Ho Kah Wai is one of the few artists in Singapore who continues to develop and explore work within the discipline of Puppetry, especially Shadow Puppetry.
He started off as one of the shadow puppeteers in The Practice Theatre’s (now known as The Theatre Practice) ‘Lao Jiu’ for The Singapore Arts Festival 1990 and went on to form Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble. Under Toy Factory, he was the first to present full-length English puppet shows for children in Singapore.
In 1993, the Oral History Centre and the National Heritage Board of Singapore invited Kah Wai to conduct an experiment – to study the revitalization of traditional hand puppetry. The resulting production of “Dragon Dance” went on to represent Singapore in the ASEAN Cultural Traditional Media Festival that was held in Surakarta, Indonesia.
In 1997, Kah Wai joined The Finger Players. With The Finger Players, he re-directed ‘Dragon Dance’ and premiered it in Seoul Puppet Festival (2000) and received stupendous feedback. To date, ‘Dragon Dance’ has been performed in many countries such as Australia, Macau, Kenya, Taiwan and Japan.
His next production – the ambitious ‘Ne-Zha’, infused Chinese martial arts and dance elements into his puppets manipulation. The Business Times reported it as probably the best production it reviewed in year 2001.
Since then, he has worked with distinguished companies such as Theatreworks, Drama Box, The Necessary Stage, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and The FundaMENTAL Multi-disciplinary.
Kah Wai’s extensive training in the art of puppetry included learning to make the marionette and rod puppet under the famous puppet maker, Miraolav Trejtnar of the Czech Republic. He also studied Modern Shadow techniques under Professor Bart P. Roccoberton, Jr., Director of the Puppet Arts Program and Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts in Puppetry, University of Connecticut. He went on to learn manipulation under Puppet Master, Frank Soehnle, from Figuren Theater Tubingen, Germany, and attended a performance workshop where he worked with the famous Mr. Larry Reed (USA).
Kah Wai never did look back once he embarked his journey as a puppeteer. The journey has not been smooth sailing but his determination to put up first-rate puppetry shows for both children and adults keeps him going. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of this art form with each new production to achieve greater heights, and at the same time, fighting to get recognition and respect for this wonderful art of storytelling.