Trials for small-scale live performances amid Covid-19 to begin on Sept 11

Not all the trials will be open to the public and audiences are to be capped at 50. FILE PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

SINGAPORE - Small-scale live performances will be held at selected venues from Sept 11, the National Arts Council (NAC) said in an advisory issued on Thursday (Sept 3) evening.

Trials have been scheduled at venues managed by the NAC, Esplanade, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and Arts House Limited. This is a cautious step towards the re-opening of live performance venues which have been closed since March 26, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Not all the trials will be open to the public and audiences are to be capped at 50. Minimum distances between audience members will be implemented and no interactions between the audience and performers or crew will be allowed.

The NAC added in the advisory: "We seek the public's understanding that the audience experience for these pilot performances will differ from previous performances, as a result of the safe management measures to ensure the safety of all involved.

"For example, audiences will have to observe safe distancing and refrain from congregating in common spaces, not move freely around the venue, and not participate in the production (e.g. singing or dancing) or interact with the performers."

Safe management measures will be implemented to ensure limited contact between unmasked performers and crew members. Larger safe distances will also be put in place when higher risk activities such as singing or playing of wind/brass instruments are involved.

An NAC spokesman said: "After October, MCCY and NAC will monitor and review the outcomes of the pilots together with the participating cultural institutions and arts practitioners and we hope to put up recommendations to the gradual resumption of arts performances."

Although arts companies were allowed to resume work and rehearsals on June 22, live performances are still prohibited. Arts companies have been suffering from box office losses and culture workers have lost income during this period.

Cinemas re-opened on July 13 and the arts community has been anxiously awaiting the re-opening of venues.

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The trials will help arts companies, service providers and venues clarify procedures. Mr Chng Hak-Peng, 47, chief executive officer of Singapore Symphony Group said: "We will evaluate the clarity of our measures and guidelines from the audience perspective, and the ability of the audience to enjoy the concert experience while feeling safe."

Tickets to the SSO's trial concert at Victoria Concert Hall on Oct 8 will be on sale via Sistic.
Ms Yvonne Tham, 45, chief executive officer of the Esplanade, said her team have been working with Sistic on a new ticketing system that can automatically "bubble wrap" seats, "that is, leaving empty seats on the left, right, front and back of the chosen seat(s)".

The performing arts venue will be presenting three trial performances on Sept 12, 13 and 23. Ms Tham said: "We aimed to have diversity, so that we can have different configurations on stage and for the auditorium - to allow artists and audiences from different backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy this safe pilot."

The performance on Sept 12 by the Orkestra Melayu Singapura at the Outdoor Theatre is open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis while the Sept 13 event at the Concert Hall is by invite only. The last performance by the Singapore Dance Theatre at the Esplanade Theatre on Sept 23 will be open to the public. The free performance will be ticketed and have assigned seating. Details will be released on Sistic.

SCO's executive director Terence Ho, 50, said the orchestra is ready to resume operations having worked out logistics during rehearsals and livestream performances in the past weeks.

He is confident of meeting the "whole checklist" of requirements, ranging from front of house management to safety measures both on and off the stage, for its two trials on Sept 11 and 12.

He added: "It's another step towards bringing audiences back into halls."

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