Ong Keng Sen

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Ong Keng Sen (born 1963; Chinese: 王景生; pinyin: Wáng Jǐng Shēng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ông Kíng-senn) is a Singaporean director of the theatre group TheatreWorks, which was founded in 1985.

Early life[edit]

Ong is a Fulbright scholar and studied intercultural performance with the Performance Studies Department at Tisch Schools of the Arts, New York University.

Ong's eldest brother Ong Keng Yong is the former Secretary General of ASEAN.

Themes and style[edit]

Ong is a member of the Asia-Europe Network, which promotes the artistic exchange between Asia and Europe. He has been applauded around the world for this kind of intercultural theatre which mixes Western and Eastern performance traditions, especially dance with spoken word drama. Ong is largely contributed to cultivating young, educated, affluent, and English speaking audiences for new works.[1] Ong's unique "process-oriented" projects involves placing wide ranges of master practitioners of different traditions on the same stage, but remaining independent in their own aesthetics.[2] He is particularly well known for his performance at the Perth Festival of King Lear in 1997, his Desdemona at the Adelaide Festival, Australia in 2000, and his Search:Hamlet at the Kronbourg Castle in Elsinore and Copenhagen.

Theatre Career[edit]

In 2013, Ong was appointed festival director for four editions of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the revamped, independent version of the Singapore Arts Festival. Before the inaugural edition, Ong was briefly involved in a feud with the festival's chief executive officer Lee Chor Lin over the production of two festival brochures.[3] In addition to serving as festival director, Ong directed the divisive Facing Goya, a Michael Nyman-composed opera, for the opening of Singapore International Festival of Arts 2014.[4]

In 2015, Ong will direct a six-hour site-specific performance, The Singaporeans, for the opening of the inaugural Singapore Festival in France at the Palais de Tokyo. The piece will involve 30 new citizens and explore what it means to be a "Singaporean".[5] The festival will also re-stage TheatreWorks' Lear Dreaming, directed by Ong.[6] In the same year, Lear, directed by Ong and written by Rio Kishida, was selected by The Business Times as one of the "finest plays in 50 years" alongside productions by Goh Poh Seng, Michael Chiang and Alfian Sa'at and others.[7]


Ong is the first artist to have received the two most acclaimed Singaporean cultural awards, the Young Artist Award (1992) and the Cultural Medallion (2003).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leiter, Samuel (2007). Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre. Volume II. 
  2. ^ Leiter, Samuel (2007). Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre. Volume II. 
  3. ^ Nanda, Akshita (21 March 2014). "Arts fest stand-off between festival director Ong Keng Sen and chief executive Lee Chor Lin continues". Singapore Press HOldings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Nanda, Akshita (12 August 2014). "Facing Goya not for the fossilised, says director Ong Keng Sen". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Ng, Kelly (10 September 2014). "Local arts groups take French stages next year in three-month festival". MediaCorp. TODAY. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Tan, Corrie (10 September 2014). "France to host three-month festival of Singapore arts and culture". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  7. ^ Yusof, Helmi. "The finest plays in 50 years". The Business Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 

External links[edit]