conceived and composed by Phyllis Chen. performed by Margaret Leng Tan. video design by Rob Dietz. custom musical instruments by Ranjit Bhatnagar. masks by Stanley Allen.

video preview (2 min excerpt)

In celebration of Margaret Leng Tan’s 70th birthday, Singapore Arts Festival commissioned Phyllis to create a multimedia piece to be premiered on and around John Cage’s birthday, Sept 3-5th, 2015.

Curios draws the audience into a musical and theatrical Cabinet of Curiosities, revolving around the bizarre and bewitching world of the carnival. As a one-woman show, Margaret Leng Tan fulfills many roles, drawing upon her large arsenal of toys and skills as a performer and toy pianist extraordinaire.

Scored for toy piano, toy instruments and amplified objects (some freshly fabricated), the work is inspired by an unidentified circa 1920 photograph Margaret presented to Phyllis. In it, three midget clowns are standing in front of a tent: one, with a smirk on his face, pointing a gun at the tallest clown while the third clown, holding a clarinet, opens a miniature door on the tall clown’s suit revealing a sad dog crouching inside. This grotesque image ignites many contradictory emotions. We long to know what is behind the frozen moment and what else lurks behind the carnival tent. Clowns are movement performers who make us laugh (often at our own expense), revealing some uncomfortable truths while doing so. This photograph captures a convergence of my and Margaret’s fascination with the carnival world alongside Margaret’s natural ability to convey both humor and poignancy through her artistry and performance.


Aug 27-29, 2015: Singapore International Festival of Arts – School of the Arts Studio Theater, Singapore
Sep 9, 2015: Brisbane Festival – Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Dec 4, 2015: UnCaged Toy Piano Festival – Museum of the Moving Image, Queens, NY (excerpt)

video stills and rehearsal photos