Director Ong Keng Sen on Diaspora

If you are moved by real-life stories of human migration, check out the show Diaspora. Director Ong Keng Sen lets us in on its concept, the production process and his take on local theatre.
How will Diaspora be performed?
It’s an audio-visual show. There will be live music and video clips. You’ll hear stories. The actors Koh Pin Pin, Janice Koh, Lim Kay Tong, Nora Samosir and Rindu Malam will tell the stories—they’re like storytellers. I’ve included stories of people that I’ve interviewed in my four months of research.
And how do Zai Kuning, Ariani Darmawan, Dinh Q. Le, Navin Rawanchaikul and Tintin Wulla come into play?
The production begins from these five artists. They are part of diasporas. I’ve interviewed them, their families and their friends. I’ve invited the five of them to make short videos that will be screened at the performance.
So what’s the message behind Diaspora?
The message is of survival, dignity, the triumph of the human spirit and also about choice. We have a choice in how we want to lead our lives. And that is the most important thing.
Did you face any big obstacles in the production process?
There are a hundred artists involved. Coordinating all these different people, who are spread over Southeast Asia, Berlin, Tokyo and beyond, is the biggest nightmare. TheatreWorks has done a lot of international shows, but this is the first time we have a hundred people making a work together.
What you think of the current local theater scene?
The theater scene has been around since late ’80s, but our definition of Singapore theater is narrow. For example, is Diaspora a piece of Singapore theater? I think it is, because it’s made by many Singaporeans, even though the stories are not about Singapore. I think the scene has some issues such as weak professional training and an antagonistic press too. The scene is not there yet, but it does have staying power.