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Young SG Directors: Terrance Tan

The musical theatre director


Published: 15 Sep 2023

Time taken : <5mins

Terrance is a director making his mark in musical theatre. Together with his collective Bitesize Theatre Productions, he wrote and directed his first musical theatre production called The Monster in the Mirror, which was streamed online in 2021. A live stage version of the musical was presented in 2023. Terrance has a BA in Musical Theatre from LASALLE College of the Arts, and also received training at Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) Residency Programme for Directing from 2019 to 2021. During the residency, he assisted directors on productions such as Tuesdays with Morrie (2020) and The Commission (2021). Following the residency, he continued his involvement with SRT as Associate Director of shows such as Miss Julie (2022) and Playmakers (2022).

What sort of director are you?

I like those toy puzzle pieces that seem impossible to fit together or take apart, but when you do, you get a sense of amazement and a new understanding. I think that describes my philosophy towards theatre and art, to take contrasting elements and ideas and put them together to create a new level of understanding.

Terrance Tan giving direction for <em>The Monster in the Mirror</em> musical.

What got you into directing for theatre?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly one event or reason that got me into directing for theatre, but Singapore Repertory Theatre's directing residency programme was a big factor in pushing me into pursuing directing full-time. It gave me the training and the opportunity to work in the industry as a young theatre maker, but more importantly, it made me go "Hey, maybe I can do this!"

What's one favourite/memorable show you have directed and why?

The Monster in the Mirror is very near and dear to my heart. It's the very first original work that me and my theatre collective Bitesize Theatre worked on five years ago. It evolved from just a 30-minute school show with three actors, two chairs and a table to a 90-minute musical recently staged at Gateway Theatre with 11 actors and 10 songs. But I think what really made it special is that I made it with four of my dearest friends just out of school.

<em>The Monster in the Mirror</em> (2023).

Do you do anything else in theatre besides directing?

I've also been developing myself as a writer. I recently wrote a new script, Third Man Syndrome, under Gateway Arts Artist in Residency programme with Chong Tze Chien. It's a script about suicide that's near and dear to my heart and friends around me. I'm excited to see it staged next year with Gateway Arts.

What superpower do you think a good director needs?

I think empathy is essential for a director. You need to not only understand what your collaborators want and feel to work together, but you also need to understand the characters and the audiences deeply.

What is the strangest misconception you’ve heard about directing in theatre?

People think that directing is about telling other people what to do, but I think it really is more about listening. The best directors I've observed really listen and just need to give a little bit of push to bring out the best in others.

What would you like to see more of in Singapore theatre?

I get particularly excited when I watch or hear about shows created by young theatre makers, especially with original work. Most of the time, the work is rough and unrefined, but there's something very raw and powerful about the new perspectives and new ideas that they bring.

Contributed by:

Daniel Teo

Daniel Teo is a freelance writer. Previously, he worked at Centre 42, a theatre development centre, as a researcher, archivist and documenter.

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