Malaysian arts centre offers theatre makers free venue space

'Harapan Di Hadapan' initiative will provide arts practitioners a free venue and technical support at DPAC for their projects. Photo: DPAC

The Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya is kickstarting its own pandemic recovery plan.

The DPAC initiative, aptly called "Harapan Di Hadapan" (Hope Is Ahead), aims to jumpstart projects by providing theatre makers a free venue and technical support from DPAC. The idea is to ensure arts projects and theatre shows get back on stage when theatres and arts venues are eventually allowed to reopen.

Under the National Recovery Plan, performing arts venues and live events with audiences are only allowed when Phase 4 is activated.

“The pandemic has definitely affected our lives and the economy, but it does not mean we have to dwell in negativity," says Datin Jane Lew Siew Ting, DPAC founder, referring to pro-active measures that arts venue can take to help struggling arts communities.

“The relationship between an arts centre and the artistes is closely connected. An arts centre cannot operate without its artistes (and arts community).

"The criteria we want the artists to meet is to create work that is full of hope and positive energy, reflecting the name of our project: hope is ahead,” she adds.

DPAC, which opened in 2013, has a proscenium theatre, a black box, an experimental theatre, an indoor theatre-foyer and several dance studios. Dance performances and theatre shows have been a large part of its programming.

But since the pandemic hit Malaysia last March, DPAC has been mostly shut. The venue, closed even before the Government announced fresh lockdowns in May, decided not to have in-house arts programmes this year.

Lee Ming Kiat, DPAC’s technical manager, adds that one of the goals of the Harapan Di Hadapan open call is to signal support and provide a ready platform for the eventual restart in the arts scene.

"It is to prevent local artists from losing their passion for the arts in these trying times. Right now, if you want to stage a performance, you will still have to bear some expenses, and the cost of venue rental is a big expense," says Lee.

“Therefore, this programme will allow local artists to create work as well as relieve some financial burden."

Harapan Di Hadapan’s application process: from Aug 31 to Oct 10, Malaysian artists can submit a project proposal to DPAC.

After a vetting process by a DPAC committee, 10-12 artists will be selected to be part of the project.

Successful applicants will get to use DPAC’s 200-seater theatre performance spaces for free to stage their shows.

Members of the public are also encouraged to spread the message of hope by joining DPAC’s 14-day Harapan Di Hadapan social media challenge.

“This is a difficult time, and we need to support one another in order to shape a stronger arts community," concludes Lee.

More info here.

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