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ONG Keng Sen [ Arts and Culture Prize 2010 ]

ONG Keng Sen顔写真
Arts and Culture Prize 2010 [21st]
ONG Keng Sen
Theatre Director [ Artistic Director of TheatreWorks ]
Singapore / Theater
Born November 20, 1963 (aged 46)

Mr. Ong Keng Sen is one of the leading theatre directors in the world. He has created a lively fusion, inspired by a contemporary sensibility, between the Asian and Western traditions, and has earned much praise from a wide audience. As a pioneer at the international frontier of art, he has produced original plays which make full use of physical movement and also maintain the spirit of pop art, without disregarding tradition.

* The details of title, age, career and award citation are at the time of announcement of the Prize.
Award Citation

Mr. Ong Keng Sen is one of the most prolific theatre directors in the world. His productions are shaped by modern sensibility which brings together Asian and European performance traditions in striking way. He has won international acclaim as a director. He has been a pioneer at the international frontier of theatrical art: his plays do not disregard tradition, but still place a premium on physicality, and remain true to the spirit of pop art.

Mr. Ong was born in Singapore in 1963 He graduated from the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, in 1989. In 1988, while still at university, he joined ‘TheatreWorks’ as an artistic direcor, and that was the beginning of his career as an artistic director. From 1993 to 1994, he studied at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and obtained an M.A. in Performance Studies. Around this time, his productions were staged in the US, Europe and Japan, and his name became well known to the world. Since then he has been offered commissions by major theatres and arts festivals in Asia and Europe, and has directed a great variety of plays. In 2003, he received the Singapore Cultural Medallion Award (Theatre).

In all his activities, Mr. Ong is always asking himself the fundamental question, 'What does it mean, today, to live as an artist?' As a theatre director, he has fixed his gaze at the geographically vast expanse of Asia and the Western world, and also across a long stretch of historical memory. The Flying Circus Project, which has been in continuous development since 1996, has provided a landmark opportunity for performers from diverse backgrounds, both Asian and Western artists of classical and contemporary performing art as well as those from non-theatrical backgrounds, to work together. This gave birth to innovative stage adaptations of Shakespearean plays such as Lear (1997-99) and Desdemona (2000-01), which was performed at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. In Sandakan Threnody (2004) and The Continuum: Beyond the Killing Fields (2001-10), which are classified in a new genre called 'docu-performances', he traced the records of warfare in modern Asia and presented these on stage. Then the stage became a thrilling space where the audience, too, could inspect Asian history through a sharply critical lens.

Mr. Ong Keng Sen is one of the leaders of the international performing world, whose work has successfully broken down the simplistic dualism which traditionally separate the classical from the contemporary arts, and the East from the West. By thus transcending barriers between genres and nations, he has contributed greatly to a revaluation of the fundamental and universal power of art through his sharp awareness of contemporary issues. For this contribution, he is truly worthy of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.

"120", conceived and directed by Ong Keng Sen, numerous specialist tours led by actors around the Singapore National Museum to commemorate its 120 year anniversary (2007).
"Geisha", conceived and directed by Ong Keng Sen, Lincoln Center Festival (2006). Tamami Gojo, an master of classical Japanese dance (pictured left), Karen Kandel, an American actress(pictured right)
"The Global Soul–the Buddha project" conceived and directed by Ong Keng Sen, a performance of ancient traditions, contemporary dance and music theatre, premiered in Berlin (2003).

Introduction of Public Lecture by ONG Keng Sen

Title
Step Across the Border – Ong Keng Sen’s challenge to a new frontier
Date
September 18, 2010 (13:30-15:30)
Venue
IMS Hall
Interviewer
Professor Tadashi Uchino (Professor at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University
of Tokyo, a member of the Arts and Culture Prize Selection Committee)

Hosted by Prof. Tadashi Uchino (Professor at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, a member of the Arts and Culture Prize Selection Committee), the forum presented some of his productions with comments from Mr. Ong himself, providing the audience a glimpse into his fresh and diverse world view.

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