2017 Literature Night

On 20 October, the Orchestra Rehearsal Studio at SOTA played host to Lit Night, the Literature in English Faculty’s annual tradition celebrating our upper year students’ interaction with literary studies.

Lit Night has taken on a variety of forms every year, ranging from talks by visiting laureates to performance showcases of the young artists that make SOTA home. This year’s Lit Night featured a variety of performances revolving around spoken word and the theme ‘Unreal City’.

2017 Lit Night

Why ‘Unreal City’? The theme emerged during a group discussion involving the student organizing committee of Lit Night 2017. The phrase, picked out from T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece The Waste Land, can be found in the following lines that describe existential questions hanging over the dwellers of early 20th Century London:

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,  

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,  

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,  

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Although sunny Singapore is not the likeliest of places to find brown fogs of winter dawns hanging over bridge-crossing crowds, the lines from the poem resonated with the organizing team, all of whom were in Year 5 and for whom the urban environment was the landscape of their own experiences as teenagers moving into young adulthood. Following the selection of the theme, students of SOTA were invited to create performances based on their interpretation of the chosen theme.

The result was a showcase of original works prompted by the phrase ‘Unreal City’. True to the spirit of celebrating literariness, each performer made use of the written word: words were sung, shaped into stories, spoken as poetry, or performed as stand-alone pieces, one-act plays, and sometimes blended with the performative qualities of other media like film and music.

2017 Literature Night 10

Myka and Alicia performing Honey by Khelani and Serendipity by Park Jimin

2017 Literature Night 1

Vandana Venkataraman performing Hyacinth Girl

Beginning the night’s performances were Year 3 students Myka and Alicia who presented their renditions of love songs Honey by Khelani, and Serendipity by Park Jimin. Love was a continued motif in Vandana Venkataraman’s dramatic monologue, Hyacinth Girl, on how love threatens to challenge one’s sense of self-preservation, and in Nuryn Qistina’s brave and breathless spoken word piece, Falling in Love With a City We Have Never Been To, which compares traveling and new encounters to the exhilaration of infatuation.

2017 Literature Night 2

Nuryn Qistina performing Falling in Love With a City We Have Never Been To

2017 Literature Night 9

Naja Suratee performing Milk

A number of the performers used the connected the theme to the act of growing up in an urban environment and how the experience shapes a sense of self-identity. Naja Suratee’s Milk was a collection of interconnected vignettes, each dwelling on coming-of-age experiences, while Harris Albar’s Spotify Happy Playlist explored the idea of learning to be unhappy the older one grows. Kristen Lauren Oliveiro joined SOTA in Year 5 (while most of her classmates had been part of the school since Year 1) and her confessional piece, i/I, explored how the self is constructed through changing identities.

2017 Literature Night 5

Harris Albar performing Spotify Happy Playlist

2017 Literature Night 8

Kristen Oliveiro performing i/I

Some seized on the title of the poem from which the night’s theme was taken from and performed various interpretations of wastedness and wastefulness. Notably Wan Xiao Qing’s spoken word poem Restive, Nicolette Wee’s prose-poem Ring a Ring a Roses and Maryam Norhimli’s creative non-fiction work, Cotton, explored the quandary of human relationships, activity, exhaustion, and the wastefulness of human existence.

2017 Literature Night 4

Wan Xiao Qing performing Restive

2017 Literature Night 6

Nicolette Wee performing Ring a Ring a Roses

2017 Literature Night 3

Maryam Norhimli performing Cotton

As young artists SOTA students have never shied away from complex issues in their performance art, and Muhammad Irsyad’s provocatively titled interactive one-act play, Singapore is China, deconstructed racial privilege in Singapore by subverting the identities of the privileged and marginalized speaker.

2017 Literature Night 7

Muhammad Irsyad performing Singapore is China

2017 Literature Night 11

Naqib Putra Zalman performing Amateur of the Form

Playing on the idea of Lit Night as a platform of expression, Naqib Putra Zalman’s Amateur of the Form took on the motif of freedom and nudity — through the usage of illustrations and a short film used as an accompaniment to spoken word.

As part of the students’ Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) component for their IB Diploma Programme, Lit Night gives SOTA students an opportunity to learn the workings of putting a performance art event togetaher. The experience will hopefully inform these young artists on the nuts and bolts of assembling a series of performances, so that the experience that they have gained as students of SOTA will include knowledge of on how to create the platforms for art to happen, in addition to increased knowledge and depth in their making of art.

By Catalina Rembuyan

Advertisements

2017 Year 4 Enrichment – The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible - Obsession Series

In May to July, SOTA’s Theatre Faculty presented a series of Western stage classics which explores humanity’s tendency to be anguished over desires, and get tangled up in mayhem in the process. Within the series was an adaptation of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Serendipitous, The Crucible was read as a play in the Year 4 Literature syllabus. Attending the play for enrichment was therefore a rare opportunity for the students to see come alive, a text presented by their own cohort peers.

To Theatre teacher Mr Sazali Abu Othman, the process was just as important as the curtain call for the decisions and changes made together offers learning experiences in the theatre-making. In a collaborative process, the cast and director discussed scenes to focus on in this adaptation in an effort to draw out most effectively the play’s thematic concerns. Other considerations that Mr Sazali had to pay heed to also included the distribution of parts to best fit the make up and dynamics of the cast. To this end, some gender roles in the original play were reversed and two John Procters were used.

Instead of staging the play in puritanical garb of the 17th Century Massachusetts, the clothes donned by the cast were altered; the “afflicted” were dressed in schoolgirl uniforms decked with matching socks and shoes while the unmovable  judges wore powers suits and court shoes. Beyond suggesting strict conformity, the outfits made references to cultures of regimentation and the attendant repression.

As students of both Literature and Theatre, Brian Ko, Gabrielle Ng, Naqib Putra Zalman and Amber Goh share their thoughts on the the roles they played in this convergence of art forms.

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 23

Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

What aspects of the character were you trying to accentuate as you played your role?

AMBER: I played the role of Betty as well as Goody Nurse. Though these roles were supporting characters, they also had great significance in pushing the plot forward. For instance, Betty’s “illness” triggered the witch hunt when she fainted after being found to have taken part in the forbidden rituals in the forest. For Betty, I mainly had to lie down without moving for the majority of the first scene. When Betty woke up, I tried to portray the kind of fear that all the girls were tangled in as they were threatened by Abigail not to tell the truth. I initially thought that it seemed like an easy task to lie down and close your eyes, but when I actually experienced it, it was very different from actually sleeping. I could only rely on my auditory senses for my cues to “wake up”. Furthermore, there were a lot of struggles that happened between the girls and Betty, and I think there was a lot of trust among the actors, such that we were able to perform the struggle without awkwardness.

GABRIELLE: As an actor, I find that I get too comfortable with playing the more vocal and dramatic characters like Abigail Williams, and so when I was given the role of Elizabeth Proctor who is much more reserved, and quiet in nature, I was slightly taken aback. Our director, Mr Sazali, told me that he had made that role placement to let me broaden my range as an actor, and I am very grateful that he wanted to help me do that. What really helped me channel these aspects of Elizabeth was that he told me to picture her spirit animal. I imagined that hers would be a swan, an animal that displays poise, gentleness and peace. It was these aspects of her character which I thought were very important in portraying Elizabeth, and I tried very hard to incorporate this in my movement and speech.

BRIAN: His power hungriness. I wanted to portray an accurate version of Parris and according to the play, he is one power hungry reverend. At the start of scene one, it can be seen how desperate he is with regards to protecting his status and position in the community. He raises his voice at Abigail, forcing her to tell him about the witchcraft that his daughter was also part of. Parris fears that his opposition might use this scandal to stunt his career. Also in scene 3 at the courtroom, Parris attempts to deny the practice of witchcraft in his family when questioned by Judge Danforth. He breaks eye contact with the judge, he seats at the edge of the seat and stutters in denial. In this way, I tried accentuating Pariss’ power hungriness.

NAQIB: I was trying to portray John Proctor as a cold and analytical kind of person rarely showing his emotion but also vulnerable. It is only when he hears the news that his wife is accused of witchcraft that he shows that he does care. I was trying to portray him in such a way that the the audience will be moved to sympathise with him. I feel that an actor will only succeed in playing his or her character when the audience forms an emotional attachment towards the character, and roots for him or her to succeed. This can be enhanced by showing what the character stands to lose.

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 13
Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

The Crucible - Pictures by Denise Wang 3

Photo Credit: Denise Wang

How did you feel about being part of a production that your peers are also studying for simultaneously?

AMBER: It was the first time doing the same text for literature and theatre. Theatre and Literature both analyse the characters in different ways but leading to similar outcomes, so it was nice to see both approaches play out together. Analysis discussed in Literature was also relevant to our characters in Theatre.

GABRIELLE: The fact that we were studying The Crucible in Literature as a cohort made me more excited to perform it. I was happy that I could be part of bringing this play to life so that my peers could maybe further enhance their understanding of the text as they could have the theatrical experience.

BRIAN: In class, when your character’s name is mentioned, classmates will look at you in admiration…*clears throat* I mean, knowing that our peers are studying the play, it felt even more worthwhile to be part of this production. The play is relatable to them and hopefully helpful to them as they study it. At the end of the day, a play is supposed to be performed. Performing this play fulfills that purpose of it.

NAQIB: It feels like extra literature lessons that kills two birds with one stone. When memorising lines, I can remember them as quotes to use in my literature essays. I used bits of my character analysis of John Proctor as my character’s motivation giving me a better understanding of the text.

  The Crucible - Pictures by Denise Wang 2
Photo Credit: Denise Wang

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 1

Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

How has your understanding or appreciation of the character you played in the production impacted the way you studied him or her in your Literature classes?

AMBER: For me, we did not delve deep into the characters I played (Betty and Goody Nurse). However, based on my observations in Literature lessons and in Theatre lessons, I noticed that the subjects focus on different aspects. In Literature, we analysed the characters’ speech, actions, and what they were thinking to understand the character. Theatre might have a different interpretation. However, putting ourselves in the character shoes and seeing how we would react to various situations might allow us to further relate and understand their thought processes. In Theatre, we used our bodies, and our interactions with each other to incorporate the thought processes of the characters. That was how we built our characters.

GABRIELLE: Working on The Crucible in Theatre helped me with my understanding of my character in Literature, and vice versa. I believe that these two disciplines work hand in hand, and that one cannot do without the other, especially in one’s understanding of classic plays like this. With Literature lessons, I was able to understand the theory behind my character’s intention and the plot functions of the other characters. In Theatre, I was able to literally go into the shoes of Elizabeth Proctor, further enhancing my understanding of why she did certain things, like her terse answers to her husband. Having both Literature lessons and rehearsals for The Crucible simultaneously, I was able to holistically understand the play inside and out.

BRIAN: This was my very first time playing a character in an fully staged play, so whenever, my character appears in the book or gets mentioned in class, a warm feeling emerges from deep within me. Studying my character just reminds me of the good times I had during the production and the memories of playing that character. I became more passionate than before the production in studying Parris. Playing the character forces you to examine your character closely so that your portrayal of the character is a convincing one. The production created this need for me to really study the character’s personality, motivations and characteristics thoroughly. Whenever my character is mentioned during literature class, I would be more attentive than usual.

NAQIB: During theatre lessons, my understanding of my character slowly increased over the process of creating the production. This was achieved through line reads and doing our own analysis. However, we change the staging of The Crucible in our adaptation, thus making my character and his motives quite different, so my views on the character had to likewise adapt. However, it does not detract from the fact that it has had a great impact for I understand the story and the character John Proctor much better compared to before the production. I understand his relationship with his wife, Abigail and the dynamics in court much better.

 The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 4
Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 9

Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

What are your thoughts on the set of the production? What do you think worked to heighten the tension of the play?

AMBER: We set it in a more modern context, in a school. I really liked the use of chalk as our set was all painted with chalkboard paint, including all the blocks, the steps, as well as the swivel door. At John and Elizabeth Proctor’s final moments together in the last scene, actors came on stage to scrawl on the set using chalk. We destroyed all patterns and texts previously written, and made it into a mess and a bunch of indiscernible markings. This was a very intense moment. The resulting mess contrasted starkly from the original clean state of the blocks to mirror the destruction inflicted on Salem by the witch trials.

GABRIELLE: On the contrary, I think some of the features in the set unintentionally broke the tension. Some of the actors had to enter through the swiveling doors during an intense moment in the play, changing the atmosphere with each new beat.

BRIAN: Listening helps heighten the tension of the play. Tension is aroused by good character interaction and listening makes interaction between characters much more powerful. Listening forces you to be in the moment. It takes away any unnecessary thoughts, fears or rehearsed staging in your head. Listening makes you think as the character as you listen to the other characters, which then gives you the clarity to respond much more truthfully. Tension comes from the genuine interaction between characters because characters always have conflicting desires when they talk to each other. Reacting truthfully with the aid of good listening shows the conflicting desire and hence arouse the tension on stage.

NAQIB: The set was minimalist and sparse. I say this in a positive way. Having too many things on set would be too complicated in a short amount of time. The space established by the set helps to sufficiently contextualise the interactions among the characters. The set has two spinning doors at the centre back of the stage with blocks that form stair to it with a bench on the far left and grilles that descend from above to act as jail cells. The set does not actually give us an established setting, time or location, making it timeless and at the same time allowing the actors to interact suitably. Therefore, having a minimalist setting is good as it balances the performance against the backdrop.

The Crucible - Pictures by Denise Wang 12
Photo Credit: Denise Wang

The Crucible - Pictures by Denise Wang 17

Photo Credit: Denise Wang

In your opinion, which character was “brought to live” in the production, why?

AMBER: For me it was the interaction between John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor. Compared to the suspicion Elizabeth had of Proctor in the earlier part of the play, there was a big change at the ending where they reconciled, knowing that there was little time to bear grudges against each other. This change in relationship between the pair was “brought to live” for me.

GABRIELLE: Personally, I think that everyone did brilliance to their characters, and brought their own flavour to the characters. However, I do think that John Proctor, played by both Naqib Zalman and Taylor Belliston, was especially well played because both of them managed to portray different perceptions of his character. The Proctor played by Taylor appealed to Abigail’s desires and her version of reality whereas the Proctor played by Naqib portrays Proctor’s truer self and the truth he tries to live out.

BRIAN: I think John Proctor was “brought to life” by Naqib. Proctor is the main character of the play and I felt that Naqib had enough weight to pull through. He could vary his emotions very well. He had that stage presence, especially in scene two where he interacts with his wife Elizabeth Proctor and his servant Mary Warren. My favourite part of his performance was when he raised his voice at Mary Warren and told her “If you wish to seat up, then seat up!” That was humorous and at the same time reveals that strict and unyielding side of him. The little choices that Naqib made in delivering the line consistently showed how Proctor was a firm and confident individual who would stand up against fraudulence. He also had good foundation on his face.

NAQIB: I believe that the character of John Proctor was brought to life most. This is due in part to the fact that the character is played by two actors. This depicts a duality; my portrayal of Proctor in more control whereas compared to Taylor, Proctor’s emotions just burst out of him – anger, sadness, and joy. It shows the distinctions of John Proctor’s emotional states in the play. In the beginning, he is more composed but at the end, he is more given to his emotions.

The Crucible - Pictures by Denise Wang 13
Photo Credit: Denise Wang

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 7

Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

2017 Year 4 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics

The first two Year 4 Visual Arts ceramics modules this year was crafted and assessed in collaboration with the Literature Faculty to further facilitate the student’s exploration and experimentation with symbols and symbolism employed as a poetic device and in ceramic works.

In analysing and extrapolating layers of meaning in both literary texts and ceramic, students deepened their conceptual grasp of symbolism in this multi-modal environment.

At junctures during the Visual Arts periods, Literature teachers referred to selected poems to discuss connections between the use of symbolism in the literary texts and ceramic. Among the various aspects of the poems discussed were the evaluation of effects created through symbolism. The selection of poems thematically made references to the human anatomy to draw parallels with the Visual Art investigation into votive offerings. Some examples of the poems discussed were My Father’s Left Hand by David Bottoms, Laundry by Ruth Moose, Heart to Heart by Rita Dove and The Fist by Derek Walcott.

Equipped with a clearer appreciation of how symbolism can be used effectively in poetry, students composed an original poem that aimed to demonstrate application of symbols while depicting anatomical conditions previously assigned to each student for a ceramic task. With the Literature teacher in this session, students brain-stormed concepts for the poem and discussed their approaches.

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 13

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 6

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 1

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 3

Towards the end of the ceramic module, the students shared a draft of their poem and provided insights to their inspiration and creative impetus during a follow-up session with the Literature teacher. During the discussion, students considered the connections perceived between the use of symbolism in both mediums in their role as potter and poet. Such processes were consolidated in their Visual Art research journal to document their developing thoughts.

Within another few days, students finalised their poems and accompanying rationale for the Literature Teacher to provide feedback. Around this time, the corresponding ceramic works were also being readied for firing.

Audrey Lum

Condition assigned: Ménière’s Disease

Ceramic Sculpture:
Ménière's Snail

Poem: Meniere’s Snail
Ménière's Snail

 

Rationale:

Meniere’s snail is a symbolic poem about the ear. The shell of a snail usually has a spiral pattern, which very closely resembles the auricle of an ear. The use of “slow and steady” in the first five lines is used to describe the pace of the snail, but it is also used to represent one of the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. Someone with Meniere’s disease would suffer from giddiness and imbalance, therefore slow and steady is used to show the patient’s ruminations while attempting to be stable. The repetition used also incites a sense of fear, and wariness and gives the reader the impression that the patient is trying to reassure himself. Another symptom is introduced when rain is mentioned, because the patient feels a sense of fullness, almost as though there is water trapped in his ear, therefore rain is used. The snail hides itself away from the rain, and this creates imagery of feeling trapped and alone. The word “silence” is used twice in the poem, hinting at the symbolism of the ear. “Crack” and “silence” in the last three lines shows how in being stepped on, the snail dies. This imagery is used to represent how “invisible” patients with Meniere’s disease are. Meniere’s disease affects the internal structures of an ear, and someone with Meniere’s disease, like the snail is not easily  recognized. The overall mood portrayed is somber with “threatened”, “afraid” and “silence” used.  The patient’s or snail’s fear and cautiousness with the environment is emphasized. The poem is structurally visual, and places an emphasis on the underlying context, which is the ear. The negative space of the structure creates a spiral, which represents the shell of a snail, linking the snail to the ear.

Isha Gupta

Condition assigned: Rhinophyma

Ceramic Sculpture:
Rhino

Poem: Perspective
Perspective

Rationale:

In this poem the symbolism used is a rhino put on display in a zoo. I used this symbol as I found that it successfully portrays the idea of people with rhinophyma constantly being stared at and distanced from society due to their affliction. Being trapped in a cage represents the alienation from others and confinement those afflicted face in society. The animals are kept in zoos to be viewed, discussed and judged by the public, which is what happens to those who have rhinophyma which disfigures the nose, an area which is in the centre of the face and attracts a lot of attention like the sight of a “rare creature” in the zoo. I chose a Rhinoceros as its horns best represent the enlarged nose caused by rhinophyma and in both cases the horn and nose becomes the defining feature of the animal or the person. In my poem I used imagery related to a rhinoceros such as “charging”, “hooves” and “bellows” (the sound a rhinoceros makes) with words such as “bulbous” which is one of the most common adjectives used to describe rhinophyma. About half way through the poem at the line “while parents and children gawk alike” the perspective of the poem changes from a visitor at the zoo to the rhinoceros itself. The visitor views the animal with amusement not really thinking much about or noticing the rhino’s distress, comparing the rhinos movement to dance however when the perspective switches to the rhinoceros and it can be seen that it is angry and frustrated, pacing rather than dancing, believing that the visitors will never truly understand them and they are just a “sight” to the visitors and nothing more. This contrast in views shows how society may think they are sensitive to those with disfigurements however small things like staring start to accumulate and emotionally weigh down those affected. Emphasis is brought to this change in viewpoint by the structure of the visual poem. The lines from the outsider’s perspective is aligned in the centre of the page however the lines from the animal’s perspective deviate from this and cut across the page breaking the order and thought process of the outsider. The zigzag structure at the bottom also represents the constant movement of the rhino in the cage from “left to right” and “right to left” out of suppression and the need to try to find a way out. This sense of movement is also seen in the first line “forward” and the last line “backward” which represent the everlasting struggle to get society to understand the emotional trauma of those affected but ending up nowhere due to the lack of communication seen in the poem as the visitors whisper and the rhinoceros bellow.

Selena Chua

Condition assigned: Takotsubo

Ceramic Sculpture:
Takotsubo

 

Poem: Takotsubo
Deceptively reserved and flat,
It lies in tranquil, and in depth.
Beneath the rocky den it lay,
Waiting for the time to catch its prey.
With a sudden swing of its bendy limbs,
Its tentacles sucking out the life it seems.
A big beat pulse,
The fragile graspings.
A pumping squeeze
And the deep dark freeze.
Creeping back its way it goes,
That’s just how the cycle flows.

Rationale:
This poem depicts the experience of having the heart disease, takotsubo. As a translation of takotsubo is “octopus pot”, the octopus takes on symbolic significance in the poem and ceramic. Instead of having the octopus portrayed as the victim caught in an octopus trap, it is shown as the fierce predator. Through the imagery of the octopus grasping for its prey, parallels are drawn to the symptoms shown by this condition. With symptoms similar to a heart attack, the condition can cause the patient to experience sudden shortness of breath and unstable pulse. To portray this, the poem begins with a calm and tranquil atmosphere, with the octopus as the predator creeping up on its prey, ready to pounce on it. Suspense is intensified when the octopus appears from its hiding place. Described by the “big beat pulse” and “a pumping squeeze” to suggest heart palpitations, the sudden seizures parallels with  the sudden lurches of the octopus. The cunning and swift act of the octopus is portrayed in the ceramic votive, having its tentacles peeking out from the pot while its head stays hidden inside. The “cycle” that “flows” in the poem refers to a cardiac cycle. The ending of the poem suggests that the heart disease is reversible, thus similar to the retreat of the octopus. The woody and fibrous texture of the ceramic work symbolises the strength and endurance of the heart.

Literature Night 2015: Beyond the Wall of Sleep

2015 SOTA Literature Night Poster

Held on 6 March 2015, this year’s Literature Night is a collection of dramatic readings, musical performances and theatrical pieces which aims to present the bizarre and whimsical nature of dreams. These pieces explore what lies beyond the wall of sleep – how dreams shine as beacons of our ideals as forms of wish-fulfillment for our unspoken desires, and how nightmares confront us with our fears and anxieties.  Each of the performances takes us to a dream, in the hope of discovering these ambiguous underpinnings that weaken the line between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the real and unreal.

Linked by the theme of dreams, the performances take a variety of forms including songs, monologues, plays, musical extracts and adaptations.

Andre Chong & Nicole Tong performing Comatose 1

Sowmya Iyer & Leandra Ang & Joy Tan performing A Dream of a Thousand Cats

Kai Sundermann performing Paper_Draft One 1

Lin Xiang Ning performing Once Upon a Dream

A Sharing by Shirin Keshvani

Literature Night is always a productive and accessible means of showcasing student talents. I feel that because the literary aspect of the performances takes the focus of the event, the playing field is levelled for both students who are seasoned performers and others who do not take their hidden talents to the centre stage as much.

Originally, I had ambitiously planned (with my partner Khym Fong) to collect various “weird” dreams from students and teachers and act out the most interesting ones. Let’s just say this plan was better in theory.

We decided (as we had done last year) to perform a song. This time we enlisted the help of our cellist friend Adrian Schalk, to add more texture to our sound.

Shirin Keshvani, Khym Fong and Adrian Schalk performing Sweet Dreams

It may not have been obvious to the uninitiated but we were actually performing Marilyn Manson’s rendition of Sweet Dreams; hence the “whispering” and the discordant guitar. Manson added another dimension to the song, which made the song more eerie. I feel like this is reminiscent of the nature of dreams. Often, I cannot distinguish between a “sweet dream” and a nightmare. My dreams are always grounded in an element of my reality, which in itself is uncanny. And I always find it strange that it is pretty much impossible for us to recall a dream in its entirety and that the words are always on the tip of our tongues. It’s as if our mouths and memory have some tacit agreement that dreams should never be articulated. I know the theme of “Dreams” can be interpreted different ways, but I myself feel that dreams in a literal sense already carry enough meaning to be lyrical.

I sure am glad that Literature Night is integral to SOTA. The fact that students put aside time in their already hectic schedules to come together and pay homage to a beautiful subject that teaches us more than what we need to know – it teaches us how to be in touch with ourselves and how to empathise or at least understand complex emotions.

A Sharing by Odelia Teo

Odelia Teo performing Climbing Uphill 1 Odelia Teo performing Climbing Uphill 2

Literature Night 2015 is one of the most terrifying things I have done in my time in SOTA. I was definitely apprehensive about whether or not I wanted to audition, but it’s my senior year so I decided to just go for it.

Burying my head in school work and upcoming performances, it was hard to transcend the horizon of my immediate goals, and find a deeper meaning to the theme of Dreams. Using that to my advantage, however, I managed to harness the fear perpetuated by the daunting demands of IB in my life. This agonising fear of rejection, failure and dejection was (sadly) something that I related to relatively well when it came to dreaming. Through a friend’s recommendation, I came across a musical theatre piece that perfectly encapsulated such sentiments.

“Climbing Uphill” is a comedic musical theatre piece from the musical The Last Five Years which follows a struggling actress from audition room to audition room as she vocalises her dread of not matching up to the high standards of the entertainment industry. As a theatre student myself, such worries are not uncommon, personally, I think the authenticity of my own experiences extensively enhanced my performance. In retrospect, I realised that I was quite stiff on stage and my range of movements were limited but according to some audience members whom I conversed with afterword, it was presumed to be part of the performance, which came as a huge relief.

Literature Night offered me a platform not only to express myself, but to challenge myself outside the singularities of art forms. Despite the nerves and jitters, my confidence has definitely grown and I find myself more willing to try new things. This is a fond memory I will keep for years to come.

Rachel Yin & Rhyhan Astha performing Bohemian Rhapsody

Maya Viswa performing Something

Lim Shi-An performing Aedh Wished for the Cloths of Heaven

Gabbi Virk, Casidhe Ng & Odelia Teo performing School Play

Words In my Belly – Deborah Immanuel

TALK ON ‘WORDS IN MY BELLY’ BY LOCAL PERFORMANCE POET DEBORAH EMMANUEL

Words In my Belly - Deborah Immanuel 1

On the 9 March 2015, the Year 1 students attended a talk by local performance poet Deborah Emmanuel. Performance poetry is a type of literary art that combines performing techniques, merging both the page and stage.

Deborah shared her experiences in life and her writing with such intensity that some students were moved to tears. She brought poetry to life and planted the seed of creativity to inspire students to write and perform their own poems. Her distinctive style of performance was sincere, lively and animated. Students were so spellbound that they quickly hushed the noisemakers in the audience.

Deborah is also an actor and educator who promotes different literary based art forms. The students enjoyed her melodious recital as she integrated theatre and music in her reading of the poems. They also found the themes of the poems such as identity, body image and love easy to relate to.

The questions asked by the students revealed that the students were enthused to want to recite performance poetry to their classmates.

Words In my Belly - Deborah Immanuel 3 Words In my Belly - Deborah Immanuel 2

Feedback from Year 1 students:

“This programme was really awesome. In fact, I think it should have been longer. I actually cried when she read her poems about her mother and her problems with body image.” – Vanessa Liem (R5)

“Deborah inspired me to write and perform my own poems. I also found out how powerful poetry can be.” –  Chloe Yeo, Eliyannah Gan, Kyra Poh (R2)

A Life on the Outskirts – One Man’s Journey to Poetry

Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 1 Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 4

Organised by the National Arts Council, the annual Words Go Round school’s programme features Spoken Word artist Kosal Khiev who spent the afternoon of 4 March 2015 with our Year Two students. Kosal Khiev shared with us how expressing himself through poetry helped him through the more challenging times in his experiences and how uplifting it can be, to able to resonate with the literary works of others.

Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 5 Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 10

Vandana Venkataraman of G1 shares her reflection

A poem is a string of words that conveys a message. A good poem speaks from one soul to another and makes hearts sing.

Such is how Kosal Khiev recites his poems.

Personally, as a passionate poetry lover, I really enjoyed this talk as I was able to listen to the thoughts of a person and be in their skin for an hour. Despite his intense past, Mr Kosal is now able to find happiness with writing and reading poetry. His enthusiastic, bold and powerful deposition while reciting his spoken word pieces really resonated with me on a personal level, especially during the poem he read titled “Listen” about being oppressed and “in chains” wherever one goes. I can relate to the feeling of ever being helpless and needing someone to listen to me.

Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 8

Most poignant to me was his critique of society for destroying the dreams of many through instances such as gun violence, police brutality and children caught in the crossfires.

I appreciate how Mr Kosal is able to weave multiple themes and real life issues and write them in a truthful and relatable manner. It astonished me that such a performance could tug at the heartstrings of another merely through words.

Mr Kosal also shared his insights on his poetry writing process. He explained that poetry can be written organically when you look back into life and assess where you are now and where you are headed. This really enlightened me about such a writing technique which I found interesting. His advice on editing verses of poetry was also very helpful to me as a budding poet.

Overall, I felt that this talk was highly memorable from which I have gained many insights and lessons.

Words Go Round 2015 - Kosal Khiev Talk 11

Geoff Dyer at SOTA

On 6 November 2014, SOTA students and teachers had the opportunity to meet with Geoff Dyer at a speaker session organised by SOTA and the British Council in conjunction with the Singapore Writers Festival.

Geoff Dyer at SOTA 2

Geoff Dyer shared his pathways to becoming a writer where he began with contributing articles and reviews before crafting a full-length book of his own. With wit and humour, Geoff Dyer related that the next step after having his published book in his hand, was for others to have his published book in their hands. Over time, he wrote a number of books; four novels and seven books of non-fiction, which have won a number of literary awards and been translated into 24 languages.

Growing up in a non-literary household, Geoff Dyer explained that books allowed for his horizon to expand beyond his immediate surroundings and also helped him to understand people and how they grapple with issues in ways that his sum of personal interactions would not have brought to light. Repositories of knowledge such as libraries are therefore invaluable assets that people should continue to use.

Reading extracts from Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, Geoff Dyer shared anecdotal insights from his travels that were at once amusing and brilliant.

Slamming Shakespeare by Word Forward 2014

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 1 - Overview

Facilitated by Word Forward, the Year 2 cohort today had an exciting time learning more about the works for Shakespeare and in particular Macbeth. The three-hour programme was kick started with an overview of Shakespearean works and a 4-minute rap performed by Marc Nair that hauntingly encapsulated the entire story of Macbeth.

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 2 - Overview

During the breakout sessions, the classes had a meaningful time unpacking with their facilitator how best they can grapple with the verses of Shakespeare and engage with the text by reading and acting. Equipped with the fresh knowledge, the students put what they have learned into practice by dramatising a key extract from Macbeth to convey its tone, mood and meaning while developing a deeper understanding of the excerpt’s context.

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 10 - Breakout Session

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 36 - Poetry Slam Original Work

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 29 - Poetry Slam Macbeth

Additionally, other individuals and teams from each class also prepared an original work performed as a spoken word piece. The performance task encouraged the students to work tightly as a team and with a high degree of coordination and audience engagement. To the delight of all, what was displayed was an array of innovative styles with endless creativity and sprightliness. Ranging from friendship to betrayal and everything in between, the topics expressed reflected the students’ close and authentic engagement with spoken word and their fresh take on well-trodden themes.

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 41 - Poetry Slam Original Work

Slamming Shakespeare (28 October 2014) 39 - Poetry Slam Original Work

The Craft of Writing by Gwee Li Swee

On the 27 October 2014, the Year 1 students attended a talk by local writer Gwee Li Sui. He is a literary critic, a poet and a graphic artist.

He shared his experiences on his writing and drawing of Singapore’s first full-length graphic novel ‘Myth of the Stone’ in 1993. He shared that the book was initially not well received as Singaporeans did not take to a book that looked like a comic. He also shared on how in the early days without the computer he had to draw his own visuals and persuade publishers to publish his novel.

The Craft of Writing by Gwee Li Swee 2 27 October 2014

The students especially enjoyed his readings from his popular volume of humourous verse, ‘Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems?’ The poems play on words, use Singlish rhymes and poke fun at Singapore social history and culture. He also shared his love poems from his book, ‘One Thousand and One Nights.’

The questions asked by the students revealed that many students are thinking of becoming writers. They had many questions to ask on the craft of writing and the editing and publishing of a piece of work. The students were also keen to know what inspired Gwee Li Sui to write in so many different genres.

The Craft of Writing by Gwee Li Swee 1 27 October 2014

Dhillon Raspal

2014 Creative Arts Programme

Three of our students submitted their portfolios to qualify for the prestigious Creative Arts Seminar held in June at the National University of Singapore. The CAP is jointly organised by the Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of Education and the University Scholars Programme (USP), National University of Singapore.

Our students, Bethany Tan (P2), Clarise Ong (P2) and Shermaine Lim (O5) share their experiences….

Bethany:

“I feel like I’ve used the phrases ‘step out’ and ‘comfort zone’ together a little too often in my time here in SOTA, to the point where it’s starting to become a little clichéd. But in all honesty, stepping out of my comfort zone is exactly what I did at CAP.

It isn’t mentioned very often, but, in a sense, we SOTA students do live in a kind of SOTA bubble. I can definitely say that the prospect of being surrounded by students from other schools, all the while in uniform, was something that I didn’t look forward to at first. I imagined being looked at like I was some sort of rare species of bird, and hearing the phrase ‘you can do it because you’re from SOTA’, being used at least twice a day. That was pretty terrifying. Being split up from Clarise, the only other SOTA student I knew who was in the same division (JC 1), was also terrifying. In a sense, I feared that people would look at me and see some kind of full-fledged artist who had years of experience behind her, and that my failure to seem like one would result in me being shunned.

2014 Year 5 CAP - Bethany and Spoken Word group

But nothing like that happened. Everyone who I met at CAP was incredibly friendly and embraced the writing world with a kind of wide-eyed wonder that I’d rarely seen before. In the five days that I was there, my orientation group (OG) quickly became a kind of family to me, and Kent Ridge Hall became a home that I never thought I would have. My ‘CAPper’ friends were also full of enthusiasm for every activity we were presented with, and the divisions of school identity faded away probably within the first hour that I started speaking to them. The people around me always encouraged each other whenever we worked collaboratively, and even when we worked alone, the feedback was always concise and constructive.

2014 Year 5 CAP - Bethany and Orientation Group

Of course, the programme itself helped shape my understanding of writing, and what it means to be a writer. I was given the opportunity to speak to people like Cyril Wong and Haresh Sharma, and to listen to their lectures and workshops on their views as a writer, particularly in Singapore. These workshops really helped shape my view of the large spectrum of topics writing can cover and the way it can be used. Cyril Wong, for example, is a “confessional poet”, writing poetry that is highly personal, while Haresh Sharma said that he frequently aims to “write for the voiceless”. CAP allowed me to not only focus on my craft but to also learn more about the creative process of writing, which can be applied to creating art as a whole, and that’s probably what made me (and still makes me) feel strongly that the five-day programme was invaluable.”

2014 Year 5 CAP - Bethany and Haresh Sharma 2014 Year 5 CAP - Bethany and Cyril Wong

Note: My grandmother passed away the weekend before the camp. This poem is about her death and her funeral, where I had to fold paper boxes. – Bethany

How to Build a Destructible Universe

By Jasmine, Eden, Christine, Charmaine and Bethany

Step 1:
Take a piece of paper and fold it in half.
Eyes that have long since closed,
Now you see everything.
And as you bend, we will bend with you,
Tears sliding down the edges.

Step 2:
Fold each side of the paper to the centre crease.
Now we trace our bloodline
Back to its origin.
A symphony of silence thrown-
Now gravitating back to its core.

Step 3:
Fold the paper in half again.
Like a piece of me, buried,
Burned, only I’m still alive.
I take one step forward,
And two memories come back.

Step 4:
Fold each corner to the crease nearest it.
You embrace me and try
To fill in the spaces,
Although the cracks run
Far too deep.

Step 5:
Fold the flaps from the middle down.
When your heart stopped,
So did our clocks,
The silence, an invisible hand,
Brought us to our knees for a lack of words.

Step 6:
Pull up on the two flaps.
Finding a footing
While consuming a sadness,
I breathe in the banter
And surrender my regret.

Step 7:
The box is complete.

Repeat until satisfied.

Clarise:

“Smart schools,” “smart students,” “odd one out,” these were the first few thoughts that started popping up in my mind after finding out I had been accepted into CAP. I had honestly envisioned myself cowering in the corner surrounded by groups of students from elite schools, but to say I was wrong would be a gross understatement because my time at CAP not only allowed me to build strong bonds with people from all kinds of backgrounds and different schools but also pushed me to step out from my shell and be exposed to a plethora of literary genres.

2014 Year 5 CAP - Clarise Ong 5
Initially interacting was a little awkward, somehow it seemed like I was speaking a different language from everyone else as I was constantly explaining terms like “HL” or “TOK” while they lamented about their “GP” and “CIP”. But as time passed, we eventually got past our “language barrier” and formed bonds over our common interest in the various lectures and excitement at the prospect of meeting writers whose works we admired.

Aside from the friends that I made at CAP, the lectures and workshops conducted definitely allowed me to synthesise my love for literature with the other humanities. Although admittedly I was initially resistant to the talks that I deemed as “not in my interest area”, I was pleasantly surprised especially when I had to attend a photo poetry talk by Professor Terence Heng. At first I thought I would be bored out of my mind, considering poetry had never been my thing and the rigorous CAP schedule had left me utterly drained for the day, but I found myself actually really relating to all the themes he discussed. Being a visual sociologist, he discussed with us the difference between “space” and “place” and how these themes were present in his photography. He defined “space” as a physical and material environment, for example, an empty parking lot. Space is simply a structural thing whereas “place” was defined as what we made of it, a place that becomes special over time and we constantly create places via our daily rituals. He then shared with us how as a boy he used to go to a particular library and how it was an example of a place as it held many fond memories for him. However, the library was bulldozed to make way for a highway and he felt that it was a great loss since a “place”, filled with memories and meaning, had been reduced to just a space – a physical structure with no significance. I could really relate to his lesson as I feel that these themes are prevalent in everyday Singaporean life, how I live in a concrete jungle that changes everyday.

2014 Year 5 CAP - Clarise Ong 1

After that talk, I realised the true value of documentation and photographing spaces around me – how even a simple building may hold a plethora of memories for different people, but to others it may just be a disruptive structure. This talk really influenced my writing as well as the art I still continue to make and I will forever be grateful for the opportunities CAP has given me to attend lectures that truly inspired and enlightened me.”

2014 Year 5 CAP - Clarise Ong 3

Shermaine:

“This year’s CAP theme was “the paradoxes of life”, and it was about exploring and writing about the many paradoxes that we encounter in our lives everyday.

I attended many seminars and talks through the course of the 5-day program, and learned many new things, like different rhyming styles and the use of narration and plot in prose and poetry. Specifically, I attended a talk by Angelina Yap about the use of rhyming words, and a workshop by Ms Koh Xin Tian, in which we were given a series of questions in order to write a poem. I also attended a photo poetry workshop by Mr. Terence Heng, in which he shared some of his poetry that was inspired by pictures and activities. There was also a sharing session in which you got to share your own poems that were based on “Paradoxes of life” with others, and the rest would comment on your work. I feel that CAP was a very insightful and inspiring program, and it taught me how to develop my writing in different ways, and how to approach writing in a different manner.”

Heaven? By Shermaine Lim

Eye of a lamb, frost of the

Tongue and banter, phoenix torso

And groundless sheep, breathing doors

And splayed tunnels

Forcing eyelids, some abbreviation of

Fences and gates, counting clouds

The network, split ends and

Convex sheets and blanket cliffs

The cream eye, night’s eight, telescopic

Wanderer, undressed lake, then

Somewhere in between,

I will find you

Young, maybe

Sitting on a park bench 

With your head growing in

Some book, smiling as

Your tomorrow would not

Come

Previous Older Entries

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed on this website does not represent those of the School of the Arts, Singapore.
%d bloggers like this: