Every Friday from 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm, the Leng Kee Community Club generously allows our Community Theater Group to practice at their premises. This group is working toward performing at the M1 Peer Pleasure Festival next year and co-creating an original play on the issue of poverty in Singapore. Currently, 20 young people aged from 9 to 23 years old faithfully come by to hone their thespian skills guided by theatre professionals from ArtsWok Collaborative. The script is evolving, and these youths draw on their personal stories and their experience of residing in public rental flats to shape it. They also speak to neighbours and other residents with a view of incorporating their stories.
Last May, Norhayati Abdul Samad, 39 years old accompanied her 12-year-old son to the rehearsal and after watching the session, decided to render her support as a volunteer. She had never been a part of a theatre group but the stories she heard from the youths sounded like a part of her life before she was institutionalized at 14 years old. At that point, she felt a strong need to let the youths know that if they were not careful, their lives will go according to a script that they have not written but she and many others have played out before. That “play” that she had “performed” in did not end with the audience applauding but with family and friends deeply sad and disappointed. It had also left her feeling broken, desolate and pessimistic about life.
Norhayati recalled that those in social services who attended to her were always telling her to turn over a new leaf. While she understood their good intentions, she had yearned for some care, kindness and friendship and not more advice. These did not come by easily and only when she eventually reconciled with her family after much effort. These days she expresses her belief that family is an important anchor and persuades our youths not to lose sight of this when encountering difficulties at home. “In any case, it won’t do you any harm to show your parents a little respect,” she tells them gently.
Despite being a full-time mother with 4 children aged from 6 to 12 years old, Norhayati believes that she can be a friendly “aunt” to our aspiring thespians. Having been married for 12 years and living in the neighbourhood for 11, she tells us that she enjoys a stability that enables her to do so. “Just because I bring sandwiches to the rehearsals, these cheeky boys and girls call me ‘mummy,’ but I remind them to sayang their parents. I know they need to talk to an adult and so I listen, but I hope to get their parents to come for rehearsals too!”
Enjoy your week
Right in our neighborhood we have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units, as problems to be solved, never can. – John McKnight