The Straits Times’ Life! Theatre Awards



The Straits Times’ Life! Theatre Awards was inaugurated in 2001. It is organised by Life!, the arts and entertainment section of the newspaper The Strait Times,1 to acknowledge the contributions of theatre productions in Singapore.2 First announced on 4 January 2000, the award sought to honour the best stage productions, actors, actresses, directors and playwrights from Singapore.3 The annual awards ceremony was organised for the 16th time in 2016.4 As of 2015, it is the only local award that honours outstanding stage work.5 In 2008, then Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lee Boon Yang (Dr), commented on the event during Parliament, calling it a “commendable initiative by the corporate sector to honour successful artists”.6

Nomination and judging
The period of judging for each award is from 1 January to 31 December of the previous year.7 Initially, from 2001 to 2003, only Singapore citizens, permanent residents, and productions such as full-length plays, musicals and monologues by Singapore-based theatre companies were considered, although they could be in any language.8 From 2004 onwards, foreigners who have resided and worked for a minimum of five years in Singapore have also been considered.9 A panel of judges then view the works and shortlist three to five works for each category. The final scores are then compiled by professional auditors.10


The inaugural event
The inaugural awards ceremony was held at The Fullerton Hotel on 26 February 2001. A total of 37 plays were submitted for consideration, with five shortlisted for each category by a panel of 13 judges. The guest of honour was then Minister for Information and the Arts Lee Yock Suan. The event was emceed by local actors Adrian Pang and Karen Tan.11 The second “Take Art!” campaign by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to promote Singapore to tourists was also launched.12 A book on Singapore’s English-language theatre, written by Straits Times journalist Clarissa Oon, was also launched on 5 October 2001 in conjunction with the event.13

Subsequent events
The awards and criteria have undergone a few changes since its start in 2001. While the awards were initially given only to the cast, directors and script writers, honourable mentions have been handed out to recognise the contributions of the technical and backstage crew since 2003.14 From 2004, the nomination criteria has been expanded to allow foreigners who have lived and worked in Singapore for at least five years to be nominated.15


New award categories have been introduced in recent years ̶ the Readers’ Choice Awards, which started in 2013, allowed readers to vote online for their favourite productions,16 while 2016 saw the first award for Best Production for the Young being handed out for children’s productions.17

Sponsorships and collaborations
The Life! Theatre Awards has received sponsorships and established collaborations with various organisations over the years, and has changed its name to reflect the sponsorships. From 2002 to 2003, it was called DBS Life! Theatre Awards as it was sponsored by DBS Bank.18 Its name reverted to Straits Times’ Life! Theatre Awards in 2004 when the sponsorship ended.19

From 2010 to 2011, F&N Seasons also stepped in as a sponsor, although the awards remained as Life! Theatre Awards.20 Telecommunications company M1 became the sponsor for the awards in 2015 and 2016, leading it to be renamed as M1-The Straits Times’ Life! Theatre Awards. It also concurrently collaborated with Esplanade ̶ Theatres on the Bay to present the awards.21




Author

Peter Pak & Goh Lee Kim



References
1. Tan, S. E. (2001, February 27). Homegrown play sweeps 5 awards. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
2. Life! salutes best in theatre. (2001, January 22). The Straits Times, p. H3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Theatre awards? You bet your Life! (2000, January 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Nanda, A. (2016, April 26). Hotel is big winner at Life! Theatre Awards. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. Helmi Yusof. (2015, April 21). 2 plays win S’pore theatre’s top prize. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
6. ST Life! Theatre Awards a ‘commendable initiative’. (2008, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 56.  Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Theatre awards? You bet your Life! (2000, January 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Oon, C. (2000, February 28). Looking for the best in drama. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Some changes this year. (2004, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Oon, C. (2000, February 28). Looking for the best in drama. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, S. E. (2001, February 27). Homegrown play sweeps 5 awards. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Oon, C. (2001, February 3). Life!’s awards to kick off arts drvie. The Straits Times, p. L3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Stages in S’pore theatre. (2000, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 3; Chow, C. (2001, October 5). Stage to page. The Straits Times, p. L6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chow, C. (2003, April 1). 10 backstage heroes honoured. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Some changes this year. (2004, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Huang, L. (2013, July 2). Dark horse steals the show. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Said, N. (2016, March 29). Best Production for the Young; Life! Theatre Awards: Visual treats for kids. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
18. Suhaila Sulaiman. (2002, April 13). Banking on Life! Awards. The Straits Times, p. 4; Suhaila Sulaiman. (2003, March 31). Theatre comes out to play tonight. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Some changes this year. (2004, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chia, A. (2010, March 11). 10 years and growing strong. The Straits Times, p. 11; Chia, A. (2011, April 5). Surprise as small show scores big. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Ting, L. (2015, March 17). Life! Theatre Awards marks 15 years with a new identity. The Straits Times; Huang, L. (2016, April 27). Rookie actor Benjamin Chow among newcomers recognised at Life Theatre Awards. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Drama--Singapore
Theatre--Singapore
Theatre
Arts>>Theatre
Arts--Awards--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Theatre