On the backdrop of modern Singapore’s multicultural society, five characters navigate life on the fringes as they grapple with gender definitions, whether by choice or by circumstance. At best, society disregards them. At worst, they are relentlessly harassed—even viciously bullied— for being different.
Inspired by the true stories of women (and men) who relate to being butch in Singapore, Pretty Butch examines feminine masculinity that is often hidden from everyday life. The play explores the diversity of “butchness” through the experiences of different people from diverse cultural backgrounds who defy gender conventions.
Pretty Butch premiered on January 11, 2017 at Centre 42, Singapore, under the M1 Fringe Festival 2017: Art and Skin, the annual festival of theatre, dance, music, visual arts and mixed media, which brings the best of contemporary, cutting-edge and socially engaged works to the Singapore audience.
The original script of Pretty Butch was developed in residency at the Boiler Room and Basement Workshop at Centre 42. Centre 42 is one of the most prominent incubators for the creation, documentation and promotion of text and writing for the Singapore stage.
WE ARE PRETTY BUTCH
WE ARE PRETTY BUTCH is a project that endeavours to bring the play to a different audience through translation and re-conceptualization. For this iteration, the play has been translated into Mandarin and will be performed by Taiwanese actors. In addition to the reading, Charmaine Poh will be shooting a documentary photography project on feminine masculinity in Taiwan as a response to Tan Liting’s writing. When images and performance collide, this produces an installation-play that aims to challenge gender perceptions through the interaction of visual art and theatre.
WE ARE PRETTY BUTCH aims to bring the Singaporean characters in the play to an international audience. First performed as an M1 Fringe Festival 2017 commission, we hope to further develop the work by looking at its universal themes within different cultural contexts, languages and artistic mediums. For this year’s project, Pretty Butch has been translated into Mandarin and will be presented as a dramatized reading at the Taipei Arts Festival as part of Producer Selects, a programme of the festival focusing on overseas work. The reading will be staged at Taipei Zhongshan Hall on 11th – 12th August 2018.
For this dramatized reading, Liting will be working with 6 local Taiwanese actors. Liting has also invited Berlin-based Singaporean photographer Charmaine Poh to respond to the text by shooting a documentary photo series which looks at the way gender is performed in Taiwan.
By photographing faces, gestures, and moments displayed by those who self-identify as butch, the work will consider those who find a place outside the traditional gender binary of feminine or masculine, by looking at the particularity of masculine femininity. The series considers itself an anthropological study of this people group living in the specific context of Taiwan, where ideas surrounding gender norms are considered to be one of the most progressive in Asia. The photographs will be incorporated in the staging of the reading in an effort to compare and contrast these Singaporean characters with the Taiwanese context in the photographs.
It is our hope that the work begins a conversation between Singapore and Taiwan about the body and its relationship with masculinity and femininity, and broadens perspectives on gender and identity in the Singaporean context.
We need your support!
The Pretty Butch team is crowdfunding our trip to Taiwan! Pretty Butch will be presented as a dramatized reading at the Taipei Arts Festival in August 2018, and we need your help! Any amount helps! The money will go towards paying for flights, accommodation, per diem expenses as well as production costs incurred in putting this installation-play together.
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EVENTS & PLAYS
27 June 2018 (Wed) 20:30
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland, New Zealand
Hosted by: PAT – Proudly Asian Theatre
11 – 14 January 2017, 20:00
14 January 2017, 15:00
15 January 2017, 15:00
Black Box, Centre 42
70mins with no intermissions