The Liminality of Decolonization, De-Cold War and Deimperialization: Boal’s Newspaper Theater and East Asian Popular Culture as Method in Drama Box’s Community Commedia Dell’Arte News Busters!

Ng, H.W. 2019. The Liminality of Decolonization, De-Cold War and Deimperialization: Boal’s Newspaper Theater and East Asian Popular Culture as Method in Drama Box’s Community Commedia Dell’Arte News Busters! Router: A Journal of Cultural Studies. (29), pp. 123-160. https://doi.org/10.6752/JCS.201906_(28).0002

TitleThe Liminality of Decolonization, De-Cold War and Deimperialization: Boal’s Newspaper Theater and East Asian Popular Culture as Method in Drama Box’s Community Commedia Dell’Arte News Busters!
TypeJournal article
AuthorsNg, H.W.
Abstract

The research on Singapore Chinese theater has largely focused on the study of theater groups, productions and/or practitioners within fixed historical timelines. There exists a gap in the consideration of how socially engaged Chinese theater in contemporary Singapore can potentially contribute to the discourse on decolonization, de-Cold War and de-imperialization. This paper examines Drama Box, one of Singapore’s most prolific theater companies, known for its socially engaging Mandarin productions and community theater.
Drawing from Chen Kuan-hsing’s “Asia as method”, I consider the theater group’s cultural practice in relation to the state’s ongoing project for developing Singapore into “a global city for the arts,” the official framework of multiculturalism which draws from British colonial legacies, and the post-Cold War milieu for using Mandarin as a medium for political critique and social engagement in Singapore where English is an official working language.

Focusing on the 2007 production of News Busters!, Drama Box’s Mandarin community comedy theater series touring in different government housing estates and inspired by the farcical and satirical conventions of Commedia dell’Arte, I analyze how it appropriates Augusto Boal’s newstheater techniques and East Asian popular culture genres and motifs for sociopolitical critique. Paying particular attention to the performance at Kreta Ayer Square, I examine the sociopolitical significance of its satire in an open civil space located in the late Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s constituency. This is a play that has satirized the Singapore General Election in 2006, questioned the government’s rationale for high ministerial salaries, meritocracy and elitism, and reflected on the political apathy, conservatism and myopia of voters. While the cultural intervention of News Busters! potentially contributes to decolonization, de-Cold War and de-imperialization, its liminality lies in Drama Box’s multifaceted relationship with the state, which is simultaneously collaborative and oppositional. Such an understanding problematizes binarized thinking, as proposed by “Asia-as-method.”

KeywordsTheater of the Oppressed, Newspaper theater, Commedia dell’Arte, East Asian popular culture, Drama Box, Singapore theater
JournalRouter: A Journal of Cultural Studies
Journal citation(29), pp. 123-160
ISSN1816-0514
Year2019
PublisherRouter: A Journal of Cultural Studies
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.6752/JCS.201906_(28).0002
Web address (URL)http://routerjcs.nctu.edu.tw/router/issueArticle2.asp?P_No=60&CA_ID=667
Publication dates
Published31 Oct 2019

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