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Friday, February 09, 2018, 20:49
A new role for the director
By Chitralekha Basu
Friday, February 09, 2018, 20:49 By Chitralekha Basu

Hong Kong Arts Festival director Tisa Ho recently became chair of International Society for Performing Arts, the first woman from Asia to achieve this rare honor

HKAF director Tisa Ho says Hong Kong artists have many opportunities to explore at the New York-headquartered ISPA, an institution she has been elected to chair. (ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)

On being elected chair of International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA)and what’s in it for Hong Kong …

I can see many opportunities for Hong Kong to become more active in ISPA; and I will aid and abet this as long as due process is observed, and interests are aligned. ISPA offers an unparalleled international network of global leaders across all sectors of the performing arts and there is a fellowship program for mid-career artists and arts managers to tap into this and form their own networks. I would strongly encourage both membership and participation in the fellowship, which would in turn raise Hong Kong’s international profile in this arena.

In addition to a genuine desire to serve ISPA and to learn from respected international peers in the process, one of my considerations in agreeing to be considered for this role is the desire to present Hong Kong as having strong leadership capacity in a global arena. It is also something that the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) team lives and breathes: The capacity to do professional work locally and at the highest international levels. And so my role at ISPA forms part of a continuum.

On key strategies to realize immediate goals as chair of ISPA …

I am very fortunate to take the chair at a point in ISPA’s history when the house is in good order. So I have the luxury of working to add value rather than fight fires.

I would like to see ISPA strengthen its presence in parts of the world where we can add real value. I would also like to continue to develop the fellowship program which is not only of benefit to the fellows but also impacts the way ISPA relates to emerging leaders and is strengthened in these relationships.

On the cross-genre, multi-disciplinary acts to watch out for at HKAF 2018…

One of the fun things about the festival is that it is so multi-layered and rich. Richter X Part (a show combining paintings by the German artist Gerhard Richter and music by Estonian composer Arvo Part), for example, is a perambulating performance. By moving around the audience impacts the performance just as the vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis needs to move around as well.

Chris Botti (US’ top-selling instrumental artist) is known to travel easefully across pop, jazz and rock. Many people here would be eager to see the violinist Vadim Repin and his ballerina wife, Svetlana Zakharova, perform as part of the same show.

On experimenting with Cantonese opera …

Pavilion of a Hundred Flowers is all Hong Kong talents. We wanted to see whether Cantonese opera production could be done in a different way, to move that art form to a different space. We wanted to push the form around by a bit and see where that goes.

On shows that come with a distinct literary flavor …

I happened to love Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and never saw the book as a play. When I heard it’s being performed as a play by National Theatre of Great Britain, I thought: “You’re kidding me, right?” We chose it for HKAF as it happens to be a wonderful piece of theater.

Anna Karenina (based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel) produced by Ballet Zurich is a great production. So is Man of Good Hope, adapted from a book by Johnny Steinberg (jointly produced by London’s Young Vic Theatre and Cape Town-based Isango Ensemble). These are all the page-to-stage type things. The music (by Mandisi Dyantyis) is interesting too. It’s a crossover between classical, western classical and what is indigenous.

I didn’t know Vasily Shukshin’s (1929-74) stories until I saw the play Shukshin’s Stories in Central Europe. I fell in love with the play, and then I discovered Chulpan Khamatova is the most famous actress in Russia at the moment. She’s on films, on TV, she’s an idol. It’s difficult to get tickets to her show in Moscow. I read some of the stories after watching the play and I hope some others who come to the show will do that because these are gems.  

Tristan and Isolde (produced by the Japanese dance company KARAS) is based on a Celtic legend, which was turned into an epic poem by Richard Wagner. But choreographer-dancer Saburo Teshigawara’s two-hander is more of a response to Ridley Scott’s 2006 film adapted from the story (although the score is from Wagner’s opera).

Another literary link is The Suppliant Women (produced by Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh) based on Aeschylus’s Greek classic. The play’s international cast and a Hong Kong cast will work together on stage. The chorus, which drives the narrative, will be voiced by local people.

Interview by Chitralekha Basu

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