Singapore Repertory Theatre's Gaurav Kripalani to helm Singapore International Festival of Arts

Gaurav Kripalani, who is artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), has been named festival director designate of Sifa from May 1.
Gaurav Kripalani, who is artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), has been named festival director designate of Sifa from May 1. ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Well-known impresario Gaurav Kripalani will be in charge of three editions of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa) from next year to 2020.

Kripalani, who is artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), has been named festival director designate of Sifa from May 1. He takes over from outgoing festival director Ong Keng Sen, artistic director of drama company TheatreWorks.

Kripalani's appointment was announced on Thursday by the Arts House Limited, a company of the National Arts Council which commissions Sifa.

As artistic director of the SRT, Kripalani has produced over 100 plays during his 21-years with the drama group.

His credits include co-commissioning Battlefield, legendary director Peter Brook's coda to his epic Mahabharata, staged here in 2015. Another high-profile endeavour was the three-year Bridge Project collaboration between The Old Vic in London and BAM in New York, directed by the well-known British director Sam Mendes. From 2009 to 2011, the project staged classic Shakespearean plays here with Hollywood actors such as Ethan Hawke and Kevin Spacey.

During Kripalani's tenure, SRT also produced crowd-pleasing musicals such as The LKY Musical in 2015 and in 2002, Forbidden City, a musical based on the life of Chinese empress Ci Xi. It will be restaged here this August.

Outgoing festival director Ong has led the annual arts extravaganza for the four editions from 2014 to this year's run from June 28 to Sept 9. He was the first festival director named after the long-running Singapore Arts Festival was revamped into an independent festival meant to be led by the home-grown arts community.

During Ong's tenure, the festival has programmed multiple well-received local commissions and also brought in international stars.

Last year, festival attendance hit a high of 155,000 because of a giant video installation in The Meadow@Gardens by the Bay titled 720°. Films by international movie-makers and award-winning home-grown artist Brian Gothong Tan played across the surface of the 18m-wide cylinder of silicon cords, created by Israeli architect Ron Arad.

Tan's related performance, Tropical Traumas: A Series Of Cinematographic Choreographies, has won multiple nominations at this year's M1 - The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards.

Mrs Rosa Daniel, chief executive officer of the National Arts Council, said in a press statement that under Ong, the festival "has achieved both excellence and inclusivity" and "become a truly international festival of a very high standard".

She added: "Under Gaurav's artistic direction and together with the leadership of Sarah Martin, CEO of Arts House Limited, I am confident that audiences in Singapore and beyond will have much to look forward to. The arts scene here will continue to benefit from Sifa's programming. There will also be many opportunities for collaborations and enriching dialogue."

Ms Martin took over as the chief executive officer of Arts House Limited last December, after the former CEO, Ms Lee Chor Lin, stepped down.

Kripalani said: "It is an honour to be passed the baton to helm Singapore's premier arts festival. Keng Sen has done a stellar job and I hope to reach the high expectations that have been set. I look forward to reaching out to artists, locally and internationally, in order to achieve the Festival's goal of pushing the boundaries of perception in the multi-disciplines. I look forward to welcoming the world to Singapore and Singapore to the world."

Ong said: "I am very happy for Gaurav. My team and I are committed to give him the best possible festival to continue. In these four years, we strived to initiate quality projects with Singapore residents connected to living, dreaming and creating here. Our audiences deserve visionary projects of how art transforms humanity and makes the world a better place. I wish Sarah and Gaurav the very best for an exciting journey ahead!"