Baba G.T. Lye is a doyen of Peranakan theatre. He has acted in and written Peranakan stage plays for the last four decades. He has been a wayang Peranakan practitioner since his first foray into theatre in 1984 in Felix Chia’s Pileh Menantu, staged during the Singapore Arts Festival. The play was a landmark in wayang Peranakan which sparked a revival of Peranakan theatre. Before that, no Peranakan play had been staged in Singapore since the 1960s.
In his next stage appearance in 1985, he performed in a female role under the stage name “G.T. Lye”. He played the Peranakan matriarch for the first time – a character that would shape and define his career in Peranakan theatre.
G.T. has not only starred in 23 wayang Peranakan plays but has also contributed to Peranakan theatre as a scriptwriter, co-director, dialogue coach and mentor to young actors. The bulk of his performances were in plays staged by the Gunong Sayang Association. There is no other living wayang Peranakan actor who has displayed mastery of the art form as he has.
In 2020, G.T. was recognised as a Steward of Singapore’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by the National Heritage Board.
Baba G.T. Lye has completed a wayang Peranakan podcast series that will debut in 2023/2024. He will star in the remake of Felix Chia’s Mari Kita Main Wayang at the Esplanade in November 2023. He will also reprise his role in Tak Sangkah Sangkah Cempedak Menjadi Nangka (Unexpected) to be staged in Melaka in late November 2023. He is also involved in a modern play with Peranakan elements to be staged in 2025.
Steward of Intangible Cultural Heritage Award
In 2020, Baba G.T. Lye was recognised by the National Heritage Board, Singapore as a Steward of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Award recognises practitioners of intangible cultural heritage who are dedicated to the promotion and transmission of their practices, and have made outstanding contributions in their field.
Through his efforts, G.T. Lye’s deep cultural knowledge has been passed on to a new generation through his mentorship.
Ivan Heng, founder and artistic director of theatre company Wild Rice expressed appreciation for his commitment to nurturing future generations of artists and audiences through his interviews, workshops and rehearsals.
Similarly, Alvin Teo, president of the Gunong Sayang Association, credited G.T.’s in-depth knowledge of Peranakan culture and practices as integral to recreating wayang Peranakan.
John Teo, former General Manager of the Peranakan Museum and current Deputy Director of Research at the National Heritage Board, summed up his accomplishments. “Unlike Peranakans of (the post-independence) generation, who are now trying to rediscover aspects of our heritage, he has lived the culture. His mentorship and guidance have been invaluable assets to the museum and its curators. In our collective efforts to preserve Singapore’s intangible cultural heritage, G.T. is one of last remaining authorities, an irreplaceable expository agent of the customs, traditions and practices of a bygone era.”
Pileh Menantu (Choosing A Daughter-in-law) written by Felix Chia for the Singapore Arts Festival
Buang Keroh Pungot Jernih (Let Bygones Be Bygones) His first role as a Peranakan Matriarch
Zaman Sekarang (Times Have Changed)
Biji Mata Mak (Apple Of His Mother Eyes)
Tak Sangkah (Unexpected)
Sudah Di Janji (Fated)
Manis Manis Pait (Bitter Sweet Memories)
Kalau Jodoh Tak Mana Lari (Destiny of Love)
Bulan Pernama (An Auspicious Full Moon)
Janji Perot (Pre-Birth Pact)
Cheh It Chap Goh (Every Cloud Has A Sliver Lining) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Hujan Balek Ka Langit (The Impossible) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Anak Udang Anak Tenggiri (Blood Is Thicker Than Water) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Kipas Cendana (The Sandalwood Fan) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Buang Keroh Pungot Jernih (Let Bygones Be Bygones) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Belom Mati Belom Tau (The Unpredictable) As Scriptwriter and Actor
Performed at the opening of the Peranakan Museum
Bilek Roda Hidop (Bedrooms)
Baba Bling at Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, France* (5 days, 7 Peranakan wedding performances)
Baba Wedding performance in Chengdu, Sichuan China*
Sayang (Love) part of the Singapore Writer’s Festival staged by Berita Harian newspaper
Kain Chik Dua Muka (Two-Faced) As Co-Scriptwriter and Actor
Wedding performance and Dondang Sayang presentation, Seoul Korea*
Dondang Sayang performances in Malaysia and Indonesia with other cultural groups
Dondang Sayang performances with Sri Mahligai, a Malay arts and musical group in Singapore
Ayer di-tetak Takleh Putus (Blood is thicker than water)
Tak Sangkah Sangkah Cempedak Menjadi Nangka (Unexpected)
(Coming in November) Mari Kita Main Wayang
(In development) Anak