Drama Festival was first launched in August 1978 as part of goverment initiatives to invigorate the local arts scene.
There had been at least 20 drama groups, made up of mainly expatriates and Chinese operatic groups, in the mid-1960s. However, the drama scene was fraught with difficulties such as lack of funds, playwrights and performers. The Drama Festival was a culmination of government initiatives that sought to revive the languishing local drama scene. The 1978 Drama Promotion Scheme by the Ministry of Culture was one such initiative which provided grants for local drama troupes to put up plays.
The first Drama Festival was held between 1 - 13 August 1978 as part of National Day celebrations. It was launched by the acting Minister of Culture, Ong Teng Cheong at the Victoria Theatre and the first play was Ping Sheh Peking troupe's Madam White Snake. It was funded by Nanyang Siang Pau with at least 15 plays performed in the four national languages, profiling the talent of local troupes. Despite some criticisms over poor acting, the response to the festival marked a new stage in local drama production.
Bonny Muliani Tan
“First Drama Festival for National Day,” Straits Times, 1 June 1978, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
“N-Day Drama Festival Off to a Good Start...,” Straits Times, 3 August 1978, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
Singapore. Ministry of Culture, Drama Festival: Programme (Singapore: Ministry of Culture, 1979), 1. (Call no. RCLOS 792.095957 DF)
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