SRT's artistic director to helm arts festival from next year

Singapore Repertory Theatre's artistic director Gaurav Kripalani says he is "filled with excitement and trepidation" about his new appointment and he has been receiving messages of support from his peers.
Singapore Repertory Theatre's artistic director Gaurav Kripalani says he is "filled with excitement and trepidation" about his new appointment and he has been receiving messages of support from his peers.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Gaurav Kripalani will take over the reins as festival director from Ong Keng Sen

Gaurav Kripalani, artistic director of Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), will take over the reins of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa) from next year to 2020.

His appointment as the new festival director designate of the annual arts festival will take effect from May 1. He will continue his duties as artistic director of SRT during this time.

Current festival director Ong Keng Sen's four-year tenure ends after this year's festival, which takes place from June 28 to Sept 9.

Ong is currently on a leave of absence as the artistic director of TheatreWorks.

Kripalani's appointment was announced in a statement issued by Arts House Limited yesterday. Arts House Limited is a company of the National Arts Council (NAC), which commissions the festival.

In his 21 years with SRT, Kripalani, 45, has produced more than 100 plays. The company has presented work by renowned international directors such as Peter Brook and Yukio Ninagawa.

In 2011, it co-commissioned a high-profile project that saw Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey performing in Shake- speare's Richard III at the Esplanade Theatre, directed by well- known British director Sam Mendes.

Kripalani told The Straits Times he is "filled with excitement and trepidation" and has been receiving messages of support from his peers. "I will look to them for guidance and advice on how best to take Sifa to new heights," he said.

He will continue to be involved in strategic planning at SRT, while executive director Charlotte Nors assumes the managing director title, also held by Kripalani now.

Ong said in the statement that he is "very happy" for Kripalani and wishes him "the very best for an exciting journey ahead". He said: "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."

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

The revamped festival under Ong programmed multiple well-received local commissions and brought in international stars.

Last year, festival attendance hit a high of 155,000, including visitorship for its pre-festival engagement programme, the O.P.E.N.

Theatre practitioners The Straits Times spoke to look forward to the festival's new era under Kripalani, but acknowledge that he has big shoes to fill.

Mr Kok Heng Leun, Nominated Member of Parliament for the arts, reserved comments about the appointment until he learns more about Kripalani's plans but congratulated Ong on the "wonderful festival" he has curated so far, which received praise overseas.

Alvin Tan, artistic director of The Necessary Stage, said he hopes "the experimental, exploratory and educational nature of Sifa continues to grow from strength to strength" under Kripalani's direction.

Said Kripalani: "I have lots of respect for Keng Sen and have enjoyed all my conversations with him. We have different aesthetics, so our audiences will benefit from seeing two very different festivals - which will be great because audiences will get to appreciate a broad range of work."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'SRT's artistic director to helm arts festival from next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe