Welcome to Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG – our commitment to showing you the best of what's going on in the city this week. Every Monday, a guest writer who's "in" with the scene shares a recommendation on what to see, eat, do or buy in the city. This week, we chat with Gaurav Kripalani the Festival Director of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA), which is happening till the end of the week. He shares with us all about what gets him excited about the arts scene in Singapore.
What gets you excited about Singapore?
We’re 53 years young with a burgeoning arts scene. What excites me most is that as artists, we have the opportunity to help shape the cultural landscape and also evolve the Singapore identity. There's more of an awareness of the need for a holistic lifestyle and an appreciation of the vital role that the arts play. I am excited about getting to the stage where every Singaporean makes a point of checking a calendar every week to see what is on culturally. I grew up looking forward to the Singapore Arts Festival every year. It played a big part in growing my love for the arts. I hope to create that same sense of excitement with SIFA.
When we conducted the City Index survey in Singapore, people didn't rate the city highly for its arts and culture scene – why do you think this is so? And how can we change that?
I’ve definitely seen increased vibrancy in our arts and culture scene over the years. As mentioned, our arts landscape is still relatively young, but that said, it also means that there is a lot of potential to cultivate an appetite for the arts across generations of audiences.
That’s what we’re aiming to do with SIFA – we are focused on growing audiences and the arts industry. As the national pinnacle performing arts festival, SIFA hopes to bring something new to the arts landscape each year by exposing audiences to a wide range of world-class, quality works from Singapore and around the world that people here may not normally get to see and experience. It also provides artists and arts groups with the opportunities to embark on productions they would not normally be able to do and facilitates exchange and collaboration between local and international artists.
An important aspect of SIFA has always been accessibility and this year, in addition to affordable ticket prices, we have introduced front row $10 tickets for students. We are committed to nurturing the next generation of arts audiences and artists, and it starts by getting them to attend arts performances. Hopefully, we can extend this beyond SIFA to the wider arts landscape in Singapore as well, and cultivate different generations of audiences to enjoy and appreciate the arts.
What are the most memorable theatre experiences you've had in Singapore?
The wide array of theatre, music and dance over the years, whether they were presented by SIFA or the Esplanade, has been incredible. Works by directors like Lepage, Ninagawa, Simon McBurney and Peter Brook to name a few. Producing the musical Forbidden City for the opening of the Esplanade was a very special experience for me. It was a homegrown musical that was able to fill a 2000-seat theatre and a few years later, went on to enjoy a 12-week run, which was a phenomenal achievement.
What are your thoughts on the current local theatre scene?
We have come a long way but it is important that we continue to reinvent the wheel and push the boundaries to keep attracting new audiences to come and watch shows. The theatre scene – and by extension, the arts scene in general – has to compete in this era of Netflix. We know we have to programme exceptional productions in order to make it compelling for people to get up off their couches. Also, the world is now looking to Asia for content and the local arts scene is bursting with ideas. I am thrilled to be in a position to help Singapore artists create original works and share their stories with the world.
How do you stay inspired in Singapore?
I can hand on heart say I love going to work every day. It’s an honour to be asked to helm our national arts festival, as well as Singapore Repertory Theatre. Producing and presenting the best work from Singapore and around the world is incredibly inspiring.
Are there any upcoming theatre events in Singapore that you're most excited about?
Singapore Repertory Theatre, which I am also the Artistic Director for, has brought back Shakespeare in the Park after a year’s hiatus with Julius Caesar at Fort Canning Park, now running until May 27. In this current atmosphere of fake news and political uncertainty around the world, there couldn’t be a more apt production to stage. Audiences will love the set as well as the modern interpretation of having a female Caesar – President of R.O.M.E, played by Indian-Malaysian actress Jo Kokadas.
For more upcoming cool happenings, check out Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG challenge. Don't forget to show us how you're living your best Singapore life via the hashtag #ExcitingSG – we might just throw some free passes and VIP tickets to exciting festivals, gigs and events your way!