I believe that as a forward-thinking company, Emergency Stairs embodies the potential of discovering and challenging the boundaries of Singapore, and the world that lay beyond such boundaries. Its creation is about triggering development of culture in Singapore, including that of the greater cultural environment and policies in this country. We need groups such as Emergency Stairs to venture forth boldly, with intrinsic motivations, and expand upon the vision and development of big Culture.
Danny Yung, Artistic Director of Zuni Icosahedron (Hong Kong)
Emergency Stairs’ works have been performed several times in Japan, where they have received much attention and favorable remarks from audiences, artists and critics from Tokyo. From our collaboration at the Wharf Workshop – an international training platform, I also saw Emergency Stairs’ emphasis on nurturing future talents and enthusiasm for new methods of artistic creation. Over the past three years, Emergency Stairs has demonstrated their ability and passion to connect arts organisations and artists across Asia. They steadfastly acted as a leader, hosting Southernmost in Singapore and participating in cultural exchanges in various cities. I see the potential for Emergency Stairs to become another driver from Singapore after my old friend, the late Kuo Pao Kun, to establish the Asian cultural network.
Satoh Makoto, Artistic Director, Za-Koenji Theater (Tokyo) and Wakabacho Wharf (Yokohama)
Emergency Stairs has continually pushed the boundaries of theatre-making since its establishment in 2017. It has contributed to the development of new experimental methods and theatrical experiences for audiences in Singapore, while also taking on an increasingly important role as a facilitator of transnational encounters and networks across Asia and beyond. Domestically, Emergency Stairs – under the direction of Liu Xiaoyi – has challenged conventional approaches to theatre dramaturgy and spectatorial expectations with the three-year postdramatic theatre series at the Huayi Festival. Works such as Einstein in the Carpark (2018) and Four Four Eight (2019) reinterpret classic avant-garde works and provide immersive and interactive experiences that test the audience’s sensorial and physical capabilities, by pushing the boundaries of time, space, and rethinking borders between genres and aesthetic traditions while also engaging with new media and technologies. Furthermore, with the launch of the Southernmost Festival, Liu Xiaoyi is following in the footsteps of theatre giants like Kuo Pao Kun in Singapore and Danny Yung in Hong Kong with his goal to establish a long-term platform for transregional dialogue and exchange. Southernmost builds on the city-based model of intercultural collaboration pioneered by Yung in Hong Kong, in that it shares its goal of collectively exploring possibilities to create a format for “an arts festival for the future” – one that goes beyond fleeting showcases and commercial imperatives and seeks for long-term strategies and transformative effects on the territory and on its participants. If such a thing as “an arts festival for the future” exists in Singapore, Emergency Stairs will no doubt play a key role in its realization.
Dr Rossella Ferrari, Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna (Vienna)
I like particularly [Liu] Xiaoyi’s work in Emergency Stairs where he is consistently rethinking this whole [practice of the] intercultural, cross-cultural collaboration and creative processes, and of course his own theatre-making as well.
Tay Tong, Director, Sector Development (Visual Arts) · National Arts Council (Singapore)
I find the working with the spaces very strong and convincing. You create interest and tension not by actors being into fictive conflicts but by moving in space seemingly without emotionally engaging. With Your work you hit the essential aspect of the text.
Dr. Hans-thies Lehmann, renowned theater scholar & the author of Postdramatic Theatre (Germany)
Watching his [Liu Xiaoyi] works, I was always fascinated by the beautiful moments.I am very glad that we are able to work together in his artistic journeys, in his search for a different form of theatre… No one else here in Singapore (i think) is exploring these ideas & crafting these ideas or questions in a style that is at once exciting & also full of depth.
Delvin Lee, Senior Producer at The Esplanade (Singapore)
It’s so important to have an arts festival for artists, by the artists. Most of the arts festivals are for consumers, so there’s a certain kind of constraint.
Danny Yung, Artistic Director of Zuni Icosahedron (Hong Kong)
Many arts festivals in the region seem to focus on bringing the highly acclaimed works from around the world and oftentimes from outside the Southeast Asian region, and at the same time, presenting the local works on the same “international platform”. The more works are being presented, however, the less time remains for the audience members to talk to the artists, or even among the former and the latter themselves. Evidently and fortunately, “Southernmost” has been on the opposite direction. The focus is more on local and regional artists–or those who would also have time and opportunity outside the festival to talk to one another again. Besides, as ample time is allowed in each session for true conversation, “Southernmost” clearly emphasize progress, not product. Moreover, as it has been well connected to relevant platforms and festivals in, for example, mainland China, Hong Kong and Indonesia from the beginning, Southernmost is never a lone wolf.
Pawit Mahasarinand (President, International Association of Theatre Critics, Bangkok)
I am very grateful to Emergency Stairs for their generosity in inviting and allowing me to be “critic-in-residence” at their Southernmost festival in 2018. I was a witness to artistic director Liu Xiaoyi and seven invited artists from across Asia as they created and developed the performance Journey to Nowhere. Through this process, the team interrogated modes of knowledge production and transmission, of what happens when bodies learn the vocabularies of other bodies, of new pedagogical approaches for the various performance forms, of the different and similar challenges each cultural, national and political context poses. In that sense, Southernmost 2018 has acted also like a performance incubator or an intensive academic programme, with workshops, masterclasses, small-group discussions, showcases, and a symposium-style forum – dedicated to the artists who have been invited to participate in this festival. I hope that Emergency Stairs will continue to wrestle with these difficult but necessary questions of intercultural art-making, and how it can transcend the initial intercultural encounters broached in the 1990s into something both rigorous and ground-breaking.
Corrie Tan, theatre critics (Singapore)
My experience in Southernmost seeps into my practice for sure, since it raises issues so relevant to my and the other participants’ practices. But it also pushes the bar further, raising more questions than it seeks to answer, and I will have to actively seek them out in the process of my PhD, in talking to my fellow field-mates about grant applications and work creation, as well as, on a wider scale, pushing for longer (and deeper) creative processes that seek to connect human beings from different cultures and value systems, instead of always foregrounding efficiency, ticket sales, audience numbers and other common (capitalistic) indicators of success.
Elizabeth Chan, Chinese, Modern Dance and Choreography Lecturer (Singapore)
I have been with Southernmost for two years and I must say that I have been very enriched and transformed by how the experience of involving in a collaboration is not merely just engaging the collaborating artists as talents in a show but also the feasibility of seeing each of us as leaders in the institutions that we wish to create… I believe more artists or festivals can be created in a way in which artists are able to acknowledge their empowered value as agents of change and initiating discourse. This of course most important for “Traditional artists” who have been brought up in circumstances in which they might not value their own personal voices regarding contemporary issues which are necessary for discourse.
Amin Farid, choreographer, arts educator and researcher (Singapore)
I can’t say for sure that you will enjoy it, because every session is different. However, I Can say for sure that you will be challenged by what you see/hear/ownself feel, one way or another, and this is one reason why I’m always intrigued by ES and their work.
To me, ES never shies away from posing and interrogating Huge questions, ‘offending the audience’, or generally just charting their own path in the landscape, and I really appreciate having that dynamic in the theatre/arts ecosystem. But why care / what is the value of theatre (to you/society/capitalism/etc.)? Join ES and training and experimental arm Emergency Shelter in this exact line of questioning…
Chong Gua Khee, independent theatre practitioner (Singapore)
Offstage 2.0 is asking questions that have left me struggling to articulate my thoughts. After attending 2 sessions, I am only slowly beginning to see certain things. This process opens up questions about the value of the arts and the roles of different stakeholders, but in a way that is frustratingly confusing (and I don’t mean this in a negative way). I am left pondering my own role as theatregoer, reviewer, artist, and the many things in between. (Incidentally, this also happens to come at a point where I am questioning my own value within the arts, which might explain why I am particularly frustrated yet drawn to these issues.)
Jocelyn Chng, educator, practitioner and writer in dance and theatre (Singapore)
It’s been long since Off Stage 2.0, but the experience comes back to me once in a while. It recently hit me that what I found most valuable from the experience was to be invited into the process, into your experiments and vulnerabilities, to witness your sincere attempts. In some ways it was an invitation into your hearts.
Herng Yi Cheng, theatre Practitioner (Toronto)
It’s been a long time since I have been exhilarated experiencing performance so liberating and generous, inviting me into a roller coaster of complex emotions.
Alvin Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage (Singapore)
I really enjoyed the run last night, and the fact that I’m still mulling over it today—and pondering about the choices we (in our various hats/personas) make—really points to the fact that Offstage 3.0 is providing so much food for thought, and thankfully no straight answer. And I very much appreciate that conversation that the team’s ignited.
– Melissa Lim, General Manager of The Necessary Stage (Singapore)
Nobody is as genius, as brave, as empathetic and as critical as Liu Xiaoyi for the process/product that is Offstage 3.0… While I don’t think the Singapore theatre industry is ready for the vision, mission and aesthetics of Emergency Stairs, I believe Xiao Yi is paving the way, brick by brick. He isn’t just creating theatre, he’s changing lives, nurturing passive actors into cultural leaders all the while criticizing the framework of the arts in Singapore, in Southeast Asia, Asia and the world.
– Chanel Chan, theatre practitioner (Singapore)
These trips have opened up my perspectives through interacting with cultural leaders in other cities, and has provided me a fresh perspective on arts management beyond the Singapore context.
Chong Woon Yong, theatre actor, producer (Singapore)
It has taught me how to be a cross cultural researcher on top of being an arts practitioner. And through research can there be planning, then can we constantly explore and develop the artistic scene. I see myself moving forward from an individual artist to forming a collective or a company.
Chanel Chan, theatre practitioner (Singapore)
Culturally we have to look beyond our shores, I would advise that we send more Singaporeans oversees as we begin to engage on a global context, otherwise we look to be disadvantaged economically.
Zachary Ho, Faculty of Theatre, SOTA (Singapore)
This workshop is ignited by passion for creation and collaborative work. Moving forward, I will be stepping up to create works other than just being a practitioner for hire.
Darren Guo, theatre practitioner (Singapore)
I have become more confident and gained new perspectives of creating a work, not only in Singapore but also beyond.
Doreen Toh, veteran actress (Singapore)
This workshop has the potential to develop a strong network of artists in the Asian region and I hope more Singaporean artists can have the opportunity to experience this programme.
The workshop helped me see Singapore’s position in the Asian region as a cultural leader. I am inspired and motivated to create cross-cultural collaboration work in my daily practice, be it teaching or performing work.
Liew Jia Yi, theatre practitioner (Singapore)