Member Spotlight: Aishwariyah Shanmuganathan

In between classes, rehearsals, meetings, and running a family with two young children, we managed to take a few minutes with her and ask her a few questions of her journey into being a committee member.

What are you working on at the moment?

At present, I am working on a couple of community and youth theatre projects with various schools and organisations. I am also in the process of developing IGCSE and IB drama curriculum plans for an international high school and training students for the Trinity College London graded examinations. Apart from this, I am working on drama based programmes for preschoolers, lecturing in a tertiary institution, training teachers on how they can use process drama in their classrooms and creating interactive theatre productions for students. I also run a small performing arts studio in collaboration with other independent arts educators.

At the same time, I am currently preparing for a project that I will be doing with a rehabilitation agency in a few weeks and rehearsing for an interdisciplinary collaborative performance happening at Stamford Arts Centre next month.

What are you working on for SDEA right now?

At SDEA, I look after all the Continuing Education and Training (CET) programmes. Planning and executing the upcoming 'Essentials of Teaching and Learning Approaches (ETLA)' was one of my major assignments in the last few months. Now, I am in the programming team for Celebrate Drama and working on the events leading up to the Level Up! Fest.

How did you get started in Drama?

I was introduced to English Drama and Indian Classical Dance at 6 years old! Never looked back ever since. I later found an interest in Children’s Theatre and Drama Education and decided to pursue it. I went on to do a Masters in Drama Education and worked with many arts education companies. Also, over the years , I was intrigued by the numerous connections between traditional and contemporary art forms and so decided to explore further through participating in professional development and artist in residence programmes in Singapore and overseas. A lot of the knowledge and skills gained through this, informs the work I create now.

How did you find yourself as part of the SDEA Committee?

As a young drama enthusiast, I used to attend SDEA events and always wanted to partake in their arts advocacy efforts. After all these years, I received the opportunity to be part of the team to work on what I am very passionate about.

I am waiting for the day drama would become an in-curriculum subject in schools, just like maths and science so that the future generations can develop relevant skills to be independent learners, critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers and confident communicators!

You’ve spent about half a year as a member of the committee. What is something that you’ve learnt along the way?

I’ve learnt so much! Particularly, the importance of keeping abreast with the changing needs and understanding the interdependence of the drama/theatre community in Singapore. With ETLA, I’ve also learnt about what it takes to manage a project of this scale and what goes behind creating a course this complex and with this many contributors. With such a capable faculty, being on the ball is important to put together the best programme possible.

What’s something you are most looking forward to in the near future?

I am looking forward to the many projects we have in mind and in discussion to bring SDEA to the next level – from engaging communities and connecting stakeholders to creating opportunities for practitioners to develop professionally. So much to look forward to in the near future!

Any dream projects on the horizon?

I feel every project that i am embarking on at the moment, is a dream project! I am very glad at how the arts education climate and ecosystem are constantly improving in Singapore and I look forward to bringing drama into many more organisations and communities.

Why is drama important?

Drama is important because it makes you find out who you are and allows you to discover who you could become. Drama also helps you to make connections and brings a more coherent meaning to the world we live in.

What inspires you with regards to Drama education?

In my 14 years of being a drama practitioner i have seen the many benefits people gain learning in, through and about Drama. I have worked on many interesting drama based projects in organisations such as The Singapore Armed Forces, various Ministries and even a hospice care, and discovered over time how versatile and relevant drama is as an educational tool in any setting for people of any age group or background. Every such successful project inspires me to go on and do greater stuff with and for drama!

What do you hope to see in the future for drama and drama education in Singapore?

There are alot of misconceptions about Drama and Drama Education in Singapore. I hope the larger society out there, gains awareness on what drama encompasses, how it can engage learners and how it can be an agent for social change in today's world. I am waiting for the day drama would become an in-curriculum subject in schools, just like maths and science so that the future generations can develop relevant skills to be independent learners, critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers and confident communicators!

Asha is a committee member and part of the SDEA Committee from 2019-2021. Keep an eye on her work on SDEA's CET efforts, Celebrate Drama 2020, and upcoming iterations of Level Up! Fest.