New art centre in Penang
By SHEELA CHANDRAN
Penang welcomes its first dedicated performing arts centre.
EXCITEMENT is in the air with the launch of Penang’s first ever Performing Arts Centre Of Penang (Penangpac) today. The event, to be officiated by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at 7pm, is the island’s newest performing arts centre, which has been modelled after the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) in Sentul Park, Kuala Lumpur.
The not-for-profit arts centre, built in partnership by The Actors Studio (Malaysia) and Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O), is located at E&O’s Straits Quay development in Penang. It is the country’s first arts centre located in a retail development district.
And what better way to commemorate the much-awaited launch than by marking it on 11.11.11?
“The opening of Penangpac is special for Penangites and the rest of the arts community in Malaysia and abroad. We wanted a special date to commemorate its opening and the project completion timeline suited the date in mind. Plus, the Chief Minister was available on this special day, so everything fell into place,” said KLPac director and executive producer Datuk Faridah Merican recently.
The 2,044sqm centre boasts a 300-seat theatre, a 160-seat black box theatre and three studios. It promises to showcase free performances, traditional arts and opera. Plus, there’s a children’s art academy which teaches speech, drama, rhythm and self expression.
Besides providing a platform for aspiring thespians to explore their talents, the RM7.5mil centre will enable local residents to enjoy homegrown and international performances right at their doorstep.
Faridah said: “There are many local and foreign productions that want to tour up north after a run in Kuala Lumpur, whether at KLpac, The Actors Studio@Lot 10 or other venues around town. It makes good economic sense and it is a great opportunity to showcase their work to more people. Our shows will definitely be travelling up to Penang often.”
Faridah is no stranger in the local theatre scene. Often referred to as the First Lady of Malaysian Theatre, she and husband Joe Hasham (currently KLPac artistic director) co-founded the country’s first-ever privately owned theatre space, The Actors Studio (TAS) Theatre, at Plaza Putra in KL in 1995. In 1998, they followed suit with The Actors Studio Academy to nurture theatre talents.
In 2001, the couple set up TAS@Bangsar Shopping Centre in KL and the following year, TAS at Greenhall in Penang to the delight of Penang’s theatre enthusiasts.
When flood waters destroyed TAS at Plaza Putra in 2003, Faridah and Joe worked closely with the YTL Group, Yayasan Budi Penyayang, to set up KLPac in 2005. And with Penangpac, Faridah has added another feather in her cap.
“Penang is my home state and I always felt it was important to have a base there. Then we stumbled upon the kind folks at E&O who were already well known supporters of the arts and heritage. After several rounds of talks, they were willing to provide the space and build Penangpac,” said the theatre doyenne, who received the BOH Cameronian Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the local performing arts in 2004.
It is hoped that Penangpac will bring Penang’s theatre scene back to its hey day.
“Performing arts isn’t something new in Penang. It was popular from the time of traditional theatre taking to the streets, such as Chinese opera, to the influx of English theatre brought about by expatriates who settled there during the colonial era. The Penang theatre scene is strong, vibrant and colourful. I believe overall appreciation for the arts is on the rise and that includes Penang. There is a demand for performances and a ready supply of talented individuals from performers to creative personnel,” she opined.
Besides serving a vital role in building social interaction and cultural vibrancy, Faridah said the centre would serve as a catalyst in harnessing more young talents from the northern region.
“In terms of unearthing new talents, I think as what we have seen in KL, young people are interested in the arts. However, they need a safe space and guidance to explore it. We believe Penangpac can provide both.
“We believe strongly in the young. We hope to draw up new programmes targeted at the youths who are interested in theatre. Penangpac’s upcoming academy will be running a host of exciting classes related to the performing arts,” said Faridah.
In order to let Penangites have a taste of theatre, Penangpac will be hosting free performances, which will run till the end of the year. These include concerts like Together As One (by the Young KL Singers),Dancebox (MyDance Alliance), Japanese costume exhibition (Japanese designer Shingo Tokihiro) and The First Inter-School Gender Equality Drama Competition of Penang (Neighbourhood Performance Group) and much more.
“It doesn’t stop there – 2012 begins with Joe’s musical Malaysian Girls, which would have just finished its premiere in KL followed by the re-staging of his critically-acclaimed play Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. This is just a teaser for an exciting year filled with more exciting programming to come!”Buy Ticket