The Making of “Desdemona”

The Making of “Desdemona” chronicles the creation of Desdemona (dir. Ong Keng Sen, script Rio Kishida, 2000). This documentary was produced by CVA Film and Television for Singapore Television 12.


Description from YouTube:

Performed at:
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Gallery, Fukuoka, 23-25 March 2001

Desdemona was also performed in:
Telstra Adelaide Festival, Optima Playhouse, Adelaide, 16-18 March 2000
Munich Dance 2000, Marstall Theatre, Munich, 22 – 23 March 2000
Singapore Arts Festival, Victoria Theatre, Singapore, 2-5 June 2000
Internationales Sommertheater Festival Hamburg, Hamburger Kammerspiele, Hamburg, 12 — 13 July 2000

A TheatreWorks Production

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Desdemona is a dreamscape of discovering the She within the He, of discovering the other within the self, of discovering another culture within one’s culture.

The performance text of Desdemona can be said to be conceptually a shamanic journey intersected with contemporary visual art and the intercultural process. Through rethinking questions, Desdemona turns its inspirations, Shakespeare’s Othello, completely on its head.

Desdemona is a multiplicity of cultural styles: Myanmar puppets weave into a kathakali actress performing as Othello. In fact, there are two Othellos, the other being a performer from the 1,500 year-old Sanskrit theatre form, kudiyattum. All the time the characters are interfaced with video images engineered by two visual/installation artists from Singapore and Korea. Providing a soundscape are musicians from Korea: a percussionist and a highly skilled ajaeng (a zither played with a bow) player from a fusion traditional/pop group. Combining a youthful zest with the ancient music of the Korean court, the music can be said to be a symbol of the entire production.

For this is a new wave Asian production featuring many younger generation artists well trained in traditional arts. A unique factor in this production is the global experience of some of these artists who have had wide exposure to international arts-making. The artists of Desdemona have been exposed to their very local contexts in dynamic cities such as Seoul or to highly traditional contexts such as the kratons of Jogjakarta or the temples in Kerala.

The different performers in Desdemona perform in their own languages and cultural styles. Yet they engage in a dialogue with each other, intersecting into a complex theatrical language.


Ong, Keng Sen 2001

In March 2000, Ong Keng Sen directed Desdemona in which – actors, musicians, designers, video/installation artists – from India, Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Singapore worked together on-stage.  Desdemona premiered at the Adelaide Festival and then went on to the Munich Dance Festival and the Singapore and Hamburg Festivals. This production toured Japan in 2001.