Posted on May 13 2018
Just because International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month this March is over, that doesn't mean we stop celebrating the wonderful women in our lives who inspire us every day. We interview Zee Wong, a local theatre practitioner and dramaturg on what it means to be a woman in the local Theatre industry and her views on gender equality.
Zee is a current apprentice under The Finger Players, and her recent works have included involvement in ‘Attempts: Singapore’ by Rei Poh, a participatory theatre experience that addresses the ways we construct personal narratives of the people around us, and in particular how we view the female body. Zee was the dramaturg of ‘Attempts’, shown as part of the M1 Fringe Festival 2018. Prior to this, Zee performed in the restaging of Chong Tze Chien’s ‘Poop!’ in The Finger Player’s 2017 Contemporary Classics Season.
So. What does ‘Feminism’ mean to Zee? Zee referred to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the closest figure whose line of feminism she takes after. In Adichie's highly-acclaimed 'TEDxEuston' talk in December 2012, “We Should All Be Feminists”, she described a feminist is “a man or woman who says ‘yes there is a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better.’” This ties in nicely with the work that Zee does in local theatre.
Zee's work in the local theatre scene is guided by her passion to "create a feminist rehearsal space”. To Zee, this means emphasis on "creating a collaborative environment in which rehearsals can take place” - a space in which the validity of contribution and importance of collaboration far precedes any possible factors of division, such as gender.
She describes a space in which actors are invited to play an active role in the crafting of a theatre piece. This also means that directors play a more passive, supporting role guiding the play along in accordance with its directorial vision, unlike more conventional rehearsal styles that may not afford actors as much room for contribution.
More recently, she has been working on a self-written piece dealing with women, sexual violence, and the male gaze. This piece started out as a monologue written for a workshop that she decided to develop under Centre 42’s Boiler Room Writing Programme, a work-in-progress fuelled by personal experiences and an ardent desire to reflect upon the ways we view sexual assault and victim-shaming.
We asked her what she thought about women’s roles in the theatre scene. While
acknowledging that more female theatre practitioners in Singapore in recent years, Zee believes that when it comes to something like gender equality or social representation, "we still have a lot of work to do”. To Zee, what needs to change is the plays that are being written and produced. Because what is eventually produced and performed in the local theatre scene mostly stems from the kinds of plays written, Zee firmly believes that more local playwrights should take to writing more women-centric plays. This, she says, should be done with not only the possibility of the discrepancies in opportunity that gender affords, but those that race does, too: “The challenge now for Singapore is for us to find a way to include not only more women in theatre but women of colour.”
So what’s next for Zee? She'll be rehearsing for two Finger Players shows - Framed by Adolf, and Journey To The West: Treasures From the Dragon Palace, as well as finishing her play.
Thank you Zee, and we’ll definitely be sure keep a lookout for you and her work!
Interviewed by: Cheryl Tan, March 2018