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One Table Two Chairs

20 October 2023 (Fri), 8pm
21 October 2023 (Sat), 3pm & 8pm

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Studio Theatre
151 Bencoolen Street, Singapore 189656

Hong Kong's renowned avant-garde theater company, Zuni Icosahedron, and Singapore’s pioneer arts institution, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), are set to co-present the triple-bill production "One Table Two Chairs" to kick start a three-year strategic collaboration and endorse NAFA’s new programme, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Contemporary Chinese Theatres (BACCT). The degree is conferred by the University of the Arts Singapore (UAS), where NAFA is a founding member. Zuni Icosahedron’s signature experimental production will premiere in Singapore on 20 Oct 2023 (Friday), at NAFA’s Studio Theatre.

Sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Singapore, this production marks the first-ever collective effort by three directors from different generations of the company and will run for four performances under the One Table Two Chairs exchange platform: Co-Artistic Directors Danny Yung and Mathias Woo, as well as Singapore's very own Liu Xiaoyi, currently an artist-in-residence of Zuni. Together, they will showcase three interdisciplinary experimental short works.

Endorsing NAFA’s new BACCT programme, Zuni has committed to collaborate with the academy in delivering parts of the curriculum. This includes an immersion trip for students of the programme to visit Zuni in Hong Kong to learn about the acclaimed theater company’s unique methods of creating contemporary performances. Both seminal institutions will also establish collaborative relationships across all of NAFA’s faculties, to research and develop new ways of engaging technology in art-making.

The omnipresence of 'One Table Two Chairs'
Created by Danny Yung, the "One Table Two Chairs cross-cultural exchange platform” was inspired by the fundamental stage setting in traditional Chinese theaters. The table and chairs symbolise the relationships between spaces, individuals, social classes, and various scenarios. Since its inception in 1997 as part of "Journey to the East" Series conceptualised and curated by Danny Yung, One Table Two Chairs has evolved into a framework for cross-cultural dialogues, creative collaborations, and dialectical thinking for exchange and development. Over the past two and a half decades, this conceptualised contemporary version of the project has evolved numerous creations, development, and movements worldwide, including Liu Xiaoyi’s Emergency Stairs and its Southernmost Festival in Singapore.

For the showcase in Singapore, Yung will present a piece paying tribute to the legendary late Kuo Pao Kun, titled "Legend According to Lao Jiu". Mathias Woo's "Tao of Water" is inspired by Kungfu star Bruce Lee’s motto of water and the "Tao Te Ching" to explore and experiment Asian philosophy with cutting-edge theatre technology. Meanwhile, Liu Xiaoyi will bring "School of Thought" to the stage, offering insights and questions about art education and art institutions at the moment in line with the recent launch of the UAS.

Three directors exhibit distinctive artistic styles and approaches in theater making, at the same time, sharing a common commitment in fostering regional cultural exchanges that stays attuned to the evolution of theater forms and technology. Danny Yung was the one who conceptualised and coined the "One Table Two Chairs" as a cross-cultural exchange platform for contemporary artistic expressions, promoting extensive experiments and exchanges across different media, genres, cultures, generations, and regions".

Woo stands as a paragon in the realm of theatrical technology exploration - “If you want to know where the trend is, look at where Mathias Woo is.” Taiwan's renowned theater director Stan Lai once remarked. While Liu, who has been active primarily overseas in recent years, was acclaimed for his creating "the most aggressive political theater works in Singapore."

Future Collaborations
With NAFA launching its innovative degree programme, Zuni’s visit to Singapore serves not only to endorse the BACCT, but also to lay the foundation for future partnerships with the academy. NAFA and Zuni will formalise their collaborative relationship through a Memorandum of Understanding, paving the way for deep-seated cooperation in areas such as engaging technology for art-making, to prepare students for an ever-evolving arts landscape, equipping them for future technological progressions.

Setting the precedence through the collaboration, Zuni aspires to bring together artists from diverse backgrounds such as the veteran contemporary dance artist Makoto Matsushima from Tokyo, and the cross-genre star performing artist Didik Nini Thowok from Yogyakarta for a series of workshops, talks, and seminars. Both NAFA and Zuni are committed to explore the development of cultural exchange and arts education in Asia.

ANNEX 1 – Background Information