Teater Ekamatra



Teater Ekamatra was founded by playwright, dramatist and director Lut Ali and his wife Rubie Lazim in 1988 to develop contemporary experimental Malay theatre that fuses traditional Southeast Asian theatre styles with contemporary techniques. This was a departure from the folktale-based Malay theatre that then characterised the Malay theatre scene in Singapore. The company focuses on general socio-political themes in its productions to appeal to both the Malay community and non-Malay audiences.1

Personalities
Lut Ali
Lut Ali is hailed as one of the best local directors in Malay experimental theatre, and is well known for producing surrealistic works such as Kakiku (My Foot) in 1991 and Bukan Di Syurga Yang Ini (Not in This Heaven) in 1992.2 He was awarded the National Arts Council's (NAC) Young Artist Award in 1994 for his contributions to theatre.3 Lut handed over the reins of the company to a new group of young leaders in 1995 before leaving to pursue a drama degree at the Edith Cowan University, Australia.4 Upon his return to Singapore in 1998, he was tasked to co-produce the 60-episode Malay soap opera Gelora (Passion) for then Singapore Television 12.5


Noor Effendy Ibrahim
Noor Effendy was the artistic director of the company from 2001 to 2006.6 Under his direction, Teater Ekamatra successfully reached out to non-Malay audiences and went regional with its performances through Projek Suitcase.7 A stalwart of the local Malay theatre scene, Noor Effendy has served as an NAC board member,8 and on the panel of various festivals such as the Singapore Arts Festival, Singapore Writers' Festival and the Pesta Raya Malay Festival of Arts. He was the artistic director of The Substation from February 2010 to January 2015.9


Zizi Azah Abdul Majid
Zizi Azah has been involved with Teater Ekamatra since she was 19 and was appointed artistic director of the company in 2009 when she was 28. She staged her first play, How Did the Cat Get So Fat, with Teater Ekamatra in 2006. The play received rave reviews and a nomination for Best Original Script at the 2007 Life! Theatre Awards. It was restaged at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2007.10 Zizi was one of the recipients of the Young Artist Award in 2012.11


Location and funding
The company moved from the now-defunct Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre to the Aliwal Arts Centre in Kampong Glam in March 2013. This arts centre was the second project after the Goodman Arts Centre to be implemented under NAC’s new Framework for Arts Spaces scheme.12


In 1992, Teater Ekamatra successfully applied for and was awarded a grant of S$27,000 under NAC’s prestigious Theatre Grant Scheme.13 In 1999, Teater Ekamatra became the first and sole Malay theatre group to receive a one-year grant from the NAC.14 The company received further grants of S$118,000 and S$140,000 from NAC’s Major Grant Scheme in 2011 and 2012 respectively.15 In April 2013, the company was also one of 48 arts organisations to receive funding under NAC’s new Grants Framework.16

Productions
Over the years, Teater Ekamatra has been gradually shifting its focus from Malay issues for the Malay community to larger Singaporean and global issues. The company has been successfully reaching out to non-Malay audiences through: productions that transcend social and racial lines, the use of English surtitles, and collaborations with English, Chinese and Indian theatre companies.17

The company’s two most successful performances to date are Charged and Nadirah. Both won awards at the Life! Theatre Awards and enjoyed sold-out performances when they were restaged at the Man Singapore Theatre Festival in 2011.18

Nadirah, written by Alfian Sa’at, was first performed in 2009. It is the story of a young Muslim woman’s struggles with her Chinese, Muslim-convert mother's possible conversion to Christianity. The play received rave reviews when it played in Kuala Lumpur in 2012.19

Charged, staged in 2010, is a critically acclaimed play by playwright Chong Tze Chien that touches on politically-sensitive racial and religious issues. It tells of a young Chinese soldier who commits suicide after shooting his Malay counterpart at an army camp during Chinese New Year.20

Teater Ekamatra has also produced site-specific works and these include: Dhavusya (which means “sin” in Sanskrit) performed at Fort Canning Park in 1997,21 Thamar (which means the “date” fruit in Arabic) staged at Labrador Park in 1998,22 Happy Valentine’s Day held at the Kallang Riverside Park in 1999,23 and This Placement held at the former Geylang Fire Station in 2012.24

Noor Effendy was instrumental in taking the company’s productions overseas through youth theatre exchanges, workshops and collaborations with artists from around the region. He initiated Projek Suitcase in 2003 to showcase works by local and foreign playwrights. The first Projek Suitcase featured works by Singaporean and Malaysian playwrights, and was staged at the Pesta Raya Malay Festival of Arts at the Esplanade, and at the Stor Teater in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Subsequent editions of Projek Suitcase were held in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.25

Education and outreach efforts
Since 1999, Teater Ekamatra has been organising the Pesta Peti Putih (White Box Festival), an annual Malay theatre festival for tertiary students that attracts on average some 150 junior college, polytechnic and university students each year. These young talents are mentored by experienced Malay theatre practitioners and those with potential are invited to contribute scripts for its playwright programme, Via. The scripts are then reworked and staged as free public readings at locations such as the Library@Esplanade. Subsequently, the better scripts are further enhanced and staged as full-length productions under the Mentah (Raw) series.26


Teater Ekamatra also initiated a theatre training scheme, MEREKA (Create), in 2011. This year-long programme aims to nurture and mentor the next generation of playwrights, directors, actors and production designers, and instil in them the necessary skills and competencies for a career in the theatre industry. Participants of the programme have performed in professional productions and pursued degrees at the Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London.27

Teater Ekamatra co-published a collection of Malay plays entitled Bisik (Whisper) with publisher Ethos Books in 2002. Edited and curated by playwright Alfian Sa’at, the anthology aims to compile, document and archive Malay plays. It features plays written in the 1990s that represent contemporary Malay theatre writings.28

Another effort by the company to document Malay theatre is its catalogue of about 200 scripts dating back to the 1960s. Physical copies of the scripts have been made available to the public for reference and research purposes.29

Selected performances
1989:
Juara (Champion).30

1991: Kakiku (My Foot).31
1992: Berakhirnya Sebuah Perjuangan (End of a Struggle), set during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.32
1993: Perhiasan Kaca, adapted from Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.33
1994: Raja Lawak (King of Comedians), staged at the Festival of Arts.34
1995: Cerita Cinta (Love Story), about teenage love.35
1997: Dhavusya (Sanskrit for “sin”), staged at Fort Canning Park.36
1998: Thamar (Arabic for the “date” fruit), staged at Labrador Park.37
1999: Happy Valentine’s Day, staged at the Kallang Riverside Park.38
2001: Kampung 2000 (Village 2000), a four-day-long Malay theatre/arts festival.39
2002: Causeway, staged at the Singapore Arts Festival and featured actors from Teater Ekamatra and Malaysia’s The Actors Studio.40
2004: Mr Mamat Magik Melayu, staged at the Singapore Arts Festival Outreach Programme.41
2005: Impenjarament (Imprisonment), stage at the Singapore Arts Festival.42
2009: Kkenang (Memories), presented at the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre.43
2012: Hantaran Buat Mangsa Lupa (Offerings for the Victims of Amnesia), a trilogy of plays staged at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.44
2012: This Placement, held at the former Geylang Fire Station.45
2013: Tahan (Endure), about the police national service experience.46

Past awards
2009:
Bilik Ahmad won Best Ensemble at the 9th Life! Theatre Awards.47

2010: Nadirah won Best Original Script (Alfian Sa'at) and Best Supporting Actress (Neo Swee Lin) at the 10th Life! Theatre Awards.48
2011: Charged won Best Original Script (Chong Tze Chien) at the 11th Life! Theatre Awards.49



Author

Lee Xin Ying and Veronica Chee




References
1. Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4). New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Young Artist Award winners. (1994, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Yaakub Rashid. (1992, January 8). Lut’s odyssey. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Young Artist Award winners. (1994, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1995, January 9). More Malay plays to be staged this year. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tuminah Sapawi. (1998, July 7). Love, betrayal and scandal. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4). New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Cheah, U. (2003, December 5). Exploring diversity in the Malay world. The Business Times; Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4).
New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Oon, C. (2004, September 10). Arts Council gets five new members. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Noor Effendy Ibrahim appointed as Substation's new artistic director. (2010, January 12). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva; Lee , J. X. (2015, September 30). The Substation announces artist-curator Alan Oei as its new artistic director. The Straits Times. Retrieved from The Straits Times website: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/the-substation-announces-artist-curator-alan-oei-as-its-new-artistic-director

10. Chew, D. (2009, September 15). New faces in Ekamatra. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, C. (2012, December 17). The Life! in interview with Zizi Azah; making her work count. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
12. Tan, C. (2013, May 14). Glam home for arts. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
13. Mardian Abu Bakar. (1992, August 28). Lut’s lot. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4). New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, C. (2011, March 31). Council to give arts funding 25% boost. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Tan, C. (2012, March 30). Arts groups get more funding. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
16. National Arts Council. (2013, April 3). Nurturing Diversity and Deepening Artistic Roots – NAC Major and Seed Grants Recipients 2013 receive a 30% boost in funding [Press release]. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-centre/news-releases/news-detail?id=c2db15e2-c319-40ec-939c-d58735d0a91c
17. Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4). New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, C. (2013, May 7 ). Theatre bagus. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Tan, C. (2012, December 17). The Life! in interview with Zizi Azah; making her work count. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
19. Tan, C. (2013, May 7 ). Theatre bagus. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
20. Tan, C. (2012, December 17). The Life! in interview with Zizi Azah; making her work count. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
21. Tuminah Sapawi. (1990, February 12). Love without words. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tuminah Sapawi. (1990, February 12). Love without words. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Alfian Sa'at. (1999, February 18). Er, what is he suffering from? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tan, C. (2013, May 7 ). Theatre bagus. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
25. Cheah, U. (2003, December 5). Exploring diversity in the Malay world. The Business Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Hong, X. Y. (2006, July 4). New phases of Malay theatre. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Tan, C. (2012, December 17). The Life! in interview with Zizi Azah; making her work count. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Teater Ekamatra. [n.d.]. Youth Development: MEREKA. Retrieved from Teater Ekamatra website: http://www.ekamatra.org.sg/mereka/
28. Ong, S. F. (2002, April 13). New collection of Malay plays. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Ong, S. F. (2002, April 13). New collection of Malay plays. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Mardiana Abu Bakar. (1989, Febuary 21). Not to be weighed down by words. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Yaakub Rashid. (1992, January 8). Lut’s odyssey. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Yaakub Rashid. (1992, May 6). Horrors of war relived in play. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Norenshah Sahari. (1993, April 30). New role for singer Asnida. The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Miyuki Morimoto will not perform at Arts Fest. (1994, April 9). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Teenagers tell love story. (1995, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Tuminah Sapawi. (1990, February 12). Love without words. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Tuminah Sapawi. (1990, February 12). Love without words. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Alfian Sa'at. (1999, February 18). Er, what is he suffering from? The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Malay arts fest. (2001, March 14). The Straits Times, p. L7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Chow, C. (2005, September 1). Causeway crushes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. More skin, please. (2004, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Hong, X. Y., & Chow, C. (2005, June 29). Singapore Arts Fest: A season of brilliance? The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43.Teater Ekamatra. (2011). Past Seasons. Retrieved from Teater Ekamatra website: http://www.ekamatra.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/pastseason.pdf
44. M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. (2012). It’s Fringe time. Retrieved from M1 Singapore Fringe Festival website: http://m.singaporefringe.com/fringetime.php
45. Tan, C. (2013, May 7 ). Theatre bagus. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
46. Ng, Y. S. (2013, February 23). Endurance passes the test. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
47. 2009 winners at a glance. (2009, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Tan, C. (2013, May 7). Theatre bagus. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Teater Ekamatra. (2011). About Us. Retrieved from Teater Ekamatra website: http://www.ekamatra.org.sg/home/about
49. Tan, C. (2012, December 17). The Life! in interview with Zizi Azah; making her work count. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.



The information in this article is valid as at 29 May 2013 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
Theatre
Performing arts--Singapore
Theater--Singapore
Malay theatre companies
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Theatre
Theatrical producers and directors--Singapore

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