Monday, March 24, 2014

SRT's "Rising Son" Is Made In Singapore - An Interview with Dick Lee

This year, the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) has announced a run of locally-made plays in their "Made In Singapore" production series - "A Wedding, A Funeral & Lucky, The Fish" (Dora Tan), "Stand Behind The Yellow Line - Garisan Kuning" (Michelle Tan), and "Rising Son" (Dick Lee).

"Rising Son" is written by well-known performer and composer Dick Lee, who also happens to be SRT's Associate Artistic Director. Unlike his other more familiar works in theatre, which were musicals like "Beauty World" and "Snow.Wolf.Lake", "Rising Son" is part 1 of an epic drama about set against the backdrop of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore during World War II.

The story spans the period of 1941 to 1945, and follows the story of a young ambulance orderly Sunny (Tan Shou Chen), and his younger sister Ruby (Seong Hui Xuan), and their lives and relationships during these horrific times.

To find out more about this new local production, Red Dot Diva posed "Rising Son" 's playright, Dick Lee, a few nosy questions:

Red Dot Diva: What inspired you to write "Rising Son"?
Dick Lee: After writing musicals and comedies I wanted to write a serious play and was intrigued by an episode in my father’s life during the Japanese Occupation, which he mentions briefly in his autobiography Amber Sands.

Red Dot Diva: How much research did you do for the play?
Dick Lee: As the play centers on my father’s experience if the war, my main research involved having long conversations with him to record his recollections. I also did some reading on the period but am fairly well-versed as the war was a prominent topic at home when I was growing up.

Red Dot Diva: Did you find anything particularly interesting during your research?
Dick Lee: My talks with my father unearthed a few family secrets but I'm not keen to add spoilers here!

Red Dot Diva: Were there any unexpected changes to the play between its conception and final version? What were they?
Dick Lee: Whilst writing it there was always the uncertainty of whether my family would suddenly disallow it but I assuaged their fears by changing some names, etc (my father’s remains the same). After all, the play is inspired by real events, rather than a completely accurate depiction of what happened.

Red Dot Diva: What were the major difficulties you faced while developing and preparing for the production?
Dick Lee: It was tricky filling in the blanks of the course of events, as my father’s memory is patchy. However, I'm so glad I interviewed him when I did because he recently had a stroke and is unable to recall anything these days.

Red Dot Diva: For those who lived through World War II, those times were tumultuous years. How do you think "Rising Son" would appeal to their sensitivities?
Dick Lee: We all know about the horrors that took place, as they have been extensively documented. My take is that there are other experiences which matter, for example, a teenager's views and how the war affected their growing-up. The play is also a contemplation on the effects of war by those involved.

Red Dot Diva: What's next for you after "Rising Son" wraps up its run locally?
Dick Lee: This year I will direct my 1997 musical "Hotpants" in August, after I'm done with the National Day Parade.


"Rising Son" opens March 27 to April 12, 2014 at the DBS Arts Centre.

Tickets are now available from SISTIC

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