Arts venues to stay shut in first phase of circuit breaker exit

A scene from Wild Rice's 2017 production of Grandmother Tongue (above). The company had been planning to restage the play in August this year.
A scene from Wild Rice's 2017 production of Grandmother Tongue (above). The company had been planning to restage the play in August this year.PHOTO: PHILIP CHOY

Arts lovers will have to wait till at least July 1 for their next fix as Singapore cautiously exits the circuit breaker period in three phases from June 2.

The National Arts Council (NAC) said in an advisory issued late on Thursday that for Phase 1, which is expected to last at least four weeks: "All arts facilities and venues, including all indoor and outdoor performance venues (e.g. theatres, concert halls, blackboxes), museums and art galleries shall remain closed."

The National Library Board also issued a statement on Wednesday to say libraries will remain closed till further notice.

The NAC's advisory added that in Phase 2, "which will see the progressive resumption of more activities, including for arts and culture companies and practitioners, in small groups", working from home will still be encouraged and a slow return to workplaces will be "subject to safe management measures being put in place by employers to protect their employees and customers/audiences".

The NAC said it will issue a separate advisory before Phase 2.

Until then, it will continue to curate digital content on its SGCultureAnywhere platform, said Mr Paul Tan, 49, NAC's deputy chief executive for planning and corporate development.

He added: "Arts practitioners have access to two subsidised NAC spaces equipped for creation and production of digital content with safe distancing guidelines in place."

Given the slow tightening of crowd control measures over February and March, leading to venue closures on March 26, theatre companies are prepared for a slow reopening process.

Wild Rice's founding artistic director Ivan Heng, 56, observed that the reopening goal looks like a "moving target".

The company had been tentatively planning for a restaging of Thomas Lim's Grandmother Tongue in August, he said, but they are "unlikely to be able to rehearse and need a two-month lead time".

Wild Rice's venue at Funan had also been booked by other arts companies, including Apsaras Arts, The Opera People and Singlit Station, for September dates.

Heng said the company will work with stakeholders to ensure safe distancing measures if the performances can go ahead.

The Necessary Stage's general manager Melissa Lim, 43, said the company is prepared to work from home over Phases 1 and 2: "Where rehearsals are concerned, we have largely moved things online, via Zoom, for instance.

"We are also in talks with partners with whom we were going to collaborate in these coming months to reconceptualise our work and shift performances and audience engagement online."

The Finger Players, which had to shutter Citizen X in March, also has a main season production planned for October, said co-artistic director Ellison Tan Yuyang, 29.

She said: "We are trying to be hopeful, but are aware that even if theatres open in October, we would have to observe safe distancing measures, with which we are prepared to fully comply."

For the time being, she and co-artistic director Myra Loke are brainstorming alternative presentation formats so they will have contingency plans in place.

Heng, whose Wild Rice team has recently started planning for Snow White, its annual year-end pantomime, said getting back to work would be good for morale. "Everyone's so relieved to be thinking about the future and working on something."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Arts venues to stay shut in first phase of circuit breaker exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe