Charlene is a theatre educator, researcher and practitioner who currently teaches at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. As performer, writer and director, she has collaborated with a range of practitioners in devising and facilitating dialogical theatre processes. More recently she has been dramaturg for interdisciplinary and intercultural arts projects that engage with issues of culture, subjectivity and agency. She is also engaged in researching pedagogies of play in arts education. Her doctoral dissertation examined the work of Krishen Jit and his stagings of difference in modern, multicultural Malaysia, and she has published a range of articles in this area.


Ken came to Southeast Asia in 1999 as the Assistant Director of the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, and has been working as a researcher/ dramaturg/ translator/ coordinator in this region. Currently working at the Theatre Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore as a Research Fellow, he is the Deputy Director and Translation Editor of Asian Shakespeare Intercultural Archive (A|S|I|A) project which has been developed by the Programme. He has participated in a number of intercultural productions including the recent Reservoir (TheatreWorks [Singapore], 2008) and Mobile 2: Flat Cities (The Necessary Stage, 2013). He was named Cross-Cultural Champion of the Arts at 2002’s BOH Cameronian Arts Awards.

Keynote Speakers


Playwright and Director, Artistic Director of ZA-KOENJI, Sato was born in Tokyo in 1943. In 1966, he founded the Free Stage Company and opened “Underground Free Stage” a venue in Roppongi, Tokyo. His most important work was centred on the activities of the theatre company known as the “Black Tent.” The company’s first production in 1970 was The Dance of Angels with Flaming Wings, an adaptation of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade. In the 1980s, Sato and his colleagues developed a new concept of “Asian Theatre” centred on a critical re-evaluation of Japanese society. From 1997 to 2002, he was the first artistic director of Setagaya Public Theatre. He currently is the director of Kamome-za.


T.K.Sabapathy has published extensively on art and artists in Southeast Asia. His writing has inaugurated important art historical trajectories for appreciating the modern and the contemporary in Southeast Asia. His monographic studies of artists, especially in Singapore Malaysia and Indonesia, have established significant benchmarks in developing the critical literature on art and artists. He is currently an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Architecture (National University of Singapore) and consultant lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Media (Nanyang Technological University), where he teaches the history of art.

Panel Presenters

MOHD ANIS MD NOR is Professor of Ethnochoreology and Ethnomusicology at the Cultural Centre (School of Performing Arts), University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Music and Performing Arts, Sultan Idris Education University in Tanjong Malim, Perak. He has pioneered the study of Zapin dance and music in Southeast Asia and has published widely on the said topic. His current studies are on the interfacing of dance traditions among Malayo-Polynesian societies in Southeast Asia and Polynesia and the making of new traditions through contemporary performances. 

RAY LANGENBACH creates conceptual performances, convenes gatherings, documents aesthetic and social performance, and writes on cultural theory, visual art, performance and queer culture. His installations, video and performance art works have been presented in the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific.He co-convened the Perform: State: Interrogate: Performance Studies international #10 Conference (Singapore 2004), serving  on the Psi Board of Directors from 2003-2005 and from 2009-20013. He curated/co-curated the 6th & 7th Kuala Lumpur Triennials, Satu Kali International Performance Art Symposium (2006) and three Asian Art and Performance conferences in Helsinki (2012-14). Langenbach is Professor of Performance Art and Theory, University of the Arts Helsinki.

LEOW PUAY TIN delves into the human psyche through the lives of individuals with her theatre texts and projects while experimenting with form and content. The latter includes the use of improvisation during performance, non-linearity, modular writing, the incorporation of songs and bits of text taken from various sources. She now heads the Department of Performance & Media at Sunway University in Malaysia.

ONG KENG SEN is the Festival Director of the new Singapore International Festival of Arts. He is a performance director who has actively contributed to the evolution of and the subsequent transglobalisation of the Asian aesthetic in contemporary arts. He completed post-graduate studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and also holds a law degree. His artworks have been presented throughout the world, including Lincoln Center, Edinburgh International Festival, Tanzquartier Vienna, Paris Centre National de la Danse, iDans Festival Istanbul, Festival Panorama Rio de Janeiro, Adelaide Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, and Cocoon Theater Tokyo.

SOON CHOON MEE is a theatre educator, who has studied Krishen Jit’s method of directing during 90’s. A believer of drama education for the past 25 years, she has in recent years focused and committed herself to community aesthetic education through organising community arts carnival, including  Revival of Culture - 2008 Kajang Community Arts Carnival, Sayang-Sayang Hulu Langat - 2011 Hulu Langat Community Arts Carnival, Love Overflows-2011 Cheras 11th Miles Community Arts Carnival, Wow Serdang-2012 Serdang Community Arts Carnival, Looks! Port Weld-2014 Port Weld Community Arts Carnival. Besides community programmes and teaching, she still pursues the Intimate experience of theatre directing.

TAN SOOI BENG is Professor of Ethnomusicology at the School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia. She is the author of Bangsawan: A Social and Stylistic History of Popular Malay Opera (Oxford University Press, 1993), co-author of Music of Malaysia: Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions (Ashgate Press, 2004), and Longing for the Past: the 78 RPM Era in Southeast Asia (Dust and Digital, 2013). She is active in community theatre by young people and has directed and composed the music for musical theatre such as Kisah Pulau Pinang, Ronggeng Merdeka and Kotai Penang. Her gamelan composition Perubahan has been recorded in the CD Rhythm in Bronze (Five Arts Centre, 2001).

Workshop Dialogue Facilitators

CHEE SEK THIM performed with Marion D'Cruz and Dancers in 1994, and has since gone on to acting and directing, having worked under Leow Puay Tin and the late Krishen Jit. From 2003 to 2008, he founded and managed Reka Art Space, a gallery in Petaling Jaya that supported young and alternative artists. During this period he also taught at the Department of Performance and Media, Sunway University. He is currently based in Penang where he continues with his work in theatre. His latest directorial effort, Pearls for the Picking was seen at the Kakiseni International Arts Festival 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.

MARION D'CRUZ, a founding member of Five Arts Centre (est. 1984), began dancing at the age of 6 and started making dance at the age of 16. One of the pioneers of contemporary dance in Malaysia, her work has gone through many phases – the search for a Malaysian identity in contemporary dance, the socio-political commentary, working with ‘non-performers’, the democratization of the artistic space. She has broken many rules and continues to do so in search of interesting projects that empower performers and audiences alike. Marion now teaches at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA), produces, choreographs and performs.

JANET PILLAI is a free-lance  academic and practitioner in the field of arts and culture education. Pillai utilises action research and cultural activism to develop and promote non-formal arts  and culture education for young people and community. Her research interests are in learning theories, critical creative pedagogy and community-collaboration. Besides being a founder member the NPO Arts-ED, Pillai is also a theatre director who works in collaboration with artists and young people to device multi-modal theatre productions. She is also involved on a project-basis in regional level training, programming, and curriculum writing.

MARK TEH is a director, curator and researcher whose diverse projects are particularly engaged with the issues of history, memory and the urban context.  His collaborative practice is situated primarily in performance and education, but also operates via exhibitions, interventions, new media and writing.  Mark is a member of Five Arts Centre, and teaches at the Department of Performance & Media, Sunway University.

Moderators & Respondents

PATRICIA MATUSKY, ethnomusicologist (PhD, Unversity of Michigan, USA), has taught many years in Malaysia, USA and Singapore, with music research on traditional Malaysian folk/classical music, organology, and contemporary art music. She has published articles in international journals and encyclopedias, and major books are Malaysian Shadow Puppet Theater and Music (OUP, 1993, 1997) and co-authored Muzik Malaysia Tradisi Klasik, Rakyat dan Sinkretik (1997, 2012;  English translation (London, SOAS Musicology Series, 2004). She is Chair of the ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia, and Adjunct Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Cultural Centre of Universiti Malaya and Centre for Research, Excellence and Artistic Scholarship (Kursi P. Ramlee, ASWARA).

SUSAN PHILIP teaches at the English Department, Arts Faculty, University of Malaya. She has published on Malaysian theatre in English in a number of journals and books. She is particularly interested in the complex issues of identity which prevail in Malaysian society, and has looked at how these issues are negotiated and challenged through the theatre, as well as through new spaces such as social media and the internet. She is also a huge fan of crime fiction.

PAUL RAE is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Theatre & Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Associate Editor of the journal Theatre Research International, and has published widely on contemporary theatre and performance. He is currently writing two books: Real Theatre: Essays in Experience, and Mousetraps: Adventures in Theatrical Capture.

KATHY ROWLAND is an independent writer and researcher, whose articles on the politics of culture have appeared in publications in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Her most recent essay, "Culture and the Arts in Malaysia: Playing to Multiple Galleries" is included in the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Malaysia (2014), edited by Meredith L. Weiss. Kathy edited and introduced Huzir Sulaiman: Collected Plays 1998 – 2012 (2013) and Krishen Jit: An Uncommon Position, Selected Writings (2003). Kathy was the co-founder of online arts website, and its Managing Editor until 2008. She is currently a part-time lecturer at the Faculty for Creative Industries, LASALLE College of the Arts.

C. J. W.-L. WEE is a Professor of English at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is the author of Culture, Empire, and the Question of Being Modern (2003) and The Asian Modern: Culture, Capitalist Development, Singapore (2007); he is also the editor of Local Cultures and the ‘New Asia’: The State, Culture, and Capitalism in Southeast Asia (2002). More recently, he co-edited the anthology Contesting Performance: Global Sites of Research (2010). His present research interest is in the contemporary arts, anglophone literature, and the cultural industries in East and Southeast Asia, and the relationship between questions of the postcolonial, modernity, modernism and contemporary culture.

[more to come]