Ithaca Kids

A Documentary in concert | Singapore | 2024

“Ithaca Kids” is a project about identity, being different, the significance of culture, belonging and dealing with loss.

Summary of the Project

Using Kavafis’ poem “Ithaca” we explore the lives of 8 expats and Singaporeans on stage. The performance piece combines a documentary about 8 people who have experienced being Adult Third Culture Kids or raise Third Culture Kids, projected on the screen on stage, live music on stage and 3 pieces about “the journey” performed by Singaporean actors.

Konstantinos Kavafis (1863-1933) is an internationally known Greek poet, translated in numerous languages and taught in Universities around the world. One of his most famous poems is “Ithaca”; a poem teaching us that the journey is more important than the destination. A poem symbolising the Homeric journey we all go through life, the island of Ithaca being the symbol of experience, wisdom and knowledge that everyone is searching.

With mounting globalisation and workers jumping from one country to the next, what does it mean traveling all the time? What does it mean being a citizen of the world? Traveling every few years, moving yourself and your family through the world? How connected do you stay to your roots? What is most important? The destination or the journey?

Third Culture Kids are the people raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture or their country of nationality. They live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years. What are the advantages, the disadvantages? Where do they belong? Are they citizens of everywhere or nowhere? What does arriving mean? What does leaving? TCK develop an identity that is rooted in people rather than places, how does that serve them in their future?

We explore these answers through speech, music, art.

Artistic objective

“Ithaca Kids” is a vehicle to support us in using different artistic mediums for expression and connection.

We use the art of Video through the Documentary section of the performance. We will film 8 interviews of Adult Third Culture Kids and Parents who are raising now Third Culture Kids, all living currently in Singapore.

The main questions that we seek to answer are;

Who are we talking about?

Why a life of TCKs leads to common themes related to identity and dealing with loss - matters that TCKs often experience.

What are the common benefits and challenges of this experience? What are the characteristics they share?

How can parents, teachers, communities, governments help to maximise the gifts of the TCKs and support them deal with the challenges?

8 people who experience the challenge of not having a specific place to call home, will have the chance to share their story and have their voice heard on a Singaporean stage, on a Singaporean screen. They will be given the chance to share their struggles, their joys, connect on a human, on an emotional level with the audience and spread their message.

Storytelling is the way people, communities, have been connecting to each other for hundreds of years now; ever since that first shepherd in ancient Greece - where the first Theatre was created - stood up in the circle and shared his story. This is why we chose a Greek poem, to connect us to the Roots of Drama, of Theatre, of Storytelling.

The interviews will be “dressed” with B-Roll from Singapore, showcasing the beauty of the land that is currently hosting these TCK. This way, we bring the nature and life of Singapore in the closed space of the theatre. We give the opportunity to our audience to travel and explore what is around them through the eyes of a “stranger”.

Music is the art form used during the Concert section. Music being the art that invokes all the senses, experiencing it live makes the difference. The audience does not experience something pre recorded, but rather something that very much alive, immediate, that offers an immediate emotional connection to what they are watching.

Social objective

We believe that theatre is therapeutic and, as stated by Aristotle in Poetics, its aim is to bring about a “catharsis” for the spectators. We strongly believe that theatre can arouse sensations in the audience and purge them of emotions, so that they leave the theatre feeling cleansed and uplifted, with a heightened understanding of themselves and society.

Our audiences are Singaporean and internationals who wish to understand and appreciate the human psyche. We consider our audience to be our most valued and valuable partner. What we create is for them. We want to open a dialogue between artists and audience members, this is why there will be a Q & A session after every performance.

We wish to entertain and educate our audiences and artists and explore together contemporary matters with a significant social impact. We live in an era where technology has made it easier for humans to travel, relocate, uproot. People are coming and going and new ideas are being formed. It is our duty as artists to show our society what is happening “next door”. The production intends to find specialists in the area of TCK located in Singapore and showcase their work via an exhibition held at the foyer of the theatre. This way audience members can seek the support they need if they want to.

white and black abstract painting
white and black abstract painting

Motivation & Research

The motivation for this project, “Ithaca Kids”, is a personal one for all artists and creators involved. We are all expats or having been at some point in our lives and locals who have had a personal experience of questioning identity, belonging, went through loss. We are raising kids in a country other than the country of their parents and we see them grow into some kind of new models of humans. We wish to explore that further, understand them, explore whether the world is ready for them, and if not, how can we make life smoother for them. We wish to imagine what our world would be like if more and more people are raised as TCKs.

There is a very interesting article by Kate Mayberry from the BBC, where she talks about TCKs. Ms. Mayberry describes what happens to children at the end of their time at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur. They receive a kit with a sour sweet, a length of ribbon, a paper clip, a sponge and a rubber band. These items are chose to prompt a discussion about what leaving means - bittersweet emotions, tying up loose ends, making memories. Every departing child is also recognised during school assembly. This way the school explains to them how important it is to say good bye. Just for Garden International School, 65% of its students have come from countries outside Malaysia and for many that is not their first experience living overseas.

“Third Culture Kids” is a term coined by US sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1950s, for children who spend their formative years in places that are not their parents’ homeland. Globalisation has made TCKs more common; and with the rates of globalisation growth, TCKs will become more and more in the years to come.

TCKs are mostly children of expatriate workers, but they can come from transnational marriages or - as very commonly in Asia - attend an International school in their home country.

An online survey by Denizen found that most of the 200 participants made their first move before the age of nine, had lived in an average of four countries, most had degrees, 30% postgraduate qualifications, spoke two or more languages.

David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken published Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds in 1999. They talk about the fact that TCKs have a broader world view and can be more culturally aware. They also warn that the life of a TCK can create a sense of rootlessness and restlessness, where home is “everywhere and nowhere”.

We would like to explore the role of Art in understanding a social matter, presenting to a wide audience and suggesting solutions.