Why It Matters

Right space for arts to grow

For arts groups, the flexible seating capacity at a new performing space at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay is a big draw.

Slated to open in 2021, the as-yet-unnamed waterfront theatre will contain movable elements that allow capacity to increase beyond the 550 seats originally planned for.

The proposed arts venue, which will cost $30 million to build, plugs a gap in Singapore's arts infrastructure as we lack mid-sized theatres of this capacity.

There are only a few theatres of its size here, such as the 600-seat Drama Centre Theatre, and all are in heavy demand.

Most arts practitioners say their ideal audience size per show is 500 to 1,000 seats.

The existing Esplanade Theatre and Esplanade Concert Hall seat just below 2,000 - too large. The Esplanade's two 200-seat studios can be too small.

The new mid-sized venue is ideal, say artists whom The Straits Times spoke to. They also hope the interior will be flexible enough for them to stage performances with unusual configurations, such as theatre in the round - an arrangement where the audience surrounds the stage area .

Their chief concerns are how often the theatre will be available for hire and whether it will be within their budget.

Artists say existing spaces at the Esplanade are already too costly for most groups unless commissioned by the performing arts centre.

It is too early to discuss rentals, but the Esplanade has said that the new theatre will feature Esplanade programmes 60 per cent of the time.

That said, Esplanade regularly commissions local arts groups to create new work, such as for the annual The Studios season of theatre.

The new theatre will provide space for even more commissioned work from local artists, said Ms Yvonne Tham, assistant chief executive officer of the Esplanade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Right space for arts to grow'. Print Edition | Subscribe