On Drama and Theatre with Darryl, Artistic Director of Split Theatrical Productions

Theatre can be many things. It's not just for entertainment.

By STYLEGUIDE

June 5 2018

[Image Credit: Elizabeth Samosir]

With two plays performed to date, local production house Split Theatrical Productions explores theatre in a novel way to create unique experiences for its audiences. STYLEGUIDE sits down with Darryl, Artistic Director of Split Theatrical Productions, to find out more about how he got started in drama and theatre as well as about what we can expect from their upcoming play, 'Fourteen', which centres on education and truth.

Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?

I graduated from National University of Singapore in 2015 and I have since been working in the education industry. I love working with youths and I believe very much in the value they can bring to society when they are empowered to think, explore, create, and impact.

I wrote and directed a number of plays and a musical during my undergraduate days and I was really fortunate and privileged to have had a group of friends who were willing to take the risk with me to produce and stage Split Theatre’s first play, Split, in 2016. Split Theatrical Productions was then formed and we have been creating ever since. 

What inspired you to start Split Theatrical Productions?

Art begins from a place of brokenness. To release the scent from myrrh, crushing of the leaves is necessary. Similarly, the beauty of humanity can only be fully experienced when we are broken – when we are utterly open and vulnerable – when there is a kind of ‘split’. Hence, our name. 

In 2015, I was (un)fortunate enough to have had a few ‘splits’ in my life with people who were important to me. I experienced a surge of emotions and needed some kind of outlet. It was a tough time because I did not believe in the need to face my emotions.I believed that the ability to hide emotions and to display emotional stability, even if it was a facade, was an indication of steadfastness and maturity. Boy was I wrong.

Thank God for theatre. And for my friends too. At the end of my undergraduate days, I was involved in NUS Dramafest as a director-playwright, and I wanted to further develop my play after the production. I wanted to say a lot, given that surge of emotions mentioned earlier, but I only had 20 minutes during the festival. Thankfully, I had friends who trusted me enough to take the leap, and we spent weekly rehearsals doing crazy things and devising the final product, which was eventually staged in November 2016. Split Theatre then continued staging plays year after year. 

Speaking of trust – yes, Split Theatre is all about that. Our works can be quite intriguing for some, while others may feel overtly disturbed by what they see or hear at our shows. This is the same for our rehearsals. It’s definitely not their fault, for Split Theatre prides ourselves in asking difficult questions. In this respect, many who joined us took some time to get used to it – some never did, and left, while some finally did, and stayed. For those who stayed, I’m glad they trusted me and that they had faith in the process. To be able to create a safe place of refuge to commune despite baring our brokenness, each member of the group has to understand the need to be vulnerable and has to be able to face the difficult questions.

What was one of the biggest challenges that you faced along your journey?

Everyday is a challenge. It sounds cliché but it is really true for me. With a group that demands vulnerability and openness, I feel that as a leader of Split Theatre, it can be quite daunting.

My secondary school teacher once mentioned that as a leader, I should possess supernatural powers and be somewhat invincible. Because that’s the way to create an anchor for the group, to move and to inspire them. I have actually believed that for quite a while.

I thought that I had to be the smartest, strongest, fastest, and the most successful to lead.

And that was my downfall in 2016, when Split Theatre first started.

It was only after about one and a half years when I realised how emotional vulnerability and openness are two of the greatest virtues of a good leader. As a director, it is all about trust. Yes, during rehearsals, the cast looks to the director for support, but as soon as the first show opens, the director fades into the background and the team has to rely on each other. The director also has to believe in the performers completely.

That being the case, it is important for the group to be empowered. That requires the leader to relinquish his power and create a space where each member has a voice and a say.

This is the philosophy of Split Theatre.

We want all members to know that they matter.

The struggle is real for all – those who are too fearful to speak, those who are too quick to speak (including myself), and those who are not willing to speak.

What was the most memorable experience of your time doing Split theatre?

I must say that each time someone (in my team or otherwise) comes up to me and expresses how Split Theatre creates a positive experience for them, it fills me with joy. Our motto is, “You Matter”, and our team strives to bring that message across.

What motivates and keeps you going?

What motivates me is the fact there's always another chance to create something new. Split theatre always has the potential to create an impact on yet another person.

Can you share more about your upcoming play “Fourteen”?

What is being fourteen all about? Under the current education system, it seems as though there is only one answer to this question – study hard, do well, graduate from school. Is there really a single truth to this question? To pen down what this play is about will be ironic, for it is about the slipperiness of meaning – how there are many interpretations of truth out there. Come to the show and decide for yourself.

Can you tell us one interesting thing that most people do not know about theatre?

Theatre can be many things. It's not just for entertainment.

Many would wonder, "Why should I pay to be disturbed, or made to think?" They wonder why they can't simply watch a play with a simple story just to be entertained.

To this, I would answer – why don’t we just head out with our friends and to real people for that? Grab a beer with a friend, and you’ll get what you want – an evening of entertainment, fun, and laughter. However, I urge you to come for Split Theatre’s shows to have an out-of-the-world experience that can never be replicated out there.

What is one change you will like to see in society today?

That people will look to others more and begin to realise how others matter.

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Watch Split Theatrical Production's upcoming play "Fourteen" and use this code YOUMATTER2 to purchase your tickets at $25 instead of the usual $28! Click here to get your tickets.

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