Theatre ties that bind

Motley crew… Passion for theatre binds the cast of It Takes All Kinds, its director Serena Ho (top row, third from left) and assistant director Julius Foo (top row, third from right).

CALL them the magnificent 12. Since the start of the year, these senior citizens have been working hard four times a week in the basement of Marine Parade Community Club. They are part of The Necessary Stage’s (TNS) new production called It Takes All Kinds, which starts its run from 1 to 3 March for four shows at the theatrette in the community centre.

They are different as can be, yet their shared passion for theatre has called them to draw from their real-life experiences to create and stage this heartwarming play that celebrates the 10th anniversary of TNS’ Theatre for Seniors (TFS) programme.

The programme, started in 2008, was a ground-breaking one that had professional theatre practitioners train senior citizens in the art of making theatre – from acting, playwriting and directing to administration and technical work. Since then, TFS has gone from strength to strength and become an integral part of the theatre company’s community outreach efforts.

I Feel Young SG stepped behind the scenes and spoke with the seniors who are treading the boards…

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William Hiu, 65, Performer (left): I may be visually impaired but I am very active. In fact, my wife complains that I’m seldom home! I work at Ngee Ann Polytechnic on Tuesdays and Thursdays as a project guide for Dialogue in the Dark (an exhibition where visitors are guided by visually impaired individuals to experience life in absolute darkness). I also play the keyboard in a band called Silver Waves. I joined theatre last year, so it’s still very new to me. I used to run marathons, practise archery and cosplay as a blind swordsman! Now, my wife takes me to the gym thrice a week.

I honestly never thought that I could do theatre because I’m totally blind. It has been a difficult journey, but theatre has helped keep my mind active!

Thomas Lim, 66, Performer (right): I’ve been participating in TFS since 2008. What I like about theatre is that I don’t need to be myself. I also volunteer in the Teochew opera interest group for the West Coast Active Ageing Committee. Since I retired in 2006, I’ve been working as a licensed freelance tour guide and actor. I’ve been a grassroots leader for 38 years… I wore many hats in the past, until I was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1998. I’m a cancer survivor.

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Michael Tan, 70, Performer (left): I enjoy the excitement of theatre. It keeps me mentally and physically fit.

Padma Sagaram, 69, Performer (right): I love acting and being on stage. Since joining TFS, I’ve made new friends in the same age group with the same interest. We can relate to one another and share about our health problems. Some of them feel like my lifelong friends!

In theatre, we have to move fast. I can’t, as I’ve had a bad fall and fractured my ankle. When I’m on stage, though, I forget my pain. It’s like magic!

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Julius Foo, 54, Assistant Director (above): I started my career as an administrator-actor with The Necessary Stage. Theatre grew on me and along the way I discovered a lot more about theatre-making. To me, active ageing is about accepting the physical decline of my body and sharing my wealth of experience and wisdom with others.

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Suying Xin, 71, Performer (above): I joined TFS for writing and story-telling, rather than acting. Since my father passed away, I’ve been penning my feelings in journals. I work on writing dialogue while the others act and improvise. I like drawing, watercolour and acrylic painting as well. Active ageing is about doing what you love – and I’m doing just that!

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Alvin Tan, 56, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage and founder of TFS (right): To me, an active ager is one who learns and explores concepts, whose mind is active in problem-solving, and who is helping others and contributing to society… I try to be like that.

Seniors are wonderful repositories of history to be tapped on; our diversity of experiences reflects the richness of the Singapore identity. At TFS, our seniors have grown from strength to strength and are developing as professional artists in their own rights. But over and above theatre-making, TFS has become a community of friends who hang out and share stories and meals together. In many ways, they have become one another’s pillar of support, and long may this continue.

Photo credits for the crew, William Hiu, Thomas Lim, Michael Tan and Padma Sagaram: The Necessary Stage (Karmen Wong). Photo credit for Alvin Tan: The Pond (Tan Ngiap Heng).

Catch It Takes All Kinds at the Marine Parade Community Theatrette (Marine Parade Community Building Level One) from 1 to 3 March 2019. Find out more and purchase your tickets ($15 each) at today.

For more information on Theatre for Seniors and its workshops on theatre-making, click here or email 

Article published on 27/02/19