources
Ong, S. F. (2000, February 19). Sharma strikes a chord. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Goh, S. L. (1998, June 19). Letter – play’s creators did a super job. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The Necessary Stage. (n.d.). The company. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from The Necessary Stage website: http://necessary.org/index.php/about-us

The Necessary Stage. (n.d.). Haresh Sharma. Retrieved 2016, October 20 from The Necessary Stage website: http://necessary.org/index.php/about-us/tns-team



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Writers
Drama
Arts>>Theatre>>Playwriting
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Award winners
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Literature)
Dramatists--Biography
Cultural Medallion
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Arts>>Literature>>English (Singapore) Literature>>Drama
Sharma, Haresh, 1965- --Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors>>Cultural Medallion Recipients