Written by award-winning director/playwright Chong Tze Chien, this play is about a painting allegedly created by Adolf Hitler. What ensues is an examination of falsehoods, injustice, and historical whitewashing.
We asked Serene Chen some questions to learn more about this play, theatre in Singapore, and her wishes for the future.
You’ve been in quite a few movies and TV shows. What makes you return to theatre again and again? What do you love about theatre that you can’t get from other media?
Theatre is live and the experience is lived in the present. The experience is shared in the moment with the audience and it’s created with the entire team. To me, it’s reaffirming humanity and the ability to connect in the moment.
As for TV and movies, the moment is delayed slightly and the charm is different. All the mediums have their attractions.
What attracted you to your role in, and to the play, Framed by Adolf?
My younger daughter once exclaimed, “Yay! At last you are not a mother or a teacher!” I don’t mind those roles at all, but the Seller-character I play here is multi-layered and it’s a character I’ve never played before. She is clever and she is stupid at the same time. Tze Chien created some interesting characters in this play.
What can audiences expect from this play? What can they take away from this production?
A compelling story!
What is next for you, career-wise, after this show?
I’ll be hopefully doing a short film and be involved in a few new plays which are in development.
How are rehearsals coming along? Any surprises or shocks since you started the rehearsing process?
Rehearsals are intense. Everything moves fast because the puppetry and designers are in early.
You’re a veteran actress and a three-time Life! Theatre Award winner, so clearly you’ve been in the thick of Singapore’s theatre scene for a long time, and probably seen many theatrical companies grow over the years. However, aspects like funding and building new audiences seem to be still problematic for many smaller theatre groups (and maybe even some bigger ones). Can you offer any insight, observations, and/or even advice that you might have about this?
Yes, these will remain a problem for a long time. Arts groups are feeling the squeeze. Thankfully, many are being creative in how they deal with the problems. For example, Teater Ekamatra has launched an initiative to use their studio as a studio for headshots. All creatives need headshots and need them updated from time to time. So, it’s presenting that convenient opportunity to the community.
Artists are also bolder in working across mediums with other artists. So, there is also a spike in collaboration and community building.
I don’t have any advice or wisdom regarding this. In fact, I still doggedly hold on to the fact that the quality of work will bring people in, albeit at a rate slower than what we are used to.
What is your wish for the future of theatre in Singapore? What do you foresee happening for the theatre scene?
I always feel that the theatre is a sacred space. I would want this space to be large and generous to allow people to dare to dabble, to be allowed to flop, and to encourage conversations. As an example, Centre 42, in developing writing, has programmes which allow voices to be heard. Voices in the largest sense of the word: traditional text, readings, multilingual presentations, sound installations – Woan Wen and Darren transformed the place with their recent installation. Taps and bathtubs in the exterior of Centre 42.
The centre also supported Tze Chien in developing Framed, by Adolf. This is an example of the synergy I was referring to earlier.