“W!ld Rice reaches between 50,000 to 100,000 audience members a year (depending on our season), and it has been difficult doing that while relying on rented spaces, which incur so much extra cost, and for which there is so much competition in Singapore. It’s also hard to adapt to demand – even if your show is a big success, you can’t extend the run in a rented space, or bring it back quickly.
Come 2019, we will have a whole complex housed over three floors in the new Funan Centre: A 60-seater (theatre space), a 380 seater (theatre), rehearsal spaces and production offices. We have great plans for the complex, including helping to develop new work: We have so many emerging playwrights and directors who are unable to take the huge financial risk that staging a show entails. In places like the US, a new show starts in a 70 seat theatre, proceeds to a 300 seat theatre, moves to a 600 seat theatre, before going to Broadway. We would like the complex to play a major part in the extensive process of growing good shows.
We also plan for the new space to be the most inclusive, most accessible theatre complex, which belongs to a community of audience members and artists. W!ld Rice alone can’t programme 52 weeks, and we want different artists to be involved so that there is something happening in the theatres at any time (everything curated of course)…we can run plays in repertory! The models we have been looking at are the Public Theater in New York, the National in London…the Steppenwolf in Chicago and so on. Yes, we’re going to have our work cut out for us.
I’m going to miss W!ld Rice’s current home in the Little India arts belt very much. The area just breathes this irrepressible life. But while it’s a wonderful initiative to call somewhere an arts belt, the fact that there’s no performing space there means everyone is working in their silos, not together. We hope the new W!ld Rice space in Funan Centre will do something to change that.” – Ivan Heng