The new nine-storey Gateway Theatre in Bukit Merah will show off its facilities in an opening festival this weekend. Its performance spaces are already almost fully booked for the rest of the year, which reflects the need for more arts venues in Singapore.
The opening festival from Friday to Sunday includes free movie screenings and workshops, along with ticketed shows.
The shows include children's production Hansel And Gretel by Players Theatre at the 930-seat main Theatre on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On Friday and Saturday evening, the Theatre will also host a ticketed stand-up comedy show from married performers Sharul Channa and Rishi Budhrani as well as guest comics.
And from Thursday to Sunday, Kuik Swee Boon's T.H.E Dance Company stages his critically acclaimed 2011 creation, As It Fades, at the 230-seat Black Box.
In the same space on Sunday evening, Erwin Shah Ismail performs his one-man show about an artisan, Kulit On The Go.
The opening festival's director,Samantha Scott-Blackhall, saw Kulit On The Go when Erwin performed it last December for Teater Ekamatra's showcase of small productions, Projek Suitcase. She felt it deserved a wider audience.
BOOK IT / GATEWAY THEATRE OPENING FESTIVAL
WHERE: Gateway Theatre, 3615 Jalan Bukit Merah
WHEN: Friday to Sunday, various times
ADMISSION: $10 to $20 for some theatre, dance and stand-up performances. Buy tickets at apactix.com. Free for movie screenings and some workshops. Registration required and is on a walk-in, first-come-first-served basis, starting 30 minutes before the event
INFO: Full schedule at www.gateway.sg
She designed the opening festival to showcase emerging talents or groups who might not have their pick of theatre space in Singapore.
"There's a lack of performance space in Singapore," she says.
"By the time the big groups are done looking for space, there's none left for emerging artists."
The opening festival has workshops and performances crammed into every possible venue.
The stairwell is turned into a Vertical Gallery showcasing the work of photographer Jorg Sundermann.
R. Chandran and Amy Cheng of Act 3 Theatrics perform the legend of the Attack Of The Swordfish in The Gallery, a seventh-floor space overlooking the Sky Garden, which can accommodate about 150 people.
The Sky Garden on the sixth floor will host musical performances on the outdoor stage along with food stalls and a pop-up market of books and crafts.
The building also has a recording studio for hire as well as a dance studio. The latter will host a free hip-hop workshop for kids aged eight to 16 on Saturday morning. Later on Saturday and also on Sunday, T.H.E Dance Company will run a free contemporary dance workshop for adults in the same space.
Gateway Theatre cost more than $50 million and was designed by architectural firm Ong&Ong. It occupies the site of the former Touch Community Theatre. A wall dating back to the Dhalit cinema which first stood there has been repurposed into a decorative feature of the Sky Garden.
The space is operated by production entertainment company Gateway Entertainment, which is helmed by Faith Community Baptist Church's pastor Lawrence Khong and his daughter Priscilla.
A spokesman says the venue is used for only a couple of hours on Sundays by the church and is mainly for hire.
Gateway Theatre is accepting bookings for next year. For the rest of this year, its spaces are almost fully booked from Wednesdays to Sundays. Bookings have come from schools, corporations, performing artists, theatre companies and even wedding parties - the Sky Garden hosted its first a few weeks ago.