Singapore Repertory Theatre's managing director Charlotte Nors has been with the company for twenty years. From producing innovative new forms of theatre such as the multidisciplinary Caught and championing important causes around accessibility with initiatives such as the Student Education Fund and the Inclusive Young Company, she has devoted her years to growing SRT into a leading theatre institution.
In celebration of her journey with SRT, Charlotte sits down for a special interview that touches on some of the biggest highlights of her time with SRT — pulling off the magnum opus known as Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress, creating magical learning journeys with the Little Company, guiding the company through the pandemic towards more ambitious projects, and most importantly, having no regrets.
Could you share some memorable/challenging moments that stand out the most, during your 20-year journey with SRT?
I took a while to think about this, as there have been so many amazing experiences for me at SRT. The opening of our theatre – KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT was one of my first milestones and a fantastic achievement not just for us but for the industry. By having a permanent home, we showed that we could positively impact so many more people with our work, and grow the company with new initiatives such as The Little Company.
Dick Lee's Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress, which was commissioned by Esplanade in 2002, was a game-changer for SRT. Pulling off a production on that scale and level of risk was thrilling and humbling, but we did it and have since restaged it three times. Now, it's become a household name in Singapore.
Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress (2017 Production)
I was so proud when we welcomed patrons ranging from the President of Singapore to young school children seeing a musical for the first time, and everybody left the theatre saying, "WE did this!"
I have produced close to 200 productions at SRT so it is hard to just mention a few but the traditions and the learning journeys we have created with The Little Company and our many shows for kids as young as 2 years are outstanding. During Pre-COVID time, we would have up to 60,000 kids and their parents in the theatre — a huge accomplishment in terms of audience-building for the arts. I also love our epic Shakespeare in the Park productions, which are a staple part of our (pre-COVID) season, and a tradition for many of our audiences.
But honestly, some of the most magical moments haven’t been rubbing shoulders with celebrities, or hanging out in the wings on premiere night. It is when I come to the office to find a handwritten post-it note from an intern who tells me that their time with us has confirmed their desire to pursue a career in the arts, or when I join my Learning and Engagement team for a programme in a school where I see the transformation of kids via the work we do.
The joy it gives me to see that we inspire confidence and create memories forever every single day. That’s why I’m still here, and loving every single day. It matters so much to so many, what we do at SRT.
SRT Learning & Engagement’s two year arts integration programme with Little Skool House
What are some valuable lessons you have learned along the way?
SRT is a labour of love for both myself and Gaurav, our Artistic Director with whom I run the company. We bring very different skill sets to the table, but that’s what makes us a great team. I have learned so much from him, our board, and my team over the last twenty years, but I must admit that I probably grew more as a leader in 2020 than in the last decade combined. What a rollercoaster ride!
But we focused on silver linings and took pride in knowing we had run SRT prudently, so we had savings for a rainy day. While we did not quite expect it would be rainy years, I think that with our skills, undying passion for our work, and entrepreneurial approach, we will emerge from this epidemic stronger than ever.
So the lessons are — keep learning, exploring, and adapting.
If there is anything could you do differently, what would it be, and how would you go about it?
I do not believe in regrets, so I hope my two decades of experience at SRT only means that we make better decisions moving forward, based on what we learned. Failing means that we learned what did not work, so we can concentrate on what did right.
What is your vision for SRT moving forward, for 2021 and beyond?
Our focus is on keeping our team and a large number of the freelancers that we work with gainfully employed, as we navigate our way through this pandemic.
Right now, we are going to consolidate our efforts to make better art. Learn and dream even bigger. We have so many exciting, game-changing plans lined up for SRT, but the timelines for those announcements are now more blurry due to COVID-19. So all I can say is — I have never been more proud of and excited about SRT and the next chapter of our journey, so stay tuned. I know I do!
SRT is currently staging Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside at the KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT from 10th March 2021.