After a performance at the Esplanade in 2019 to mark our 50th Anniversary, our community theatre took a short break that turned into a rather long one because of COVID-19. Hence, we were thrilled when a young person from the programme took the lead last August to revive it with new members and some volunteers skilled in theatre craft. The group is aiming to launch its first forum theatre performance by the end of May even though they don’t have a name for the show yet.
Inspired by the efforts of young people addressing the issue of sexual violence at the Whampoa neighbourhood, the Community Theatre set out to get another neighbourhood talking about the issue. Apart from honing their acting skills, members have been knocking on doors to ask their neighbours, “Have you or someone you know ever felt unsafe?” The question was intentionally vague to trigger clarifications that get a conversation going. They reckoned that the mention of sexual violence at the onset would be too intrusive, and the conversation would end even before it starts.
These conversations surfaced stories, concerns and other relevant information that shaped the storyline and its dialogue. They also created awareness of the community theatre, its purpose, and the upcoming show among those interviewed. For members of the community theatre, it was realising that acting was not just about remembering lines but to put up a convincing show, one had to have a deeper appreciation of issues that affected the characters they were playing.
Last week after several rounds of discussion, the group agreed on a script for their upcoming performance. 5 youths were so proud of their achievement that they enthusiastically showed it to friends who were studying at the community centre. They interrupted the study session and asked their friends for feedback on the storyline. Their friends did not have much to say but it did not take away their sense of achievement as they repeatedly emphasised that it was their script.
A volunteer who was with them reflected that the moment showed her how important it is to have an experience of success. Not just these young people but all of us need to know that we are good at something. In her view, they have picked up some acting skills and she resolved that she will be more affirming of their abilities at the next practice.
For peace, community, and affirmation,
Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows fall behind you. — Maori saying