Drama in her blood

Source: Atin Amat's Facebook page

AS a child, local theatre director Atin Amat enjoyed watching movies and stage plays. She loved to observe the characters and scenes would remain vividly etched in her mind. 

Watching all those movie and theatre productions clearly inspired Cik Atin to be more than a mere watcher. She wanted to call the shots too. The 60-year-old theatre director, whose real name is Halimah Jaafar, is one of Singapore’s most influential theatre directors. She has more than 40 plays under her belt and in 1989 co-founded Teater Kami, a leading Malay-language theatre company known for tackling social issues in its productions. In 2011, Cik Atin was conferred the Cultural Medallion Award, Singapore’s highest honour in arts.

Theatre is her lifeblood and she strives to help people enjoy her craft and groom a new generation of Malay theatre practitioners. I Feel Young SG recently met with the theatre doyenne to find out what keeps her passion burning.

Have you always been passionate about theatre?

Yes, theatre has always been my passion. Since I was nine, I have enjoyed theatre and watching movies, even if they are in Mandarin or English. I like to observe people and learn different acting styles. Often, scenes from shows I watch remain etched in my mind. 

I feel lethargic when I am not watching shows or doing theatre work. Every year, I have to produce at least one drama production. I don’t know how to stop and I can’t stop. I love theatre too much. 

What types of drama are close to your heart?

I like historical plays about the Malays and other races. I am also open to creating plays about current affairs as we can inform people about society through dramas and plays. 

Teater Kami is the only Malay theatre group in Singapore that focuses more on Malay dramas. My worry is that the Malay language, culture and heritage will not be passed on to future generations. So, I hang out with the younger theatre practitioners, learn more about their likes and teach them about theatre. I like to tell stories about my community and Malay families. I don’t like to stage abstract dramas – people watch plays for enjoyment and it’s hard for them to relax if the drama is too experimental. 

How does directing a new play make you feel?

I enjoy directing plays as it’s always a new experience and I learn new things. Sometimes, I get to forge friendships with the actors and actresses. Other times, when I see the younger generation in the audience, I feel happy. I also like it when people provide feedback on our plays.

What else keeps you going apart from theatre and drama?

I am lucky to have the support of friends and family. I always hang out with my theatre friends who are all very young – that’s how I stay young-at-heart! I like to think positive, so I surround myself with young people who have many ideas. 

What does successful ageing mean to you?

Being able to stage and direct theatre works to make people happy – that’s ‘successful’ to me. There are so many things to learn and if you don’t grasp the opportunity, you lose out. Six years ago, I picked up photography and video editing on my own. When I go for gatherings, I like to capture candid moments, edit the photos and create short videos on the computer before sending them to my family and friends. I also use Facebook and Instagram to share what happens behind the scenes at Teater Kami. Learning keeps me going and makes me feel young!

My philosophy in life is very simple: Do things that make yourself and others happy.

Teater Kami is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019 with key productions that have headlined its seasons over the past three decades. Click here to find out more about upcoming productions from Teater Kami.  

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