The Necessary Stage

One of Singapore’s foremost theater groups, The Necessary Stage will be in New York City to perform a classic from their repertoire. Best Of follows one day in the life of a young Malay Muslim woman going through a divorce. “Award-winning actress Siti Khalijah Zainal takes centre-stage in this one-woman show specially created for her by Alvin Tan and Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage. First performed in 2013 and staged four times in Singapore and Malaysia to popular and critical acclaim, Best Of looks at issues of the day through collective stories and personal reflection. The production arrives in New York fresh from its successful run in Brisbane Festival 2015″ (from the festival website).

Part of the Singapore arts festival in New York, Something To Write Home About, the production will run for three nights, from September 18-20 (Fri – Sun), at the iconic downtown venue of La Mama Theater. Tickets ($24) are available on-line. Friday’s performance will end with a taste of Malay cuisine at the reception.

Siti Khalijah Zainal, the star of Best Of, graciously agreed to answer a few questions.


SP. How close do you think is the experience of the play’s protagonist to that of young divorced Malay Muslim women in Singapore?

SKZ. I think Haresh Sharma has written it as truthful, and as close as possible. During the process of writing the script for Best Of, he interviewed a number of Malay Muslim women who had gone through divorce in Singapore. And their struggles are similar and close to some of the women whom I personally know who had to go through the difficult process as well.


SP. What do you love most about playing this part? What do you hate most?

SKZ. It feels great definitely, especially because some of the stories mentioned in the show are based on my own personal experiences which I shared with Haresh during our earlier process, so it’s easier for me to connect to the emotions required for those parts. The only thing I hate? Honestly, I can’t think of any!


SP. What do you hope an American audience will take away from the play?

SKZ. There’s plenty to take away from the show! For me, despite the stories being personal, they are very relatable. It’s also coincidentally a great way to introduce a slice of Singapore to the rest of the world, seen through the eyes of a Malay Muslim woman living in the country.



Siti Khalijah Zainal in Best Of


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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