Migrant Voices Drama

Updates on all drama workshops and activities happening with Migrant Voices.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Migrant Voices will not be able to put together a performance piece for SeptFest. Instead we will stick to having performances by bands.

See u then.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Septfest Rehearsal, 20th August 2006 @ Spell #7, Little India (supposed 8th session)

The past 2 weeks have seen cancellations of workshops for our Sunday rehearsals at Spell 7. Instead, we utilised the space for meetings and discussions on SeptFest - the upcoming and 2nd major project on our plates. Needless to say, we were jittery over the execution of our planned performance piece.

And that's why 20th August was uplifting for us all. The Indonesian women were having their annual Independence Day celebrations at the embassy in the day and came to our rehearsals halfway. Jegan, missing the presence of Richard, was solo but was joined by a friend, John later on for doodling.

The women and Jegan were let in on our SeptFest plans. Nina, Migrant Voices Artistic Facilitator, opened a discussion on how they felt using 3 settings:

- Before Arrival to Singapore
- After Arrival
- Months after Arrival

Jegan brought up his scenarios of a tearful goodbye to his family and of how he was dissapointed of Singapore spending days in cramped containers with other workers. He also spoke of the difficulty of contacting home as the first few months were a blurry start and he had no easy access to cash to purchase a SIM card and call home. This happens as workers are typically faced with heavy levy payments and in some cases, not paid for a few months to clear it off before they do get some salary later.

The Indonesian women had varied stories. They spoke of Indonesian agencies (before arriving) that trained them to pick up skills on managing typical household appliances seen in Singapore. And of how Singapore is seen through pictures. They spoke of various rules like cutting hair as they were told, Singaporean employers dont like it. This is saddening for the women especially since hair is a feminine aspect of beauty for them and looking like a man is culturally unacceptable.

One of the women spoke of her fear when landing in Singapore as she was told her employer is fierce but soon found out he wasn't. She also spoke of her immense loneliness to the point of being excited over the sound of airplanes as she wondered if the direction of the plane is heading towards Jakarta, her home. Her employer, seeing her state one day brought a pen, paper, envelope and a stamp to her encouraging her to write home. Indonesian women coming to Singapore for work, at times are under the impression of a better life and job but this may not be the case for some. As such, their family when sending them away bid farewell with hope and pride seeing their daughter 'succeeding'. Yet, for some this can be the other way around as some would reveal the reality to their family back home.

Next week, our rehearsal is cancelled. We will commence the week after.

Friday, August 11, 2006

HOME Drama Workshop August 10 2006
Seeing as National Day has just passed, the theme of today's workshop was "Home." For starters the women drew maps of their homes, after which we went around explaining our pictures to the group. Next, we identified the common elements of everyone's maps: a house, rice fields, fruit trees, mountains, rivers and flower gardens. I then got everyone to draw a common map made up of these elements. Women broke up into 4 groups, and within their groups they assigned a number to each element on the map. The women also took on a number each, and as a group they told a story that unfolded in the order of the different parts of the map. Eg. Woman no. 1 started the story in place no. 1 the mountains, woman no. 2 continued with the story in place no. 2 the garden and so on. Groups shared their stories with each other, after which they acted them out. Lulu played a great chicken that was killed and turned into curry, and Rosannah played a drunk, irresponsible husband with plenty of conviction.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Sculpture of Hope & Freedom!

Here's a summary of what's been happening at HOME Siglap thus far:

Wed Jul 19
Women told stories about their names as an introduction to personal storytelling. I learnt that lots of Filipinas have names that are a combination of their father's and mother's names eg. Marilou = Maria + Louis. Women then used art materials to illustrate maps of their lives. Volunteers shared their life maps, which took the shape of everything from timelines to a bouquet of flowers. Most of the women were very candid even when sharing about difficult moments in their lives to a complete stranger like myself. Ika had everyone in stitches with her drawing of Sister Bridget & HOME!

Fri Jul 21
Introduced the idea of having to warm up the body and the voice before performing onstage. Did theatre exercises to get the women used to standing on stage alone and making eye contact with an audience. More sharing of lifemaps - Adi told the full story of her hard life and had many of the women in tears. It was hard to continue with the sharing after that. Most of the women were also uncomfortable being on stage all alone, so I switched to doing group improv exercises to break the melancholy in the room. The exercise involved 1 person comes up with a setting (eg. The beach), 5 people holding poses onstage that have to do with the setting, before we came up with a story around the poses and the women onstage would act it out. "Animals at the Zoo" became a hilarious scene involving an abusive trainer played by Maggie and a parrot that could sing in tagalog played by Annelie. Animal Farm Redux!

Wed Jul 26
Warm-ups. Did pair and group exercises around the theme of "statues." Women broke into groups, exercise was to play out a famous story without using words and have the other groups guess what it is. Women played out Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and one group did the story of an FDW's work - they played busy employers, senile grandmothers and naughty babies with aplomb. We discussed the theme of love stories, and Sri told a wonderful story about her first love. I learnt that many of the women used to study with gas lamps, so they would have black soot rings around their nostrils or burnt eyebrows and hair if they fell asleep studying! We also talked about other kinds of love stories, before the women split up into groups to play them out. One group acted out Sri's love story, another group played out the story of the nativity, and the 3rd group played out the story of an FDW's love for her family. Everyone had a good laugh at Mary Jane playing a "good employer" who employed Maryphil as her new maid.

Wed Aug 2
Warm-ups. Women watched a short video I made of previous workshops. Did exercises that have to do with group storytelling - gestures adding up to a story, women coming up with one sentence each to add to a story. Got the women to do a 4-scene playwriting exercise, first two words of opening line of dialogue were "I wish..." Women shared scripts before I collected them. Megha has kindly volunteered to help type them up so we can bind them for the women to read/ keep.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Here's an update on current drama workshops - if you're interested in attending any of them, do drop us a line at migrantvoices@gmail.com!

1) Nina Siew and Jacqueline Tan have been running
drama workshops on Sunday afternoons with male & female migrant workers at Spell #7. More info about these workshops can be found in Sha's previous posts. After a break, Nina and Jackie are back in business as of tomorrow, Sunday Aug 6, to begin weekly rehearsals for a 10-minute skit that will be presented at Substation's Septfest on Sept 23.

2) Mayura Baweja ran 4 drama
workshops @ the HOME Serangoon shelter, but she
hurt her back so she's taking a break for the moment. To find out more about HOME, see www.home.org.sg. Basically HOME runs 3 shelters for abused migrant workers, and we've been running workshops largely with the shelters for domestic workers.

3) I'm running drama workshops at HOME Siglap shelter every Wednesday evening, visitors welcome! The hope is to bring together the work that's been done at both HOME shelters, and through the HOME idol contest (see migrantvoicescd.blogspot.com), to create a variety show for HOME that might serve fundraising purposes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

From left: Tari (Indonesia), Suwarni (Indonesia) and Josie (Philippines)

The 3rd session of our drama workshop bore fruitful and insightful details on the potential of each migrant worker involved. The group wrote and acted out scenes from home and tragedies that have happened in their lives whether on a personal basis or at work. We had new faces from the Philippines and curious outsiders itching to know what this is all about. Josie is a housewife and PR here. She came to the workshop, curious to know more and brought her daughter along too. Part of the team at Migrant Voices are foreign expats themselves eager to reach out to their own community to contribute. Denny Iskandar is an active volunteer of Migrant Voices since the beginning. He works closely with the Darul Arqam singers who went on to record on the Migrant Voices CD album.

Click here to find out where you can purchase a CD

Subsequently, check on our events listing where the CDs will be available for purchase as well.

18 June 2006, 2pm
Spell 7, Little India
by Jacqueline Tan Publicist, Committee Member

Migrant Voices Drama coach Nina Siew, who is also a Committee Member for Migrant Voices kicked off her first drama workshop with a small group of migrant workers in Little India on Sunday, 18/6. The session was held on the premises of Spell 7 and it revolved around the theme of childhood. Although it was just a small group of six (including Sha Najak and TWC2's Amy Fatah), it was a fun and fruitful workshop that saw the participants coming together to improvise plays in super-quick time. Shipyard worker Richard and construction worker Jeganath showed great acting prowess and moved one of the Indonesian domestic workers to tears with their realistic portrayals of life in a poor rural Indian village. It was Sun TV come alive! Amy Fatah and her group also put up a short powerful playlet about mother-daughter relationships. Amy, who played the daughter, got under the skin of her character so well that she actually broke into tears when her 'mother' was scolding her.The participants were also encouraged to share and give their feedback on the plays they put up. After a short 15-minute break, they gathered for a time of doodling. Most of them depicted scenes of their villages with crayons and colour pencils, with the exception of Jeganath who drew a classical Indian flute -- an instrument he plays with great passion and conviction.A big "thank you" to Nina who conducted the workshop with much aplomb. She kept the energy level up despite the small group and the participants said they'll be back for the next workshop this Sunday, 25/6 at 2pm.We're hoping to get more participants for this workshop, so do help spread the word around! And feel free to drop by at Spell 7 for a look-see or better still, join in the fun!

Where: HOME Serangoon Gardens, a shelter for destitute migrant workers
What: Drama workshops
Who: Mayura, trainer

Greetings friends. I am Sha, currently helping out in Migrant Voices. I have been joining the theatre workshops with HOME for the past couple weeks and I wish to share with you my observations. The 1st lesson was more of a warm-up session so there were some ladies who were hesitant to join in the fun. Soon we were laughing and active enough to whet the curiosity of the rest. By the 2nd meeting, minor yet interesting observations could be derived.

One exercise put forth by the trainer was a pairing of 3s in one group. As a Singaporean, I was paired with 2 others - 1 indonesian and 1 filipina. We were told to find a common issue we all share and translated that into a specific action. Whilst figuring out what we have in common, the other groups easily pointed out issues they share like the need for home/family or loneliness. My 2 partners pointed out the same, but I don't share common grounds in those issues. In the end, we finally shared one issue together - money. My partners (while in conversation) find it hard to believe a Singaporean would be 'poor'. I found this oservation of theirs interesting as a 2nd point of view from foreigners coming from less developed countries than Singapore. Workers from the Philippines and Indonesia trudge to Singapore to find a better life much like a Singaporean is trying to do too. This only makes us comrades/partners side by side towards survival.

On another occassion, I was paired with 3 others and this time my pal Shaun a Singaporean too joined us. This was a re-enactment game and Mayura the trainer would give us scenarious to act out. Her plan was to steer far away from the negative issues of abuse etc but for my group, she decided to give us the scenario of an employer's home. Perhaps, it was a tactic of hers to curiously find out what the foreign workers would re-enact. One immediately thrust her chin up and sat on the floor with legs crossed and arms crossed much like an arrogant employer would do. And me being the dramatic fool, dropped down on the floor and touched her feet in an attempt to enact an obedient domestic worker. What came after was surprising to me, she (the one who acted as the employer) kept apologising because I had touched her feet. It became apparent to me, my presence is as much a curiosity to them as their presence is to me.

My observations tell me, foreign workers are hungry for interaction with Singaporeans not as employer/employee but on a friendly basis instead. Communication barriers aside, foreign workers young and old are very much like us and make no mistake, they want to know about us too but may not find such an opportunity or find us intimidating perhaps?