Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Heritage Community Series | Emily of Emerald Hill, a Modern Asian Woman?

Margaret Chan as Emily of Emily Hill
Image courtesy of Edmund Low

Date: 10 September 2014, Wednesday
Time: 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Venue: NUS Baba House

Limited to 30 pax. To register, email babahouse@nus.edu.sg

Set in the 1950s, Emily of Emerald Hill is a one-woman play chronicling the life of a nonya Emily Gan, and her struggles with patriarchy and the hierarchy among the womenfolk in her in-law’s household.

In her youth, she became aware of the expectations that society had of a woman.  Using her wits, she made herself an indispensable member of the family, and in the process gained influence and dominance over the others. A shadow was cast on these triumphs with her estrangement from her husband and the loss of her son. 

This powerful play revolves around the triumphs and tragedies of a strong willed Peranakan woman who tried to improve her position in life against a backdrop of demands and expectations defined by gender. Is Emily’s life still played out in today’s households?  Join panelists Deborah Tan, Kelly Reedy, Tan Dan Feng and Stella Kon for a lively discussion on Emily as a representation of the 21st century Asian woman.  


Deborah Tan is a Secondary 3 student of Singapore Chinese Girls' School. She is currently the Chairperson of the Girls' Brigade Company in SCGS and is member of several other leadership groups. In 2013, she was the chairperson of the Open Little Eyes Conference, targeted at educating primary school students on world issues, in order to create change, which she is passionate about. She enjoys expressing herself through writing and curling up with a good book.

Artist Kelly Reedy has lived in Southeast Asia for over 15 years. Her work has been influenced by the abstract qualities of Asian folk traditions and the rich symbolism embedded in its mythologies. She has researched the ritual uses of paper across Asia as well as other traditional arts, leading her to incorporate natural dyes, fabric and handmade paper into her mixed media artworks. Kelly has exhibited internationally in Berlin, Paris and Chicago, as well as locally at the Jendela Visual Arts Space, Esplanade, the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Alliance Franรงaise and Sculpture Square.

Tan Dan Feng is the director of Select Books and a linguist and technologist. His public service roles include serving on the National Translation Committee, Television and Radio Advisory Committee Panel of Experts, the Cultural Medallion Award Specialist Panel, amongst others. Dan Feng also chairs the annual Singapore International Translation Symposium. Books that he has edited include Singapore Shifting Boundaries (2011), Indonesia Rising: Islam, Democracy and the Rise of Indonesia as a Major Power (2009) and The Chinese in Indonesia (2008). He is currently working on a translation of a major work on Singapore's intellectual history, focusing on Khoo Seok Wan, Lim Boon Keng and Song Ong Siang.

Playwright Stella Kon grew up in an old mansion in Emerald Hill Road, and is descended from two old Peranakan families. She has been writing about Singapore all her life.  In the 1980's she was a three-times winner of the National Playwriting Competition; one of these plays was Emily of Emerald Hill. Stella now prefers writing musicals to stage plays. She is the Chairperson of arts charity Musical Theatre Live!, which helps create original works of musical theatre. Her most recent work, Emily the Musical, will be seen in Nov 2015.

About the Heritage Community Series
Encouraged by the growing community of Singaporeans actively committed to exploring history and raising cultural awareness, the Heritage Community Series is introduced as a platform where independent researchers, heritage enthusiasts and collectors share their encounters, perspectives and experiences.

Look out for our upcoming talks in the Heritage Community Series
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 - Decorative Art Nouveau Tiles: Luxuriant Flowers and Other Forms
Friday, 3 October 2014 - Demystifying Chinese Portraits
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 - A Heavenly Offering


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