Tay Bin Wee



Tay Bin Wee (b. 1926–d. 13 July 2000, Singapore)1 was a prominent actor and director in the Mandarin theatre scene in Singapore between the 1950s and 1980s. He co-founded the Singapore Amateur Players (now known as the Arts Theatre of Singapore), a Mandarin theatre group, in 1955. In the 1980s, Tay was a prime mover in bringing together all the local Mandarin drama groups for major productions staged during the Festival of Arts. For his contributions to local Mandarin theatre, Tay was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Theatre in 1988.2

Early life and career
Tay worked as a roadside peddler selling textiles when he was 16 years old. In 1956, he became a newspaper reporter with the Chinese paper Sin Chew Jit Poh. Tay later joined the broadcasting industry and rose through the ranks to become the Controller of the Chinese News and Current Affairs Unit at the former Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).3


In 1982, Tay left SBC and rejoined Sin Chew Jit Poh.4 In 1983, the newspaper merged with Nanyang Siang Pau, another Chinese newspaper, to form Lianhe Zaobao under the umbrella of Singapore News and Publications Ltd. Tay was appointed as one of the directors of the company and was also responsible for the management of the Chinese newspaper division.5 In 1989, he retired from the company's board of directors.6

Artistic career
Tay’s interest in theatre was cultivated while he was still a student at Chung Cheng High School. His teacher, Zhao Rulin, was a former principal of the Guangdong Institute of Drama. Tay learnt the art of acting and directing from Zhao.7


Tay made his acting debut in 1940. He was given a minor role in a play that did not require him to speak. However, upon hearing that prominent businessman Tan Kah Kee was in the audience, Tay was so frightened that he did not dare to appear on stage and a replacement had to be found.8 After the incident, Tay suffered from stage fright and did not want to act again. Subsequently, when the school staged the play Nepotism, his friends persuaded him to take on the role of Secretary Ma as the original actor was unavailable. His acting then won him a rather uncomplimentary review from a newspaper critic.9

Other than acting, Tay was also involved in directing by starting out as one of the directors of Chung Cheng High School’s drama group. In 1954, he co-directed Cao Yu’s adaption of Ba Jin’s classic Jia (Family). It was a large-scale production involving 40 actors and over 200 crew members that took 10 months to produce. The play was a great success. It ran for 16 days and tickets were sold out in three days.10

In 1955, Tay co-founded the Singapore Amateur Players (SAP).11 Despite having a full-time job, Tay continued to be actively involved in directing and acting.

Despite his earlier acting experiences, Tay developed into an accomplished actor and received accolades for his portrayals of Pan Yue Ting in SAP’s debut production, Ri Chu (Sunrise), and Feng Le Shan in Jia (Family).12

Some of the plays Tay directed with SAP were Cao Yu’s Beijing Ren (Peking Man), Lei Yu (Thunderstorm), Ri Chu (Sunrise), and the Dilapidated Villa. He also went on to direct seven other plays, including Xia Yu’s Fang Cao Tian Ya (Fragrant Grass in Faraway Places), Story of the Sea, Ibsen’s The Doll’s House, The Maggot and Father and Son.13

In 1976, after directing Father and Son, Tay decided to take a break from acting and directing as he was busy with his full-time job at SBC.14

Tay made his acting comeback in 1982 at the Arts Festival, playing the role of shrewd businessman and traitor Lin Xing Guo in Little White Sailing Boat.15 Though his previous appearance as an actor was in 1962, Tay did not lose his acting touch. His performance won excellent reviews.16

From the 1980s onwards, Tay was involved in getting the various Mandarin drama groups to pull their talents and resources together in order put up joint productions for the Festival of Arts organised by the former Ministry of Community Development. Theatre productions that resulted from Tay’s efforts included: The Little White Sailing Boat (1982), Oola World (1984), Kopi Tiam (1986) and Kabai Kabai (1988).17

Tay’s last performance in Chinese theatre was as Zhou Pu Yuan in Cao Yu’s Jia (Family), which was staged in 1988 under the direction of famous Beijing theatre director Xia Chun.18

Besides his involvement in acting and directing, Tay also lectured on drama and theatre to new comers at SAP as well as students in the drama societies of junior colleges.19

Stylistic conventions
Tay was well known for his roles as the antagonist and tended to play older characters. His frequent advice to other actors and practitioners was to be constantly aware of the audience and to be sensitive to them. A firm believer of Stanislavski’s realism system of theatre, Tay felt that not only should the performers act their roles, but they should also communicate with the audience.20


Singapore theatre practitioner Kuo Pao Kun once commented that Tay was an exceptionally creative actor whose artistic sensitivity went beyond the limitations of his own language and culture.21

Family22
Tay is survived by his wife, Mdm Ko Kim Hong, and four sons.

Awards23
1988:
Cultural Medallion for Theatre.


Appointments24
Advisor to the Singapore Amateur Players.

Advisor to the Singapore Federation of Chinese Drama Associations.

Notable plays directed by Tay25
1955: Ri Chu (Sunrise).
1956: The Dilapidated Villa.
1957: Thunderstorm.
1958: Fang Cao Tian Ya (Fragrant Grass in Faraway Places).
1962: The Story of the Sea.
1966: Beijing Ren (Peking Man).
1967: Ibsen’s The Doll’s House.
1973: The Maggot.
1976: Father and Son.
1982: Little White Sailing Boat.
1986: Kopitiam.
1987: No Parking on Odd Days [单日不可停车].
1988: Kapai Kapai.



Author
Chor Poh Chin




References
1. 文化界名人郑民威前晚病逝 [Wen hua jie ming ren zheng min wei qian wan bing shi]. (2000, July 14). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
3. From peddler to board director. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. 黄惠玲 [Huang, H. L.]. (1989, February 28). 面对考验求取进步 [Mian dui kao yan qiu qu jin bu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. 文化界名人郑民威前晚病逝 [Wen hua jie ming ren zheng min wei qian wan bing shi]. (2000, July 14). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. From peddler to board director. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
8. 陈婷 [Chen, T.]. (1982, November 27). 访民威 [Fang Min Wei]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 4; 黄惠玲 [Huang, H. L.]. (1989, February 28). 面对考验求取进步 [Mian dui kao yan qiu qu jin bu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chinese drama groups make their debut in Arts Festival. (1982, December 9). Singapore Monitor, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. 詹道玉 [Zhan, D. Y.]. (2001). 战后初期的新加坡华文戏剧, 1945–1959 [Zhan hou chu qi de Xinjiapo Hua wen xi ju, 1945–1959]. 新加坡: 新加坡国立大学中文系: 八方文化企业, p. 57. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.70072 ZDY)
11. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
12. 詹道玉 [Zhan, D. Y.]. (2001). 战后初期的新加坡华文戏剧, 1945–1959 [Zhan hou chu qi de Xinjiapo hua wen xi ju, 1945–1959]. 新加坡: 新加坡国立大学中文系: 八方文化企业, p. 76. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.70072 ZDY); Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
13. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 551. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
14. 黄惠玲 [Huang, H. L.]. (1989, February 28). 面对考验求取进步 [Mian dui kao yan qiu qu jin bu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. 黄惠玲 [Huang, H. L.]. (1989, February 28). 面对考验求取进步 [Mian dui kao yan qiu qu jin bu]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
17. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
18. 文化界名人郑民威前晚病逝
[Wen hua jie ming ren zheng min wei qian wan bing shi]. (2000, July 14). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chinese drama groups make their debut in Arts Festival. (1982, December 9). Singapore Monitor, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. 陈婷 [Chen, T.]. (1982, November 27). 访民威 [Fang Min Wei]. 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 551. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]);
林思云 [ Lin, S. Y.]. (1987, May 4). 真正的独脚戏 [Zhen zheng de du jiao xi]. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. From peddler to board director. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. From peddler to board director. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
24. From peddler to board director. (1989, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 551. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)




Further resource

郑民威 [Zheng, M. W.] et al. (1970). 十五年 [Shi wu nian]. 新加坡: 新加坡艺术剧场.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 792.095957 SWN)




The information in this article is valid as at 15 January 2014 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
Personalities
Arts