8 online programmes not to be missed at SDEA Theatre Arts Conference

The SDEA Theatre Arts Conference is back in 2021 with a fully-online programme, featuring presentations, workshops and masterclasses responding to the theme of Creative Disruption: Exploring New Ground. The conference, first started in 2011, is an international platform for artists, theatre practitioners, educators, and applied drama practitioners to share their work, methodologies, and research through workshops and presentations. 

This year’s theme aims to challenge ideas of inclusivity, community, and creativity, and will be explored through the lens of 4 different strands: community, education, citizenship and health, with the latter two being new additions this year. These include thoughts around the new ways of living and working, how to ensure better access and representation in our practices, and new areas of discovery and reinvention. 

The conference runs from 22 to 30 May, with a range of short presentations available on demand as well. 

With a comprehensive lineup of programmes spread of over 8 days – 70 live and on-demand presentations, workshops, and masterclasses by 64 practitioners from 14 countries, ArtsEquator has picked 8 programmes that we think you should definitely check out.




1. [Education Masterclass] Locked Down: Illuminating Spaces Of Learning At Home
By Prof. Helen Nicholson (UK)

When: Saturday 22 May 2021, 5.30pm – 8.30pm (GMT+8)

This workshop by Keynote Speaker, Professor Helen Nicholson, will explore ways to work creatively with young people at home and online as well as in classrooms, and will consider how everyday objects and environments become host to new pedagogical cultures. She will be taking participants through a range of approaches to working creatively and addressing autobiographical performance, including script-writing, movement and digital performance.


Dr. Phoebe Chan is founder of Chan’s Applied Theatre Lab (CATLab). She takes up a wide range of professional practice in drama education and applied theatre, in planning and facilitating drama programmes, teacher education, research, acting, directing and administration.
2. [Citizenship Keynote] A Struggle In The Mist – What Can (And Can’t) Drama Do? 
By Dr Phoebe Chan (HK) 

When: Sunday 23 May 2021, 2pm – 3pm (GMT+8)

One of four keynote presentations in the conference, this keynote by Dr. Phoebe Chan will be a sharing of her experience of drama education in Hong Kong as the city “experiences an unprecedented political turmoil and a pandemic of the era.” Dr. Chan is the founder of Chan’s Applied Theatre Lab in Hong Kong and is a founding member of Hong Kong Drama/Theatre and Education Forum (TEFO).


Since 1983, Md Shaiful Islam has been involved with the mainstream theatre movement in Bangladesh and has spent time in directing, acting, theatre and space design, organising children’s theatre at the country’s premiere schools and organisations.
3. [EDUCATION PERFORMANCE & DIALOGUE] Traditional Folk Drama Of Bangladesh
By Md Shaiful Islam (BD) 

When: Monday 24 May 2021, 7pm – 8.15pm

Traditional folk theatre is one of the most vibrant forms in Bangladesh. Most folk theatre stories come not only from stories that have been passed down through generations, but also the movements, dance forms, music, acting and designs that are connected to rural life and the struggles and lifestyles of the everyday people. But producing and creating folk drama is also constrained by time, space and cost. Md Shaiful Islam, who has over two decades of experience in theatre and art, will share what it takes to make everything out of nothing.


Photo by Robert Stainforth.
4. [Citizenship Presentation] Not Your Circus Dog Collective! Makes Crip, Queer, Subversive, Political, Punk Theatre-Cabaret
By Not Your Circus Dog Collective (UK) 

When: Monday 24 May 2021, 8.30pm – 9.30pm (GMT+8)

What is crip queer aesthetic and how does it find into culture and counter-culture? Find out in this presentation by UK-based group Not Your Circus Dog Collective, which makes political, ethical, subversive punk crip queer theatre.

The collective will also share extracts from Not F**kin’ Sorry! (NFS!), described as a crip queer immersive theatre-cabaret and performed in 2019 in London’s Soho Theatre. NFS! uses parody and testimonial theatre to expose discriminatory taboos surrounding disability and gender, sexuality & disability hate crime.


As an applied theatre practitioner, Rosie has explored themes of self-care, sexual assault trauma, self-harm, communication, and mental health. Her counselling practice is often experiential, specialising in addiction and trauma. She is currently the President of the Singapore Drama Educators Association.
5. [Health Workshop] Broken Pieces, Bigger Picture: Identifying Trauma In The Classroom
By Rosie McGowan (SG)

When: Friday 28 May 2021, 7pm – 10pm (GMT+8)

In the last few years, care and compassion have become ideas more openly discussed in the context of performance making and collaboration. This workshop by Rosie McGowan is timely as it unpacks trauma responses and how we can better work with young people who may have experienced trauma. It will also allow participants to learn applied drama exercises and techniques to better understand and deal with aspects of trauma that may arise in their work with young people.


ON DEMAND (A range of short presentations available on-demand up to 30 days after the conference)

6. [Community Presentation] Staging of a Virtual Creative Production for Artists with Disabilities in the Philippines: Methods, Concerns and Prospects
By Amos V. Manlangit (PH)

Boundless Possibilities Foundation, a Philippine organisation for persons with disabilities, will discuss a creative production they produced during the time of pandemic which featured music, dance, visual arts and drama. The presentation will cover the range of concerns and possibilities of making work in the context of community lockdowns, as well as how best to harness virtual technologies and strategies to provide greater access and opportunity when working with artists with disabilities.


7. [Community Presentation] Reflections from the “Youth Stories” project: Creative disruptions with young people from low-income neighbourhoods in Singapore 
By Farhanah Diyanah & Natalie Lazaroo (SG)

This paper presentation will talk about “Youth Stories”, a recent collaboration between artist-facilitator Farhanah Diyanah and researcher facilitator Natalie Lazaroo which involved young people living in rental flat communities. The pair will discuss the applied drama and other arts-based approaches employed in this project, which involved exploring narratives related to the social ecologies of these communities.


Lian Sutton is a graduate of the BA(Hons) Acting and MA Arts Pedagogy and Practice programme at LASALLE. As a trained martial artist, he constantly seeks to tell stories in varied and engaging ways. Lian is a core-member of Dark Matter Theatrics and founder of Nusantara Theatrical Combat.
8. [Community Presentation] A Working-Woke List: Personal Lessons on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from a Contemporary Theatre-Maker 
By Lian Sutton (MY) 

Singapore-based theatre maker Lian Sutton will talk about his experience in starting a theatre company, making work and consciously learning and unlearning how to create a theatre practice cognisant of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


* This year, the programming committee is committed to creating an inclusive and accessible programme and will be working with accessibility partner Equal Dreams to better incorporate captioning and live notetaking with the provision of sign language interpretation upon request. 


ArtsEquator will be giving away 1 Conference Pass (worth $100) to one lucky reader. The pass will entitle you access to all live keynotes, presentations and performances & dialogues during the week of the conference, as well as all on-demand presentations up to the end of June. Find out how you can take part in the contest here

SDEA Theatre Arts Conference runs from 22 – 30 May 2021. Check out the full lineup of talks, workshops and masterclasses here.

This article is sponsored by Singapore Drama Educators Association (SDEA).

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