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. Monster.com.sg contacted him
in Melbourne to talk about careers in the arts in Singapore.
What are your responsibilities in your position with Playbox Theatre
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
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
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
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
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.