On a busy night at Centre 42, we sometimes have up to four or five groups rehearsing under the same roof at the same time. But like we mentioned in our third anniversary story, the theatrical magic usually happens behind closed doors. Once a year, however, we throw open those doors for an after-hours shindig called Late-Night Texting, so that everyone can come and experience that magic for themselves.
Late-Night Texting made its debut last year, and the idea for it came about fairly organically – the Centre 42 team talked to some of the artists who regularly use our space, and asked if they would like to showcase some of their work in a casual one-off event. Several groups came on board, and we pulled together a line-up featuring performances of short plays, spoken-word poetry, and improv comedy.
The idea is for the event to be a playground for artists to try new things. It’s also a chance for the public to sample something a little different, meet some of the amazing artists we work with, and hopefully have lots of fun while they’re at it.
We weren’t sure what to expect for the inaugural edition, but our blue house ended up receiving over 3,000 visitors in one night. So this year, we’re bringing it back again as part of the Singapore Night Festival. Except now, there will be twice the texting, as it will be held on both Friday 25 and Saturday 26 August. As per last year, there will be a line-up of text-based performances, as well as snacks and drinks on sale from our friends at Coffee Bandits.
Here’s what visitors to Late-Night Texting 2017 can expect.
“Night Shift” by Proletariat Poetry Factory
It was arguably Proletariat Poetry Factory (PPF) who inspired a night of revelry in the blue house. Founded by Rachel Goh in 2006, the group comprises a team of Servile Poets. Their mission is to compose poems based on words submitted by visitors to whichever event they’re performing at. In 2015, PPF created Alt-Topia, a multi-faceted performance, as part of the Singapore Night Festival. Centre 42 was the venue programme partner.
The Servile Poets donned bright orange boiler suits and settled in front of their typewriters in our Black Box. Meanwhile, a team of actors dressed up in larger-than-life costumes roamed our blue house, greeting visitors and cracking the whip on the poets if anyone was caught slacking.
“To be frank, we didn’t know what to expect as it was just one big experiment,” Rachel recalls. “It was hands-down our most ambitious show ever, combining poetry production with organic theatre and self-exhibitionism. But it turned out to be two nights of random magic.”
The Centre 42 team really enjoyed the participatory nature of Alt-Topia, and we’re thrilled to be welcoming PPF back to our space for the 2017 edition. This time, they return under the programme name “Night Shift”, where they will once again be setting up a poetry production line. However, Rachel points out that the experience will be quite different from Alt-Topia.
“It will be a much more intimate show than before as we will be performing alongside other Late-Night Texters,” she says. “Also, this time the spotlight will be on our poetry customers, as there will be a more prominent stage for them to recite their freshly-made works – rendering our usually ephemeral poetry more tangible and public for a change.”
“One-Mic Stand” by destination: INK
Also making a comeback at Late-Night Texting 2017 is “One-Mic Stand”, a series of spoken-word poetry performances organised by the same people behind the monthly open mic series, destination:INK. They, too, will have nine acts this year, all of whom are the event’s regular performers. They are: Ang Shuang, Harini Vee, Joses Ho, Laika Jumabhoy, Max Pasakon, Pranamika Subhalaxmi, Praval Visvanath, Will Beale and Charlene Shepherdson. Between them, they cover a wide spectrum of genres, from sci-fi poetry to poems that combine word and music.
“As a writer, it can get quite isolating because you tend to work on your own projects and your own communities,” explains Charlene Shepherdson, a spoken-word poet and one of the organisers of destination: INK. “So an event like Late-Night Texting is great because it reminds me that there are so many more people working in other forms of the arts, and it gives us an opportunity to get to know them.”
We’re also delighted when Charlene told us that they were able to introduce spoken-word to a new audience at last year’s event.
“It was amazing watching people casually strolling by Centre 42, pick up on the noise and decide to venture in,” she says. “I got a lot of comments afterwards that they weren’t even aware that there are regular spoken-word events in Singapore.”
“Eat My Shorts” by Dark Matter Theatrics
Founded by playwright-director Christopher Fok, actor Lian Sutton, and playwright Marcia Vanderstraaten, Dark Matter Theatrics (DMT) is a theatre collective that’s about “bringing the extraordinary out of ordinary things”. Formed in 2015, and the team has worked in Centre 42 on various projects, including site-specific productions, workshops, and reads.
DMT was also one of the groups that took part in Late-Night Texting last year, presenting a series of ten-minute short plays titled “Eat My Shorts”.
“What I think ‘Eat My Shorts’ does really well is to bring out the magic of short, simple stories. Like all our work thus far, it is powerful in its compactness and endearing in its intimacy,” says Marcia.
“Eat My Shorts” will be making a return this year with 12 different plays by young playwrights mentored by Marcia and Faith Ng.
“It was really so lovely to see so many people at Late-Night Texting 2016, listening to spoken-word poetry, checking out books at the pop-up store, and lining up patiently to watch our ten-minute plays,” remembers Marcia. “DMT has developed a great working relationship with the good folks of Centre 42, and after seeing how well the first edition of ‘Eat My Shorts’ went, it made perfect sense to go for it a second time around.”
“ETA: 9MIN” by Main Tulis Group
A new group that will also be presenting short plays this year is Main Tulis Group. The playwright collective was formed by Nabilah Said in 2016, and it now comprises nine members who write in both Malay and English. They are (from top left in the photo above): Ahmad Musta’ain Khamis, Farhanah Diyanah, Hazwan Norly, Zulfadli Rashid, Sabrina Dzulkifli, Nabilah, Adib Kosnan, Nessa Anwar, and Johnny Jon Jon.
“Main tulis” means “play write” in Malay, and the group chose it as a pun on “playwright”. But it can also mean “anyhow write” – a sign that members are encouraged to experiment and not take things too seriously.
The group has been meeting at Centre 42 since its inception, and Nabliah is excited to be part of Late-Night Texting for the first time this year. Main Tulis Group’s programme is titled “ETA: 9MIN”, and it is a showcase of nine-minute plays written by each member specially for the occasion.
“It’s like going to a buffet where you get to sample many things,” says Nabilah. “We each have very different styles – there’s comedy, tragedy, social commentary, absurdism, English plays, Malay plays, [etc.] We want to give the audience a good story.”
“#nofilter” by Telling Stories Live
Telling Stories Live (TSL) essentially began as a dare. When working together on Dream Academy’s 2013 production of Crazy Christmas, Petrina Kow and Shireen Abdullah discovered their mutual love for The Moth, a podcast that features different storytellers in each episode. The two of them dared each other to start something similar in Singapore, and TSL was born nine months later as a labour of love.
“There’s something quite special about listening to other people’s stories in person,” says Petrina. “It takes a lot of courage for the storyteller to be vulnerable in front of a live audience. In this fast-paced digital world we live in, it’s even more crucial to create spaces for us to connect in this deeper way.”
Six of TSL’s members will be taking part in Late-Night Texting for the first time this year, and they will be sharing a series of strange but true stories in a programmed called “#nofilter”. As the name suggests, this will be an intimate, no-holds-barred event.
“We have got an exciting line-up of storytellers. All I can say is… it might get a little dark!” teases Petrina. She adds that the team will be creating “a safe, warm space that is conducive for connecting with the audience, because at the end of the day, it’s about having fun and getting [the storytellers’] stories out there”.
“Text with Me” by The Latecomers
This rambunctious gang of improv comedians first banded together in 2014. They started off as an interest group at SCAPE, where they provided free workshops for the public. Nowadays, they rehearse about three times a month (often at Centre 42), and perform regionally. Their brand of humour is, shall we say, not exactly politically correct. But it sure sounds fun.
“A recent musical game we tried in rehearsal ended up with every member of the UN Security Council in a diss rap battle,” Darren Foong, one of The Latecomers, tells us.
He wouldn’t divulge too much about what to expect for “Text with Me”, the skit that they will be performing at Late-Night Texting. “Now, now, spoilers!” tuts Darren. But he does say that audience suggestions and participation is key. And the more the audience gives, the more they will get out of it.
“We think texting should be a two-way thing,” he explains. “If an audience is willing to share, we could help them with a confession, or write a serenade for someone, or even stage an improvised play… but you’ll have to come by to find out!”
“Between the Lines” by BooksActually
The beloved independent bookshop had a pop-up store at Late-Night Texting last year, and have decided to up their game this time around. On top of once again setting up a booth for visitors to #buysinglit, co-founder Kenny Leck and his team will also be organising a programme called “Between the Lines” at this edition. Here, authors Tania de Rozario and Daryl Yam will be reading excerpts from their work, and have a sharing session with the audience afterwards.
Tania is well known for her collection of poems and short prose, titled Tender Delirium, and a literary memoir called And the Walls Come Crumbling Down. Daryl is an up-and-coming writer whose debut novel, Kappa Quartet, was long-listed for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.
“I love the tenderness, and the sense of vulnerability that is dosed out in measured moments that resonates in both Tania’s and Daryl’s writing,” says Kenny. “Both writers are what I termed ‘shy writers’. They don’t rely on the ‘ra ra’ feel that some other writers present in their writing. Instead, both Tania and Daryl rely on their text to do the slow work. Every word, every phrase, every turn affords the reader a sense of completeness in due time.”
He continues: “As the event name goes, we hope the audience will come away from the event held during Late-Night Texting to be able to literally read ‘between the lines’.”
By Gwen Pew
Published on 14 July 2017
Find out more about Late-Night Texting here, and join us at Centre 42 on 25 & 26 August 2017.