A prolific bilingual playwright and director, Kuo Pao Kun co-founded Practice Performing Arts School in 1965 (together with choreographer/dancer Goh Lay Kuan), after graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney. He founded major theatre company The Theatre Practice and remained its Artistic Director until he passed away in 2002.
These institutions and the artists they fostered were inspired by Pao Kun’s unique multicultural approach and commitment to developing Singapore art and artists while drawing from the great traditions and innovations of other countries. He also founded The Substation, Singapore’s first arts centre, in 1990 and remained its Artistic Director until 1995, establishing an open space for artists to explore and develop as well as to perform and exhibit. In 2000, he founded the Theatre Training & Research Programme together with T. Sasitharan, putting into practice a part of his vision of Open Cultures in this programme that trains actors using the interaction of systems of training and conceptions of theatre from different cultures. He remained Co-Director of the TTRP until 2002.
Kuo’s plays, apart from his own Chinese and English versions, have been translated into Malay, Tamil, Hindi, Japanese, German and have been performed in many Asian countries as well as in America, Australia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In 2000, the Tokyo Asian Art Festival organised a special tribute to Kuo, with three of his plays being directed and performed respectively by companies from Indonesia (The Coffin Is Too Big for the Hole, directed by Putu Wijaya and performed by Teater Mandiri), India (Lao Jiu – The Ninth Born directed by Anuradha Kapur and performed by Dishantar) and Japan (The Silly Little Girl and the Funny Old Tree, directed by Makoto Sato and performed by the Black Tent Theatre). Three sets of double bills of his works (The Coffin Is Too Big for the Hole and No Parking on Odd Days), in English, Mandarin and Malay, were presented at the Singapore Arts Festival in 2000.
Honorary Positions, Fellowships & Awards
- Advisor, National Arts Council, Singapore
- Advisor, Chinese Newspaper Group, Singapore Press Holdings
- Advisor, Drama Project, Chinese University, Hong Kong
- 1989 Fulbright Professional Exchange Fellowship, USA
- 1997 Asian Leadership Fellowship Program, Japan
- 1989 Cultural Medallion, Singapore Government
- 1992 Culture Award, JCCI, Singapore
- 1993 ASEAN Cultural Award (Performing Arts)
- 1996 Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knighthood of Arts and Letters), French Government
- 2002 Excellence for Singapore Award, Singapore Totalisator Board