Lin Chen



Lin Chen (b. 1919, Singapore–d. 29 August 2004, Singapore) was a pioneer theatre director and playwright who was active in the local Mandarin theatre scene in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also an accomplished writer who wrote short stories and prose under the pen names of Bai Meng, Ai Meng, Bai Dan and Bai Ni.1 For his achievements and contributions to the local theatre scene, Lin was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Theatre in 1982.2

Early life and career
Lin Chen studied in Tao Nan School and graduated from The Chinese High School in 1938.3 He started work in 1937 drawing comics for the local newspapers and making wood carvings.4 In the 1930s, there were many street performances by roving drama groups whose themes were largely anti-Japanese in nature because of the Sino-Japanese war. The 18-year-old Lin watched one of these performances and fell in love with the theatre. Thus, he decided to join a drama group and took part in many street performances until Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.5

Following the end of the war in 1945, Lin and some like-minded friends formed the first professional drama group in Singapore: the Singapore Practical Drama Group. Lin was the group’s stage manager and was also in charge of stage design. The group was very active and even travelled as far as Penang, Malaysia, to perform. However, it wound up after two years due to financial difficulties. In 1955, Lin joined the Singapore Amateur Players (now known as the Arts Theatre of Singapore) and was its director for 17 years.6

In 1950, Lin joined a local publisher, Shi Jie Shu Ju, and worked there for 30 years until his retirement in 1980.7 Lin wrote prolifically and was part of the editorial committee of a well-known literary magazine, Nanyang Wen Yi.8 Outside of work, Lin devoted his free time entirely to theatre and writing.9 He wrote and directed many major drama productions and even found time to adapt plays for Radio Singapore and Rediffusion, two local radio broadcasting stations.10

After he retired from Shi Jie Shu Ju in 1981, Lin joined the People’s Association drama group as a drama instructor.11 One of his plays, Da po jing zi de nu ren, was chosen as a literature text for pre-university students studying Chinese as a second language.12

A bachelor, Lin was known to be a humble, simple and gentle person.13 However, he was intense and serious when it came to directing.14 Lin passed away at the age of 85 from pneumonia.15

Artistic career
Lin was most active in the drama scene in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1950s, he was mostly involved in directing plays. Most of these plays were classics such as Lei yu by Cao Yu, Sheng guan tu by Chen Baichen, and Shao nai nai de shan zi by Hong Shen. In the late 1950s and 1960s, he started to write as well as direct his own plays. He was very interested in promoting local productions and thus constantly encouraged other members of the group to write their own plays. Under his encouragement, the Singapore Amateur Players staged various local productions, such as Di er ci ben (1979), Ah Tian S (1974), Zhang xiu shan wu (1974), Bu zai hu tu (1974) and Shui shi zi ji ren (1974).16


In his 17 years as the director of the Singapore Amateur Players, Lin directed more than 20 plays, with at least one production annually. Of these, a number were his own creations or adaptations of other local works. Some of the
plays he wrote or adapted for production were: Sheng dan cai shen (1960), Yi ge you qian ren jia (1961), Qi shi er jia fang ke (1967) and Di er ci ben (1973).17


Other than his involvement with the Singapore Amateur Players, Lin also worked with various schools on their drama productions. For example, he was the director for a Nanyang Girls’ High School graduation play and Nan Chiau High’s drama performance at Victoria Theatre.18

In the 1960s, Lin decided to stop writing. He felt that to be creative, one must have different experiences in life. However, due to his age, his life experiences had become limited.19 Instead, he concentrated on training and mentoring the younger generation of actors, script writers and directors.20 He conducted drama training with the People’s Association drama group21 and also with the Cathay Organisation’s drama training classes.22 One of the well-known local dramatists he helped to groom was the late Kuo Pao Kun.23 Those mentored by Lin remembered his keen enthusiasm to develop the younger generation of actors and theatre practitioners, and his ability to give them very specific tips on how to improve their acting skills.24

Stylistic conventions
Lin believed that the quality of a stage production was dependent on the ability of the actors and the quality of the script, and not spectacular stage design.25 A good script, he believed, must have well-developed characters as well as sufficient tension and conflict in the plot.26 He also believed that having different life experiences served as important inspirations for a writer.27


For Lin, drama was a tool to “educate through entertainment”. Thus, his plays had realistic plots so the audience could identify and relate to the stories and characters.28

List of selected works
29
陋巷里 [Lou xiang li]. (1959).

酒巴间 [Jiu ba jian]. (1959).
打破镜子的人 [Da po jing zi de ren]. (1959).
圣诞财神 [Sheng dan cai shen]. (1960).
一个有钱的人家 [Yi ge you qian de ren jia] (1961)
建筑工地上 [Jian zhu gong di shang] (1961).
开斋节前后 [Kai Zhai jie qian hou] (1961).
不能再走这条路 [Bu neng zai zou zhe tiao lu] (1961).



Author
Chor Poh Chin




References
1.骆明 (主编) [Luo, M.]. (Ed.). (2005). 新加坡华文作家传略 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. Singapore: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 524. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP)
2. National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award recipients for theatre. Retrieved from https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/theatre/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-theatre
3.
Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
4.
骆明 (主编) [Luo, M.]. (Ed.). (2005). 新加坡华文作家传略 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. Singapore: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 524. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); 白郎 [Bai, L.]. (1980, May 1). 记名导演剧作家林晨 [Ji ming dao yan ju zuo jia Lin Chen]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
赵慕媛 [Zhao, M. Y.]. (1982, November 3). 戏剧界的长青树 [Xi ju jie de chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6.
赵慕媛 [Zhao, M. Y.]. (1982, November 3). 戏剧界的长青树 [Xi ju jie de chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 13; 廖为祥 [Liao, W. X.]. (1982, May 17). 一棵长青树 [Yi ke chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
8.
邱于浩 [Qiu, Y. H.]. (1980, January 3). 战前马华作家全貌 [Zhan qian ma hua zuo jia quan mao]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
10.
飞舞 [Fei, W.]. (1982, October 31). 林晨我国剧坛光辉而朴实的名字 [Lin Chen wo guo ju tan guang hui er pu shi de ming zhi]. 南洋商  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Play gives scope to every actor. (1984, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
12. 廖为祥 [Liao, W. X.]. (1982, May 17). 一棵长青树 [Yi ke chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
Old guard of Mandarin drama. (1987, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 7; 赵慕媛 [Zhao, M. Y.]. (1982, November 3). 戏剧界的长青树 [Xi ju jie de chang qing shu]. 洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Purushothaman , V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 150. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
15.
Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
16.
叶宝莲 [Ye, B. L.]. (1982, November 30). 文化奖章得奖人特访之五 献身戏剧的林晨 [Wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren te fang zhi wu xian shen xi ju de Lin Chen. 南洋商 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
廖为祥 [Liao, W. X.]. (1982, May 17). 一棵长青树 [Yi ke chang qing shu]. 星洲日 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Giam, D., et al. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 35.(Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
19.
叶宝莲 [Ye, B. L.]. (1982, November 30). 文化奖章得奖人特访之五 献身戏剧的林晨 [Wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren te fang zhi wu xian shen xi ju de Lin Chen. 南洋商 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
今晚艺海英才介绍剧坛健将林晨及基斯杜化雅伦 [Jin wan yi hai ying cai jie shao ju tan jian jiang Lin Chen ji Ji si du hua ya lun] (1984, July 3). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Play gives scope to every actor. (1984, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
张燕萍和赖素春. (访员) [Zhang, Y. P. & Lai, S. C.]. (Interviewer). (2009, October 29). Oral History Interview with Tan Poh Han [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002898/33/10, pp. 260, 261] Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
23. 张燕萍和赖素春. (访员) [Zhang, Y. P. & Lai S. C.]. (Interviewer). (2009, Novemebr 29). Oral History Interview with Tan Poh Han [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002898/33/24, p. 563]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

24. 张燕萍和赖素春. (访员) [Zhang, Y. P. & Lai, S. C.]. (Interviewer). (2009, October 29). Oral History Interview with Tan Poh Han [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002898/33/10, p. 262];
张燕萍和赖素春. (访员) [Zhang, Y. P. & Lai, S. C.]. (Interviewer). (2009, October 29). Oral History Interview with Tan Poh Han [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002898/33/10, p. 263]; 张燕萍和赖素春. (访员) [Zhang, Y. P. & Lai, S. C.]. (Interviewer). (2009, October 29). Oral History Interview with Tan Poh Han [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002898/33/10, p. 270] Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
25. 赵慕媛. [Zhao, M. Y.]. (1982, November 3). 戏剧界的长青树 [Xi ju jie de chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26.
叶宝莲 [Ye, B. L.]. (1982, November 30). 文化奖章得奖人特访之五 献身戏剧的林晨 [Wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren te fang zhi wu xian shen xi ju de Lin Chen]. 南洋商  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27.
叶宝莲 [Ye, B. L.]. (1982, November 30). 文化奖章得奖人特访之五 献身戏剧的林晨 [Wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren te fang zhi wu xian shen xi ju de Lin Chen]. 南洋商  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 150. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
29.
赵慕媛 [Zhao, M. Y.]. (1982, November 3). 戏剧界的长青树 [Xi ju jie de chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 13; 廖为祥 [Liao, W. X.]. (1982, May 17). 一棵长青树 [Yi ke chang qing shu]. 星洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1946). 舞台监督漫谈 [Wu tai jian du man tan]. S.I.: s.n.

(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 792 LC-[LC])

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1948). 儿童新歌 [Er tong xin ge]. 新加坡: 新南洋出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS 782.42083 ETX)

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1959). 陋巷里 [Lou xiang li]. 新加坡: 世界书局.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C812.7 LC-[AKS])

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1961) 建屋工地上 [Jian wu gong di shang]. 香港: 南洋文艺出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C812.7 LC)

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1964). 浮沉之间 [Fu chen zhi jian]. 新加坡: 世界书局.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C812.7 LC)

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1977). 打破镜子的女人浅析 [Da po jing zi de nü ren qian xi]. 新加坡: 新加坡世界书局.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7004 DPJ-[LC])

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (1967). 七十二家房客: 四幕讽刺大喜剧 [Qi shi er jia fang ke: Si mu feng ci da xi ju]. 香港: 东亚书局.
(Call. no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 LC-[AKS])

林晨 [Lin, C.]. (2003). 林晨剧作集 [Lin chen ju zuo ji]. 新加坡: 新华文化事业.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 LC)



The information in this article is valid as at 5 February 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
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Theatre)
Lin, Chen, 1919-2004
Authors, Chinese--Singapore
Theatre
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
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