When the Singapore Repertory Theatre stages Romeo And Juliet at Fort Canning at the end of this month, there may be another theatrical tragedy in the making.
The group's artistic and managing director Gaurav Kripalani says this could be the last Shakespeare In The Park for several years.
Staging the annual event used to cost between $1 million and $1.2 million, but is now closer to $1.5 million because of increased manpower costs. This is unsustainable, he says.
A total of between 25,000 and 30,000 viewers attend the event every year. Ticket prices this year range from $40 for entrance alone to $108 with drinks and canapes.
Box-office takings cannot cover the staging costs, since a third of the tickets are sold at a subsidised student rate. CHIJ Katong Convent, for example, has sent its Secondary 2 students to the event every year since 2011.
This year, a long-term sponsor, electronics distribution company Trans-Tec, has increased its sponsorship to help. "Despite this, we will still have a significant loss," says Mr Kripalani.
BOOK IT / SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK - ROMEO AND JULIET
WHERE: Fort Canning Park (enter by the Gothic Gate at Carpark A)
WHEN: April 27 to May 22; Wednesday to Sunday, 7.30pm. Park opens at 6.30pm
ADMISSION: $40 to $108 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)
The Singapore Repertory Theatre first staged the event in 1997 with Hamlet. In 2007, the troupe made it a biennial event, starting with A Midsummer Night's Dream. The 2009 production of Much Ado About Nothing was nominated for Production Of The Year at the Life Theatre Awards and Shakespeare In The Park has been an annual affair since 2011.
Some actors see it as a rite of passage, including this year's 20something stars, Cheryl Tan (Juliet) and Thomas Pang (Romeo). Both are taking on a major professional production of Shakespeare for the first time.
Pang, 25, who was in a reworking of Hamlet last month, Cake Theatrical Productions' Ophelia at Esplanade Studio Theatre, says: "To me, Romeo is just like any other character, but the opportunity to play to such a large audience is exhilarating .
"It's frightening," says Tan, 27, of her performances, especially now that she knows the future of Shakespeare In The Park is in jeopardy.
The Singapore Repertory Theatre is banking on Romeo And Juliet and the buzz around Shakespeare's 400th death anniversary to bring in the crowds this year.
Acclaimed British opera director Daniel Slater, 49, will direct. This will be his first production of the play and he says the staging will evoke a modern city with Asian influences.
"It's not that we've set it in Singapore, but there's a feeling for Singapore," he says, down to replacing sword fights with tussles that involve knives, batons and kickboxing.
Among those looking forward to the event are husband and wife Elvin Teo and Tng Pei Wei, both 32, who are expecting their first child this year.
They have had picnic dates at Shakespeare In The Park since 2007. Mr Teo proposed to Ms Tng during The Merchant Of Venice in 2014. The cast called her onstage where Mr Teo played a ukulele and sang a Bruno Mars song.
Ms Tng is a finance manager who loves literature. Mr Teo, a harbour pilot with PSA Marine who says he has no background in literature, adds: "It helps to read the synopsis of the play before the show to know the gist of the story and understand the characters involved. It is also fun to have a loved one decipher the play and more interesting to learn about literature this way.
"It will be sad to see Shakespeare In The Park stopped as it has been an annual event for many people. We were hoping to catch this year's show after my wife's confinement."