Panel: Asian Performance, Shakespeare and Mental Health
1 Dec 2023 • 10:30 - 11:55
Dance Atelier 2, Level 3, Stephen Riady Centre, 2 College Ave West, Singapore 138607 • Map
This panel explores the relationship between theatre and mental health, focusing on the experience of trauma and drawing from a case study on a musical based on war memories and Asian performances of Shakespeare’s plays. In what ways is theatre both therapeutic and transformational? How does performance, especially intercultural performance, engage with the inner sufferings, mental struggles, and embodied trauma of protagonists? How are the staging and acting processes creatively deployed so that audiences are not just passive onlookers but active and imaginative co-agents in the experience of confronting extraordinary pain and generating the possibility of healing and recovery?
Can the Theatre Evoke Attitudinal Change?
Kua Ee Heok
Theatre is not just entertainment. Often subtle messages stir the mind on existential matters. Moral issues on ageism and stigma of mental illness are the themes of a musical named Unforgotten, staged in August 2023. The musical is an adaptation of the novel Listening to Letter from America. It is based on the true stories of Singapore’s older adults who survived World War II – the novel is used in Harvard in a course on anthropology. Can the musical evoke attitudinal changes in NUS students towards older adults and mental illness? This is both a qualitative and quantitative study and the findings will be discussed.
Dr Lynette Tan, RC4
Prof Yap Von Bing, Dept of Statistics
Emeritus Prof Kua Ee Heok, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
“Out Damned Spot”: Lady Macbeth and the Performance of the Psyche
What can theatre performance contribute to discourses on mental health? I explore a Korean adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth directed by Han Tae-sook (2010), which performs the symptoms of a troubled psyche by foregrounding the subjectivity of Macbeth’s wife. Her behaviour, characterised by sleepwalking and frequent hand-washing, is often said to reflect psychological disturbance–a condition that in Shakespeare’s play is only remediated by the character’s death. In contrast, I consider how this adaptation proposes an intercultural approach for engaging with Lady Macbeth’s psyche, premised on the intermingling of psychotherapy methods and shamanic influences as depicted through performance on stage.
Staging Responses to Hamlet’s Malaise Yong Li Lan
The imagery of disease in Shakespeare’s Hamlet combines with a malaise of the spirit that the protagonist Hamlet suffers from, creating a dramatic action of pervasive and ambiguous sickness that seems impossible to recover from. This paper compares two productions of Hamlet by Shizuoka Performing Arts Centre (2008) and Yohangza Theatre Company (2009) to consider how Asian theatrical styles respond to Hamlet’s malaise through staging, set, sound and acting, to place him in alternate worlds where he can find release from his mental illness.
Acting and Trauma: Recovering Imagination and the Rehearsal of Agency Missy Maramara Trauma is a delicate issue that needs a full spectrum of treatment such as professional therapy, proper medication, and a change in lifestyle that may incorporate physical activities and/or creative pursuits. My presentation looks into how acting as both a physical and creative process can provide relief from trauma by providing a platform for the sublimation of inarticulable pain into artistic expression. To do so, I first look at Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s psychotherapy accounts alongside Brenee Brown’s discourse on vulnerability, and identifies the interplay between imagination, emotion, and action. Then I survey Constantin Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov’s acting techniques to identify how each phase of the acting process – from role preparation to live performance – serves as a rehearsal for recovery, an assertion of agency, and a claim towards reparation. Finally, I end with a rumination on unpacking trauma through acting in a hybrid, post-colonial production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew directed by Ricardo Abad in the Philippines.
Associate Professor, Theatre and Performance Studies, National University of Singapore
Dr Roweena Yip
Lecturer, NUS College, National University of Singapore (NUS)
Professor Kua Ee Heok
Emeritus Professor, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore
Dr Missy Maramara
Assistant Professor, Department of Fine Arts and English Department, Ateneo de Manila University
Professor KWOK Kian-Woon (PhD University of California at Berkeley) is Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts Singapore (UAS). He is Emeritus Professor at Nanyang Technological University, where he had served as Professor of Sociology, a founding member of the former School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Head of Sociology, Senate Chair, Associate Provost of Student Life, and Associate Vice President (Wellbeing). His research areas include social memory, mental health, the Chinese overseas, and Asian modernity.
Yong Li Lan teaches in Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore. Her research focusses on Shakespeare and intercultural performativity in theatre, cinema and digital archiving, which has been published in international journals and book collections. Her recent essays have appeared in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Performance, The Arden Research Handbook to Shakespeare and Adaptation and RiDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance. Yong co-edited Shakespeare in Asia: Contemporary Performance (CUP) with Dennis Kennedy. In 2021, she chaired the first online World Shakespeare Congress, held from Singapore. She has led the Asian Shakespeare Intercultural Archive (A|S|I|A) as director since it began in 2008, in close collaboration with a multinational, multilingual team located in Asia, the UK and the US. A|S|I|A is accessible through a parallel-language interface in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and currently contains 62 East / Southeast Asian Shakespeare productions in 17 languages.
Roweena Yip is a Lecturer at the undergraduate honours college of the National University of Singapore (NUS). She completed her doctorate in Theatre Studies at NUS; a monograph based on her doctoral dissertation is forthcoming. Her research interests lie at the intersection between gender studies and intercultural performances of Shakespeare in Asia. Her work has been published in The Routledge Companion to Theatre-Fiction, Asian Theatre Journal and RiDE: Research in Drama Education (co-written with Yong Li Lan).
Emeritus Professor, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, and Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist, National University Hospital.
Private practice at Mind Care Clinic, Farrer Park Medical Centre.
Early education at High School, Batu Pahat and Muar. Graduated as a doctor from University Malaya in 1973. Postgraduate training in Psychiatry at Oxford University and Geriatric Psychiatry at Harvard University.
A member of the WHO Dementia Research Team; former Head, Dept of Psychological Medicine, NUS, and CEO/Medical Director, Institute of Mental Health.
Professor Kua has won several international research prizes and published 370 research papers and 30 books on ageing, dementia, depression and alcoholism.
His first novel, Listening to Letter from America, has been used at Harvard University in a course on anthropology. It was adapted into a musical by Musical Theatre Ltd on 28 July–5 August 2023.
Missy Maramara is Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts and English of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Arts, a Master of Arts in English Literature and Cultural Studies, and a Doctor of Philosophy in English Language and Literature. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Drama (Performance) from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) through the International Fulbright Scholarship Program. Her training includes Intimacy Work from Intimacy Directors and Coordinators (Levels 1-3) and Theatrical Intimacy Coordination (TIE) in New York City, Moment Work from Tectonic Theater Project also from New York City, as well as mask work and silent play from the L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. She has taught acting and drama to theater students from the middle years to the university level since 2002. Missy is an actress, director, and intimacy coordinator. While she is a Manila-based actor, director, and intimacy coordinator, Missy has performed in New York, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Genova, Sienna, and Liverpool. She is a proud member of SPIT Manila, Southeast Asia’s premier Improvisational theater company, and a teacher in Third World Improv. She is currently the president of the Philippine Theater Actors Guild (TAG Ph) and the Artistic Director of Dulaang Sibol. Her website can be viewed at www.missymaramara.com