Zahim Albakri, the stage and screen actor-director extraordinaire, is certainly going to be a very busy man come 2008. Why?
The man will be having perhaps one of the biggest jobs in town, coordinating and putting things into place at the upcoming community arts centre and theatre called Petaling Jaya Life Arts (PJLA).
While most of the theatre spaces in the Klang Valley like Istana Budaya, KLPac and The Actor's Studio are located around Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya has never had an artistic hotspot to call its own.
Located within the new Jaya One development in Section 13, the PJLA is set to provide PJ folks with a fresh breathe of creative air to complement their suburban lifestyle.
Rather than developing just another commercial centre, Tetap Tiara Sdn Bhd executive director Charles Wong wants something that could benefit the community.
While researching on the history of PJ, Wong realised that from being a satellite town evolving to become the city it is today, there has not been any new community or lifestyle offerings for PJ dwellers.
“Initially, we wanted to build a multi-purpose hall but we wanted something that could fit into the long-term lifestyle needs of the people so we decided a performing arts centre was the way to go,” Wong said.
Wong's vision was to create a thriving artistic hub complemented by a wide range of dining, retail, health and wellness outlets.
With Zahim roped in as artistic director and lighting designer Mac Chan adding his touch in designing the theatre, the PJLA is aiming to converge the creative community into an area that would house - besides the actual theatre - administrative offices, rehearsal spaces, meeting rooms and studio space for classes and workshops.
Zahim is excited about the potential of this new attraction and he hopes to bring in sponsors to run scheduled yearly programmes for the theatre.
“PJ is a city now. To have city status, it's a shame not to have a theatre space,” he said.
Zahim also feels that people need to see the arts as being part of society and part of their lives as the nation develops.
Zahim and Wong are in accord that another point of attraction that would create a constant stream of customers is the eight double-storey bungalows in Palm Square, the heart of Jaya One, containing upmarket eateries and cafes that is synonymous with the present breed of working class people.
For the budget conscious, there is Wai Sek Kai (a Cantonese term loosely translated as Gluttony Street), which would be home to kopitiams (Hokkien for coffeeshops) and local Malaysian delights like nasi kandar and chicken rice.
“I would like to see it alive all of the time, not just at night but the whole day. Jaya One is very different. It's really thought about and well planned. It's not just about commercial spaces,” said Zahim, who feels that there were already far too many shopping complexes in the Klang Valley.
As the PJLA was developed with the community in mind, Zahim hopes that all sorts of art lovers would support in whatever way they can.
He is open to feedback and ideas that people might have and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. my
The PJLA is expected to be ready by the second half of next year while the official handover to commercial tenants is scheduled for Dec 15 this year.
For more information, visit their website www.jayaone.com.my.