UPDATE: Winners announced below!
Sometime in mid-June, the Mother of Xander and I were invited to what I thought was an interactive theatre performance. No doubt you’d have read about There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, which a number of parent bloggers gave mention to a while back. I wasn’t keen initially, but I redacted the notion when I remembered who the hosts were.
You probably know them for longer than you’d care to admit. They appear every now and again, offering theatrical performances and workshops focused squarely at entertaining and educating kids. Some might even vaguely remember them from the late 80’s, but the name holds more significance for Singapore than you might imagine.
Ruby Lim-Yang, R Chandran and Jasmin Samat Simon first got together in an acting and writing workshop organised by that big media entity then known as Radio and Television Singapore back in 1979. 2 years later, they formed ACT 3, and would stage mobile theatrical performances for children, beginning with the flagship MPH Bookstore at Stamford Road, and on to public parks, private parties, sports clubs and, if you remember, school halls during afternoon primary school assemblies – all mostly out of a van.
In 1984, they went full-time as a children’s theatre group, with a couple of firsts under their belt – they staged an outdoor English-language performance called “Treasure Island” at Bras Basah Park in 1983, and were the first to come up with a made-in-Singapore theatre musical called “Makanplace… A Singaporean Musical” in 1988. (Wait, not TheatreWorks’ Beauty World meh? NO. And lagi not to be confused with the now-defunct My Makan Place @ Beauty World Centre hor.)
33 years in, ACT 3 has now sort of split 3 ways (yes, “3” is a sort of running theme with these people). Chandran now runs ACT 3 Theatrics with wife and theatre actress Amy Cheng, focusing on training kids in theatre writing and directing, while Ruby now develops ACT 3 International as its artistic director, which runs children’s theatre and arts festivals, as well as ACT 3 Drama Academy, which dishes out drama courses and workshops for children and teens at their Cairnhill Arts Centre headquarters as well as in schools.
Ruby would tell me over e-mail, “I still keep in touch with Chandran from time to time, a little less with Jasmin (who is living and working in Jakarta). Although (Chandran and I) are running separate entities, both our focus remains very much on children and their development through the Arts. Many roads lead to Rome as the saying goes, and each of us provides a unique approach, taste, and quality. While we differ in approaches, our beliefs are similar.”
Initially, watching Xander and the 40-odd other kids participating in the modern-day rendition of the trio’s labour of love through the very capable drama instructor Ms Frances Lee (who has been teaching with them for 5 years now) reminded me of the fun I had watching and screaming along on cue with ACT 3’s performances back when I was their age.
I took up acting and directing as part of my formal studies back in poly (and I got a B+ to show for it, too), which largely explains my penchant for drama in my daily life. I mention this otherwise very how lian point because, when I got back from our late lunch (it was a drop-off workshop so the Wife and I could take an hour off being Xander’s parents), I caught a glimpse of, and recognised – some of what Ms Frances was doing amidst all the play-acting with the kids. It was by no means the typical “Come children, let’s do some weird stuff that nobody can understand in front of your parents so they think these nonsense activities we’ve come up with are adding value to your learning experience” mumbo-jumbo other learn-through-play outfits might pull over your eyes. These were actual acting techniques adjusted and deployed for children’s sensibilities, so kids could learn how to emote and express themselves properly through sound and body language.
The whole exercise got me wondering if the drama academy could help Xander find his voice in his everyday communications as well, because our boy has a not-very-small problem with expression and self-confidence, especially when it comes to telling us what he wants or what he is feeling.
So the Blogfather wrote to enquire about their term classes, and visited their campus at 126 Cairnhill Arts Centre for a trial lesson (parking is a little tricky, and it’s a bit of a walk from the nearest train station, but you get used to it). One month later, Xan is now 3 classes into the term (mind you, we paid in full, minus a small regular discount they offer for Children’s Development Account cardholders).
You’d know when class was starting when you hear Ms Frances’s full-bodied operatic voice booming across the school compound for the children to gather into their designated classroom. Like the standalone workshops, these are drop-off classes, and parents don’t really get to hang around or see what they’re doing for the hour that they’re in there, though there are waiting rooms for parents in case you decide to hang around until classes end.
And it’s usually when their activities end that you see your kids do interesting stuff, like this:
We know Xan can read pretty well, but the Wife and I are quite impressed that the boy is actually able to recite an entire poem – complete with actions – after only having been taught in a one-hour class, without having to read the poem off the handout at all.
Or maybe we’re just easily impressed. Regardless, we’ll see what transpires when Xander completes his 10-week term.
ACT 3 International has also kindly offered up 2 sets of 4 tickets (2 winners of 4 tickets each) for the 27 September, 10.30am to 11.30am performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites at the Drama Centre (on the 5th floor of the National Library Building on Victoria Street, if you don’t already know), followed by an exclusive, not-for-sale backstage tour happening after the play (11.50am to 12.10pm).
The results are out, and this has been one of the bigger responses The Blogfather has had on a giveaway! Thanks to everyone who has participated. The winners are:
We’ll be contacting you shortly via PM for your contact details!