SELECTED PROGRAMME INTERPRETATION
TEATER MUDA PROGRAMME, Five Arts Centre & Young Theatre Penang
Interpretation is based on Archive Record Inventory of the programme, entitled: “TEATER MUDA PROGRAMME, FAC-YTP” as well as participants’ recollections. Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)
CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
From the 70s to the 80s non-formal arts education in Southeast Asia began to formulate a more child-centered approach to arts-education for young people. In the Phillipines, Cecile Guidote of the Phillipines Educational Theatre Association (PETA) who obtained her MA from Trinity University Texas in the US, led the direction for a more exploratory and expressive arts education for children. PETA developed an integrated arts programme which used creative dramatics, theatre games, group dynamics, music poetry, art, craft, and movement to guide children towards expressing their potential. Children’s Theatre was already a core course of PETA’s educational arm (CITASA) in 1979. The programme emphasised process over product, and was aimed at empowering children at a personal and social level while equipping them with aesthetic skills.
From 1983 to 1990, artists Mary Fajardo and Ernie Cloma ran the Basic Integrated Theatre Arts Workshops (BITAW) in Malaysia, and other Asian countries (specifically Singapore and Thailand) for children’s theatre practitioners and arts educators. PETA’s Integrated Arts exercises – which were encapsuled in a Children’s Theatre Teacher’s Manual in 1984 – influenced arts-educators and cultural leaders working with young people in the region (Source: Samson, Fajardo, Labad and Santos Cabangon Edts (2008), The Story of Peta Pg 218-235 PETA 2008, Quezon City, Phillipines.)
Between the period of 1979 through to 1985, another form of regional exchange in children’s theatrer was taking place through the International Workshop on Living Children’s Theatre. This seminar-workshop-festival event involved cultural ministries, libraries, and the corporate sector; and was convened 3 times (Japan in 1979, Phillipines in 1983, and Malaysia in 1985).
Sponsored by the Toyota Foundation, the event was conceived by theatre academic and director Krishen Jit (University Malaya, Malaysia), playwright and director Amelia Bonifacio (University of Phillipines), and arts manager/librarian Mitsue Ishitake (Ohanashi Caravan Center, Japan). The event allowed for arts educators and practitioners from Southeast Asian countries to meet, discuss, workshop, and showcase practices for and by children in the region, encouraging regional inspiration and hybridity.
Regional arts exchanges contributed in several ways to the establishment of a modern and localised children’s theatre in the region. Practitioners used their understanding of west and east, to facilitate the decolonisation of modern theatre in their home countries, by combining western contemporary dramaturgy with local folk literature and performance forms. The move to decolonise also saw contemporary artists working with traditional artists, and the various art mediums being reintegrated as ‘total theatre’, which was common to Asian tradition.
Key arts leaders, academicians, and institutional heads in the region contributed towards the setting up of various platforms for the development of children’s theatre via formal university courses, non-formal programs in institutions, as well as through non-profit groups or theatre companies. This older generation (among others, Krishen Jit from Malaysia, Mattani Modjara Rutnin, and Onchuma Yuthavong from Thailand, and Cecile Guidote and Amelia Bonifacio from the Phillipines) became teachers and mentors to a generation of arts-educators, arts practitioners, and arts managers who worked on the convergence of art, education, and socio-cultural issues.
They produced the next generation of cultural activists in the region who championed an alternative pedagogical mode of arts-education, including the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), the Thai groups MAYA, MAKHAMPOM and CRESCENT MOON, and the Malaysian programme TEATER MUDA by Five Arts Centre.
PROGRAMME ORGANISATION(S) AND KEY PERSON(S)
Programme Instructor(s): Marion D’Cruz, Krishen Jit, Janet Pillai
Producing Organisation(s): Five Arts Centre, Young Theatre Penang
Programmer Instructors(s): See summaries of all Teater Muda phases
From the late 70s to the early 90s, non-formal arts education programmes with a more child-centered approach had already taken root in Malaysia. The KBN Children’s Theatre Programme and the USM Seni Kreatif Programme were two examples of initiatives which had begun to experiment with form and content which was more relevant to children.
The processes and techniques used in the non-formal Komplex Budaya Negara Programme (1977-1985) and in the USM Seni Kreatif Programme (1985-1991) were never formally documented. Attempts to repeat the approach used over the course of the Teater Muda Programme became dependent on intuitive and ad-hoc recollection of exercises used by the facilitators involved.
Besides these earlier programs, Five Arts Centre’s Teater Muda programme was in part influenced by the methodology advocated by MAYA Thailand, who launched an educational programme in 1988, which used theatre, multimedia, and puppetry as a tool to bring awareness to issues such as health, nutrition, democracy, and media literacy in schools. Janet Pillai of Five Arts Centre made several field visits to Thailand to observe MAYA’s Education programme between 1990 and 1991.
By the 90s it became obvious that it was necessary to consolidate the main principles and approaches used in the experimental phases of non-formal arts education in Malaysia, into a viable module which could be more widely propagated. In 1991, Janet Pillai made an unsuccessful application for a short term research grant to Universiti Sains Malaysia, to document the non-formal arts education programmes she was involved in. Five Arts Center came forward to offer a platform for the consolidation, further development, and documentation of a module.
In 1992, producer Marion D’Cruz from Five Arts Centre prepared a proposal for Teater Muda which outlined the setting up of a programme for children in the arts to consolidate, as well as document the existing methodology which would ultimately lead to a handbook or manual. Grants were made available from the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism and another private company. Later that year, the children’s theatre programme Teater Muda was initiated. The programme was produced by Marion D’Cruz and programming was spearheaded by Janet Pillai and Charlene Rajendren, together with a team of artist-facilitators from both Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Teater Muda turned out to be a highly successful arts education programme, as well as an innovative performance platform for young people that lasted for 10 years, up until 2002.
Between 1995-2000, an offshoot of the Teater Muda programme was set up in the northern state of Penang, under the auspicies of Young Teater Penang (YTP), an informal theatre group set up under the umbrella of the Penang State Cultural Council. YTP carried out Teater Muda projects in Penang in collaboration with Five Arts Centre, but also produced several other children’s projects independent of Five Arts Centre.
Teater Muda officially began in May 1992, produced by Five Arts Centre, a performing and visual arts collective in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Teater Muda was a 3-6 month integrated arts programme offered as an out-of-school activity for children aged 10-16, from mixed ethnic and income backgrounds. The programme was free of charge for all participants and each phase of the programme trained about 25 children.
The programme used an integrated-arts approach, where participants were introduced to basic contemporary and traditional forms of music, movement, drama, and the visual arts; taught by a team of artist-facilitators selected by Five Arts Centre. The programme content provided an opportunity for Malaysian children to pick up knowledge and skills in traditional and contemporary arts.
At the end of each phase, programme participants showcased the skills and knowledge acquired for an audience which included parents, friends, and arts supporters. On occasion, young participants from the Teater Muda training programme became involved in full-fledged children’s theatre productions, which were performed at formal theatre venues for a public audience.
Teater Muda was focused on providing both aesthetic development, self-development for young people, as well as exposure to local environment, stories, and themes. The aim was to equip them with a creative vocabulary and exposure to the local context, so that they could articulate a Malaysian sensibility through their artistic expressions.
The Teater Muda methodology can be said to be clearly inspired by the liberal educational tenets of Dewey and Rousseau, who draw heavily upon theories on play, child development, and how children learn. The programme used a combination of pedagogical techniques including ‘process drama’, ‘creative dramatics’, and ‘theatre games’.
Using an Integrated Arts approach, participants were exposed to a range of arts disciplines by artist-facilitators, and were also guided to explore connections between the different arts disciplines which included drawing, music, games, sculpture, role-play, and puppetry. The different mediums were allowed for children to explore and express themselves and their individual potential.
Professional adult artists facilitated the learning process which consisted of several components such as field research, skill building, and art-making. Teater Muda instructors referred to themselves as facilitators, and steered consciously away from the formal role of director (unless there was a public performance). Arts skills and vocabulary were transmitted in multiple ways; master-teacher, facilitated learning, and participant-led approaches where children in teams were encouraged to discover and express their own ideas. Staging a showcase at the end of each programme served to demonstrate the childrens’ collective capabilities and creativity.
A collaborative curriculum was usually drawn up by the artist-facilitators; and used a scaffolded learning or ‘building block‘ approach over the 3-6 month duration of a Teater Muda programme:
i. Getting acquainted and team building (using ice breakers and group dynamics)
ii. Training in art skills (drama, mask-work, visual arts, music, writing, etc.)
iii. Imaginative and creative expression through role-play, theatre games, improvisation, etc.
iv. Study trips to observe and understand natural and social environments.
v. Creation of devised pieces inspired by exposure to surroundings, issues of concern, or given themes.
Using process drama, participants were facilitated into devising and developing original creative works using information culled from research, place-based exploration, and improvisation.
Actor-playwright Leow Puay Tin carried out a documentation of exercises used in Teater Muda Phase 1 and 2 (Feb 1992 – Feb 1993), as well as a 1992 programme in Penang, entitled ‘Integrated Arts Programme USM’. This unpublished documentation managed to capture a range of multi-arts exercises used in non-formal arts education projects by artist-facilitators, but failed to yield a concrete methodology. Leow also wrote about these early phases of Teater Muda in an article entitled, ‘Theatre for the young.’
In 1994, two of the lead programmers of Teater Muda, Charlene Rajendran and Janet Pillai finally set out to tentatively describe the methodology in an article ‘Teater Muda – an integrated arts approach towards devising plays with young people’ (1994), which was published in the Journal of Australasian Drama Studies. Charlene also reflected on her experiences as a programmer and instructor in teater Muda in a 2004 article entitled, ‘Growing Up Into Theatre – A Look at Teater Muda Malaysia.’
The methodology was consolidated through practice via repeated phases of Teater Muda carried out by the community of practicing Teater Muda artists over the 10-year period. Additional published articles on the Teater Muda methodology can be found in the Resources Page of this website.
PROJECTS WITHIN THE PROGRAMME
The Teater Muda programme lasted 10 years (1992-2002) and consisted of approximately 9-10 phases which involved new as well as old cohorts of children. Each phase of the programme consisted of approximately 8-20 sessions.