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Profile: Khairi Razaai
Marketing Officer, Playbox Theatre

A pioneer student of LaSalle’s School of Drama, Khairi Razaai pursued his interest in theatre in Australia. He is now the Multicultural Arts Marketing Strategy Officer, with Australian Playbox Theatre Company. contacted him in Melbourne to talk about careers in the arts in Singapore.

What are your responsibilities in your position with Playbox Theatre Company?

Besides marketing our theatrical productions, my challenge is to cultivate 'new' audiences especially within ethnic communities, to involve them in our activities by promoting ethnic specific productions within our yearly programme and to promote interests among youth by providing on-going arts activities and programs

Tell us about your theatre experiences in Singapore?
I’ve been involved with the Singapore malay theatre scene since the 80s, working on youth competitions, mainstream, amateur and professional productions. I’ve worked with various local and foreign theatre companies as an actor, stage manager, director and crew member. I was involved in the early stages of setting up Teater Kami. In 1989 a group of young people from two theatre groups at Bowen and Kolam Ayer Community centres saw its fruition. These theatre enthusiasts worked together for 2 years prior to Teater Kami’s birth as a registered society. Teater Kami turned professional 3 years ago, unfortunately I was already in Australia to pursue my studies.

Why didn't you pursue this in Singapore?
I went overseas as there weren’t other tertiary institutions offering theatre and drama studies with a balanced theoretical and practical syllabus. I achieved a Bachelor of Arts majoring in theatre and drama, and concentrated on educational drama. I was from LaSalle College of the Arts’pioneering batch of drama students. I felt I needed some formal training despite being in theatre for several years. I wanted training not just in the practical form but to be aware of theatre history and its theoretical aesthetics.

What did you do before you coming to Australia?
I completed National Service after my ‘O’ levels, and worked as an inventory clerk in the Mandarin Hotel. I then discovered that drama was soon to be offered at LaSalle. I jumped at the opportunity. Between hours, I worked with entertainment companies for some spare cash to cover my hefty school fees. At the same time, I worked with various Singaporean and overseas productions.

Is there a difference between acting in Singapore and in Australia?
There isn’t much of a difference except the fact that I’m Asian with a rather strange accent! The work ethic may differ slightly but it's more or less similar to the more professional theatre companies in Singapore. Directors who are willing to do a blind cast in the Western countries are hard to come by. Audiences here are rather intrigued when a production involves a different culture and I often try to incorporate cultural material into my productions.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy working with people from various ethnic backgrounds and sharing and generating ideas as a team player. Playbox is interesting as it presents mostly Australian plays and stories. Everyone knows Australia is multi-cultural though it tends to be Euro-centric at times. But Playbox is trying to change that by introducing Australian plays that touch upon the lives of ethnic communities. Playbox is a 'modest' theatre company, depending on government support, grants and sponsorship. Having worked in a 'poor' theatre company before, I feel at home here.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of pursuing their studies in the arts field in Australia?
Go for it!! The arts in Singapore is growing with encouraging assistance from the government and private sector. It is an opportune time to pursue and gather as much knowledge as one can from overseas experts.

Singapore requires talent and expertise in the Arts not just in production but in arts administration too. Hiring people with a business or administrative background is insufficient to keep the arts going. For Singapore to flourish we need people trained in the craft with sound knowledge of arts administration.


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