Esplanade reaches for new space

Esplanade reaches for new space
Lee Tzu Yang, chairman of the Esplanade.

SINGAPORE - With a new chairman at the helm of the Esplanade, the 13-year-old performing arts centre affectionately nicknamed The Durian may yet bear more fruit - two mid-sized theatres that were part of the original plans for the complex.

In an interview with Life!, his first since replacing chairman Theresa Foo, Mr Lee Tzu Yang, 60, said that the time may have come to build the two mid-sized theatres.

He said the centre sees itself as having an increasing role to play in supporting the development of home-grown artists and content.

One way the Esplanade, with a 2,000-seat theatre and a 1,600-seat concert hall, has been doing this is by developing, producing and presenting local theatre productions in its 220-seat theatre studio.

But it is held back in its efforts to do more.

"One of the things that we lack currently as we try to work with more local artists and groups is the size of the venues with which they are most keen to work with," said Mr Lee.

"If you want to move from the studio to the theatre, it's maybe 10 times the size and there are very few local groups who can bridge that.

They need help, they need something of an intermediate size, 500- to 900-seaters."

Medium-sized venues offer both the scale and intimacy for many theatre productions.

He added: "If we don't do it, there will be perhaps a gap in the ecosystem and less activity.

And because the Esplanade actually had this in its original plans, it would seem to me logical that we continue our trajectory and complete this."

The development of the Esplanade was divided into two phases. Phase 1 comprises the current complex, which opened in 2002, while the second phase includes plans for two mid-sized theatres.

There has been no word on when, if ever, Phase 2 will be carried out.

In 2012, however, a call for mid-sized theatres to be built at the Esplanade was raised in the report by the Arts and Culture Strategic Review, a high-level committee charting Singapore's cultural policy that was led by Mr Lee.

He recognised that more mid-sized performance spaces have become available in recent times, including the 614-seat Victoria Theatre and 883-seat Victoria Concert Hall, which reopened last year after a four-year refurbishment.

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