World Book Day: 5 Books That Have Inspired Janice

28 Feb 2018
Janice Sze Wan Poon Artistic Director at Hong Kong Dramatists

My name is Janice Poon and I received a Chevening Award in 2013 to pursue my master's degree in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama at the University of London. I am currently a lecturer in playwriting, as well as academic project coordinator at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. To celebrate World Book Day, here are five books that have inspired me.


Candy Candy by Keiko Nagita

I will not shy away from admitting that this historical Japanese romance novel was one of the first books that inspired me. It gained its popularity after it was adapted into the form of manga and an anime series in the 1970s. It tells the story of the orphan Candy, from her childhood to her thirties, against the backdrop of World War One. Candy's brave and persistent personality in pursuit of her life goal inspired me as a young girl, and has stayed with me as I've grown up.


The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde

Another book that comes to mind is one of my favorite books when I was a child. Most of the stories in this collection tell the stories of self-sacrifice for others or society at large. The most well known story, The Happy Prince, tells the story of the unconditional sacrifice of the statue of the Happy Prince, who helps the poor with the jewels on its body through the help of a swallow. I shed a tear every time it comes to the end, when the swallow gives up her journey to warmth in order to fulfill the Prince's selfless act, and thus passes away out of hunger and cold. The Happy Prince's statue is torn down too. This story presented me with a role model of selfless love and support for those who suffer.


Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen

My interest in theatre grew while I was studying this book at university. Respect for Acting shaped my attitude and knowledge of performance on stage, and the practice of a good performer. Openness, and every attention you pay to your fellow actors, matters. Most importantly, you must be honest and true to yourself. This book is like a mirror that shines upon both my merits and demerits. It presented me a career path where there's nowhere to hide or escape from your true self; you must face it along the way.


On Dramaturgy and Directing: Burning the House by Eugenio Barba

After working in the art and culture field for more than 20 years, I came to a bottleneck where I was puzzled on how to move on with my creative career. I got an opportunity to be a resident artist at the world-renowned Odin Teatret in Denmark and had close encounters with theatre maestro Eugenio Barba. His latest publication at that time was a book about the skills in theatre-making and, more importantly, the true essence of the art form. The book ignites the fire of theatre-making in my heart. It empowers me to continue my pursuit in theatre artistry and craftsmanship.


The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

This is the latest book that inspires me, especially when we have to separate from our loved ones. It presents the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, and the nature of the mind and the practice of meditation, compassion, caring for the dying, and spiritual practices for the moment of death. It provides inspiring insight into the true meaning of life, how to accept death, and how to help the dying and dead. A spiritual guidebook for our everyday life.