T:>Works’ Festival Of Women: N.O.W. 2020 Will Take Place Online
Like T:>Works artistic director Ong Keng Sen—who returns to helm the homegrown arts company (formerly known as TheatreWorks) with a renewed focus on works beyond theatre—theatre artist and educator Noorlinah Mohamed believes that art and life intersect. This is the guiding theme behind the second edition of T:>Works’ Festival of Women: N.O.W. 2020, which takes place online, from July 15 to August 2, across its Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud platforms.
As the festival’s artistic director, Noorlinah has curated a line-up of over 10 events, from livestreamed performances and aurality projects, to video narratives and workshops, that celebrate the alliances and solidarities between women who are looking into issues of class, gender and race.
“My first instinct was to ‘play’ with women from different sectors. The notion of women telling their stories does not just stop at gender issues, which is at the intersection of class and race—and privilege too,” says Noorlinah.
She adds, “When we talk about class and race, we tend to talk about the inequalities faced by those in the underclass or underprivileged, but seldom about how privilege is part of the equation. I would like to get to know those who choose to use their privilege to advance a cause, and find out why they do it. You can tell the story in whatever form you choose, but the reason behind it is always influenced by life.”
The festival is anchored by the Women of N.O.W. 2020 digital exhibition, which explores the stories of over 35 women from various sectors, inlcuding creatives, changemakers and social advocates, who are committed to raising awareness of the overlooked gaps in our society.
Noorlinah explains, “Privilege is not just about money. If you go to the digital exhibition, some of the women I have chosen to highlight do not have money. But everyone has privilege. When somebody sitting next to you does not have the same skill, you are more privileged than them.”
Due to the current Covid-19 situation, the festival has had to move online. On the considerations for staging a virtual festival, Noorlinah highlights, “The digital lens teaches me about openness. Technology can be alienating or scary for some people, but I see it as an opportunity. So I talked to artists who also see technology as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. You need to find partners who are open to playing 'playing' with you. So the key is openness, inventiveness, and knowing that people out there have stories to share.”
T:>Works has also established the T:>Care initiative to support projects by women who are making positive change in our communities. Such projects include ItsRainingRaincoats, a ground-up movement with over 500 volunteers to spread kindness to migrant workers in Singapore. Noorlinah explains, “The T:>Care initiative signals T:>Works’ commitment to champion cross-sector and interdisciplinary collaborations that go beyond the arts. Such endeavours bring about creative possibilities of making positive change in society, laterally.”
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1. Women of N.O.W. 2020
This digital exhibition features the narratives of over 35 women and their socially-conscious and engaged endeavours. They include Nurul Jihadah Hussain of The Codette Project, a non-profit group that empowers minority/Muslim women through tech; Vanessa Ho, Sherry Sherqueshaa and Wany Dee of Project X, a group that supports the sex worker community in Singapore; as well as Raeesah Khan of Reyna Movement, which empowers marginalised women through its accelerator programme.
2. Entangled Intimacies: Transnational Divorce Narratives
One of the highlights among the collaborative works, this documentary features the verbatim accounts of transnational divorce narratives performed by women from the community, along with a dialogue with sociologist Quah Ee Ling Sharon, lawyer and poet Amanda Chong, and Aware researcher Chong Ning Qian.
Actress-playwright Jo Tan exposes male privilege through satire with the digital debut of her one-woman show King through the lens of a typical Singaporean “office lady” who cross-dresses as a man for an office party.
4. The Book of Mothers
Written by Eleanor Tan and directed by Edith Podesta, with sound design by Inch Chua, this radio play highlights the difficult choices women face in their careers and motherhood.
5. 24-Hour Playwriting Competition
For the first time in its history as one of the longest-running creative platforms in Singapore, T:>Works’ signature playwriting competition will be held in a virtual space, exploring the relationship between storytelling, performance and digital platforms. During the allocated 24 hours from July 18 and 19, participants are invited to create a 10 to 15-minute performance piece that can be presented on multiple digital platforms such as social media or Zoom, or a hybrid work created for both the physical and virtual stage.