Asia theater faces slowing funding, free tickets

Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:38pm EST
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By Laurence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Deteriorating economies and the threat of job losses are putting many Asians off the arts, forcing actors to work longer hours and theater companies to get more creative for the show to go on.

With theater companies expressing increasing difficulties in garnering corporate sponsorship and facing a drop in ticket sales, performers say their budgets are shrinking.

"The arts are always first to go," said Robin Loon of the National University of Singapore's Theater Studies.

"The performing arts are always seen as a leisure activity -- seen to be disposable and expendable."

In Singapore, which is in its deepest-ever recession, theater company Stages gave away 300 tickets to fill seats at a play this month, after recent ticket sales fell 15 percent and it was forced to produce a show with practically no sponsors.

As part of efforts to boost the turnout for an arts festival in May this year, the city-state is also reducing ticket prices by up to 30 percent.

Singaporean non-profit Theatreworks expects less support from foundations and aims to "cut the fat" by 20 percent, through reducing expenses, while being more selective about shows and looking for different revenues such as developing training programs for artists and fundings from online donations.

"If an old folks home or a charity for the disabled and an arts company were to go for the same pot of money, more likely it will be given to the old folks and disabled," said Tay Tong, managing director of Theatreworks.   Continued...

<p>Dancers perform during the opening of "ORIGIN", part of the Asia On The Edge festival, in Singapore November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Tan Shung Sin</p>